How far is too far? Kimmes recounts and analyzes Oakland chair-throwing incident

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

A horrendous incident occurred last week in baseball. The Texas Rangers played against the Oakland Athletics, in Oakland. It was the bottom of the ninth inning, tie game, with two out when the fracas started; it ended with a fan getting her nose broken. Texas Rangers reliever Frank Francisco hurled a plastic chair into the stands – ricocheting off one fan and striking a woman in the nose. Security quickly calmed the situation down, and after a 19-minute delay, the game resumed. Francisco was arrested and has been charged with aggravated battery.

It is not definitively known what was said by the fans to incite this action by the Texas relief pitcher. The Rangers claim that the fans were yelling over-the-top insults; while the Athletics say their fans were only engaging in the normal badgering that goes on at sporting events. What is known for sure is that Francisco crossed the line of decency and injured an innocent woman. All reports indicate that the woman who was struck with the chair was not doing any yelling.

This is the latest fan/player incident in baseball. Last year, in a game between the A’s and the Rangers, an A’s fan flung a cell phone onto the field, striking Texas Rangers outfielder Carl Everett in the head. Also last year, a fan ran onto the field at a Chicago White Sox game and attacked an umpire. The previous year, two White Sox fans stormed the field and attacked the opposing team’s first base coach.

There is absolutely no excuse for Francisco’s actions. No matter what was said, chair-throwing was not an appropriate action. First off, there is no accuracy with a chair. More often than not the chair will hit an unintended target like it did in this case. Second, no verbal onslaught by a random fan should bother a professional athlete to the point of lunacy. Professional athletes routinely encounter fans yelling at them, especially relief pitchers in baseball. The majority of bullpens are located in close proximity to the stands, making them ideal for hecklers. Most people can understand getting angry at constant heckling, especially if the heckling is in bad taste. However, taking a chair and throwing it into the stands is something that goes beyond what most people consider appropriate behavior; it goes beyond a heat of the moment action. It is a deliberate action. Frank Francisco had to get up out of his chair, pick up a chair and then heave it into the stands. That is three distinct, deliberate actions.

Now, the fans here are not totally innocent. Oakland fans are notorious for their bad sportsmanship. Throwing a cell phone at a player is just one example. Oakland Raiders fans are considered to be some of the worst of all. Fans have a right to engage in good-natured heckling at games. Such comments as “You stink,” “Hit the showers you bum,” and “You couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn” are expected and accepted at games.

It is not known, or at least not released, what the fans yelled towards the Rangers bullpen, but one can surmise it was slightly more abusive. Many fans feel that they have the right to say anything they want to the players. They feel since they paid money for the ticket, good money if they are sitting close enough so the players can hear, that they have free reign to say anythings. Fans need to be accountable for what they say. Heckling is part of the game, verbal abuse is not.

Major League Baseball needs to take action. Francisco should be severely punished for his actions. He should be prosecuted under the law and suspended for the remainder of the season. The league also needs to take action regarding fans’ behavior. More security guards and game attendants should be placed near areas of high interaction between players and fans. The security guards and attendants need to be willing to discipline fans for inappropriate behavior. Fans need to be ejected from the game.

Major League Baseball needs to show that verbal abuse will not be tolerated in the stands. The growing number of fan/player incidents is alarming and action needs to be taken to curb fans from going too far.