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Friday, September 30, 2011: Catching Hell

by Ethan Alter September 30, 2011 6:00 am
Friday, September 30, 2011: <i>Catching Hell</i>

In case you missed its premiere airing on Tuesday night, here's another chance to catch Alex Gibney's terrific baseball documentary Catching Hell, which explores the strange case of die-hard Chicago Cubs fan turned Public Enemy No. 1, Steve Bartman. As baseball lovers (and native Chicagoans) are sure to recall, back in 2003 the Cubbies were five outs away from clinching their first National League pennant since 1945. Florida Marlins second baseman Luis Castillo knocked a high foul ball down the left field line as Cubs outfielder Moises Alou chased after it. Leaping into the stands, he strained to catch it and...

...And what happened next is the subject of Gibney's film. In short, Bartman may or may not have interfered with the play and the Cubs lost a precious out, which sent them into a tailspin that cost them the game and, eventually, the whole series. Overnight, Bartman became a pariah and had to go into hiding until the public uproar settled down. But did he deserve the hatred spewed his way? And at what point does fan passion devolve into pure rage? Those are just some of the provocative questions Gibney raises in the course of this two-hour film, which offers a comprehensive play-by-play of what exactly happened that fateful night and contrasts the Bartman incident with another famous blooper from sports history -- Bill Buckner's infamous ball-between-the-legs error in the 1986 World Series. Whether you're a longtime follower of America's Pastime or don't know a foul ball from a bunt, Catching Hell is a sports movie, a procedural and a sociological drama rolled into one memorable package.

Catching Hell airs tonight at 10PM on ESPN Classic.

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