ATLANTA, OCT. 22 -- Along with World Series records for most players and pinch hitters and other assorted team statistics, tonight's marathon cliffhanger at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium set a record for tomahawk chops.
The crowd of 50,878 offered up the manic motion and its accompanying war chant all the way through Mark Lemke's 12th-inning single, which scored David Justice to give the Atlanta Braves a 5-4 triumph and cut the Minnesota Twins' World Series lead in half, to two games to one.
Afterward, most Twins -- used to such a din at the Metrodome -- played down any effect the tomahawk-waving crowd and noise had on their performance.
"To be honest, I didn't even notice the noise. I think they make too much of a deal out of it," said Twins second baseman Chuck Knoblauch. "The sound here has somewhere to go -- out of the stadium."
Said Manager Tom Kelly: "It's nice to have a crowd in the game, but they don't throw or hit the ball. Good pitching, hitting and defense decides games."
Still Atlanta fans, aching for their first professional sports championship ever, came prepared to aid their team. Along with the now-standard "Welcome to the Chop Shop" and "Chop Till You Drop" banners were a few aimed at the culprits in Game 2's controversial play at first base, when Minnesota's Kent Hrbek manhandled Atlanta baserunner Ron Gant in front of umpire Drew Coble, who scored the play a legal takedown and a Braves out. Among them: "Hey Hrbek, U Gant Cheat Here," "Drew Coble, the WWF is Looking for a Few Good Refs," and "Drew, Can You Read This: We Got Robbed." The lettering on the latter banner was in the pyramid form of an eye chart.
When Hrbek batted in the first inning, he was greeted with the seemingly spontaneous roar of "cheater, cheater." "I knew it was coming and it was fun," he said. "They want to do what they want to do, and that's fine."
Others took their best pot shot at Jane Fonda, this town's only certifiable celebrity-baseball fan and fiancee of Braves owner Ted Turner. Before the Series, Fonda said she would no longer perform the tomahawk chop, after Native Americans protested.
For their part, Fonda and Turner refrained from the chop. When Alejandro Pena struck out Shane Mack to end a Twins threat in the seventh, the couple gave out high-fives. And after Mike Stanton fanned Paul Sorrento to stop Minnesota in the 10th, Fonda blew kisses.
Tonight's planned protest by Native Americans took place just outside the stadium, near a statue honoring Hank Aaron. Within 50 feet of where a spokesman for the protesters was lambasting the "demeaning and degrading depiction" of his culture, several local radio stations had set up remote broadcast booths. One featured a quintet of tom-tom players who hammered their loud, incessant beat throughout the game.
Despite the recent protests, the chop and its companion, the floppy foam rubber tomahawk, are still hot here, as are tomahawk lapel pins, tomahawk earrings and tomahawk face paintings.
"It doesn't bother us playing here," said Minnesota's Kirby Puckett after the marathon contest. " . . . It was fun to be a part of this game."