When I was a kid, my favorite player on an opposing team was Nolan Ryan. For my birthday one year, my parents got tickets to see Texas visit Yankee Stadium. Even though I was excited about the game, in my underdeveloped seven-year-old mind this was a test of allegiance. To set aside any question of where my loyalties lay, I used our dot matrix printer to create a banner that read, “RANGERS SUCK!”
My parents threw it in the trash. They correctly wouldn’t let me leave the house with it. Even though it was relatively benign by adult standards, there was nothing to be gained from denigrating players on the field. They’re just as human as the guys wearing pinstripes. I learned that heckling was not a valid reason to go to the stadium.
The incident at the end of Saturday’s game was a disgusting, horrifying representation of our fanbase. All ballplayers— including those who happen to play for the New York Yankees— deal with jeering from the stands by the time they reach professional baseball. Unfortunately, it’s simply a part of their jobs. For Myles Straw and Óscar Mercado to react the way they did after Steven Kwan’s head injury, the derision clearly crossed the line into abuse. The shower of beer and garbage in Straw’s direction removed any remaining pretense that these acts of violence and bullying had anything to do with baseball whatsoever.
"If I were to do it again I probably would've said the same thing."
Should Straw have climbed the outfield fence? Maybe not, but I can’t blame him for doing so. It would be irresponsible to speculate about what might have been said by the fans, but if we’re being honest, there are only a few types of comments that could’ve prompted such a reaction. Respect and human decency are more important than baseball at all times. Even if he could have handled the situation differently in an emotional moment, Straw evidently believed some fans needed that reminder.
Ultimately, Straw shouldn’t have had to get involved in the first place. As fans, we ought to be capable of policing ourselves. Rightly or wrongly, these incidents reflect on all of us:
This is a black eye for our entire fanbase. Even worse, this wasn’t an isolated incident. If you’ve ever been to Yankee Stadium, especially in the bleachers, you’ve surely heard people yell remarks that were abusive or hateful extending well beyond acceptable taunting. These cowards would never say those things to people who weren’t on the other side of a 10’ wall. The targets and witnesses of this vitriol, whether they’re on the field, in the press box, or in the stands, don’t differentiate between a few knuckleheads and the rest of us in attendance.
I’ve never called someone anything like what DeShields or Kwan heard. Most of the people reading this article haven’t either. All the same, I’m embarrassed to be a Yankees fan right now.
We, the fans, can no longer afford to be bystanders to hatred. It’s necessary for us to call out so-called fans whose heckling turns into abuse. Racism, making fun of serious injuries, homophobia, and any other form of hate speech has absolutely no place in baseball. It shouldn’t be part of anyone’s ballpark experience, whether they’re a target or a witness.
It’s time for us all to step up. When you’re at the game and you see someone crossing the line, take action. If you feel comfortable asking them to calm down, do it. If you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself, get security. These incidents are not one-time occurrences and they reflect on us as a fanbase. If we don’t put a stop to them ourselves, they will only continue.
If there was a silver lining to Saturday, it was Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton standing side by side, commanding fans to stop throwing garbage. They set aside their jubilation following a walk-off victory to be the adults. Their leadership and demonstration of priorities should be an example to us all. Even if we aren’t wearing the uniform, each of us has an obligation to show that same kind of leadership and speak up against the imbeciles who smear our reputation.
Yankee Stadium belongs to us, no matter whose name is on the deed. It’s our cathedral and it was defaced by vitriol-laced debris. Now we must clean it up. It’s our responsibility to take a stand against physical and verbal violence and make sure it doesn’t happen again.