“At the ballpark or even in front of the television, fans are, for the interlude of a few hours, different from whom they are in everyday life. … In the drama that is a baseball game the fan imagines himself not a spectator but a participant, as if the fervor of his rooting will have a bearing on the outcome.” ~ John Thorn, Official Historian of Major League Baseball
Sometime in the 1880s or so, newspapers started to mention baseball “fans” and “cranks” and “rooters.” Before that, who knows what they called the men (and they were mostly men) who would sit and watch the other men (and they were mostly men, too) play baseball.
Ty Cobb unkindly called fans “bugs,” but he didn’t have a good word to say about anyone.
Umpires might argue that today’s fans can be rowdy at times, but all in all, fans are a pretty good bunch.
We’re certainly nowhere near as rowdy as our grandparents and great- and great-great grandparents who went to games and shoved their way onto the outfield, or, if the weather was hot, would bully players out of their dugouts and take over the benches in the shade.
Police hold back the rowdies at Chicago’s South Side Park on April 14, 1908. The White Sox will defeat the Detroit Tigers 15-8. (And, look at that trash!)
Cranks would fight with other fans, the umpires, and the players. They would throw bricks. Today, I pack my scorecard, maybe some peanuts. Back then, fans would pack bricks and guns, along with their sandwiches and moonshine.
Players would climb into the grandstands and beat up heckling fans. Fans would jump onto the field and clobber a player or ump.
Games were forfeited because fans were jerks.
Ahh, the good old days.
I have been known to complain at games if the person next to me is bogarting my cup holder. (Yours is on the right, Bozo.) Back then, I’d have been lucky to get through the game without losing an eye.
I recently asked a policeman at Oriole Park at Camden Yards what the hardest part of his job was and he said catching the underage drinkers who all sit together in the upper deck on student nights. (Yes, fans today are so well-behaved even the bad ones cooperate by sitting together.) Other than that, he said, he got paid really well to walk around for a few hours, maintaining the peace and watching the game.
So sure, a few bad fan eggs. But, without us there would be no baseball. We are the 10th player. We pay the salaries. We are irreplaceable.
That’s why teams have Fan Appreciation Days and lavish gifts on us to lure us to the park – caps and shirts and seat cushions. Bobbleheads that are supposed to look like certain players, but usually don’t. Garden gnomes that are supposed to look like certain players and sometimes actually do.
Sure, it’s cheap crap, but fans will line up for hours – HOURS – to get our swag.
Nick Markakis Bobblehead? Horrible. Did Helen Keller design this? Socks down! Socks down!
Brian Wilson Garden Gnome? Awesome.
Every baseball fan is a great fan. Even if you don’t know a balk from a walk, and can’t name your team’s starting pitchers, you’re still all right in my book.
But, some are just a tiny bit all righter. Here are three of them.
On Friday night, the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Seattle Mariners 2-1 in 10 innings. These fans were at Seattle’s Safeco Field.
1) Happy Homer.
Who cares if your team just gave up a go-ahead run, you just caught the freaking home run ball! Good for you, happy Mariners’ fan. Your team will lose because of that run, but at least you didn’t spill your beer.
(For the record, if you catch a home run ball, keep it. Even if it was hit by the opposition. You may think you’re some hero by throwing it back on the field in disgust, but really, we just think you’re stupid.)
2) One of these fans is not like the others.
This Orioles fan sat in a sea of Mariners on Friday night.
Editor/Husband thinks the guy lost a bet. I think he’s just a very good fan. Sure, he kind of looks uncomfortable and maybe just a little sad. But, at least he didn’t have to worry about being hit on the head with a brick.
3) Rally Kid
First off, there’s that napkin. The rally napkin. If you don’t have a ball cap to twist or turn to spur your team’s late-inning rally, then you get creative. This kid stuck a napkin on his head. Because, hey, why not?
Well, whatever it was, it didn’t work. Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano – the would-be tying run – was called out to end the game after a challenge.
The rally napkin folded like a … a … a napkin.
Ten innings that kid sat through. The tying run is on first and then, suddenly, he is gone. His team has lost. He is not happy. I love him. I could watch him all day. (He comes at the 1:52 minute mark. He’s worth the wait.)
Don’t worry kid, there’s always tomorrow.