Monday, December 30, 2013

The Yankee Stadium Experience: The Bleachers

PART NINE: The Bleachers and the Creatures that Roam There

I have been to exactly one World Series game in my life.  Unfortunately it was Game 6 of the 2003 World Series against the Florida Marlins.  That night, Josh Beckett threw a gem shutting the Yankees out in the decisive game versus an equally competitive Andy Pettitte.
Have I mentioned my disdain for one Josh Beckett?
Beckett would be awarded the MVP while Pettitte would go on to take a hiatus from the Yanks by joining the Houston Astros for the next 3 years.   Let's be clear...seeing Beckett celebrate on the Yankee Stadium grass sucked...but the pain was muted just a little bit due to the fact that my Dad and I got to witness the game from the famous Section 39 with its infamous inhabitants: the "Bleacher Creatures."

Firstly, let's recap what the Bleacher Creatures used to be like in the Old Stadium since some of the traditions have changed due to the new dimensions in the New Yankee Stadium.  The founding of the Creatures is often attributed to Ali Ramirez aka "The Cowbell Man" who would sit religiously in Seat 29 of Row A in Section 39 during the dog-days of the 1980s.  He was one of the mainstays of the Stadium and when he passed away in May of 1996, the Yankees honored him with a plaque on his seat stating "This Seat is Taken."
Ali Ramirez's Seat (source: WikiPedia)

At some point in the early 90s fans in the Bleachers started chanting Tino Martinez's name while he played 1st base.  Surprisingly Tino turned around and gave the chanting fans a wave.  From this auspicious beginning a tradition was formed and since then it has become a top of the 1st inning tradition.  Of course the only players names that don't get chanted are the pitcher and catcher out of respect for their concentration.  If you have never seen a Roll Call at Yankee Stadium, it is something special to see and it's even better to be a part of while watching a World Series game.  My dad and I actually sat directly behind "Bald Vinny" during that game.  Hearing him yell "Yoooooo Ber-NIE! during roll call that day was classic. (Update: as per @baldvinny, we weren't behind him that night as he had to work that evening...not sure which of the Creatures led the Roll Call that was over 10 years ago and I've slept since then... :), but whomever did it was very convincing in their efforts.)

Some of the other famous "Creatures" include Tina Lewis aka "Queen of the BC", a "Bald Ray", which is how Vinny got his namesake...the new "Cowbell Man" Milton Ousland, and even a "Regular Ray".  If you get a chance to sit with the Bleacher Creatures (which is no longer Section 39), you can read their names on the back of their custom fit New Era Yankee ballcaps.  Each of the members has certain responsibilities during the game in terms of chants, etc.  Of course Vinny Milano aka the Bald One starts the Roll Call by yelling "Yoooooo!" and then the current center fielder's name (Ellsbury??).  The rest of the Creatures and seemingly the rest of the Bleachers chant that player's name until they are recognized with a wave or in Johnny Damon's case a Captain Caveman Salute...a the end of the roll call, they would then point up into the Right Field Box Seats and chant "Box Seats Suck...Box Seats Suck..." which isn't applicable anymore due to the Bleachers being raised to the same level now in Section 203 of the New Stadium.  In the cases of when the hated Red Sox are visiting, this may be substituted with "Red Sox Suck..."

The "Cowbell Man" will initiate any cowbelling within the Stadium with no exceptions...and this is customarily only done during a Yankees rally.  During the 7th inning stretch, several of the Creatures will usually roll out a large American flag to display over them during the singing of God Bless America.  In the case of that fateful day in 2003, I was able to hold a corner during the playing of our National Anthem.  Occassionally other chants will be hurled at opposing players in the outfield which wouldn't be appropriate to list here as this is a family show, but one of the most mentioned by "Bald Vinny" was that he used to sling out Japanese swear words at Ichiro in right field.  Now of course they chant I-chi-ro, I-chi-ro! after the center fielder's name.
I bet this guy really hates StubHub right about now...
On the rare occasion that someone is stupid enough to wear a Red Sox or Mets shirt, hat, jersey, or any type of clothing into the section, a new chant will be directed their way, which has resulted in many a fight in the Bleachers...the chant rhymes with "Bass Pole."  Perhaps for this reason, alcohol sales were banned from the Bleachers circa 2000.  At that time, the entrance was also separate from the rest of the Stadium as you had to access them from behind the outfield wall.

Some famous people have sat with the infamous Creatures including David Cone and Tino Martinez (in disguise).  Celebrities get their picture taken with Bald Vinny and there are dedicated websites for their fandom.  Additionally, the Bleacher Creatures have their own website which I encourage you to visit: .  Heck...a book has been written about these "crazy" people as Filip Bondy sat with them during the 2004 season and documented it in his "Bleeding Pinstripes."  But really, the Creatures are made up of down-to-earth people, blue-collar workers who sat there initially because it only cost $5.  A "true" fan if you will...not one of those $9 Heineken drinkers up in the Box Seats.

So really not much has changed in the Bleachers except for the name (now Section 203) and the general locale to the Box Seats but thankfully you can get to them without having to go in a separate entrance.  The Creatures can still be heard yelling loudly whether it be Roll Call or Bass Pole and it is quite the treat to sit amongst them...well at least if you are a Yankees fan.  The Bleacher Creatures have become just another tradition in Yankee Stadium, whether Old or New and hopefully it will be a tradition that lasts a long time.  I encourage you to take in a game once or twice in the vicinity and make sure to take part in every chant, every cheer, because sometimes the result on the field isn't worth the price of admission, but the atmosphere and the way you watch the game can make up for it.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)