Baseball Taught Me Something: Fan Traditions Across the American League
If there's anything visiting countless baseball stadiums across the country has taught me, it's that there is such a thing as culture shock in the sport. Are the umpires really that bad if A's fans are interjecting “oh no!” after each one is announced? Why do Cubs fans hoist up a white flag when their team shockingly wins a game? And why can't I ever pick the winning sausage at Miller Park? It just has to be the damn hot-dog and not the chorizo, doesn't it.
America's favorite past-time wouldn't have the die-hard fans it has today without a bit of zaniness. We cheer on bloopers of players and ourselves between innings and dance like no one's watching just so everyone can ogle us when we finally make it to the Jumbotron. For every team in both AL and NL and at any park you go to, there's always something more than the standard fare of just catching a game.
Our highly educational list of baseball traditions and ballpark quirks will have you ready for any baseball match-up at any stadium. Even if you can't stand the facilities you visit or the team that calls them home, I'm sure you can respect their fans' love of the game as they shout and sing their way through nine innings. You do the same thing at your home ballpark. It's just a little... different. (looking at you, Toronto Blue Jays fans. What is up with that song?)
Here's my round up of fan traditions for America League teams. NL fans don't fret, your fan tradition list will be coming out next week.
Baltimore Orioles: One Letter Chant
I'd hate to start off this list in a rude and impersonal manner but what's your “O” face like? Is it usually set to music, say, the National Anthem? If you answered yes to both of these and are still not completely weirded out or clicking out of this list and onto some other website as fast as humanly possible, you're probably an Orioles fan and you probably already know about the “O” chant. A Baltimore tradition dating back to the 1970s, fans have been elongating their “O”s to the tune of patriotism because, with so many stanzas in the “Star-Spangled Banner” starting with “O,” why wouldn't you? The team and national pride has further stirred the pot of the O's-Nats rivalry and has sparked both online and offline debate, so you may want to “O” at your own risk the next time you're at Camden Yards.
Boston Red Sox – Ballpark Graffiti
If you're looking for a cheap seat (well, really any seat at this point) at Fenway Park and your only options are obstructed view seats, you may want to bring a radio to catch all the action. The Red Sox aren't kidding when they mean obstructed. Much like the city of Boston itself, Fenway was built to cram as many people as possible within its confines in the most convoluted way imaginable. Thus, holding all those people meant adding a few braces here and there and placing foul poles at the most inconvenient spots in the ballpark. The right field foul pole, known as Pesky's Pole, isn't named because it's obnoxious but rather in honor of iconic shortstop and coach Johnny Pesky. It's become common practice for fans to sign the pole, a tactic that was even used by players to honor Pesky in 2012.
New York Yankees – Roll Call
Say what you want about the Yankees' obscene payroll (and the fact that it certainly hasn't resulted in an impressive season so far) but no matter the high price of a player, their engagement with fans is still somewhat admirable. Want proof? The Yankees' famed Bleacher Creatures, a group of fans who rally the troops each and every home game in Section 203 of Yankees Stadium, have their own team roll call and every player strikes a pose, gives a wave and acknowledges their names. In fact, former and current players love the roll call. A shout of the first name of whoever's playing center field from ringleader "Bald" Vinny Milano starts off chanting that takes fans all the way around the baseball diamond.
Tampa Bay Rays – Cat Scratch Fever
Once proclaimed the Tampa Bay Rays' best kept secret and quite possibly formidable enough to beat Parks and Rec's beloved DJ Roomba, DJ Kitty is an adorable ball of record-spinning rallying goodness meant to inspire a team finally ascending through the post-season after a heartbreaking first decade of losing seasons. DJ Kitty is either the work of a Photoshop genius or just happens to be the most patient cat in the world. It can't be easy learning to scratch on some vinyl rather than clawing up your owner's new leather couch. For that feat, the Rays get a special designation in that they taught their animal fans a new, highly marketable skill. See you at my cousin's wedding, DJ Kitty.
Toronto Blue Jays – What Is Baseball (Set to Music)
Think back to the first baseball game you ever went to, most likely when you were in still in a onesie and completely unconcerned with sabermetrics (hats off to those kids who've been tracking their team's OPS since conception, though). When you were just learning the sport and probably also how to walk and eat solid foods, I'm sure your parents were having a hell of a time explaining the basics of the stadium and the park. Lucky for Blue Jays fans, there's “OK Blue Jays,” a rather jolly ditty about a paint by numbers Jays game. Featuring such lyrical gems as “is that a fly ball or is it a seagull” and “it's all dark at the ballpark but that's okay, it's a night game”, “OK Blue Jays” is perhaps the fastest way to stop taking the Toronto organization seriously while also teaching your toddler the sport of baseball in the process.
Did I mention that the song also has its own choreography that everybody in the stadium follows?:
Chicago White Sox – Free-for-all
Much like the Backstreet Boys, the Chicago White Sox don't care who you are, where you're from, or what you did. They may not even be concerned with you loving them. So long as you are able-bodied and can play baseball, they've always got a space for you at their annual free-for-all open tryouts. First established in 1978 as a way to find talent in the face of an unimpressive budget, the Sox are so serious about their open tryouts that you don't even need your own bat or ball to participate; just show up mildly prepared and the team will take care of the rest. Rumor has it, names are even preemptively stitched onto jerseys to further solidify the tryout's realness. Over the course of the Sox's countless open tryouts, tens of players have been selected. Could the next one be you?
