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Chet's Corner: Reliving Hell

Written by , Posted in General

“Scapegoating really is an ancient ritual and deeply hardwired in the human psyche.”

Alex Gibney, Director of Catching Hell

 

October 14th, 2003 …… Does this date give you a chill? No, that wasn’t last night’s chili dog passing through you, it was a chill brought on by an inning of horror.  An inning that happened eight years ago and apparently we can’t let go of it. 

Last night, with the help of Alex Gibney and ESPN, I was re-introduced to the horror that was game 6 of the 2003 NLCS.  The Documentary, Catching Hell, premiered on ESPN after about a year of build up and promotion.  It was two hours long, which could have been cut down to about an hour if they didn’t replay the fateful “Bartman foul ball”  about 100 times.  Like a repeated punch to the groin we got to see it in all its glory from multiple angles. 

I will say this for the documentary,  Alex Gibney did a great job of reminding me that the Bartman incident was a very small piece of the tragedy that took place on this fateful night.  The unraveling actually started before Bartman…..

The Seventh Inning Stretch

What was Bernie Mac thinking?  Chosen as the guest conductor for the seventh inning stretch, Bernie decided to replace “root, root , root for the Cubbies” with “root , root , root for the CHAMPS!” 

I wonder, if a Cubs pitcher had a perfect game running into the eighth inning and Bernie Mac was in the ballpark, would you want him sitting near the dugout?

I could see him walking into the dugout and pulling up a seat right next to the pitcher, “Hey pitch, nice prefecto you got going, don’t blow it!”

Talk about jinxing us!

Paul Bako

Catching Hell reminded me of something, Koyie Hill is not the worst catcher to wear a Cubs uniform in the last decade.   Good ol’ Paul Bako was our catcher in game 6 of the NLCS. 

After Mike Mordecai flew out to start the inning, Juan Pierre muscled a double down the left field line.  Then came the Luis Castillo plate appearance.   The foul ball to Bartman aside, there was another key moment in this at bat that often gets overlooked.  With Pierre on second, Castillo gets walked.  It wasn’t just the damage of the walk however, as the fourth ball got by Bako.  The scorer recorded the pitch as wild but Bako gave an extremely pedestrian effort in blocking it.  He never even hit his knees and the ball just scooted under his glove.

In an important contest such as this, with what looked like a slider low and in, would you not be on gaurd? Would you not throw your body in front of anything that appeared questionable?

The wild pitch/pass ball allowed Pierre to take third from first.  He would score on a line drive single to left in the next at bat.  Would he have scored from second?  Probably not.

Dusty Baker

Just for being Dusty in this whole conundrum. 

Instead of seeking higher ground, Dusty piled it on Bartman in the press conference.  First of all, I have a tough time seeing a manger such as Jim Leyland or Joe Maddon directing any amount of blame for a loss to a fan interference.  Not Dusty though, he was more then happy to direct it at Bartman.

Hey Dusty, what about the fact that Prior was still pitching, well past 100 pitch count I might add, into the eighth inning with a three run lead?  He pitched well over 100 pitches the week before.  I guess I understand running him out there to grab an out or two, but you had nobody up in the pen as insurance!!!!!  After the first hit he should have been yanked for relief. 

But then again,  did Dusty ever take any blame for a loss?  No, but he was great at looking out for number one.

Moises Alou

This is a tough one, but since we are blaming the loss on one foul ball, why not take a look.

In the seventh inning, Moises Alou had a chance to step on the Marlins throat once and for all.  With the Cubs up 3-0 and runners on first and third, a struggling Chad Fox was trying to hold it together on the mound for the Marlins.  He was really reeling.  He had just thrown a wild pitch that walked Sosa and scored a run from third.  He had a 1-1 count on Alou and he hung a curve.  It’s the kind of pitch that makes your undercarriage tingle when you see it.  Nine times out of ten Alou parks this ball on Waveland….this happened to be the tenth.  Alou’s flailing attempt could do nothing but pop a can of corn to the right fielder for the third out….threat averted.

The Aftermath….

We all know the rest, Alex Gonzales boots a taylor made double play ball and the house of cards crumbles.  Eight runs later the crowd was removed from the game and the atmosphere became hostile. 

*Did you know that Alex Gonzales led the National League in fielding that year?  An interesting tidbit.

I remember being astonished at the fragile nature of the moment.  I remember the fans and the team just falling apart mentally.  When people ask me about this game Gonzales’ error always shines bright over the rest of the debacle.  Seeing the replay in documentary style however, reaffirms that it was never  just one thing that caused the demise of the 2003 Cubs, but a series of events.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Norm

    It was a very well made show.
    I can’t believe the Sun Times put Bartman’s name and place of employment in the paper the next day.

    Wrong place at the wrong time for the guy.

  • Chuck

    Thank you for having me relive that game in such excruciating detail. Thank you very much. How would you like to come over and make my kids cry? Slash my car tires? Take a big dump on my front porch? Throw some eggs at my second story windows? Write “Bartman” in my backyard with gasoline?
    After that game I firmly believe that I could have been diagnosed with depression. I had to take a couple of days off from work. I have never been able to go all-in on any sports teams since. It changed me and I’m not sure it was for the better.
    Where’s the tequila?

