Baseball Fan Behavior

The Indians played in the afternoon. Apparently twenty viewings of each episode of the Big Bang Theory was enough. I found myself tuning in to the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox baseball game last night because I couldn’t find anything better to watch. Granted the Sox/Yankees rivalry is one of the best in sport, but I really don’t care for either team, so I surprised myself by watching the entire game.

During the game, announcer Tim Kirkjian brought up some highlights of the none to pleasant rivalry. He chuckled at the memory of two opposing fans getting into a fight one time – he seemed to be amused that they were female! I wasn’t shocked by that fact though. I have been to 55 different major league stadiums (Sun Trust Park will have to wait once more) and saw fan behavior that was anything but normal. In my view no fans were worse than those in Boston and New York.

I went to Fenway Park in 1977 by myself. I purchased a ticket and program. I set the program down on my seat to go take a picture of the Green Monster, only to have it be gone by the time I returned. Welcome to Boston. I recall the home fans grumbling about the manager as the Red Sox proceeded to lose to the then California Angels. I recall thinking that the Red Sox had won 15 of 16 games and they still wanted to fire Don Zimmer as the skipper. I also recall thinking that they should be Indian fans. The Tribe was not much of a contender in those days.

My wife and I went to Yankee Stadium in August of 1985 and got to see Tom Seaver win his 300th game. We were not around for the final out however, as fans were being arrested every half inning for fighting. Half the crowd wanted the Yankees to win. The other half were Mets fans who wanted to see their old ace make history. Seaver was pitching for the Chicago White Sox then and I suggested to the Mrs. that we might want to leave early as the game had a World Series feel to it. I suggested that fans might overturn cars and set them on fire after the game and I didn’t want to be a part of that.

Turned out I was prophetic.

New York fan behavior was on display a few years ago when we went to a spring training game in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The home of the Mets, the game was meaningless to most people, but not to the four elderly gentlemen sitting in front of us. Their accents convinced me that they were native New Yorkers and they felt compelled to yell at the umpires and even criticize Mets players if they didn’t perform up to these fans standards.

The managers were sitting on folding chairs at each end of the screen for crying out loud!

So fan behavior can get a little extreme and in the case of the Sox/Yankee rivalry should be expected. They are not alone when it comes to boorish behavior at the ballpark though, as I have seen examples of poor behavior at many different venues. What causes otherwise ordinary people to act out like this. Who knows, but it does happen.

The view from my seat suggests that it would be nice if fans minded their P’s and Q’s while attending games, but I won’t hold my breath. I’m reminded of a quote from Danny Murtaugh, the former Pittsburgh Pirate manager. Murtaugh said, “Sure I’d like to have a guy who got a hit every time up, and sure I’d like to have a guy that struck out every batter he faced, and sure I’d like to have a guy that never committed an error when a ball was hit his way. The problem is I can’t get the guy in the stands to put down his beer, come out on the field and do all those things!”