Sitting down to watch last night’s ESPN premiere of “Catching Hell” I wasn’t sure how I would feel about reliving one of the most horrific moments in Cubs’ history and one of the most bizarre unfolding of tragic events in all of sports. I was hoping it would be a cathartic experience, exorcising the agony of knowing what could have been. Instead, it was anything but.
Initially, I found myself feeling the same sense of anger followed by dismay and pain that burned in my gut on that dark day in October, 2003. But I was glad to see that Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney spent a lot of time removing blame for the Game 6 loss away from Steve Bartman and placing on the multitude of other factors that contributed to the Cubs’ demise:
- The late Bernie Mac—a life-long Sox fan—jinxing the Cubs’ by changing the words to Take Me Out to the Ballgame to “CHAMPS” during the 7th inning stretch (I know it’s ridiculous, but a century of failure tends to breed paranoia)
- Moises Alou‘s overreaction that incited the crowd and clearly rattled everyone on the field including pitcher Mark Prior who promptly walked Luis Castillo, threw a wild pitch that advanced Juan Pierre to third, then gave up a single to Pudge Rodríguez to score Pierre
- The real culprit, shortstop Alex Gonzalez who dropped a sure double play ball that would’ve gotten them out of the inning relatively unscathed, still leading 3-1
- The possibility that the dark mood of the crowd and their overwhelming overreaction to the event may have further unsettled the players on the field
But Gibney’s egregious omission of Dusty Baker and his culpability was simply unacceptable. Whatever the incompetent Baker was doing at the moment—sitting on his ass, adjusting his wristbands, sucking on a toothpick—I’m not sure, but I do know he DID ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to settle down his 23-year-old pitcher in the biggest game of his life after a historically insane event unfolded before his eyes until it was way too late.
Obviously, I’m still angry, but above all the generally well-crafted documentary (besides letting Baker off the hook) made me sad. Sad for myself, for Cubs fans, for Cubs players and—more than anything—sad for Bartman whose life has been irrevocably marred by an otherwise innocuous natural reaction of reaching up for a foul ball at a baseball game.