Think you can outroot the Yankees’ Bleacher Creatures? Fuhgeddaboudit.
“This seat is taken. In memory of Ali Ramirez, ‘The Original Bleacher Creature.’ ”
Then, like a line drive off A-Rod’s bat, it hit me: I was sitting with them.
A YANKEES FAN since the days of Mantle and Maris, I obviously had heard of the infamous Bleacher Creatures. But having bought my tickets weeks earlier through StubHub (and not knowing much about the seating in the new stadium), I had no idea that I would actually be sitting with them. Upon arriving at the game, I quickly became schooled in the fact that Section 203 is the stomping grounds — and I do mean stomping — of some of the wildest, most passionate, most leather-lunged, most Yankees-loving, Mets-hating, Red Sox–loathing fans in the known universe.
Over the next three hours, my two friends and I — one also a Yankees loyalist, the other a mere infidel enjoying a road trip — found ourselves surrounded by several hundred Creatures, buffeted by a hurricane of noise and taking part in a unique experience in the world of sports.
From the pregame show in which Jay-Z and Alicia Keyes belted out “Empire State of Mind” to the final, beery sing-along of Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” it was truly an unforgettable night as the Yankees beat the Philadelphia Phillies and their pitcher Pedro Martinez, the Creatures’ longtime Darth Vader–turned–punching bag.
Granted, we weren’t completely clueless about the Creatures. We knew about the famous roll call that starts each game, in which the Creatures chant the Yankees’ names (“Der-ek JE-ter!” clap-clapclapclapclap) until each one responds with a wave, a tip of the hat or something more inventive. But beyond the roll call, we felt like we had parachuted into the middle of a secret subculture and were trying to decode their language without a guidebook. We seemed to be the only foreigners among hundreds of clapping, chanting, vociferously in-your-face Yankees die-hards. We managed to catch on to only a handful (read: two) of the choreographed chants. And it took me until the fifth inning to realize that the guy down front banging the cowbell was actually sending various signals to his fellow Creatures. Oh, and speaking of those chants: If you’re planning a night in or near Section 203, be aware that some of the Creatures’ shtick is not for the delicate or the virgin-eared.
“You should know what you’re getting into when you sit with the Creatures,” says Filip “Flip” Bondy, a New York Daily News sports columnist and the author of Bleeding Pinstripes: A Season with the Bleacher Creatures at Yankee Stadium. “If you want a nice, comfortable seat where you never have to stand up and nobody ever curses, the Creatures are not for you. But if you want to be among passionate people and you don’t mind standing half the game, it’s a fun place to be.”