The Best (And Worst) Fans

As a fan of a team who plays in a city I don’t live in, I’ve been more or less a perennial fan of the away team.  I’ve seen games at the following twenty-five major league ballparks:

1. Riverfront Stadium (Cincinnati, OH)
2. Great American Ball Park (Cincinnati, OH)
3. Petco Park (San Diego, CA)
4. Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles, CA)
5. Busch Stadium (St. Louis, MO)
6. Wrigley Field (Chicago, IL)
7. Three Rivers Stadium (Pittsburgh, PA)
8. PNC Park (Pittsburgh, PA)
9. Jacobs Field (Cleveland, OH)
10. Cleveland Municipal Stadium (Cleveland, OH)
11. U.S. cellular Field (Chicago, IL)
12. Commiskey Park (Chicago, IL)
13. Yankee Stadium (New York, NY)
14. Fenway Park (Boston, MA)
15. Camden Yards (Baltimore, MD)
16. Joe Robbie Dolphin Stadium (Miami, FL)
17. AT&T Park (San Francisco, CA)
18. Turner Field (Atlanta, GA)
19. County Stadium (Milwaukee, WI)
20. Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (Minneapolis, MN)
21. Tiger Stadium (Detroit, MI)
22. Comerica Park (Detroit, MI)
23. Shea Stadium (New York, NY)
24. Chase Field (Phoenix, AZ)
25. Angel Stadium (Anaheim, CA)

As either a fan of the away team or as a random spectator, rooting for neither team, I’ve had a chance to observe fans of all of these squads at their very best (and worst.)  All told, I’ve been to games featuring every major league team, and met at least a few fans of all of them.

I began thinking, based partly on a recent entry over at Cubs Chatter, about my experiences with fans of all 29 major league teams not based in Houston (I’m a little too close to adequately judge Houston fans).  I can’t say that, in all cases, the fans I’ve met are indicative of all of a given team’s fans, but I decided to sit down and “grade” the fans I have sat amongst at Major League games.

Sure that this would be controversial, I tried to come up with a fairly objective measure.  That, of course, is impossible.  But I’ve tried my best.  I graded fans in four areas: Loyalty, Knowledge, Intensity, and Polish.  Polish is, essentially, the ability to not do things like this or this.  Unless the Astros are playing, I’m the guy at the game who keeps a scorecard and talks about players, both local and otherwise.  I’ve talked to many fans of many teams, and these are my opinions.

1. St. Louis Cardinals (LOY 9, KNOW 10, INT 7, POL 8, TOT 34): I hate the Cardinals.  I do; I hate them.  The Cardinals and Astros have battled long and hard for a long time; it seems like we take turns dominating the Central, and in 2004 we played one another to game seven in the NLCS.  The following year, the Astros won the pennant.  Then, to top us, the Cardinals followed up by winning the World Series the year after that.  But many of the best baseball discussions I’ve ever had were with Cardinals fans.  They know the game and the league, and beyond some good-natured razzing, they’re fairly accommodating.

2. New York Yankees (LOY 9, KNOW 10, INT 9, POL 5, TOT 33): I’m a little surprised to have the Yankees this high, and I realize that if I had ever visited Yankee Stadium wearing a Red Sox jersey, they would probably plummet down this list.  The truth is, though, I lived in New York for four years, attended a lot of games there, and scarcely had a problem.  I have observed a few rowdy Bleacher Creatures in my day, which is what knocks their polish down to 5.  But overall, I’ve been pretty impressed with Yankees fans, particularly the depth of their knowledge of the game and players who don’t wear pinstripes (admittedly, probably because they’re looking to see who they might pluck from free agency in a few years.)

3. Minnesota Twins (LOY 7, KNOW 8, INT 7, POL 7, TOT 29): Twins fans slid under the RADAR here, too.  If you were to ask me, I don’t think I’d immediately say that I thought Minnesota fans were among the top five fans, but in retrospect it does make sense.  In my experience, they have a pretty good knowledge of baseball (which is true of a lot of small-market teams, I’ve found), and though they’re intensely proud of their team, they don’t do it at the expense of civility.

