Catching Hell (2011) – A Review

Catching Hell baseball documentary

I love me a good sports documentary.

I’m not a huge sports fan by any stretch. However a well-made, interesting sports documentary about an individual, a game or an event can get me hooked quite easily. Home Box Office is great at these. In the last few months HBO Sports aired a doc about the tennis rivalry of McEnroe and Borg – which I thought was great. And I’ve never watched a tennis match in my life.

Then they aired a doc entitled Bobby Fischer Against the World, which told the story of the famous chess genius. I thought it was the most fascinating film I had seen in quite awhile and was riveted the whole time.

Now ESPN is currently airing Catching Hell, a doc about the famous scapegoats in the world of baseball. And once again, I thought it was really well done.

Baseball is the one sport I have always followed. I’m by no means a hardcore fan, but can easily enjoy keeping up with season and how my team and everyone is progressing. I’ll even get out to my nearby minor league games, just because I love the atmosphere of the ballpark and just watching a good game.

Catching Hell recounts the iconic stories not of a teams successes or triumphant wins, but their failures and the individuals who would have the blame for them laid solely at their feet.

The film essentially highlights two of baseballs most crushing moments for two teams. In 1986, for the first time since 1918 the Boston Red Sox seemed due to finally win a World Series title. It looked like the famous Curse of the Bambino would be broken. That was until first baseman Bill Buckner let a slow roller pass through his legs and allowed the New York Mets to win the game and tie the series. The Mets would win game seven and take home the trophy.

Buckner ended up taking the blame for the entire loss by just his one error, even though there were many components that allowed the Mets to defeat Boston. Buckner’s play would become the key moment to many fans for the defeat of the Sox that year and he would become another link in the ongoing chain of the Curse.

The majority of Catching Hell highlights Chicago Cubs fan Steve Bartman and the notorious foul ball play in Game Six of the 2003 National League Championship Series.

Catching Hell Steve Bartman Chicago Cubs foul ball curse

Chicago, whose last World Series win had been in 1908, were up three games to two against the Florida Marlins. The Cubs had a 3-0 lead, when in the eighth inning Bartman – as did other fans – tried to catch a foul ball, which disrupted the outfielder to catch it and would have brought the Cubs to needing four more outs of finally making it to the World Series.

After the Bartman incident the Marlins got momentum and subsequently scored eight runs in the inning and won the game and the following day won the Championship Series.

To many fans the Bartman Incident became the key moment that changed the game and made their beloved Cubs lose. The famous Curse of the Billy Goat that had haunted the Cubs for ninety-five years raised its head in the form of Steve Bartman grabbing for a foul ball.

They’re fascinating stories and even a casual sports fan should enjoy the film. It’s not so much about the game of baseball as it is about incidents that have perpetrated the superstitious nature of the game. I find it captivating how an entire series of games can be boiled down to one moment in the eyes of fans.

Buckner and Bartman were easy targets to cast an evil eye on as to the moments why these teams lost. The film shows how these two individuals became the enemy for fans, the media, and entire cities! It’s really well made and shows that the way these single plays became so focused on has been completely unfair to Buckner and Bartman and they really showed a very cynical attitude for the game that is America’s past time.

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