|Minnesota's notorious baseball hooligans showered misunderstood Yankees outfielder Chuck Knoblauch with so many hot dogs and assorted debris last week that umpires halted the game for 12 minutes. An embarrassed manager Tom Kelly personally begged the fans to behave and later apologized for their actions.
New Yorkers were shocked and appalled to see a major stadium turn into the set of the Jerry Springer Show, because everyone knows Yankees fans would never behave in such a shameful manner. Such ugly fan displays are not tolerated at baseball's sacred temple, Yankee Stadium, home to the greatest fans in all sports.
Unlike the Metrodome, no security forces are required at Yankee Stadium, because fans police themselves, maintaining strict standards of decorum. The rigid dress policy requires that men wear a coat and tie. To maintain their well-earned reputation as the game's most knowledgeable fans, no one is admitted to the bleachers until passing a 50-question test on Yankees and baseball history. Although every game is sold out (even for the Devil Rays), fans enter the stadium in such an orderly fashion that no one ever feels crowded.
Once inside, fans are famed for supporting Yankees and foes alike in a spirit of true sportsmanship. They are always polite and respectful to all players, shouting such encouragements as "Hit it here, Mr. Jeter," or "Good show, Mr. Giambi." Should a fan offer the rare discouraging word, his section's aisle captain will give him the famous "Bronx Leer," a withering glare that inspires guilt and instant repentance.
|"The House That Ruth Built" remains the most pure setting in all of sports.|
Four-letter words are strictly prohibited, and fans who speak them face immediate ejection. But even this is done in the most delicate manner, with the offending fans discreetly paged to the stadium office, where they receive cab fare home.
Drunken behavior is a problem everywhere else, but not at Yankee Stadium. Beer is offered at the concession stands but rarely purchased. Health-conscious Yankees fans instead prefer a variety of fruit and vegetable juices, freshly squeezed by the numerous, efficient and friendly concessionaires. Lines are unheard of (even at the women's restrooms). Fans know they can go to the bathroom, purchase their concessions and return to their seats without missing a single pitch.
Because the Yankees haven't raised their prices in 26 years, bleacher tickets remain a bargain at $2.50, though no fan would dream of attending a game without also bringing several cans of non-perishables for the team's famed "Can of Corn" food shelf. In addition, New York health authorities estimate as many as 2,500 lives have been saved through the Yankees "Organ Music" program, where fans return the ticket stubs, which double as organ donor cards.
While Minnesotans threw hot dogs at Knoblauch, the only items Yankees fans ever throw are the coins they toss into the "Monument Park Collection Basket" between innings. Generous fans raised enough last year to lower subway fares by 20 percent and provide air conditioning on all trains with enough seats for all. That makes subway travel a luxury, though after a game fans sometimes must wait up to 45 seconds for a train (New York's respected MTA is hard at work on this and expects to eliminate the delays by the next homestand).
|The rare unruly fan will be disciplined by his aisle captain at Yankee Stadium.|
Cabs are another convenient way to travel, because they are plentiful and cheap outside the stadium following a game. When the Yankees win (which is almost always), the drivers often drive fans back to the city for free, just to hear someone talk about the game.
All that would be enough for the Yankees to claim they have the game's best fans, but there is far more. Consider the "House the Homeless in the House That Ruth Built" program, initiated and supported through the bipartisan partnership of Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Hillary Clinton.
Under this program, wealthy Wall Street stockbrokers leave work early so they can bring two or more homeless fans to the stadium. In addition to free tickets, the homeless receive official replica Yankees jackets (value, $240 apiece) that keep them toasty warm, plus enough concessions to feed them for a week. Naturally, they are welcome to live in the stadium's many luxury suites until they get back on their feet.
The program is wildly successful -- the homeless have all but disappeared from Manhattan streets, while Yankees attendance is up 44 percent since 1997 -- but that is not all.
||Cabs are another convenient way to travel, because they are plentiful and cheap outside the stadium following a game. When the Yankees win (which is almost always), the drivers often drive fans back to the city for free, just to hear someone talk about the game.
Under the club's 6-year-old "Big Teammate" program, the Yankees players and coaches deliver food baskets to the poor in the Bronx before batting practice. They also "adopt" youngsters on a regular basis. These children receive hot meals at the stadium while earning private school vouchers by opening fan mail and polishing the team's World Series trophies. Jeffrey Maier is one of more than 4,000 youths helped in this manner.
Thanks to all these efforts, crime has plummeted while graduation rates and property values have skyrocketed around the Stadium. Fortune magazine recently named the Bronx the third most liveable community in the country.
Who is responsible for this renaissance? Everyone knows it's George Steinbrenner, but you would never get the shy owner to admit it. Mr. Steinbrenner detests attention and rarely speaks publicly. He usually sneaks into the stadium incognito to avoid attention.
The fans spot him anyway, frequently singling him out for spontaneous stadium-wide sing-a-longs of "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" and "Nobody Does It Better."
Of course, they do that for everyone.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories
|New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, far right, can celebrate both a winning team and a well-behaved fan base.||