Tuesday, August 23, 2005

What Did He Do with the Drunken Salesmen?

Last Friday's Dan Shaughnessy column recalling last year's now-overshadowed American League Division Series between the Red Sox and Angels mentioned Angels second-baseman Chone Figgins:

The Franconamen and the Sons of Scioscia are leading their respective divisions and wouldn't the Angels love to play Boston again and maybe put up more of a fight this time?'

"In the back of your head, you know you want to get back there," said leadoff hitter Chone Figgins, who had a particularly dreadful playoffs against the Red Sox.
Reading this passage took me back instantly to May 0f 2002, when Helen and I were in Tennessee for a week of traveling before the wedding of two friends in Chattanooga.

The setting is the half-empty Greer Stadium in Nashville, home of the Nashville Sounds (pictured). (We try to catch minor league games whenever we're on vacation and had also seen the Memphis Redbirds on this trip.) We had box seats directly behind home plate, purchased earlier that same day.

In the late innings, the guitar-shaped scoreboard foretells a lopsided victory for the visiting Salt Lake City Stingers, the triple-A farm team for the Anaheim Angels. Chone Figgins, playing at that time for the Stingers, steps into the batter's box in the 8th or 9th inning. He had played all night, and by then we had heard the announcer say his first name several times. It rhymes with Shawn. Nevertheless, a group of drunken salesmen near us begin taunting him, mispronouncing his first name with a hard "ch" sound like the one that begins the word "charge:"

"C'mon Chonn!"

"Ha ha ha ha!"

"Hit it Chonny!"

"Woo hoo!"

Truly annoying. Embarassing. I'm certain that Figgins heard all of it. We were only 15 yards away.

Figgins took a pitch or two and then POW! roped a three-run homer to left that left the yard in approximately 0.5 nanoseconds. I think the crack of the bat actually came mid-taunt. The look on those salesmen's faces was priceless.

Mr. Figgins will forever be a hero of mine for that act of wordlessly shutting up the stupid expense account crowd at Greer that night. His dreadful ALDS last year against the Red Sox is just gravy.

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