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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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The Best Fans In Baseball

Watching the middle of this Championship Series has been slightly odder for me than it would be if it were taking place anywhere else in the National League. The ridiculously retentive reader will recall that my midsummer jaunt in 2006 was to the very same Busch Stadium we focus on now. I was in that building. I crossed those streets. I walked by that thing over there. That thing, too! And I was among The Best Fans In Baseball for three days.

I showed up in St. Louis with no affection for the home team and left with even less. That said, I had a nice time. I like seeing ballparks that are new to me, especially when they’re brand new to everybody. This Busch is a big improvement over the last one. It may not be the most original creation on Bud’s green earth, but it does the job. Open is better than circular. Smaller is better than oversized. A view of a city is better than looking at more of the same. Thousands of bricks, loads of concessions, wide concourses…it was everything you’d expect in the post-Camden era.

The Best Fans In Baseball, however, were a big disappointment. I waited to be swept up in some sort of Cardinal Nation fervor. Their Birds weren’t playing well at the time, but so what? Aren’t these the people from whose lips never pass a discouraging word? Isn’t this the crowd that prostrated itself at the feet of Larry Walker just for waiving his no-trade? What could one say about St. Louis’ baseball faithful that hadn’t been said repeatedly?

How about this?

Oh.

Ver.

Ray.

Ted.

When I think about them, I quote myself:

they boo bad things, they cheer good things, they say lame things, they wear red things

Except for the color scheme, the same could be said of ballpark patrons anywhere, even Shea. Still, they were supposed to be better than us, better than everybody. Perhaps I just didn’t find the right row in St. Louis. Perhaps there were guys two sections over trading charming remembrances of Stan the Man while showering unwavering support upon Jeff Weaver, my night’s starting pitcher. Perhaps, but I doubt it. Where Stephanie and I sat, we were subject to the rantings of a Missouri moron (unless he crossed the Eads Bridge from Illinois). As Weaver weaved his way into deeper and deeper trouble, this is what he yelled over and over and over:

“Hey! Do you wanna be in the MINORS or do you wanna be in the MAJORS? Do you wanna be in the MINORS or do you wanna be in the MAJORS? Do you wanna be in the MINORS or do you wanna be in the MAJORS?”

The consensus of us visitors from the east: What a fucking idiot.

Tough to judge 42,000 by the actions of one, but I didn’t sense a great deal of baseball savvy at Busch Stadium in early August. Not a lot of engagement, just a lot of red. Blame it on lousy play (Cards were losing all week), blame it on oppressive weather (triple-digit heat wave), blame it on Midwestern bearing (not a crime, just a difference; I love Midwesterners so much I married a gal from Wichita). Whatever the cause, Cardinals fans could have been Astros fans if I didn’t know where I was.

So should we spit at those Spiezio patches they’ve glued to their chins? Should we note they’ve fallen for one false home run idol in the past decade and seem to have chosen another with feet (or at least the personality) of clay? Should we feel superior to them because we’re noisier, ballsier and more passionate in an inning than they are in a night and, I suspect, a season?

Oh absolutely. That’s what playoffs are about. We pump ourselves up and tear our opponents down. They look like dopes with the red tape on their faces. Pujols is rapidly turning into Barry Bonds minus the charm. They don’t know strike two from ball three.

We can tell ourselves that. It’s part of the stakes. It’s fun. We’re not here for sociological studies and we don’t have to pass a test in accuracy. We’re here to wave our banner and burn somebody else’s.

We’re Great!

You Suck!

I’m all for that.

But we have idiots, too. Our idiots are louder which is great unless they’re ear-splitting when you crave a moment’s peace (which you shouldn’t if you’re a part of the National League Championship Series, but you’re only human and an aging one at that). Our idiots are probably drunker, but I have only anecdotal evidence to back me up. I don’t know how the handful of Mets fans at Busch are being treated, but I can tell you the handful of Cards fans at Shea won’t soon forget being told what “assholes” they are for being Cards fans. In principle, I agree — I mean you’re wearing an Eckstein jersey here? But in the interest of civility, I’d prefer to smile at you and watch you sink into your seat while one Carlos or another rounds the bases. Indeed, before Game Two turned dreadful, one St. Louis sympathizer angrily pulled his red windbreaker over his head and waved it in an act of defiance literally two seconds before Delgado went deep. He melted into the mezzanine thereafter and was never seen again.

New York Mets fans at least are sophisticated, right? They know their baseball. Take the guy who sat behind me Friday night. He was proudly telling somebody that he’s always loathed the Cardinals, especially that damn Willie McGee, who was, according to him, “the Yadier Molina of 1978″. McGee would hit .200 against everybody, except against the Mets. Yup, that’s what he said.