4. Atlanta Braves (LOY 7, KNOW 8, INT 7, POL 7, TOT 26): Had I done this ten or so years ago, the Braves would probably have ended up much farther down the list.  There was a point during their remarkable run of 13 consecutive division titles where they took their team’s success for granted.  Visions of a half-empty stadium in the first round of the playoffs don’t look particularly good, or speak terribly well for fan loyalty.  But the modern Braves fan is a more humble, more knowledgeable, and more loyal Braves fan.  Most recently, I was there when they got one-hit by Hideki Kuroda, and even while their team was struggling, they were optimistic and intelligent.

4. Boston Red Sox (LOY 10, KNOW 4, INT 10, POL 2, TOT 26): Ah, Red Sox fans.  The sheer number of times I heard the question, “Who is this Jason Bay?” didn’t help the impression that they don’t know a lot about baseball outside of Boston… and maybe New York.  However, most Red Sox fans know an impressive amount about their own team’s roster and history, which scoots their Knowledge score up to a 4.  They get high marks for loyalty and intensity, for obvious reasons.

6. Cincinnati Reds (LOY 5, KNOW 9, INT 2, POL 9, TOT 25): Maybe it’s because they haven’t been competitive for a while.  Growing up and going to Reds games at Riverfront Stadium, I remember games being a lot more intense than they’ve been on the occasions when I’ve gone to the Great American Ball Park.  Over the past few years, my perception of Reds fans has changed.  I frequently find myself in GABP having a great conversation with a knowledgeable fan.  With success, the intensity there could change, and that tends to have an inverse correlation with Polish.

7. Colorado Rockies (LOY 6, KNOW 5, INT 5, POL 8, TOT 24): I’ve never been to a game at Coors Field, so my experience with Rockies fans is generally limited to away games at Petco Park.  Generally speaking, the fans I’ve come across have been Colorado natives stationd at Camp Pendelton.  But they’ve been extremely gracious, and have a decent working knowledge of the game.

7. Cleveland Indians (LOY 8, KNOW 5, INT 6, POL 5, TOT 24): I went to college near Cleveland, and was priviledged to know a great many Indians fans.  Level-headed, loyal, and fairly knowledgeable.  I’ve yet to go to a game at the Jake and see anybody leave without having a good time.  However, I have seen some rowdy Indians fans causing scenes at road games.

7. Kansas City Royals (LOY 1, KNOW 8, INT 5, POL 10, TOT 24): I can’t say that I know many Royals fans, but the few I’ve come across have been pretty intelligent. 

10. Los Angeles Dodgers (LOY 8, KNOW 4, INT 8, POL 3, TOT 23): Polish is debatable here.  I know a lot of people who have been harassed at Dodger Stadium, but I’ve been to over two dozen games there, and have yet to witness anything disrespectful.  I have to say that the Intensity score would have been much lower had this been written “Pre-Manny.”  His acquisition ratcheted up the intensity at Elysian Park.  However, Dodger fans do still have a tendency to not watch the game, walk down the aisles even when the ball is in play, and show up during the 4th inning (to be fair, the highway traffic is ridiculous getting to Dodger Stadium.  So it’s not a lack of polish;
it’s a matter of practicality.)

10. Chicago Cubs (LOY 9, KNOW 3, INT 10, POL 1, TOT 23): I’m a little surprised the Cubs ended up this high.  You might wonder why they get a Loyalty score of only 9: During the 2005 World Series, I can’t tell you how many “life-long Cubs fans” became fans of their crosstown rivals.  Truth be told, I considered knocking them farther down because of this.

10. Oakland Athletics (LOY 5, KNOW 7, INT 4, POL 7, TOT 23): I’ve never been to an A’s home game.  In fact, the only A’s games I’ve been to were during interleague play in San Diego – not exactly a heated rivalry. 

13. New York Mets (LOY 7, KNOW 6, INT 6, POL 3, TOT 22): I’ve been to about a dozen games at Shea Stadium.  I’ve seen about seven fights at Shea Stadium.  To be fair, they weren’t all started by Mets fans.  That’s what keeps their Polish as high as it is.

