MLB fans attending games may have the best traditions of the four major North American sports leagues. Baseball has by far the longest season at 162 regular season games, providing home team fans with up to 81 games to attend. And while the games may not last longer than an NFL game, the slower pace of play provides for a lot of down time for fans during the course of nine innings.
Across the country, each set of fans and stadiums have developed their own way to celebrate their team and city. Some traditions have been in place for decades, others a bit newer due to (relatively) new franchises and ballparks. The Chicago Cubs make the list not for singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the 7th inning stretch made famous by Harry Carey, but for a more creative passive aggressive ritual established by the Bleacher faithful.
The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox make it not for singing “New York, New York” or “Sweet Caroline,” respectively, but for the way the fans participate in creating and setting the mood for the home team.
Some of the newer parks, inhabited by older franchises, have embraced technology to delight and engage the home crowd while some of the newer parks, inhabited by newer franchises have employed architecture and creativity to start new traditions.
The 2014 MLB season officially gets under way March 22-23 in Sydney, Australia with the Los Angels Dodgers facing the Arizona Diamondbacks. Then Sunday evening, March 30th the Dodgers and Padres kick things off state side with Monday March 31st and Tuesday April 1st truly opening the season with full days of baseball.
Which MLB teams have the best traditions? Which stadiums get the fans most involved? Read on to discover the Top 10 Best traditions in MLB.
10. PNC Pirate Ship
The Pittsburgh Pirates have recently come back to life. In 2013, the Pirates beat the Cincinnati Reds in the Wild Card play-in game to earn the right to play and (lose) to the St. Louis Cardinals in 5 games. But more importantly, how do the Pirates get their fans fired up and ready for a ball game? By showing on the large LED scoreboard the Pittsburgh Pirates ship attacking the opponents pirate ship in an awesome audio and video display. Cannonballs are fired and status of Pirates legends like Honus Wagner come to life to help battle the enemy ship – the opponent – for that day, all while being serenaded by O Fortuna performed (ironically?) by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
9. Colorado Rockies Humidor
When Coors Field opened in 1995, home runs flew out of the park like popcorn out of the kettle in a movie theater concession stand. Pitchers signing contracts to play in Colorado was tantamount to committing career suicide. ERA equaled Embarrassing Runs Allowed. Scientists discovered the ball travels about 10% further due to Denver’s dry air, not altitude, when all other conditions are equal. Enter the Humidor. In 2002, the Rockies installed a $15,000 humidor at Coors Field to store the baseballs used during games. Statistics show that home runs came down in frequency to mirror other Major League ballparks. Is it the introduction of science or the reduction of steroids?
8. Dodge Stadium Organist Nancy Bea
Meet Nancy Bea, organist for the Los Angeles Dodgers. She plays a Roland organ sitting high above home plate near the broadcast booths. Bea started playing the organ for the Dodgers in 1988. Along with the baseball song standbys, like Take Me Out to the Ball Game and God Bless America, Bea plays 10-15 songs per game. She has played every thing from The Beatles to The Mexican Hat Dance. Recorded music blasts through the stadium speakers to augment Bea and her Roland organ. Nancy Bea is a musical treasure in Chavez Ravine.
7. Minnesota Twins TC Bear
Target Field opened in 2012, bringing outdoor baseball back to the Twin Cities. Next to the centerfield giant sign of twins Minnie and Paul lighting up when the Twins hit a home run, the Twins Mascot TC Bear is must see viewing while attending a Twins game. Arrive early, as before every home game TC Bear challenges fans to a home run hitting contest. Home plate is set up on a large tarp on the outfield just beyond second base. A Twins player or coach pitches softballs to the fan, then TC Bear. A won-lost record for TC could not be found.
