“There are many Degrees of ‘Fan'”

1 Aug

It seemed that James Aristotle “Jim” Hart, president of the Chicago Orphans had a full plate in 1901.  His team got off to a 1-6 start and never recovered, finishing a disappointing 58-81, while the cross-town White Sox took over first place on July 10 and never looked back, winning the American League’s inaugural pennant.

Jim Hart

Jim Hart

Additionally, Hart was meeting frequently with American League President Bancroft “Ban” Johnson in an attempt to avert all-out war between the two leagues.  Rumors about the trouble ahead were so numerous that The Chicago Inter Ocean said one day during August:

“Ban Johnson went fishing yesterday, and Jim Hart busied himself making out checks for his players.  As a plain matter of fact, there wasn’t enough baseball excitement in town to scare a rabbit, but the fakebirds sang just the same.  By night, the National League had flopped over to the American and the American had joined the National; all the players on each side had been stolen, and there were forty-six more baseball wars in view.”

Despite his fading team, the looming battle, and the fact that the White Sox would out draw his club by nearly 150,000 over the course of the season, he still found time to make it clear what constituted “a genuine fan.”  Hart wrote an article for The Chicago Record-Herald:

“The genuine fan is a proper adjunct of the game of baseball and should be encouraged, for from him must come the enthusiasm which provides capital necessary  to operate the game, the encouragement which causes youths to become proficient players and the constant dropping of con for admission tickets to witness games which permits the sport to continue.

“There are many degrees of ‘fans,’ some agreeable and some disagreeable to an extent which is intolerable.  The ‘fan’ proper is perfectly harmless; he annoys nobody and loves the game for the amusement and benefit he derives from it.  He keeps the records of players of his favorite team and players of other teams.  He feels as if he had encountered personal loss when his team losses and is correspondingly jubilant when the team wins.  He does not roar or rant at the players, but feels grieved that any player on his pet team should ever make an error.

“The next degree of ‘fan’ is the one who becomes wildly demonstrative; he can ‘see things’ only one way, and that is the way he wants them to be; the umpire’s decisions are invariably wrong when they do not happen to be the way he wants them; the errors made by the players of his favorite team are made purposely and could just as well been avoided.  Consequently he at once joins the chorus of ‘take him out’ etc…

“The disagreeable ‘fan’ is strictly speaking not a ‘fan’ at all, but is a person who wishes notoriety and the ‘laugh’ which his sallies cause, for be it known that almost any remark made by a person among the spectators  causes more or less of a laugh.  This class of ‘fan’ does not always employ profane of vulgar language, but his remarks are usually coarse and are personal, directed usually to some spectator, or to a player or to the umpire, and, as stated above while the language is not always of a character that is vile, it encourages the next lower degree of ‘fan’ to use expressions which cannot be tolerated on any properly conducted baseball park.

“An honest management is under great strain during a game of baseball whenever the attendance runs up into the thousands, for it feels that every person there, especially the women, are under the protection of the management, and, when one reflects upon the enormous force for good or evil that is contained in an enclosure of less than a half dozen acres when from 15,000 to 20,000 persons are congregated to witness what may prove a wildly exciting contest upon which the championship of the world may depend, he will not by any act or word jeopardize the welfare and happiness of the people assembled.

“The mobs that attack umpires are not ‘fans.’  They are cowards and rowdies and the person who from the crowd insults a player is bound by the rules of his league and club to resent no insult of any description while in uniform;  consequently to hurl an insulting remark at a player or umpire while he is on the playing field is at par with striking a man who is bound hand and foot and tied to a post.”

Hart’s Orphans improved to 68-69 and finished fifth in 1902, but were again outplayed (74-60, fourth place) and out drawn by the Sox–Hart made no comment about the relative quality of either team’s fans.

Fans at White Sox game circa 1910

Fans at White Sox game circa 1910

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3 Responses to ““There are many Degrees of ‘Fan'””

  1. Gary Trujillo August 12, 2014 at 7:32 am #

    I;m not sure what category I fit in. 🙂

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