Anyone who has ever been to a Yankee game or watched one on TV is familiar with the traditional 1st inning Roll Call, in which the famous “Bleacher Creatures” chant the names of the Yankee starters until the player acknowledges them. Although the Roll Call has existed for many years, it has become increasingly associated with one of the most famous Bleacher Creatures, “Bald Vinny” Milano. For years, Vinny has initiated the cheer by first quieting the crowd and then, with his hands cupped to his mouth, bellowing out the name of the Yankee centerfielder (these days, it would be “Yo, Curtis!”). The rest of the Bleacher Creatures in Section 203 (in the new stadium, Sections 37 and 39 in the old stadium) would then join in the famous chant.
As probably the most visible Bleacher Creature, Vinny has come to represent the zealous cohort of blue-collar fans that have increasingly been priced out of the new stadium. The at-times rowdy behavior of the Bleacher Creatures has occasionally run afoul of Yankee management, as they have been asked to tone down their heckling of fans of opposing teams, as well as the infamous “Box Seats Suck” chant.
Vinny has made every attempt to capitalize on his fame and notoriety, appearing on Yes’s Ultimate Road Trip a few years ago and making a living selling Bleacher Creature merchandise. Unfortunately, it seems that the Bleacher Creatures may need to find a new person to initiate the Roll Call. In a heartfelt post on his blog, Vinny announced that he will no longer be a regular presence at Yankee games, citing the need to maintain more regular employment in order to support his family. In addition to the rising ticket prices, Vinny cites difficulties finding financial support for licensing and distribution of his merchandise, and had hoped that the Yankees would partner with him to promote the brand (they did not). Honestly, I am somewhat surprised that the Yankees didn’t try to capitalize on Vinny’s fame and loyal following to come to some sort of agreement, though perhaps the organization does not want to set up the Creatures as exemplars of the Yankee ethos.
The impending departure of Bald Vinny will signify the loss of another defining experience of Yankee Stadium. Although I don’t go to the Stadium on a regular basis, my memories echo with the strident sounds of the Bald Vinny’s yell and the rhythmic chant of the Roll Call, along with the Bob Sheppard’s resonant voice and the tinny banging of Freddie’s pot. I know it is cliché to say that the “feel” of the Stadium is changing, but though the Creatures will likely be able to find a new person to start the Roll Call, there is no doubt that Yankee Stadium will not be the same without Bald Vinny.
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