10/05/2002 8:34 pm ET
A sea of red divided
Cards bleacher creatures as different as left and right
By Jared Hoffman / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- In life, you're either a dog person or a cat person. Leno or Letterman. Curly or Shemp.
And if you're a St. Louis Cardinals fan and you call the bleachers home, you're either left field or right field. You can't be both and you don't fraternize with the other side.
To the untrained eye sitting in the luxury boxes, field seats or upper deck, it's simply two separate masses of people. To the fans occupying the wooden benches beyond the outfield wall, the differences are obvious.
In left field, they get to see the replay jumbotron in right field. That means seeing a replay of great defensive play by Fernando Vina or participating in the fifth-inning Cap Dance and yelling out which Cards cap a baseball is hidden.
The bleacher fans in right field don't mind missing out on the replays. "If you can't see it the first time, then oh well," quipped Wes Donoho, who has season tickets in the first row of the right-field bleachers. Donoho says they get to see the more important things on the left field such as player stats, lineups for each team and scoring decisions.
Left field is big on individual personalities. There's "The General," who wears a Cardinals batting helmet and sings Stayin' Alive while doing his best impersonation of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever every time a Cardinals batter fouls off a pitch with two strikes. There's "Tidbit," who has lungs of leather but also bakes cookies for pitchers in the visitor's bullpen. There's "Mama Lucy," who keeps everyone in line.
"We stand up and cheer for our guys and let them know we support them no matter what we do," said Lucille Elson -- Mama Lucy as she's known to her left-field bleacher friends. "Right field just sits there. It need some more enthusiasm."
The General? Tidbit? Mama Lucy? They sound like pro wrestlers or names Stan Lee rejected when coming up for a new super hero. A stark contrast to right field where the regulars go by names such as Todd, Geoff, Mary and Steve.
While the fans in the right-field bleachers tend to be more relaxed, the fans in left field are organized to the point they have a sheet of rules for all to follow. Among the items that are banned: cell phones, "the wave" and leaving the game early.
The bleachers in left field are adjacent to the visiting team's bullpen, while right field sits adjacent to the Cardinals bullpen. That's enough for Ben Turner, who attends about 20 Cardinal games per season, to decide where to sit. "Right field is where the action is," said Turner. "It's where the heartbeat of the Cardinals is. It's where the Cardinals bullpen is. I wouldn't want to be over there with the visitors."
St. Louis bleacher fans aren't as famous as ones in other cities. Unlike Wrigley Field, there isn't much face time on TV. Unlike Pac Bell Park, the first words heard from someone after catching a home run aren't, "Does anybody know a good lawyer?" Unlike Dodger Stadium, a game doesn't start in the third and end in the seventh.
For Game 3 against Arizona, the left- and right-field bleachers were packed with fans decked out in their best Cardinal red -- just as they are for a Wednesday night game in April against the Expos.
Despite their differences, the two sides do share a common cause -- rooting the Redbirds to victory. Their methods? They differ as much as the individuals sitting on each side.
Jared Hoffman is an editorial producer for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.