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Bleachers Section 39 at the old Yankee Stadium.

The Bleacher Creatures are a group of fans of the New York Yankees who are known for their strict allegiance to the team and their merciless attitude to opposing fans. The group's nickname was coined by New York Daily News columnist Filip "Flip" Bondy, who spent the 2004 season sitting with the Creatures for research on his book about the group, Bleeding Pinstripes: A Season with the Bleacher Creatures of Yankee Stadium, which was published in 2005.

A prominent aspect of the Bleacher Creatures is their use of chants and songs. The most distinguished of these is the Roll Call, which is done at the beginning of every home game. Often, the opposing team's right fielder, who stands right in front of the Creatures, is a victim of their jeers and insults.

For the last two decades, the Creatures occupied sections 39 and 37 of the original Yankee Stadium's bleachers. In 2009, they were relocated and currently sit in Section 203 of the right-field bleachers in the Yankees' new stadium.

Contents

History

The seat with a plaque dedicated to Ali Ramirez in old Yankee Stadium: Section 39, row A, seat 29

The founding of the Bleacher Creatures is often credited to Ali Ramirez. Ramirez rang a cowbell to inspire the fans to cheer (much like Freddy Sez's efforts in the Stadium's main grandstand) during the team's limited success in the early 1980s and 1990s. He died on May 8, 1996, and was given a tribute by the Yankees front office before the May 14 game against the Seattle Mariners, a game in which Dwight Gooden pitched a no-hitter. There was a plaque where he sat, in section 39, row A, seat 29 which read "This seat is taken. In memory of Ali Ramirez, 'The Original Bleacher Creature'".

It was also during this period of drought that regular fans in the right field bleachers started chanting Dave Winfield's name.[1] When Winfield left the team, they began cheering for Bernie Williams. One day, in the late 90's, the fans started cheering Tino Martinez, and he responded with a wave, shocking the cheering fans.[2] This evolved and became the roll call, which is now the trademark of the Bleacher Creatures.

Filip Bondy's book on the Bleacher Creatures

In 1996, New York Daily News columnist Filip "Flip" Bondy was asked to write a story from the fan's perspective. Bondy approached what he called "a core group of the most rabid, passionate fans", and wrote from their perspective. To make sure it was known that he was not truly the one writing, he attributed authorship to "the Bleacher Creature", coining the nickname in relation to the Yankee Stadium inhabitants.

Because of the rowdiness of the fans, and the fact that many families began sitting in the more affordable bleachers, alcoholic beverages were banned from the bleachers in 2000.[3] Yankees Program Vendor Ted Banks commented that "There wasn't any special reason for that, it just got out of hand. Those people used to get wild when Jose Canseco played for the A's. A few people threw things at Ken Griffey Jr."[4]

On April 5, 2002, pitcher David Cone spent the season's home opener with the Bleacher Creatures in Section 39, and even participated in their chants.[5] He was also invited to start the roll call, and did so with a shout of "Yo, Bernie!" to Bernie Williams. The Creatures cheered derisively to the right field box seats "We got Cone! We got Cone!"

Right about now, I'd be all stressed out on the mound. This is great. I love the view. It's a lot less stressful out here.

—David Cone, on sitting with the Bleacher Creatures, [5]

In 2004, Bondy spent the season among the Creatures and wrote a book about his experience, entitling it Bleeding Pinstripes: A Season with the Bleacher Creatures of Yankee Stadium, which was published in 2005. In the blurb, Bondy called it "a unique, anthropological view of this most dedicated tribe of rooters—their rituals, their personal tribulations, their uncanny commitment to the Bronx ball club and to each other." The foreword was written by David Cone.[6]

The Yankees and the NYPD personnel started to impose stricter anti-obscenity rules in the Bleachers during the 2007 season. Some Creatures expressed dissatisfaction with this by wearing T-shirts with the sarcastic phrase "Section 39 Fun Police" on them, and chanting "No fun allowed!" in place of the oft-said "Box Seats Suck!" chant that the section had long been accustomed to.

The Bleacher Creatures are what makes that stadium. To have that honor to play right field in front of them every day has been great. I think I've developed a great relationship with them. It's been awesome the way they've really brought in the new stadium and we're having an absolute blast.

