Assholes in the Outfield

Apologies for the colorful title, but in this particular instance it is warranted. I went to my first Sox game of the year yesterday to see them shutout by the Seattle Mariners. While the game result wasn’t in our favor, the game was a good one and it was an amazing day at Fenway.

Wakefield settled down to pitch a complete game, but the Sox lineup squandered a lot of opportunities to score. As for the weather, it was more like a June day at the park than a mid-April day. Usually at this time of year, day or night game, there’s a pretty good chill to the air, but there I was wearing shorts and my Manny jersey in the mostly sun-drenched bleachers and worried because I didn’t put sunblock on my arms.

New facade of Fenway - 4.15.2006This year’s changes to the park look great and fit in with the others done over the last five years so that they seem like they’ve always been like that. In fact, in addition to the redo of the .406 fish tank club, which is obvious and well publicized, I almost didn’t notice they did the sky boxes over too. I actually took in my first game from the sky boxes and haven’t been back since. I think I was seven or eight then and it was against the Blue Jays. Check out my pictures on flickr.

The pennants above the press box are another great touch and they have wired up the entire park with brand new speakers from which to blast much old school hippy and chick rock. You see, Fenway is different from most sporting venues that feature jock jams and rock. Fenway features Neil Diamond, Duran Duran, Simon and Garfunkel and Tessie (by Boston’s own excellent Dropkick Murphys, but hate, hate, hate the song). Thankfully the players are still allowed to select their own intro music.

There’s just one thing that stains my memory of the day, the idiots sitting in my section of the bleachers. Idiot is being kind, but I am only allowing myself one swear word – which can be said on TV and radio BTW – per post. These guys sure were bleacher creatures and not the kind that Wally wants in his family.

The Fenway Faithful likes to believe they are the greatest fans in baseball. In some respects, the case can be made. In the category of passion for the game and their team, they have to be top three. Unfortunately, it would seem that this passion gets the better of them from time-to-time. They yell “Yankees Suck” during a Cleveland Indians game. They wear t-shirts with colorful sayings about certain Yankee players on them.

To an certain extent, I agree with the sentiment because I too hate the Yankees, but I don’t feel the need to wear it on my chest or chant it at a ballgame. I’m there to watch the game, curse the idiots trying to start The Wave and cheer on my team when they make a play. I do not generally razz the other team’s players whether they are winning or losing, although it is sometimes entertaining when they good naturedly get back into it with the fans. I’m looking at you Vernon Wells. Anyway, I understand that to some fans, razzing the other team’s players is part of the game, and that’s fine, it’s just not for me.

As the game started to wind down and the beer lines were closed, a good amount of the section had still had their fill. We were losing and these guys had two choices: try to start a rally by coaxing the crowd to do The Wave or start razzing on the opposing outfielders. Well, I wish they went with the hated wave because they went with the latter. It started off *innocent* enough with things like, “Hey Reed (Center Fielder), your Momma called and said to say you suck!” Then they turned their attention to Ichiro.

Ichiro in right at Fenway 4.15.2006As you may or may not know, the starting Right Fielder for the Mariners is Ichiro Suzuki and as you might guess from the name, he is Japanese. Ichiro took MLB by storm in 2001 as a *rookie* and walked away with the American League MVP, Rookie of the Year honors and his first Gold Glove for good measure. I highlight rookie because I think you can’t consider a veteran of the Japanese major leagues a rookie in the US MLB. I’m with Peter Gammons in the belief that it disrespects their league and after all, Team Japan just won the inaugural World Baseball Classic.

Ichiro plays the game the right way and plays it hard. He’s a player that is interested in the history of the game to the point where he is a frequent visitor of the Hall of Fame (read the previous link). I even remember an interview where he said the Fenway Frank was his favorite ballpark food in MLB. You can read more about the highlights of Ichiro’s career on, so I won’t continue with them here.

I will continue on with what these asshats in my section started yelling at him. They started with the usual, “Ichiro you suck” or they made fun of his stretching between at bats with comments about his ass. Then they started chanting “Ichiroll” as some kind of food slur of his name. Little do they know there’s a food stand at Safeco Field, the Mariner’s home park, which does in fact sell Ichirolls. I thought it was cool enough to take a picture.

Ichiroll sign at Safeco FieldI’m guessing Ichiro is aware of that, so that particular insult wouldn’t mean as much as the knuckleheads think it does. They then moved on to more racially insensitive things like, “Your sensei called and said he wants you to keep sticking your ass out more” and “When I say Ichiro you say bukakke.” That one induced others to join in on the chant. Oh, and let’s not forget the clever chanting of “wax on, wax off.” They never got overtly racist with the remarks, so I guess that’s a good thing, but I wouldn’t want to be one of the few parents in the crowd that had to explain to little Johnny what bukakke means.

I’m not naïve, but I must admit I was shocked to hear this kind of stuff being shouted. It’s not like it was one single group doing it, it was multiple groups of mullets. I go to a lot of baseball games every year, whether here or traveling, and I’ve never heard stuff like this and I honestly thought we were past all of it. I’ve never heard things like this shouted at Vernon Wells, who is black, or Vlad Guerrero, who is Dominican.

Even at that Blue Jays game I first went to 25 years ago, I probably would have been shocked to hear this kind of stuff and I’m pretty certain I haven’t heard it between then and now. Let’s hope it was a one-off, but I’m not sure that’s going to be true. Boston fans already have a bad rap because of the actions of a few – tossing a beer on Gary Sheffield anyone? (I was at that game too) – so this kind of thing certainly doesn’t help and it’s not even limited to baseball. Other local sports team’s fans have had their share of similar incidents.

The irony of all this was it was Jackie Robinson Day. The seventh inning stretch performance — mentioned in article — was probably one of the best I have heard. All the good about the day was sullied by this experience and I hope Ichiro didn’t hear the ignorant animals barking. I don’t think I have ever been more ashamed to be a Red Sox fan.

I guess these mullets missed the pre-game ceremonies. They were probably waiting in the beer line.