Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Francisco's Wild Pitch Not a Hit with Fans

Francisco’s Wild Pitch Not a Hit with Fans
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
September 14, 2004

Texas Rangers rookie pitcher Frank Francisco uncorked a pitch so wild in the Monday night September 13 game against the host Oakland Athletics, that it went nowhere near another player. In fact, at the time, Francisco was not even in the game, nor was his missile a baseball.

In his best impression of college basketball coach Bobby Knight, Francisco launched a folding chair into the stands alongside the Rangers bullpen. The chair ricocheted off one fan before breaking the nose of a female fan. A day later, Francisco found himself under arrest for aggravated assault. He was subsequently released on $15,000 bond.

Francisco, a right-handed reliever, had already pitched – and ineffectively at that – yielding an earned run on one hit and two walks in the seventh inning and one batter in the eighth. But during the ninth inning, after the Rangers had tied the game at five apiece a melee ensued that pitted Oakland fans against Texas ballplayers.

Initially, Rangers reliever Doug Brocail had been engaged in verbal jousting with A’s fans. As the oral combat intensified, Brocail ultimately had to be restrained by his teammates. At that point Francisco, who just turned 25 on September 11, and Rookie of the Month for August, took matters into his own hands by unleashing the four-legged projectile.

Regardless of the taunting and verbal abuse thrust upon players by unruly fans, there is no excuse for players to retaliate by physically assaulting the paying customers. Make no mistake; if fans are abusive, security has a responsibility to eject them from the stadium at once. Children do not need to be subjected to salty language and abusive behavior from fellow fans. If security must be increased, so be it. If fans are unruly due to an excess of adult beverages, the stadium authority should consider eliminating beer from the menu. If fans can’t do without beer for the duration of a baseball game, they should stay home where they would save about $5 a brew.

As for the more serious issue at hand – that of rookie pitcher Frank Francisco and his temper – his penalty should be severe and send the appropriate message to him and the rest of the league. Francisco should be suspended from the game for one full season – without pay. That pay should be given to the injured parties as compensation. If there are lawsuits, Francisco should be responsible for covering all costs. If charges are to be pressed, and they ought to be, Francisco should be punished to the fullest extent allowed by law.

The message sent is that this behavior is unacceptable and the players must rise above it. Whether or not they want to be, and Charles Barkley notwithstanding, professional athletes are role models.

For those who object to such a stringent punishment, remember, a crime has been committed and restitution must be made. Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and the Texas Rangers organization should present a unified stance on this issue letting Francisco know that he is responsible for his actions and they are indefensible.

The same type of stringent punishment must be meted out should similar actions be perpetrated by athletes in other professional sports. If similar situations occur under the auspices of the NCAA or other amateur sports leagues, such players should lose scholarships and or eligibility. Athletes need to know that they are neither above their game nor above the law.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Alexandria, VA.

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