—Yankees Rightfielder Nick Swisher, [7]

In 2009, the Yankees lifted the nine-year alcohol ban in the bleachers in the New Yankee Stadium, where the Bleacher Creatures were relocated to Section 203. While no beer vendors come through to the bleachers, fans are permitted to purchase beer in the stadium and take them back to their seats.[8] A few Creatures have admittedly stated they can now desist in their beer smuggling efforts, which they were able to do for years with the help of local delis who used to wrap up sandwiches with beer cans. Other sources of previous smuggling included "a guy who would sell those airline-size liquor bottles out of a bathroom stall, like a drug dealer."[8] However, an April 2009 segment on ABC World News Tonight revealed that the end of the beer ban is a temporary experiment, and if things get out of hand in the section, the Yankees' management might reinstate it.[9]

A gold plaque honoring Ali Ramirez was installed in the new stadium which is cleaned by a Creature at the start of every game.[10]

Chants and songs

A prominent aspect of the Bleacher Creatures atmosphere is their use of a variety of chants and songs used during the game that are unique to their section. These chants can sometimes be heard throughout the Stadium.

Roll Call

Bald Vinny, calling out the center fielder's name to begin the Roll Call.

The Creatures' most famous and long-standing chant is known as the roll call. In the top of the first inning, when the Yankees are on the field and their starting pitcher is getting ready to throw the first pitch, everyone in the section stands and begins clapping. After the pitch is thrown, Creature "Bald" Vinny Milano gestures for the crowd to calm down, then cups his hands around his mouth and shouts out the name of the center fielder (e.g.: "Yo, Melky!", for Melky Cabrera). The whole group proceeds to chant the name until there is a response, usually in the form of a wave or a point; some Yankees respond with extra enthusiasm, such as Johnny Damon (who typically drops to one knee and points at the Creatures with both hands) and Nick Swisher (who comes to attention, faces the Creatures, and salutes). The Creatures move through the lineup, going from the center fielder to the left fielder, right fielder, first baseman, second baseman, shortstop and third baseman, in that order. (With the exception of a few rare instances, the pitcher and the catcher are not a part of the roll call.) Anti-obscenity laws were exercised in 2007, but are not always strictly enforced; if they are able, the Creatures will turn to the right field box seats at the completion of the Roll Call and chant "Box seats suck!" If the Yankees are playing the Red Sox, the intensity of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry takes hold; the Creatures then cut the 'box seats' chant short and instead chant "Boston sucks!" until that dissipates. If police cut this short, the Creatures resort to chanting "No fun allowed!", or nothing at all. If a non-pitcher is replaced in a defensive position, the replacement is given the same chant. Sometimes, after a long rain delay, the Creatures will start another Roll Call just for fun. At the end of the Roll Call, Vinny will say "Okay, sit down, the show's over."

In 1999, when David Wells made his first appearance at Yankee Stadium after having been traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, his name was chanted. In his tenure with the Yankees, he was the only Yankee pitcher to be included in the Roll Call every time he pitched. Alfonso Soriano's name was chanted when he made his first appearance after being traded to the Texas Rangers.

In the 2006 home opener against the Kansas City Royals, the Bleacher Creatures chanted the name of long-time Yankee outfielder Bernie Williams, who was the designated hitter that day, right after the rest of the defensive lineup. Williams, whose future in baseball was uncertain in the offseason, was in the clubhouse at the time and did not hear the Creatures. The chants continued for around 5 minutes until Williams came out and waved.[11] At the beginning of the 2007 season opener, the Creatures started a chant of "We want Bernie!", a reference to the fact that Williams was no longer with the team.

After a too-exuberant "Box Seats Suck!" followed by an obscene gesture, Bald Vinny is about to be ejected from the Stadium by a female NYPD officer.

The Creatures also call out in memoriam, such as calling out former Yankee shortstop and longtime broadcaster Phil Rizzuto's name during the roll call on August 14, 2007, the day Rizzuto died. They did the same for Bobby Murcer at the 2008 MLB All Star Game.

At the 2002 Yankees home opener, former Yankee David Cone sat among the Bleacher Creatures and participated in Roll Call. At the end, they chanted "We've got Cone! We've got Cone!" After the final game played at Yankee Stadium on September 21, 2008, Paul O'Neill revealed that he had sat with the Creatures during the game the day before. O'Neill said he wore a Yankees jacket, glasses and a hat, and that no one recognized him. Jim Leyritz expressed interest in sitting with the creatures on an episode of the YES Network show Ultimate Road Trip. He was spotted in the bleachers taking pictures during the final game at Yankee Stadium, but it is unknown whether he actually sat and watched the game from the bleachers.

Former Yankee third baseman Scott Brosius was notorious for not responding immediately to the roll call, as other players on the diamond would. Sometimes he would even wait as long as a minute to respond, getting a kick out of the persistence of the Creatures. In Hideki Matsui's first game at the Stadium in 2003, the chant of "MAT-SU-I" went on for approximately two minutes, because he did not know what was going on or how to react.