Cleveland Indians – Bass Drum Boom
Indians fan and perpetual percussionist John Adams has been a staple at tribe games for over 40 years. In 2006, he was even bestowed his own bobblehead, the highest honor a guy who spends his free time banging a drum at baseball games can receive, probably.
Detroit Tigers – Pizza to the People
Little Caesar's founder Mike Ilitch once had aspirations of making the big leagues and even played for the Tigers farm team. An injury sidelined him and prompted a total career shift from tossing baseballs to pizza dough. The rest, apparently, is history. Ilitch and his Little Caesars company have a near monopoly on the Detroit sports market as owners of the Tigers and the Red Wings. Aside from praying for the Tigers to continue their rather impressive rise (damn you, Verlander!) these past few seasons, there is no better way to support your team. The many Tigers fans I've talked with have regularly copped to buying a few $5 pizzas for the cause.
Kansas City Royals – Regal Waters
If there's a large section of your team's Wikipedia page dedicated to the years that they hit “rock bottom,” then the best thing your team has taught you is either an appreciation of good baseball by way of ass-kicking opponents or the many ways that you can truly appreciate your ballpark. For the Kansas City Royals, it's most definitely the latter. Dubbed a “water spectacular,” Kauffman Stadium's outdoor fountains are the largest privately funded fountains in the world.
Minnesota Twins – Bless You
You'd think that a promotional item turned rally icon wouldn't be as popular as it is even though its main purpose is to clear your stuffy nose. If you think hygiene is apparently cooler than supporting your team, your'e clearly not a Twins fan. Hopping on the Steelers' Terrible Towel bandwagon and somehow making that phenomenon even more unappealing, Star Tribune reporter Terrie Robbins unleashed the Homer Hanky upon the world in the 1980s.
Houston Astros – Going Nowhere
Overstuffed with sweet, sweet oranges, Minute Maid Park's outfield train has set a course for basically nowhere, which is a fitting metaphor for the Astros as an organization. Though apparently the most profitable team in baseball, the Astros are also the only team to nab a Nielsen ranking of 0.0 for a televised game. Understandably, the Astros have lost a lot of fans and most certainly have lost their way when it comes to even playing a mediocre game of baseball. If anything, the Astros' Minute Maid Park has taught fans that even if you're going nowhere, it's always nice to have some oranges.
LA Angels of Anaheim – Rally Monkey
It all started with an Ace Ventura clip. Video board operator Dean Fraulino just happened to play a monkey jumping up and down to incite a rally during Game 6 of the 2002 World Series and it apparently got the job done. Turning the tide entirely in the Angels' favor, the night of the rally monkey saw the team beat the San Francisco Giants in a come from behind 6-5 victory. While many San Francisco Giants fans (myself included) still cite Coach Dusty Baker's decision to pull ace pitcher Russ Ortiz in favor of a fatal Felix Rodriguez, Angels fans have gone on to worship at the alter of the monkey whenever they need a kick in the pants to get their shit together. For those of you who've blocked out the entire 2002 season from your memories, the Angels won the World Series the next night, earning them a cute and fuzzy new tradition and a shiny ring in the process.
Oakland Athletics – Sign Language
Just two years ago, hometown hero MC Hammer joined Oakland's Convention and Visitor's Bureau to help attract visitors to “the town”. Now that Hammer's firmly reestablished himself in the city he grew up, it only made sense that he'd reach all the way back to his roots and honor the baseball team he was once a batboy for. Following the success of the Bernie Lean, “2 Legit 2 Quit” became not just a song but a hand signal for all who enjoy baseball at the O.co Coliseum. It's why a random video of one person gesticulating can garner over one hundred views and perhaps the best way to finish off your 7th inning stretch after the booze has stopped flowing and the A's are still winning. For all we know, MC Hammer may have helped propel the team into first place for the sheer reason of visiting Oakland.
Seattle Mariners – Meal Time
If you're ever hungry and willing to sacrifice your baseball dignity then broadcaster Mike Blowers and co. have got a treat for you. Initially started as just a friendly gesture when a fan dropped his fries while attempting to catch a foul ball, the Mariners' Rally Fries quickly became a thing. In fact, the first two games that fries were given out, the Mariners went out to win. Signs denouncing opposing teams and detailing just how many miles fans have traveled have been rewarded time and again with french fries, so the more creative the better chance you have at helping the Mariners win another home game and gain you some free food.
Texas Rangers – Fanbassador
Unlike the only other Texas team in baseball, the Rangers actually care enough to establish traditions for those who've stuck it out with them. Thanks to a campaign launched just four years ago, the Rangers have increased affordability at Globe Life Park for families and frat bros alike and finally brought all the banal s*** in other ballparks like playing atrocious Rednex country anthem “Cotton-eye Joe” and various fireworks nights. They've also got a fan ambassador who is ready and willing to answer your ridiculous emails asking for a free beer night and beginning for half their roster to just get the hell off the disabled list already. Their inaugural “fanbassador”, Katie Crawford, apparently started off with a lot of emails about beer and the Jumbotron, surely two of most important aspects of Rangers baseball.