While this year's postseason heroes were warming up on the Metrodome field Saturday, a different sort of hero was on the sidelines weeping.
"For me to give this game up is one thing," umpire Steve Palermo said. "But to have somebody try to take it away from me . . . that doesn't sit too well with me."
Palermo, who threw out the first pitch in an emotional ceremony, would have probably been involved in the game as an umpire but for the morning of July 7.
That was when he was shot in the back outside a Dallas restaurant while chasing men who had mugged two women. Palermo said doctors told him he would probably regain only limited use of his legs, a notion that he has refused to accept.
On Saturday he illustrated this denial by walking to the mound, and then to his box seat, with aid of two leg braces and two crutches.
"I don't deal in ifs, it has always been 'when' I come back, 'when' I umpire again," Palermo said. "I will walk on a field again. I will umpire again."
Greg Olson, the Atlanta Brave catcher from Edina, Minn., said he escaped from his house Saturday morning on a drive to nowhere.
"I was really feeling cooped up, closed in, I had to get out and let my emotions out somehow," Olson said. "So I jumped in the Lexus, found a road without much traffic, and took off at a few miles over the speed limit."
"I put in a country CD, turned it up, and sang with the music," he said. "I didn't sing good, but it didn't matter because nobody was listening."
Olson was so relaxed, he came to the park with the severed heads of two pheasant he shot during an impromptu hunting excursion Friday morning.
"I just wanted to show them off, so everybody would believe I shot two birds, but my teammates asked me to put them in (Keith) Mitchell's locker, because he doesn't like that stuff so much," he said. "So, of course, I did."
John Smoltz, who won both of his starts during the playoffs despite suffering from a chest cold, was suffering from a stomach virus Saturday. Smoltz is not scheduled to start until Game 4 Wednesday in Atlanta. . . . Brian Hunter, the rookie who started for the Braves in left field in Game 1, is listed in media guides as being from "Toro, Ca." This is wrong. "I am from Torrance, but those people in Georgia are kind of country, you know, so they got it wrong," Hunter said.