This, after hearing him hold court for several innings, is what I said:

“WILLIE McGEE WON A BATTING TITLE!”

That wasn’t an itinerant Redbird rooter taking his life into his hands on behalf of his former MVP. That was me, the biggest Mets fan I know, turning around and shutting him, the dumbest Mets fan I’d heard, up. Willie McGee hit .353 in 1985, for crissake. Willie McGee hit .295 for his career. Willie McGee actually won two batting titles. And Willie McGee was a low-minors farmhand with the Yankees in 1978. I didn’t show up at Shea to defend the legacy of Willie McGee, but in the name of all that is Jose, get your facts approximately straight.

I don’t discriminate. I hate idiot fans of all stripe.

35 comments to The Best Fans In Baseball

  • Anonymous

    If we want to say they're awful fans because they're not as moronic as ours and they're not Met fans and they wear goofy things to honor their resident dude-of-the-moment, then… whatever. We just need to make sure we're consistent. And that means equally looking down our noses at Met fans who wore Pedro wigs and Mike Piazza painted-on facial hair. I saw plenty of both.
    Anyone who has been a fan at the other team's park knows what it's like to be told to shut up, and that you're an idiot for liking your team and not theirs. It's pretty illogical, if you ask me, to assume that every one of 50,000 fans at a contest between two teams should be there for just one of them. If any of us is in St. Louis this week, aren't WE going to show up in our Mets shirt and root for the Mets?!
    Personally I'd rather my team's idiots be “too positive” (as has been suggested recently by some here) than the drunken, negative, vitriolic Met-haters they are. And I've heard more baseball ignorance from Met fans than I can stomach thinking about. With regard to St. Louis having “the best fans,” blah blah blah, don't take them out on them. If we don't know about hackneyed media-created crap by now… according to the media, the Yankees are the best team in baseball.
    But why is it so wrong that they like their team and we like ours? It's not like they're constantly shoving their team down our throats 24/7/365, like Yankee fans. Why this idea that to love your team, you have to viciously hate every other team and its fans? I'm all for “WE'RE GREAT!” But I've never understood why it has to go hand-in-hand with “YOU SUCK!” When I'm in “Yay us!!” mode, I don't really give a thought to the other team and its fans (except the Yankees, see above). I'm way more concerned with celebrating my team's success than ridiculing the other's failure. Especially as I know what it's like to have another team's fans (Yankees, see above) constantly ridiculing MY team's failure.
    They like their team, and we like ours. Not a crime. Just a difference.

  • Anonymous

    The Cult of the Cardinal Fan is pretty annoying — there's something about all that red and the peppiness that feels a little Pyongyang to me, at least through the screen, as I've never experienced them up close.
    Still, I can't get over the fact that after the Cards got swept in 2004, the St. Louis fans hung around to cheer the Red Sox. That's pretty extraordinary. (And if they'd rushed the field to punch and kick Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore, I'd defend them against all comers.)
    Lots of the time, when I decide I don't like a team beyond “if they win we don't,” it's the fans I object to. (Hello, the Bronx!) This time, it's the guys in the dugout who bug me. La Russa, with his OCD, look-at-me-dammit! overmanaging and his sunglasses at night. Looper, who isn't actually a bad guy but owes me for shortening my life by several weeks through his repeated failures. Edmonds, finally too hurt to showboat on outfield catches. Pujols, now finally being called out by the local media as the surly ass he seems to be. Rolen, whom we all felt sorry for in Philadelphia but now increasingly looks like a problem child. I think they left Jose Vizcaino off the postseason roster to keep me from developing rabies.
    Should we get that far, I'll have to find something to dislike about the Tigers. (I never had it in for Kenny Rogers.) I sure don't have that problem with the Cardinals.

  • Anonymous

    Living in Missouri for a couple years, I was impressed by the Cardinal fans. Not necessarily for the ballpark behavior, which I don't think varies all that much from city to city.
    But I was impressed by the general knowledge of the team. It seemed EVERYBODY closely followed them, knew the players and so on.
    Now one reason for that might have been because I was there in the mid-1980s when the team was hot. But still, I was impressed.

  • Anonymous

    The Rusty Staub for Mickey Lolich swindle still sticks in my craw.
    And let's not forget that they're the franchise responsible for unleashing the evil of Kirk Gibson on the world.

