Beyond the Dugout, the Fans Dig In

Robert Knight is View/Calendar News Editor for the Times Orange County Edition.

Take me out to the ballgame,

Take me out where I'm loud .

Buy me some nachos and beer right now ;

I can't get off on the game without chow

And it's root, root, root beer and peanuts ;

If they're sold out, it's a shame .

For it's three, four, five bites

I'm stuffed at the old ballgame .

I don't know about you, but there's something about being at a baseball game that makes me want to stretch out and eat, oh, two pigs on a spit and a barrelful of Crackerjacks.

It could be the fresh air or the picniclike atmosphere. Or it could be that grown-up people just like to have an excuse to pig out.

It's contagious when you see 30,000 other people maniacally munching on hot dogs and ice cream and washing it down with truckloads of beer and Coke, and then saying things during the third inning, such as: "Gee, Dear, I haven't had anything to eat since the second inning. Could you get me a coupla dogs?"

Also, it's apparently hard for some folks to enjoy a game without forcing seven or eight people to cringe while they shuffle past, balancing four tall drinks and a stack of mustard, ketchup and onion-covered items on a fragile cardboard tray.

To command attention, they sometimes jerk forward suddenly and scream, "Oh my God! I'm losing it!" while stepping on a few toes. This works well in movie theaters and is even more effective here because you can see the awful facial expressions while they're teetering around.

Helping Them Out

Those who really want to make an impression manage to stop in the middle of a 20-seat row, look confused and then pull out their ticket. "What? This is Section 37? But I'm supposed to be in Section 38!" It is amazing how helpful some fans can be in effecting their egress.

That is, unless they are too busy preparing for the "Wave" to come around to that section. If you've been to the ballpark lately or watched a game on television, you're probably familiar with the Wave. It's a phenomenon that usually gets under way in the bleachers and works like this: A group of thrill-seekers all stand up at once, holding up their arms and screaming. Then the people in the next section do it, and so on, until the "wave" is rolling around the stadium at about 10 m.p.h., leaving dislapped infants and spilled food in its wake.

The crowd usually goes along with it, but not always. The last time I saw resistance was at Anaheim Stadium when the Angels were up. The bases were loaded, an Angel slugger was at bat, and there was only one out.

The Bleacher Creatures

There was no reason just then to start a wave, since the game was getting hot. Also, everybody was weighted down with everything from shrimp cocktails to malted milk balls. But tell that to the bleacher creatures. As the first pitch was thrown, a bunch of them gave out Tarzan-like yells, leaped to their feet and threw up their hands. Instead of cheers and more hands up, they were met with boos and several remarks about the effectiveness of their deodorants.

This made them reconsider, and they sulkily sat down and went back to their beer and junk food. They were not heard from again until the next inning. And the next.

Meanwhile, the Angels scored a couple of runs and began pulling away, which was swell for the home fans but took some of the suspense out of the afternoon.

At its best, baseball is a game of suspense, especially in the late innings. One man at bat, one man on the mound. Each turn at bat is a personal duel between the two. And when the count is full and the game is on the line, the suspense is unbearable. It's almost enough to make you stop eating and drinking for a moment.

Snorkel Down Beer

And so it goes in the stands, where you may find yourself on the edge of your seat, wondering whether the shirtless fellow sitting next to you can snorkel down one more beer before the seventh inning stretch. If he manages to do that, the tension builds as he sloshes into the last half of the seventh and into the eighth.

This part of the game is when half the crowd is wondering whether to skedaddle to beat the traffic, and the rest are cleaning out the food stands and moving around to take the better seats of those who left.

To our relief, our elbow-mate was among those who decided to leave early. He said goodby, belched, and lurched toward the exit, squinting at the field now and then trying to remember whether he was in Anaheim or Chavez Ravine.

He finally figured it out. "Go Dodgers!" he drawled.

We sat back and munched on our hot dogs and nachos.

"Gosh, I'm hungry," someone said.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World