In a 2009 press conference, former Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi said that "The biggest thing I miss is (the Bleacher Creatures') roll call. There's no doubt about it, it's the best thing in baseball."[12]

The Cowbell Man

After the death of Ali Ramirez, the original cowbell man, there was a dispute in the bleachers over who would take his place. One of Ramirez' relatives wanted to take over, but he didn't show up to enough games, so the bell was eventually given to Milton Ousland. He became the official Cowbell Man, and no one else was authorized to use it. However, in 2009 due to Milton's many obligation's outside of the Stadium, it was agreed upon by the group that a creature named "Wilrod" would take over the duties when Milton couldn't make it. This agreement was reached due to the many fans who were disappointed that the tradition was not carried out at every game. "Wilrod" is now the official fill-in person for Milton which was approved by Tina Lewis.

The cowbell is primarily used to initiate a chant. After rapidly banging on the cowbell, and getting the attention of the Bleacher Creatures, Ousland plays a few notes on it. Everyone in the section imitates these beats with claps. After repeating this several times, Ousland begins banging another few notes more rapidly, and the Creatures begin shouting "Oh-Ohhh!" in unison and moving their arms in a repetitive pointing motion.

I used to get all tensed up when I was younger coming here, but finally I said, 'Hey, it's the same dimensions, the baseball field is the same,' They just get a little rowdy, that's all. I try not to pay attention, but after a while, they're gonna talk to you.

Mike Cameron, former Mariners Rightfielder, [4]

At the end, Ousland hits the cowbell three times, and the Creatures say "Yankee baseball. Mets suck. (visiting team) sucks. (Visiting team's right fielder) sucks. Box Seats Suck. Everybody sucks."

Ric Flair Impersonator

In the old Yankee Stadium, there was a fan who sat in Section 37 of the right field bleachers (right next to the generally accepted Bleacher Creatures) that would impersonate famous wrestler Ric Flair. He would use Flair's trademark "Whoo!" in between breaks of his sentence or thought. Most of his comments would be derisive, sarcastic one-liners about the opposing team, Yankee Stadium policies, or the game itself. He, as well as the rest of the Bleacher Creatures, also made the move over to the new Yankee Stadium.

Other chants and jeers

The Creatures also have other miscellaneous chants. Occasionally they will hurl several insults at the opposing team's right fielder throughout the game, and sometimes at the other outfielders as well. In 2001, some Creatures learned Japanese so that they could yell obscenities at Seattle Mariners right fielder Ichiro Suzuki when he made his first appearance at Yankee Stadium. After he learned English, they switched back to their native language.[4]

Among other chants, the Creatures sometimes scream, "Jump!" at fans in the upper deck who are standing near the railing. At times they turn to their own members and banter with them, chanting "Eagles suck!" if one of them is a known Philadelphia Eagles fan, or "You sell drugs!" just for fun.[4] Their most famous chant besides the Roll Call is the "Box Seats Suck!" chant, which was outlawed by police in 2007 but is sometimes still used today as police do not always enforce the ban.

The Move to Section 203

In the new Yankee Stadium, the Creatures occupy Section 203 of the stadium's right field bleachers.[13] Before the start of the 2008 MLB Season, several creatures publicly expressed their anger with the move out of the old stadium. Roll Caller Vinny Milano was one of them in particular:[14]

As far as 39 goes next year, there is a right-field bleachers now, there will be a right-field bleachers in the new stadium. When it comes time to pay for our seats, I believe they will offer us something 'comparable' to what we have now and we're pretty much gonna be at their mercy. I have zero faith that anyone that works with or is involved with the Yankees actually cares one way or another if any of us go to the new stadium. Personally, I'm not even sure that I will make the move.

However, the Yankees organization did work closely with the Creatures to ensure that they sat together again, and designated a total of 136 season-ticket packages for them in section 203.[10] The move was monitored by long-time Creature Tina Lewis, known as the "Queen of the Bleachers", who organized a list of about 50+ Creatures to ensure they would all be sitting together again in the new stadium.[10] Despite the Creatures' concerns over how the Yankees management would handle the move, Lewis said that, "The Yankees helped us because I calmed everybody down over the years. We behaved ourselves, took away some of the chants, and they pretty much paid us back."[10]

