September 18, 2010
Chronicling the everyday life of a self proclaimed Ballhawk can be very complex. Throughout the 74 minute production of Ballhawks, the story of the infamous ballhawks of Wrigley Field is told. Capturing the essence of ballhawking is not an easy task. However, this documentary did just that. The majority of ballhawks usually get a negative connotation from press and other forms of media. Baseball fan and director Mike Diedrich showed off the Wrigley Field ballhawks in a welcoming manner and also had actor and Chicago native Bill Murray narrate the film. The movie is based on the life and journey five main men: Moe Mullins, Rich Buhrke, Dave Davison, Andy Mielke, and George. As of 2005, this cast has amassed an astonishing 15,330 baseballs, also known as "pearls" coined by the 46 year veteran Rich Buhrke. This remarkable number accomplished by only five men, would more than double the number of baseballs collected by all of the myGameBalls.com members.
The movie starts off during the heat of a pennant chase for the Chicago Cubs. It's 2004 and Slammin' Sammy Sosa launches one past the left field wall onto Waveland Avenue. Just before the shiny ball touches the concrete, a fleet footed ballhawk emerges and makes a highlight reel catch. This is what the men on Waveland Avenue are known for. Unlike today's ballhawks, the men beyond the walls frown upon glove tricks and begging players for balls. They prefer the hard nosed traditional method of catching the ball on a fly or even diving into a scrum of men to retrieve their prize. Moe Mullins tally of 4,444 baseballs has come from inside and outside the ballpark. Although Moe is considerably older than most ballhawks, no teenager is agile enough to keep up with the veteran.
The movie surpasses only the life at the ballpark. It tells the struggles and ambitions each ballhawk goes through in his everyday life. All ballhawks make substantial sacrifices to be at the ballpark every day. The way Diedrich portrayed each ballhawk as a hero was a bit tacky, but it still gave a sense of purpose to the men. Dave Davison, better known as "Super Dave," enjoys showing off his athleticism and goes against the unwritten rules of ballhawking and often sells his catches. To the outsider's eye and portrayal in the movie, Davison is received as a cocky, mean guy. From my own experience of watching Dave in action at Us Cellular Field, he is a friendly man with a competitive attitude. Rich Buhrke, one of the most prolific ballhawks, has to endure long periods of constant standing despite back problems. The thrill of the catch is what keeps driving him back out there. When he catches a home run you can see his hand shaking from the adrenaline.
Aside from the individual feats of each ballhawk, the movie is definitely a must see for any current or prospective ballhawk. To one unfamiliar with the hobby, Ballhawks does assimilate the aspects of the addiction to the viewer in a pleasant manner. Although it is an interesting aside from a typical baseball movie, Ballhawks does lack some zip and action. The only existent drama arises when the Wrigley Field bleacher expansion goes under way. The ballhawks take a dramatic cut as a result. About 1/3 fewer balls fly out onto the streets of Wrigleyville. The movie does emphasize the central theme that as long as balls are being launched out, the ballhawks will always be there to capture them. For young ballhawks, this movie is the perfect inspiration and provides depictions of a genuine and decorated ballhawks. Overall Grade: A-
Peter Skiadopoulos is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com and also maintains a Blog.