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The Chair From Abu Ghraib 

When a Texas Rangers reliever threw a chair at a fan, the response was outrage. But was the outrage overdone?

Wednesday, Sep 22 2004
Last week, in the latest instance of fan-athlete violence, Texas Rangers relief pitcher Frank Francisco hurled a folding chair into the crowd at Networks Associates Coliseum, the sad culmination of a melee in the stands between members of the Rangers bullpen and some A's fans who were heckling them. The chair bloodied a woman's face and broke her nose, and the incident, shown live on television, sparked nationwide outrage, a criminal investigation by Oakland police, and an inquiry by Major League Baseball. In the immediate aftermath, however, not all of the blame fell on Francisco's shoulders. Although spectators and security personnel insisted the taunting was nonprofane and all but innocuous, Texas manager Buck Showalter told reporters, "We've had problems about every time we've come here." The Texas organization apologized the next day for its pitcher's actions, but the Rangers and Francisco -- who was arrested and released on $15,000 bail -- plan to defend themselves "vigorously" in court. Are you a Frank Francisco apologist? Take our quiz and find out!

1) When the melee broke out, Rangers players streamed toward the team's bullpen along the right-field foul line, where Texas relief pitchers tangled with fans in the front row. The skirmish ended after Francisco tossed the chair, and play stopped for 20 minutes while security swooped in and umpires considered whether the tie game should be postponed. (It wasn't, and Oakland eventually won 7-6 in extra innings.) As you watched the chaotic scene unfold, what aspect struck you as the most unbelievable?

A) The mere notion that Oakland fans would taunt opposing players. I mean, now I've heard it all.

B) A brawl at the Coliseum and there wasn't a Round 2.

C) It's the first time all year Francisco's thrown a strike.

2) Jennifer Bueno, the woman whose nose was broken by the chair, says her husband, a 42-year-old fire battalion chief named Craig Bueno, didn't do anything wrong when taunting nearby Rangers players with questions like, "Who is going to take the loss?" What's the worst thing you've ever heard at a professional baseball game?

A) The telltale crack of chair against cartilage.

B) Bip Roberts, former player and current sideline reporter for Fox Bay Area.

C) Penetrating, deeply insulting questions about the ability of grown men, most of whom make more than the president, to play a game. The nerve of some fans!

3) There's been an incredible amount of finger-pointing in the wake of Francisco's actions, complete with dueling news conferences and nonstop chatter on talk radio and cable TV shows. In your opinion, where does the real blame lie?

A) Gee, I dunno. Try the 6-2, 180-pound professional athlete who hurled the chair.

B) Moneyball.

C) Major League Baseball. All of these fancy new stadiums -- you know, like the glimmering jewel in Oakland -- put fans too close to the action.

4) At a news conference last week, the personal injury attorney representing the Buenos compared the chair-tossing incident to the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq, telling reporters "it goes to the top" of Rangers management. What do you think of his claim?

A) Well, yeah, if President Bush still owned the Rangers.

B) Please. This is the kind of hyperbole and saber-rattling that prevents real solutions from being reached.

C) Um, that's the alleged Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

5) Francisco's chair-tossing episode was broadcast live on television. What impact do you think this will have on any case that might be brought against him?

A) Plenty. It can only strengthen the prosecution's argument.

B) Minimal. Nobody watches A's games.

C) Look, this is a perfect example of why instant replay has no place in baseball.

6) Frank Francisco's lawyer, Rick Minkoff, has refused to admit his client threw the chair and claims the pitcher was a victim of fan violence. "He was grabbed, hard and forcefully on his left wrist," Minkoff told reporters. "Fortunately, it's not his pitching hand, and he was able to get free." What do you think of Minkoff's statement?

A) Who cares? Let's just keep the "Abu Ghraib" guy away from the microphone.

B) Of course Francisco was able to get free ... free to toss a chair into the stands.

C) Whew! Thank God it wasn't his pitching hand.

7) How do you think baseball can move forward from this incident?

A) Frank Francisco should be suspended for the rest of the season, face the full consequences of the law, and play under probation next year.

B) Suspend Francisco, and adopt stringent guidelines for the proximity of seats to bullpens.

C) By putting the focus back where it should be: steroids.

How to score:

Score zero points for every "A" answer, one point for every "B," and two points for every "C."

0-6 points: Congratulations, you've won a job in the A's front office. No, really.

7-10 points: Like most Americans, you display a genuine confidence in the legal system's ability to deal fairly with celebrities and athletes.

11-14 points: Wow, you're a true Texas Rangers fan. Say, you wouldn't have happened to serve alongside Sen. Kerry in Vietnam, by any chance ....

About The Author

Matt Palmquist


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