  • Buddy

    Bako was bad, but I think Koyie Hill is even worse. The Bartman show was well done, but very hard to watch. I felt awful for that kid back in 2003, and I feel worse for him today. The documentary was an unpleasant reminder that 1) life can be very unfair sometimes, and 2) nine out of 10 sports fans and sports journalists are complete nit wits.

  • Seymour Butts

    I don’t need to relive that night either. But I have thought about it every time I’m in the first couple of rows at a game. Fans can, and do, occasionally influence the outcome of a game. This was such an occasion. Pay attention to the game, damn it! Be a stone wall at the vertical plane of the wall if your team is batting, be a guardian of the fielders reach if your team is in the field. If Alou makes that not terribly difficult catch, there is no added pressure to turn 2 on a grounder, likely things turn out a whole lot different. One play can be the difference between continued futility and a giant weight coming off of all of our backs.
    Screw you ESPN for dredging it up again. Poor Steve.

    Oh, and Bernie Mac?..look where he is now! Don’t Gregg with Karma!

  • Lando87

    Ugh, my roommates (one is a Red Sox fan, the other a Cardinals fan) liked the documentary. I, on the other hand, felt sick the whole time watching it. That was one of the worst days of my life, and that was back when I wasn’t drinking during these sorts of thing.

    And shame on Dusty more than anybody, would any other Major League manager blame the game on a fan?

  • A friend of mine suggested the morning after the event that the Cubs should have this guy (Bartman) throw out the first pitch (or one of them) on game 7 to show their support for a Cubs fan that was part of an unfortunate incident and took a lot of blame.

    Amazing how many people have asked me about that night. I don’t blame Bartman.

  • Chuck

    I recall the morning after the game that a lot of people wanted to have Bartman take a nice long “swim” in Lake Michigan.

  • Buddy

    It would have been interesting to see the fan reaction if Bartman was 6’5, 250 pounds. I’ll bet that guy who walked up and challenged Bartman to a fight would have kept his mouth shut and watched the rest of the game.

  • Chuck

    I bet if Bartman was a big guy and started to become aggressive, things would have gotten ugly quickly.

  • Eddie Von White

    I refused to waste my time watching it. I turned the channel when it came on. Steve Bartman should cash in on his noteriety somehow.

  • If Bartman was 6’5″, maybe he would have made the play.

  • Buddy

    If Batman was 6’5″, Robin would still be short.

  • BLPCB

    Haven’t watched the whole thing yet, but yesterday was the day in 2003 when we clinched the division.

  • BLPCB

    Bernie Mac was a Sox fan, that’s why he did it. Why would the Cubs let a Sox fan sing for that game?
    Dusty – The only thing I can think of is that maybe he was a Marlins fan. lol. When they brought up the fact that he was in a Cubs hat, I thought to myself if he was wearing a White Sox hat, Bartman would be dead.
    I don’t think anyone actually blames Bartman for what happened. I think White Sox fans are trying to have it both ways. They say we’re idiot for blaming him, but at the same time, they glorify him for what he did.
    That documentary also brought back the days when I used to like the Red Sox. Amazing how winning a couple of World Series, complaining about the Yankees spending while going after those same players and spending the same kind of money, and playing in a city with other unlikeable teams (Celdicks and Patriots) can make you hate a team you used to like.

  • BLPCB

    I can still play in my head what happened when that fly ball was hit: Alou runs down the line, he’s at the wall, leaps up, I’m thinking 4 outs to go! and then this guy interferes and 15-year old me yells at the TV, “IDIOT FAN!!!!!”
    And then Steve Lyons was like here at Wrigley they throw back HR balls from the other team onto the field, I’m surprised no one has thrown that fan onto the field.

  • Buddy

    At least Dusty didn’t blame that loss on the heat.

  • mrbig

    If Alou would have told everyone he pees on his hands, the whole incident could have been avoided.

  • Katie

    mrbig!! hahahahaha! oh my goodness. excellent point.

  • Buddy

    Alou’s odd habit was the first think I thought of when he appeared on the documentary last night.

  • We’ll get ’em next year, my friends.

  • Greg

    I was surprised that they didn’t mention this game happened on the 95th anniversary of the 1908 Championship clincher. Another tidbit to add to the mystique of this game.

  • If Bartman had kept his hands back, Alou still fails to catch that ball. In my opinion.

  • Barb

    You were right when you said it started in the 7th inning. Doesn’t anyone remember 3 outs by Prior, all to the outfield? If that wasn’t enough for Dusty to pull Prior in the 8th, I don’t know what was. And did anyone go out to calm Prior down after the Alou incident? Nooooooo! Not Dusty, not Larry, not even his trusty catcher.

  • Eddie Von White

    For Alou to yell and point at Bartman was small – very small. And yes, his odd habit will be the main thing he is remembered for. And Dusty actually accused the Cubs of being racist because of their day game preference. Huh?