  • Anonymous

    I am all for fans of the opposition rooting for their team. But do it respectfully, as I have done in Chicago, Philly, DC, Boston and (ick) the Bronx. Cheer your guys when they do something well, but don't be an ostentatious ass, standing and screaming all game for the benefit of those around you. Don't wave stuff in people's faces. Don't holler how the home team sucks (even if they do). In short, don't be a dick, which is a pretty tall request for most sports fans in 2006.
    As for the faux facial hair: it is beyond lame. Sal's Pals were dorks, and these nitwits with the red tape look like they rode the short bus to the ballpark. When we made our early exit in '87, I grew a fu manchu in honor of my man HoJo. For kicks I aped some of Mike's hirsute variations once in a while. But taping stuff to your face? Stop. Especially you, ladies.

  • Anonymous

    They do always show up, even when the team is not that good.
    I was always amused by the way the St. Louis papers cover the rest of Major League Baseball through the prism of Cardinaldom. Headline: “Former Card Keith Hernandez Wins World Series With New York National League Team.”
    I was in St. Louis in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait, but I didn't find out about the invasion until I got back to NYC the next week because it happened on the same day that Joe Torre returned to manage the Cardinals.

  • Anonymous

    I've seen games in every major league ballpark, including a couple in St. Louis this summer (Greg – it was fun seeing you and meeting Stephanie there). I have never been seriously hassled in enemy territory, probably because my family sticks to the rule of rooting our own guys politely and not dissing the home team. With very few exceptions, people will respect our fandom, and we've enjoyed talking to fans from every different team around the country.
    Besides, we had one great memory at the new Busch (as I know Greg witnessed). Before the game, a camera crew was asking fans to name their favorite leadoff hitter. During the game, when the segment aired, an adorable almost 10-year-old in a Mets cap was on the screen, representin' for Jose Reyes. How can you not love that? Here's my little guy, next to his brother (who has rooted for the Cardinals since 1998, despite growing up in a devout Mets household) -
    http://img128.imageshack.us/img128/6453/buschstadiumla1.jpg

  • Anonymous

    The Cardinal A/V squad's choice of interview subject floored me. They recognize talent when they see it.
    As the Redbirds were playing the Phillies when we and the Inside Pitchers rendezvoused at Busch, we were St. Louis fans for a night (despite worrying about home field advantage ramifications). In general, when I'm a guest in another ballpark, I root for the host unless I'm there with the Mets.
    You know whose fans I got a huge kick out of? Cincinnati's. I saw the Mets at Great American three years ago and wore my Mets cap around town and people couldn't have been friendlier, constantly kidding around about the series in progress. I had always thought of Reds fans as harboring all kinds of grudges against New York, but they were the nicest people in and out of the ballpark. We rooted for our team and were of course overwhelmed in numbers and volume, but it was all very good-natured. Our section even worked on the night's scoreboard trivia question together:
    Name the (then) five players whose last names began with P to hit 40 or more homers in a season.

  • Anonymous

    The Spiezio thing would be inoffensive if the Cardinals were playing the Dodgers in the NLCS. What would be offensive would be the Cardinals playing the Dodgers in the NLCS.
    On the other hand, it does remind me of the way little dweebs in navy No. 2 t-shirts slapped Band-Aids on their chins in July 2004 after a shortstop dove into a crowd like it was the first time it had ever been done. (Of course Derek Jeter invented hustle…damn, there I go dragging Them into the conversation. Apologies.)

  • Anonymous

    Without attempting to answer that trivia question (other than Piazza), I felt the same way about the Milwaukee fans as you did about the Cincinnati fans. Not that I have anything against the Cincinnati fans, but the fans in Milwaukee were incredibly nice. Knowledgeable and supportive fans, and they treated the out of town fans very well.

  • Anonymous

    La Russa Remains Calm Despite Nuke Test
    Carpenter ERA better when globe in turmoil

  • Anonymous

    I have absolutely nothing against the Tigers or their fans.
    I hope to have a list as long as Chad Bradford's arm by Saturday.

  • Anonymous

    Let's see.
    Piazza, Palmeiro, Pujols…

  • Anonymous

    Babe Pruth, Hank Paaron, Willie Pays, Ralph Piner and Harmon Pillebrew?

  • Anonymous

    Piazza and Palmeiro are correct.
    Pujols is correct now but not then (this was three years ago and we all agreed he'd soon be the sixth P).
    Three remain. Hint: This was in Cincinnati.

  • Anonymous

    …Tony Perez and Lance Parrish.
    Thank you baseballreference.com.

  • Anonymous

    Dave Parker? Boog Powell?

  • Anonymous

    Half right. Perez yes. Parrish no.
    Two remain. Not Powell or Parker either, as suggested downthread.

