T.R.’s Memoirs: A loudmouth A’s fan, a young Rangers reliever and a chair
(AP photo/Jeff Chiu)
Editor’s note: T.R. Sullivan covered the Texas Rangers over 32 years for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and MLB.com and is sharing his “memoirs” with this newsletter.
In Part 3 of Sullivan’s re-visiting of Oakland, here is the story of the night of Sept 13, 2004 and the brawl that erupted between the Rangers bullpen and the fans at the Coliseum.
What I saw is something I will never forget. It moved me deeply and it’s hard to explain. Some will think my sympathy is extremely misplaced and totally unwarranted.
You must understand, though, that I covered the Rangers for 32 years and dealt with some of the greatest players to ever come out of Latin America. Many more were here for only a short period of time, blessed with great talent but unable to handle the pressure and demands of going from a Caribbean island to playing in the major leagues.
Now here was Rangers pitcher Frank Francisco, sitting all by himself outside an Oakland courthouse. He was leaning forward, head hung low, a desperate and forlorn look on his face.
He may have been in tears. I don’t know. I watched him from across the room. A fair guess is he was scared. Francisco was big — 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds according to the Rangers’ media guide — but quiet and soft-spoken. Polite but reserved with the media.
But then, a lady Francisco unintentionally hurt two days earlier with a thrown chair had said, “I thought I was going to get beaten to death.”
Francisco, from the Dominican Republic, didn’t speak much English. Actually, he didn’t speak much at all as a rookie in 2004. He had just turned 25 four days earlier, and this was his first season in the big leagues. He was pitching well as a setup reliever out of the Rangers’ bullpen. At the moment, he had a 3.29 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 50 innings. Opponents were hitting .197 off him.
Now he was facing felony charges of battery. A guilty verdict would mean deportation back to the Dominican Republic and a possible premature end to his baseball career.
His agent, Rich Thompson, was there trying to console him. He had an attorney working on his behalf.
But at that moment, Frank Francisco looked as miserable and disconsolate as any major-league player I have ever seen.