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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Payback Is a Bitch

Well, the Chief asked, and I think that the night of August 22, 2002 is a fine springboard for my contributions to this site. Your patience is appreciated as I sit and and attempt to fellate myself for the next 1000 words.

It wasn't Mother's Day, as was suggested, but it was just as good – my mom's birthday. We had decided to go see the Red Sox play the Texas Rangers that night as a family as a way to enjoy each other's company and celebrate all that is my mother. All was well-intentioned, respectful and respectable.

For 5-and-a-half innings anyway.

For all to fully appreciate my state-of-mind at this game, it is essential to know that I was raised in the Chicago suburbs in the 1980s. I had taken to sports at a very early age, and baseball had it's rightful spot at or near the top of my sporting interests. As a Northsider and one of dubious decision-making abilities, I embraced the Cubs as my team. Naturally, Ryne Sandberg was my de facto hero, and many an afternoon were spent in my back yard, whiffle ball bat and ball in hand, emulating Ryno's swing and run. He was my guy.

He started a precipitous decline in 1993, and it was a well-known fact that he was struggling with a failing marriage at the time. Things really came to a head after a brutal 1994 season were he hit .238 with 5 home runs in limited action (57 games). He would retire (for a year anyway) at the end of that season as the personal turmoil he was experiencing really started rearing its head on the field. It was a sad end to a Hall of Fame career where he consistently displayed class and hard work.

Shortly after his retirement, there began very strong rumor that his wife had been unfaithful to him during their marriage. There was some of this intimating years prior, but it was relatively hushed; Ryno's unfortunate exit from the game renewed such speculation . Many of you probably know that ex-teammates had been some of the offenders. There was one player in particular who was always front-and-center in this innuendo – turncoat, scumbag, dick pill-pusher, and cheater –Rafael Palmeiro.

Fast forward to August 22, 2002. It was a dreary, drizzly night, words that could easily be used to describe Raffy's Texas Rangers that year. They finished 31 games out of first place, while Boston had their typical 93-win team. The score of this game reflected the wide disparity of the two teams, and by the middle of the 5th, the Sox were dominating the Rangers to the tune of an 8-run lead.

Now, I've always been above-average in heckling ability and voracity, but what was about to transpire eclipsed anything I have ventured forth, prior or since. My family and I were seated behind the visiting dugout about 12 rows back down the first base line. Near perfection. As the top of the 5th came to a close, Raffy had been stranded at third, and began the long walk across the diamond to his dugout. The opportunity was too tempting. As a friend reminded me just the other day, I'm a man of impulse.

I got out of my seat and made my way up to the wall that separates the field from the seats. As Raffy passed the first base coaching box, and with the stadium nearly silent, I unloaded.

“Hey, Raffy! I've got a bottle of Viagra and Ryne Sandberg's wife! Let's go party!”

That punter stopped mid-stride and scanned the stands for the culprit, and as his eyes got to me, I was standing up at the wall, nodding my head with an ear-to-ear grin on my face.

Obviously I struck a nerve.

“What did you say?” he quizzed incredulously.

I repeated the sentence verbatim, and his pace quickened to confront me.

“How dare you?” he demanded.

“How dare you?” I quipped back. “You are a despicable human being. You ruined his career.”

We're face to face now.

“Why don't you come over here and say that?” that jerk asked me.

“Because I'm not allowed on the field Raffy. I'm not coming over there. Good luck the rest of the game, you scumbag.”

That concluded our contact, at least on my part. I made my way back to the seat amid 500 or so chuckling and/or horrified fans, feeling very happy with myself. It apparently continued under Raffy's skin, however, and as I sat down I noticed that he was talking with a cop that must be stationed in the dugout. He started making use of his radio and soon I realized that he was directing a security guard behind me. After a few minutes, he pinpointed me, and the guard told me I had to go.

I started pleading my case as he led me to the gates, telling him that I intentionally avoided swearing, as I respected the family environment. I also made my case by telling him that heckling is as old as the game itself. I finally got him to crack a bit, and he offered his condolences, but it was out of his hands. The owners were trying to create a “friendlier Fenway.”

I made my way across the street to the Boston Beerworks to have a beer, bask in my glory, and chuckle at every shot they showed of Raffy, clearly brooding. When it comes right down to it, he may have had me removed from the park, but I win. I got the number one villain of my childhood to lose his temper and respond to me – some asshole heckler. Athletes train themselves to ignore such taunts every day, but I got to him.

I enjoyed a couple of ales at that nice, warm bar, and he sat stewing on a crappy team on a crappy night in a blowout, knowing all along that I had gotten then better of him.

My mother forgave me, even though she definitely would have preferred that I had not pursued the exchange, and on her birthday of all days. She's an exceedingly warm and understanding woman. She knows me. I couldn't help myself.

This tale is decidedly masturbatory, but I've found it appeals to the voyeur in us all. I trust you can understand why sharing it makes me want to shout out, in the spirit of Harry Caray, "I win! I win!"

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