13. Philadelphia Phillies (LOY 8, KNOW 5, INT 8, POL 1, TOT 22): I recall a conversation I had last summer with about fifteen Phillies fans, in which I had to convince them that they did, in fact, have enough pitching to perform in the playoffs.  A few months later, they were obnoxious.  As soon as the World Series began, Phillies fans became impossible.  It became impossible to speak to them, and the slightest bit of praise in favor of the Rays became a large slight to the Phillies.

13. Detroit Tigers (LOY 6, KNOW 5, INT 8, POL 3, TOT 22): Tigers fans are an interesting mix.  Certainly, like so many blue-collar towns, Detroit produces its share of obnoxious bleacher-dwelling drunks who get more and more vitriolic as the game progresses into the seventh inning.  But on the other hand, their complete lack of success in the early 2000s seems to have tempered the more unruly Tigers fans.

16. Arizona Diamondbacks (LOY 5, KNOW 8, INT 3, POL 3, TOT 21): I have only been to a couple of DBacks games, all at Chase Field in August 2007.  The ‘backs were closing in on their first NL West title, and it was a bit of an odd atmosphere.  Certainly not inviting, but not exactly what I would call “intense,” either.  I was with a Padres fan, and the Padres won the series 3-1.  The DBacks fans hassled my friend in the parking lot after the game.  It was not exactly pretty.

16. Pittsburgh Pirates (LOY 4, KNOW 5, INT 3, POL 9, TOT 21): I’ve been to PNC Park and Three Rivers Stadiums, and have felt as welcome at either as I would in Minute Maid Park (you know, if I could ever get to a game there…)

16. Texas Rangers (LOY 4, KNOW 6, INT 7, POL 4, TOT 21): The great thing about Rangers fans is that they’re typically too busy giving their own players guff to worry too much about fans of opposing teams. 

19. San Francisco Giants (LOY 6, KNOW 5, INT 4, POL 5, TOT 20): I understand the intensity of Giants fans tends to increase when their team is competitive, and the few times I’ve seen their team, they really haven’t been.  Still, I’ve had some great conversations with Giants fans, and they have a pretty good grasp of the players not only on their major league team, but may as a whole have the best knowledge I’ve ever seen on their own farm system.  That said, I went to an away game at Great American Ball Park with a Giants fan, and we didn’t see a single other Giants fan the entire time we were there. That was a first.

19. Milwaukee Brewers (LOY 6, KNOW 6, INT 6, POL 2, TOT 20): With the small amount of success their team has had over the past couple of years, Brewers fans are becoming disproportionately obnoxious.  Then again, they’ve been unruly in the past – they did, after all, attack Houston right fielder Bill Spiers during a game.

21. Los Angeles Angels (LOY 3, KNOW 3, INT 5, POL 8, TOT 19): Part of the reason Angels fans are so accommodating to visiting teams’ fans is that they don’t really seem to care much about baseball at all.  I’ve never been to a park other than this one where I wondered if I was the only one who knew a baseball game was going on.  Well, except maybe Petco Park.

22. Chicago White Sox (LOY 7, KNOW 6, INT 4, POL 1, TOT 18): White Sox fans attacked a 54-year-old base coach of the Kansas City Royals, Tom Gamboa.  And no, you will never ever live that down.  Not ever.

23. Washington Nationals (LOY 2, KNOW 4, INT 3, POL 8, TOT 17): I wanted to talk to a Nationals fan about this ranking, but then I realized that I don’t know any.

24. Baltimore Orioles (LOY 4, KNOW 3, INT 3, POL 6, TOT 16): Most long-suffering teams’ fans (aside from the Cubs) tend to be fairly subdued, but during the few home games I’ve attended in Baltimore, nothing could have been farther from the truth.  You’d never know the Orioles had fallen on hard times by the way their fans behaved.

