Notebook > Sports

Actual malice

Sports | In the midst of an altercation with fans, Rangers reliever Frank Francisco threw a chair into the stands

Issue: "Rathergate," Sept. 25, 2004

Fan interaction doesn't just mean a pre-game autograph anymore. It can mean a drunken spectator who jumps onto the field to pummel a base coach. Or, as in the case of Texas Rangers reliever Frank Francisco, it can mean chucking a folding chair toward fans at Oakland's Network Associates Coliseum. In the midst of an altercation with fans near the bullpen on Sept. 13, Mr. Francisco tossed a chair into the stands, hitting a woman in the face.

If the melee more closely resembled a professional wrestling match, it wasn't all the Texas reliever's fault: Fan inciter Craig Bueno insulted and challenged the Texas bullpen for most of the night. It was Mr. Bueno's wife, Jennifer, who took the chair on her nose. The Texas pitchers weren't likely to forget the fan who threw a cell phone from the stands, hitting former Rangers outfielder Carl Everett in the head. In 2001, some Oakland patron threw a cherry bomb onto the field.

After the chair toss, the finger pointing started almost immediately. Dallas media reported the fan hurled racial slurs at the bullpen. Oakland officials deny that charge. Mr. Francisco, 25, was arrested after the game and charged with aggravated battery. He will almost certainly be suspended. Meanwhile, Mr. Bueno and his wife are expected to file a civil suit.

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Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs may not lead his team back to the Super Bowl immediately. But Washington will top the league in at least one thing this year. The club is the NFL's most valuable, with Forbes magazine estimating the Redskins' worth at $1.1 billion. That may seem expensive, but the Arizona Cardinals -the NFL's least valuable team and likely its worst-is still worth more than $600 million.

Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder's secret: He has a new 92,000-seat stadium and has sold almost every bit of wallspace to the highest advertising bidder. But he's also working in one of the friendliest business climates in the United States. Sure, team salaries are capped only at $80.5 million, but each team in the league takes home more than $77 million from the NFL's television contract.

Around the Horn

  • In college Charles Rogers was known for remarkable catches. Now in his second year in the NFL, broken collarbones have become his trademark. For the second time in as many years, Mr. Rogers broke his collarbone in nearly the same spot. His coach, Steve Mariucci, tried to encourage the wide receiver: "I told him that he's not to blame. He's 23 and he's got a lot of football ahead of him."
  • California high-school football powerhouse De La Salle must be in trouble: The team has lost two games in a row. That streak wouldn't mean much if not for another streak. Prior to their two losses, De La Salle had won its previous 151 games. The school had not been beaten since December 1991.
  • One day after practically daring the New York Mets to fire him on the spot, manager Art Howe emerged from a meeting with the Mets brass confident. And, for the moment, still employed. Last season, Mr. Howe's Mets finished in last place. This year, New York leads just Montreal in the National League East. "I'm proud of what I've done here," Mr. Howe said. "I've done the best I possibly could. The record speaks for itself. Facts are facts." Yes, but which facts?

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