Unlike Section 39 in the old Yankee Stadium, Section 203 and the rest of the bleachers have access to the entire park. In reference to this new lack of seclusion, and the fact that beer sales are now legal in the section, New York Daily News sports columnist Filip Bondy summed up the new situation by saying, "At this new-fangled stadium, the golden liquid flows like soda and the walls are down that once protected the aristocracy from the bleacher proletariat. This is bound to create some class warfare down the road, some storming of the Legends suites." Bondy also praised the Creatures for "handling the transition with commendable grace and flexibility."[10]

Controversy

Since the inception of the Bleacher Creatures, many people have held a negative viewpoint towards the section for their notorious attitude towards opposing fans and players, and their raucous nature in general. Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter Dan Raley called the Creatures "oblivious to the outside world. Demanding, relentless and venomous" in a 2001 article. He also claimed that "They have thrown batteries, coins and a knife at opposing players" and that "They throw punches at one another."[4] Longtime stadium usher Michael Swann, who used to work in Section 39 of the old stadium, also had a negative recollection of them:[4]

Some are real, obnoxious people, some are real foul-mouthed people. Yankee management says if you say certain words and get out of hand, you have to go. But when we try to throw them out, management won't back us. These people won't show us their tickets. They intimidate out-of-towners with tickets into moving to seats somewhere else. They're obnoxious.

On occasion, one or more Creatures are asked to leave the stadium by police. The bleacher beer ban in 2000 was blamed on the Creatures, which they regard as a false accusation. They have also been accused of heckling rattled musicians in high school bands, which they do not deny.[2]

However, in the last few years the Creatures have been shown in a more positive light. They have been praised for their loyalty and dedication in numerous articles and features from Filip Bondy, and in his book as well. On April 3, 2009, ABC World News Tonight did a segment on the Creatures, calling them "the most loyal fans any team could want."[9]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Heckling Hall of Fame". HeckleDepot.com. http://www.heckledepot.com/hallfame.shtml. Retrieved 2009-02-26.  
  2. ^ a b Moran, Malcolm (2001). "Bleacher creatures add life to Bronx". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/yankees/2001-11-01-creatures.htm. Retrieved 2009-02-26.  
  3. ^ Bondy, ibid., p. 20-22.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Haley, Dan (October 23, 2001). "Rowdy, obnoxious ... meet the Bleacher Creatures". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/43820_color23.shtml. Retrieved 2009-03-09.  
  5. ^ a b Bondy, Filip (2002). "Creature Comforts Suit Cone". New York Daily News. http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/sports/2002/04/06/2002-04-06_creature_comforts_suit_cone.html. Retrieved 2009-02-26.  
  6. ^ Filip Bondy, Bleeding Pinstripes: A Season with the Bleacher Creatures of Yankee Stadium , foreword by David Cone (NY: Sports Publishing, 2005)
  7. ^ Traina, Jimmy. "Nick Swisher Q&A". Sports Illustrated. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/jimmy_traina/09/21/nick-swisher-on-joanna-garcia-celebratory-handshakes-twitter/index.html?eref=shareFB. Retrieved 2009-09-22.  
  8. ^ a b Olshan, Jeremy (2009-03-31). "True Brew Fans: Bleachers are Again Beer-Able". New York Post. http://www.nypost.com/seven/03312009/news/regionalnews/true_brew_fans_162187.htm. Retrieved 2009-04-07.  
  9. ^ a b "What's a Thirsty Bleacher Creature To Do?". ABC News. http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=7264325. Retrieved 2009-04-07.  
  10. ^ a b c d e Bondy, Filip (2009-04-02). "Special night on tap for Bleacher Creatures at new Yankee Stadium". New York Daily News. http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/2009/04/03/2009-04-03_special_night_on_tap_for_bleacher_creatu.html. Retrieved 2009-04-09.  
  11. ^ "Notes: Bernie makes 'roll call'". Major League Baseball. 2006. http://newyork.yankees.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/news/article.jsp?ymd=20060411&content_id=1395679&vkey=news_nyy&fext=.jsp&c_id=nyy. Retrieved 2009-02-06.  
  12. ^ Brennan, Sean (2009-04-20). "For Jason Giambi, visit to new Yankee Stadium is sinking in". New York Daily News. http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/2009/04/20/2009-04-20_for_jason_giambi_stadium_is_sinking_in.html. Retrieved 2009-04-21.  
  13. ^ "We've Moved! Section 203 Tee". Vinny Milano. 2009. http://www.baldvinny.com/section203.html. Retrieved 2009-02-26.  
  14. ^ Bondy, Filip (2008). "Bleacher Creatures don't want to see old Yankee Stadium go". New York Daily News. http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/2008/03/31/2008-03-31_bleacher_creatures_dont_want_to_see_old_.html. Retrieved 2009-02-26.  

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