Awesome Men Throughout History: Ali Ramirez
This week’s edition of Awesome Men Throughout History column is sticking with sports (real ones this time), but we’re coming from a different perspective this time. A lot of TSB’s Awesome Men have been athletes, but none so far have been fans.
Crazy sports fans can be annoying and overbearing in person, and the violent ones can be scary, but they’re a huge part of the American Sports Experience, and sometimes their passion is weirdly admirable. One such fan is Ali Ramirez, the founder of the New York Yankees’ “bleacher creatures.”
Ramirez was a Puerto Rican immigrant who fought in WWII and moved to New York after the war ended. He managed a movie theater in the Bronx and was by all accounts a generous, kind-hearted man who looked after his family, his employees, and his neighbors, even going so far as to let people from the neighborhood stay in his home if they were down on their luck.
Ramirez was also a die-hard Yankees fan who attended most of their home games when he was working and nearly all of them once he retired. He always sat in Section 39, back when the bleachers were general admission and you could sit where you pleased, and infamously banged on a cow-bell to help rally the fans to cheer for the Yankees.
Keeping in mind that fans could bring beer into the bleachers back then, Ramirez’s natural enthusiasm attracted other like-minded fans who all sat in the same part of the bleachers for every game, and over time they developed into the oddball community they are today. Their nickname was coined by sportswriter Flip Bondy, who sat with them for the 2004 season and wrote a book about the experience.
The Bleacher Creatures are infamous for heckling visiting teams and their fans in various creative/insulting ways; in the old Yankee Stadium, the visiting right fielders usually got the worst of it. Bleacher Creatures also have a lot of chants and songs in their repertoire, the most famous of which is the Roll Call, in which they chant the name of every starting fielder at the beginning of every home game.
In one extreme example of their commitment, some of the Creatures learned Japanese so that they could swear at Ichiro Suzuki in his native language back when he played for the Seattle Mariners.
The Yankees front office acknowledges the Bleacher Creatures to the point of enabling them (the team designates season-ticket packages for them so they can sit together), but I can sort of understand that. The Creatures were fans when the Yankees really sucked (which they did, once upon a time), and their unrelenting loyalty was so loud and vocal that it couldn’t be ignored by team management forever.
They definitely didn’t ignore Ali Ramirez, who’d been christened “Cowbell Man” by the fans, when he died in May of 1996. He was given an official tribute by the Yankees, who also fitted his regular seat (section 39, row A, seat 29) with a plaque reading “This seat is taken. In memory of Ali Ramirez, The Original Bleacher Creature.”
The night they honored Ramirez, Yankees pitcher Dwight Gooden threw a no-hitter.
About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.