Eight People You Meet at the Ol’ Ball Game
Peanuts, Cracker Jacks, and these exceptional human beings, included in the high price of admission to a stadium near you.
MY GOLDEN AGE as a baseball fan was the late 1980s, when I lived a mile from Wrigley Field, and the Cubs were fielding — surprise! — decent teams. I was an editor at Playboy magazine at the time, but one afternoon I ditched the grind of interviewing Playmates and editing John Updike to occupy row seven behind the Cubs’ dugout, as the North Siders faced Cincinnati.
The Reds had a fearsome bullpen at the time, and with the Cubs threatening to actually score, they brought fireballer Rob Dibble to pitch. My fellow fans were three-to-five beers into their enjoyment of the game at this point, so Wrigley was eerily silent (sleepy) as the flinger stared, and stared, and stared into his catcher’s crotch, seeking a sign.
Inspiration struck me.
I rose in my seat, cupped my hands around my mouth, and shouted “Throw the ball you idiot!” All 26,000 fans on hand loosed a drowsy cackle, and Dibble had to step off the rubber to compose himself.
It was my greatest (only) moment as a heckler.
Most of the time, in the hundred or so ballgames I have attended, I’m caught in that netherworld of my guys being either so far behind that the outcome is settled, or (rarely) so far ahead that I’m wondering about last call for hotdogs. That’s when my eyes wander from the field and toward my fellow fans.
They divide into eight human subspecies.
The hecklers. These guys used to attend ballgames. Then Twitter was invented.
The statisticians. As a teenager, I sent away to The Sporting News for a pamphlet about scoring notations for official scorers. I’ve missed a lot of important plays while recording unimportant ones.
The cup collectors. The drunks in the Wrigley Bleachers collect enormous stacks of beer cups. The Yankees collect World Series trophies. Take your pick.
Vishnu the Vendor. One legendary vendor at Wrigley made a great show of tossing peanut bags twenty rows, and accepting payment by AirMail. Maybe I’m exaggerating a little here, but I really admired the guy.
The wacky, fur-covered mascot. I wore my Cubs hat to a Phillies game once, and the Phanatic stalked over to our section, removed my hat, and rubbed his armpits with it. It was pretty funny, actually.
The nearly naked fan and her unworthy boyfriend. I don’t understand the logic of a comely woman wearing next to nothing, accompanied by an unseemly boyfriend, at an event attended largely by drunken men. But it happens at every game, and is often broadcast (heh) onto the Jumbotron. Prospecting, perhaps?
Send this to a sea slug of your acquaintance!
The crotchety old fan. I am rapidly becoming this guy.
The optimist. I was that little kid, seated with my glove, in the far reaches of Shea Stadium in the 1960s. My dad was a deeply optimistic guy, and did nothing to squelch that quality in his youngest son. But I never caught a ball. I still haven’t.
But sometimes dreams come true. The Cubs did win the World Series in 2016, after all.