25. Seattle Mariners (LOY 2, KNOW 2, INT 1, POT 10, TOT 15): The only thing in Mariners’ fans favor is that they are insanely welcoming, in my experience.  Other than that, it seems that they barely realize that they even have a team.  Oddly, I’m guessing there’s more Mariners Fever in Japan than there is in Seattle.

26. San Diego Padres (LOY 3, KNOW 2, INT 2, POL 7, TOT 14): This pains me.  I was a season ticket holder at Petco Park, and a member of the ComPadres Club, for two years.  I have a lot of friends who are Padres fans.  But the truth is, for the most part, games at Petco Park are spent either at an empty stadium or listening to inane conversations.  Their fans can’t even seem to name their own roster.  Plus, you know, there’s this.

27. Toronto Blue Jays (LOY 3, KNOW 1, INT 5, POL 4, TOT 13): I haven’t met more than a handful of Jays fans in my life.  So this one may be way off.

28. Florida Marlins (LOY 1, KNOW 4, INT 2, POL 4, TOT 11): I know Marlins fans have been jerked around by the team far more than anyone ever should be.  I can’t really blame them for not caring about this organization.  Unfortunately, though, it makes them bad fans pretty much by definition.

29. Tampa Bay Rays (LOY 1, KNOW 2, INT 1, POL 1, TOT 5): It would be easier to be happy for long-suffering Rays fans if they existed.  But despite the bandwagon jumpers in the 2008 playoffs (when they still finished 12th of 14 AL teams in attendance), for seven consecutive years they finished dead last in attendance. 

These are just my own opinions, based on my own personal experiences.  If I was doing a list of the fans I liked and disliked the most, it would look much different.  Which fans, in your opinion, are the best and the worst?

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15 comments

  1. roundrock15

    I used to work in professional theatre as a music director, so I was constantly on tour. Any time I was in or near a major league city and there was a game, I went. That doesn’t include the 20 minor league parks or the 12 college stadiums I’ve been to. 😉

    http://houston.mlblogs.com

  2. astrosfaninexile

    Wow. That is a real tour de force – with a heavy emphasis on “tour”! It is one of my goals to see the Astros play in as many major league stadiums as possible. (I have cousins all over the place – that would be a good excuse to go visit them.) Unfortunately, summer is generally when the feds release RFPs so they can spend their money before the end of the fiscal year, and I always end up chained to the proposal tank. So the summer of following the Astros around the country keeps getting postponed. It’s one of my two baseball fantasies. The other is to write my baseball novel.
    A couple of notes from our side of the country: Phillies fans boo their own players. And yes, Virginia, there really are Nationals fans here in the Washington metro area. I can find some for you, if you’d like.There are a lot of them in my office. I think they fall into two camps: Those that take a very long-term view of the team and those who are depressed.

  3. roundrock15

    Yes, I know Phillies fans boo their own team. I know tons of Phillies fans. They’re a little different… of course, when I wrote this I forgot about the J.D. Drew battery incident (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/baseball/mlb/news/1999/08/10/cardinals_phillies_ap/). I guess maybe I just kind of “know how to take” Philadelphians? I dunno…

    As for me, my dream is actually a trip around the country to all 30 parks, seeing a home game in each of them (and minor league games on off-days.) Some day.

    http://houston.mlblogs.com

  4. astrosfaninexile

    By the way, I note that you didn’t comment on today’s loss. Since today was Purim, I felt compelled to provide an alternate version of the game in my Astros Fan in Exile blog. I invite you (and all your readers) to throw in your own additions to my game writeup – the more ridiculous the better.