  • Anonymous

    No Lance Parrish?
    (Homer Simpson voice)
    D'oh!
    Lousy misleading “doubles” column!

  • Anonymous

    Wally Post
    thank you, MLB.com

  • Anonymous

    You got the other Red — the one who stumped our section. But one 40-homer (single-season prior to 2003) hitter remains in addition to Piazza, Palmeiro, Perez and Post.
    He was not a Red. But Red was involved in terms of his team.

  • Anonymous

    Stumped here, too, Greg. Truly stumped.

  • Anonymous

    You mean you guys came up with Rico Petrocelli?
    (low whistle)
    Very impressive.

  • Anonymous

    Got it!
    A Red SOX…Rico Petrocelli.
    Before that eye injury, I'm assuming.
    Nice question. Hope you can keep those pumping out all winter…

  • Anonymous

    When I was 7, Topps included miniature player-bio comic books in each pack. I got Rico Petrocelli's. The 40 HR thing stuck with me. None of us got Post and I would have overlooked Palmeiro.
    Rico Petrocelli is one of four players to have hit 40 homers in a season while sporting 10 letters in his last name. As long as we're waiting for first pitch, who are the other three?

  • Anonymous

    Here's a question: Is that Conigliaro you're thinking of or did Rico suffer an eye injury, too?

  • Anonymous

    10 exactly, or 10 or more?

  • Anonymous

    By that reference to a career-threatening eye injury, I meant Tony Conigliaro. Us New Yorkers can't keep those Red Sox straight in our minds…

  • Anonymous

    Kluszewski, Yastrzemski, Strawberry?

  • Anonymous

    Ted Kluszewski was one of 'em.
    Strawberry fell one HR short in 1988.
    Yasztremski had one too many letters.

  • Anonymous

    Klu and Yaz are right (sorry, I meant to clarify AT LEAST 10 letters and AT LEAST 40 homers). Straw indeed topped out at 39 HRs.
    One more…local guy, so to speak.

  • Anonymous

    My stepfather's favorite player. Ironic, 'cause he was a Yankee fan, and Roy Campanella was a Dodger.
    I met him in the early 80's in the press box at Shea, and was disappointed when he declined my request for an autograph. His assistant handed me a postcard with his picture and repro autograph, then I realized he was unable to sign. Dopey me.

  • Anonymous

    Give that man a Garcia y Vega cigar!
    Campanella
    Yastrzemski
    Kluszewski
    Petrocelli
    Alex Rodriguez comes up a letter short. Usually it's a W.
    (Damn, another gratuitous Yankee failure reference.)

  • Anonymous

    I was born and raised in Queens, and I attend school at Washington University in St. Louis. I attended both tonight's game and last night's game, so I witnessed the full gamut of emotions at the new and improved Busch Stadium. The following are my observations during these contests.
    First off, these fans do not know their own team, let alone our team. Three people in the row in front of us didn't know who David Wright was. When Randy Flores was brought in from the bullpen, people asked us, “He's good, right?” I'm not sure, buddy– he's on YOUR TEAM. The Spiezio patches are disgusting, and it was great that people wore them on a day that HE DID NOT EVEN PLAY. People expected Yadier Molina to bomb one into the seats every time he came to bat. Their lack of baseball savvy is alarming.
    Second, they are TERRIBLE hecklers, which is an outgrowth of the last point but really speaks to their lack of creativity. I sat in two different sections of the stadium and heard some INANE shit come out of these people. Midwestern lack of intelligence is something, after spending two-plus years studying and road-tripping around this general area, that I can confirm is a lot more than just a stereotype. These are the people, I realized, who elected our current President. I at least love it when things make sense.
    That said, when we took the walk of shame after Reyes struck out, we actually survived without 90% of the passing fans even commenting. In the Golden Land of Queens, Cardinals fans would have had a collective shit taken on their faces by the entire county. We would have been merciless. Out there, they're not passionate enough.
    Finally, most loyal fans in baseball? Right. At 11-3 in the 6th inning yesterday, I saw half the stadium file out. At 3-0 in the first inning of Game 3, one of my good friends who has been lambasting the Cardinals all year resigned the entire series to the Mets. Get over it. Have some passion and pride for your team.
    My final analysis: I agree with you wholeheartedly. Their fans suck, and fans in New York (of both teams) are far more deserving of the “best in baseball” moniker than these dolts.
    Peace.

  • Anonymous

    It's hard to keep track of the players when it seems like STL has changed the entire roster in the past month. I'm a fan — I watch most games (at home — can't afford to go any more) and even I need a cheat sheet at times.
    As for Midwestern lack of intelligence, it's as much a stereotype as East Coast asshole.