“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.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chet West is an IT professional living in Minneapolis, MN with his wife and two daughters. He has a pug named Banks and loves photography. Follow him on Twitter @chetwest19