  5. Kaybee

    I feel the same way about Padres fans, unfortunately. It’s not really our fault, though. If we were winning like the Yankees or the Red Sox, we would have a huge fan base. I’ve noticed that Padres fans don’t really talk to each other. I mean, if I see someone decked out in Padres stuff on the street, as I am, there might be a little aknowedgement, but we don’t talk about our team. It’s pretty sad. But there are a lot of die-hards at the ballpark all the time. We may not have that big of a fan base, but there are a lot of people who are sticking by the team no matter what. We’re out here, we’re just pretty quiet 🙂 I really wish the Padres had a bigger fan base, but people don’t come out to watch really bad baseball. And I can name my roster…at least, I will be able to when the season starts 🙂 Thanks for your interpretation of Padres fans. It hurts to say it, but we really do have a bad fan base. But never forget that there are some die-hards out here!
    http://kaybee.mlblogs.com

  6. Lissi

    I am so happy to see Cardinals fans at the top. They really are the best baseball fans. Most are even nice to Cubs fans (to their faces anyway).
    I would say my second favorite would be Royals fans. I go to Royals games a fair amount since they are the closest team the Indians play every season. They are all so nice to all of the Cardinals fans and other team’s fans who show up to their games. Which is good because from the games I have seen there are usually about 45% Royals fans, 35% Cardinal fans, and 20% visiting fans.
    Melissa
    http://clemsongirlbaaseball.mlblogs.com

  7. roundrock15

    Oh without a doubt, Kaybee. My two best friends are Padres fans, and they’re actually quite knowledgeable. So I definitely know that they exist. The Padres, despite a semi-tradition of losing and despite hitting 99 losses last season (aforementioned best friend won the “Best Text of the Year” last year when he texted me: “Heck yeah! We just clinched not getting 100 losses!”), they are just a season removed from back-to-back division titles.

    Lissi, Royals fans would have been higher on the list if I thought that they were more loyal. Truth is, it’s hard to blame them after how that team has failed them in recent years. But as you mentioned, Kaufmann is usually filled with people NOT rooting for the Royals. So it’s hard to put them much higher up.

    http://houston.mlblogs.com

  8. danyah

    With what little experience I have with other ballparks and fans (six parks besides Minute Maid), I pretty much agree with your rankings. As an Astros’ mini-season ticket holder for the past four years, I would put our fans about in the middle, or maybe in the bottom half. That may sound harsh, but I think the sample size is large enough that my experience at MMP is not a fluke. My impression, using your system, would be a grade of LOY 5, KNOW 4, INT 3, POL 6, TOT 18.

    Yeah, okay, bottom half it is. But if they would quit doing the stupid wave in the six inning, maybe I would rank them higher. Just sayin’.

  9. diamonddiva

    I’m a Nationals fan, and I think your rankings for Nats fans in general are reasonably accurate. I don’t know when you came up with your rankings for Nationals fans, but I suspect that the results would have been different if you had ranked fans in 2005 (the Nats’ first year in DC) or in 2007 (when the Nats climbed out of the NL East cellar), as opposed to last year. Certainly, fan intensity dropped last year — 102 losses will do that to a fan base. Also, keep in mind that baseball is still a relatively new experience for a lot of DC area fans, who don’t remember the old Washington Senators. An entire generation of DC sports fans grew up without a baseball team.
    Astrosfaninexile pretty much hit the nail on the head in describing Nats fans; I happen to fall into the former category. (I renewed my season tickets after a 102-loss season, so I am either very hopeful or very stupid!) Your rankings in all categories would vary widely depending on which of those two categories of fans you based the rankings. IMO, the ranking would rise for those with the long-term viewpoint.
    Shelley
    http://diamonddiva.mlblogs.com/

  10. mwilly33

    I’ve got to agree with danya… On the whole, Astro fans are…well…pretty crappy. We don’t support winners very well, and we’ve had Wild Card games well under capacity, for instance, the epic 18 inning game. It’s very frustrating, I was in the process of writing my own blog entry about Astro “fandom” but was logged out by the blog, thus losing all of my work (which was considerable)… Maybe I’ll pick it up again tomorrow. Great work, as usual.
    Oh, spot on with BoSox and Cub fans… If it doesn’t happen in their world, it doesn’t happen.
    Later on…

  11. roundrock15

    My instinct on Astros fans was lower-third. The problem is, outside of the Interweb, I don’t know any, and I’ve only infrequently come across them at away games (which should probably have told me something, considering I’ve been to more Astros away games than any other team in the majors.)

    http://houston.mlblogs.com

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