Bleacher Creatures

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Fans who sit in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium. "Bleacher Creatures" lead the chants of the players names in the beginning of the game.

Bleacher Creature Feature

  1. 11: Life in the Bleachers

10 May 2002 Thought I'd give you all an idea of what life is like in the right-field bleachers.

Our seats are in Section 37, the right-most section of bleachers (right by the gap between the bleachers and the right-field box seats), about seven rows from the front. We can see the entire field except for right up against the wall in right and center field. We're fairly close to the exit, and right by our exit is a stand selling Italian sausage (hot and sweet -- the peppers and onions are sometimes flaccid, but the sausages are mouth-wateringly fantastic) and bathrooms for both genders. If we move the minute the half-inning ends, we can generally get to the bathroom and out again before the next half-inning starts. These are nice seats.

While I'm not sure what the etymology of "bleacher creature" is, I do know that the term became especially popular once Filip Bondy of the New York Daily News started doing regular reports from Section 39. That's where several of the regulars have been immortalized.

(Oh, and for the record, despite what you may have read in Jayson Stark's column on, it was not a Creature who was responsible for the famed stolen home run in the 1996 playoffs against the Orioles. Jeffrey Maier was sitting in the right-field box seats. We Creatures know better than to interfere with balls in play.)

What you are about to read is crude and boorish. It's also fun, and not meant to be taken in the least bit seriously. Many of these things are traditions that -- like all traditions -- have taken on a life of their own and enrich the ballgame-attending experience.

The three most public Creatures are Tom, The Cowbell Guy (real name: Milton Ousland), and The Shouter.

Tom's thing relates to the tom-drum thump. Every once in a while -- usually during or in anticipation of a rally -- the Stadium PA will play the thumping of a tom-drum at an ever-increasing tempo. When this happens, Tom gets up on his bleacher and provides a pelvic thrust with each tom-thump, cheered on by the in-rhythm cry of "Tom!" from those of us around him. At the end of the tom-thumping, Tom strikes a pose, and his humble admirers (that would be us) cry, "He's a sex machine!"

Occasionally, they'll cut off the tom-thump before Tom has a chance to build up steam. Tom generally looks either pissed or disappointed and sits back down. I have coined this as "Tom-us interruptus" -- I'm still waiting for this phrase to gain more widespread acceptance among the Creatures. (I am not, however, holding my breath.)

The last two Sunday games, Tom was late arriving, and not looking all there. Okay, he was drunk. He's also in desperate need of a shave. I suppose he might be trying to grow a beard, but honestly it just looks like a ferret curled up and died on his chin.

Milton bought a new cowbell this year, apparently, and good for him, say I. That shows dedication. He uses the cowbell to lead the occasional chant. The best is a Latin rhythm -- clunk, clunk, clunk-clunk-clunk-clunk -- followed by us clapping the same rhythm in response. Then, after a few rounds of this, Milton keeps the rhythm going constantly, accompanied by a regular "Ho!" sung in time by the rest of us. When that comes to an end, we do the ritual chant:

"Yankee baseball, Mets suck, [opposing team] suck, [opposing right fielder] sucks, box seats suck, everybody sucks!"

This leads nicely to The Shouter -- dunno his name. His primary purpose is to shout epithets at the opposing right fielder. Most of these are of the third-grade variety -- "Your mother's a Yankee fan" and the like. My favorite is the one he tossed at Raul Mondesi of the Blue Jays: "Hey, Raul! I got a message from your Mom! She says, 'Moo!'"

Opposing right fielders are perpetual victims of the Creatures. Showing great enterprise, one of the Creatures even did some background research for the arrival of the Mariners' Japanese sensation Ichiro Suzuki, who doesn't speak all that much English. In the bottom of the first last Sunday against Seattle, one Creature started chanting, "baka Ichiro!" The word "baka" basically means stupid, and "bakayiro" -- which is pronounced simiarly to "baka Ichiro," especially in Japanese, which is generally spoken without significant syllabic emphases -- means stupid person. Not only was it bilingual, it was a good pun, too! Just goes to show that the Creatures are not just a bunch of morons.... (Please note that the above are phonetic transliterations of Japanese, and not necessarily the "proper" English transliterations.)

The folks in the right-field box seats are a source of disdain, as well. "Box seats suck!" is a routine chant, and whenever they hold up bottles of beer, to taunt us with their access to such, we, undaunted, chant, "Alcoholics!"

If someone in the upper deck decides to stand by the railing and peer over at us, the individual in question is generally taunted in a manner befitting King Arthur at the hands of the French knights. Taunts range from "Jump!" to "Mind your business!" to things more direct and personal. (If the person is overweight, they are directed to eat a salad, e.g.)

Woe betide any who make use of their cell phones during game time. Between innings or before or after the game is fine, but anyone who whips out a mobile phone while baseball is actually happening on the field is pelted with several people bellowing, "GET OFF THE PHONE!"

Perhaps the most widely known ritual is the roll call. At the top of the first, each Yankee's name is chanted until they wave at the bleachers. It generally begins in left field and goes across the outfield, though sometimes it'll begin with Bernie Williams in center, then across the infield from third to first. After that, John Sterling and Charlie Steiner -- the radio announcers -- get their names chanted. Generally the catcher and pitcher are left alone, the sole exception being Creature fave David Wells.

In our own area, we've got the two brothers on our right, one of whom listens to the radio broadcast. (This is handy, particularly for me as I'm keeping score and need to know if something's a hit or an error.) Both nice guys and fun to chat with. In front of us is a guy who's brought his three-year-old son to the last two games. The kid only made it through the third inning the first time (attending his first-ever ballgame, even), but made it all the way to the seventh last week. We figure by the end of the year, the kid'll be begging Daddy to stay to the end when his father wants to leave early. And two rows back, we've got the Latina woman who always cheers a little louder when Jorge Posada comes up...

It has been a joy to be part of this group this year. They never lose sight of the most important thing, which is that this is a game. It's supposed to be fun. And they're having fun, they're rooting for their team, and don't ever think that they're not paying attention to what's happening on the field.