Earlier this week, ESPN2 aired “Ticket Home,” a new episode of their E:60 documentary series. “Ticket Home” focuses on Barry Rosen, a baseball fan who was caught up in the Iran Hostage Crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Rosen grew up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan, but when the Dodgers left for sunny California, he became a Mets fan once the team was founded in 1962. He spent most of his early adult life travelling to and working in the Middle East, specifically Iran, after joining the Peace Corps. While working in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, he was caught in Iran in the midst of the Iranian Revolution and was taken hostage by a group of Iranian college students. After fourteen months in captivity, Rosen was released along with the remaining 52 hostages. Upon coming home, Rosen found it difficult to connect with the family he left behind, but baseball (and specifically, a lifetime pass given to all of the hostages) helped heal him and his family.
“Ticket Home” is an interesting look at the power the game of baseball possesses. Rosen was a man caught up in a nightmarish situation, something which would mentally scar one for life. But baseball was his savior both throughout the ordeal and afterwards. Rosen speaks of how, over his fourteen months in captivity, he went outside for twenty minutes total. During those twenty minutes he saw grass for the first time since the situation began. His first thought upon seeing the green grass was baseball, and that kept him going. Baseball also helped Rosen rebuild his relationship with his son and create one with his daughter, and helped create memories for a lifetime after he spent so much time held hostage during some of their formative years. It has now transcended generations of his family, with him using the same lifetime pass to gain access to games with his grandchildren and create lasting memories.
The documentary is sound, if not showy, on a technical level. It’s a standard talking head style documentary, mixing in archival footage and present day footage. Jeremy Schaap does a good job as the narrator/guide of the documentary, not overbearing but present enough to help lead the viewer through no matter how much they may know about the subject. The addition of archival news footage is a nice touch, it helps explain the political mechanics of the situation while also allowing the viewer to feel the national emotion at the time. The talking heads also spread a wide berth, from political experts to famous baseball figures such as Bud Selig and Bob Costas, as well as Rosen and his family.
This episode feels like it would work well as a supplement film to Argo, the 2012 Academy-Award winning film that tracks the extraction of five Embassy employees just before the hostage crisis began. While the brevity of this episode (it didn’t even fill a full hour slot) precludes this from being able to provide a whole picture of the Iran Hostage Crisis, it does give a window into the time and creates a humanizing portrait of a person who for many was just a name on the list of hostages.
“Ticket Home” is available to watch on ESPN.com with a cable provider and ESPN+.