6. Toronto Blue Jays OK Blue Jays (Let’s Play Ball) song
In 1982, the Toronto Blue Jays created their own version of the 7th inning stretch. Made famous, perhaps by Cubs broadcaster Harry Carey, most major league ballparks sing Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Not Blue Jays fans. When it is time to stretch, the fans in the Rogers Centre rise and sing… OK Blue Jays (Let’s Play Ball). Performed by Keith Hampshire and the Bat Boys, the song went on to sell 50,000 copies! It sounds like a collaboration of Randy Newman (I Love L.A.) and Adam Sandler. Though I have never attended a Blue jays home game, I can only imagine the Molson fueled crowd crooning this catchy song during the middle of the 7th inning.
5. New York Yankees Logo
No, the N.Y. Yankee logo is not a stadium tradition, but it is one of the most widely recognized and iconic logos in all of professional sports. And there is an interesting story behind its creation in 1947. The design has long been credited to Henry Alonzo Keller, a sports illustrator. He designed covers for stadium programs for the Yankees and hundreds of universities and high schools. However, according to the blog City Room, a family of a different man has come forward claiming their uncle (actually their uncle’s uncle) actually sketched the original design on a bar napkin in a club in New York City in, you guessed it, 1947. According to the Yankees, Keller has always been credited with the design but have no formal written contract or other viable proof. What sounds more plausible, a man known for his prolific sports illustrations or a sketch on a bar napkin? I’ll let you decide.
4. Chicago Cubs “Throw it Back”
The Chicago Cubs bleacher crowd is a creative bunch. And yes, I have been to multiple Cubs games. It seems as if Wrigley Field is just one big party with a baseball game just happening to be going on. One of my favorite in-game traditions is when the left field bleacher patrons begin chanting, “Right field sucks, Right field sucks.” Then on cue the right field bleacher patrons return fire with, “Left field sucks, Left field sucks.” But the most creative tradition began in the late 1970’s after the play “Bleacher Bums” became popular in the Chicago area. According to Yahoo, a character in the play says “that when you are given garbage, you have to give it back.” Shortly there after, the tradition of throwing an opposing team’s home run ball back on the field was born.
3. Miller Park Sausage Race
How can something that happens at least 81 times a season never get old? When it is five life-size sausages sprinting from 3rd base around home plate and back up to first base to see whom the weiner will be (sorry), it can never get old. The race starts after the bottom of the 6th inning and is contested by: 1. Bratt Wurst, 2. Stosh, a Polish sausage, 3. Guido, an Italian sausage, 4. Frankie Furter, a regular hot dog and 5. Cinco, a chorizo. Fans and players are known to make a friendly wager before every single race. And who can forget “Guidogate”? The Pittsburgh Pirates Randall Simon must have a hit taken out on Guido, the Italian sausage, because Simon clubbed him as he ran by the Pirates dug out. Come on man…
2. Fenway Park’s Pesky Pole
According to the official statistics, Pesky’s Pole lies 302 feet down the right field line in Fenway Park. Some, including Johhny Pesky, the pole’s namesake, question that distance. “More like 295 feet,” according to Pesky. There are conflicting stories about how the right field foul pole became known as Pesky’s Pole. The widely accepted version is Pesky’s former teammate, and then Red Sox broadcaster Mel Parnell, coined the term while on the air in the 1960’s. The story goes Pesky hit a home run in 1948 either just inside or actually off the foul pole giving the pitcher, Parnell, the win. Doubt creeps into the story because Pesky only hit 17 career home runs, 6 of them at Fenway. On September 27th, 2006 the Red Sox officially named the right field foul pole Pesky’s Pole. Fans in attendance sitting near the right field foul pole may write their names on the pole. A pretty cool way for fans to become part of baseball history.
1. New York Yankees Roll Call
Say what you want about New Yankees fans. Obnoxious. Cocky. Feisty. But you have to give it to them for one of baseballs best stadium traditions. In the mid-1990’s, Tito Martinez entered a game in the late innings. A crowd in right field began cheering for him, and to their surprise, he turned around and waved at them. A tradition was born. The Bleacher Creatures set up every home game in section 203 in the right field bleachers. One player at a time they begin chanting his name. The cheers continue until the player acknowledges the Creatures with a wave or tip of the cap. On to the next player; pitchers and catchers are exempt.