John Adams sits in the highest bleacher seat in left-center field at Jacobs Field and pounds away at his bass drum like an over-caffeinated garage rocker. A close game, a blowout, Opening Day, a World Series or a meaningless September game against the Devil Rays, Adams, 53, is almost always at Jacobs Field. He brought his bass drum to old Cleveland Municipal Stadium on Aug. 24, 1973, and banged on it all night. The Indians won that ballgame against the Rangers, 11-5, behind a complete game from the immortal Tom Timmerman. That otherwise inconsequential win was the beginning of a Cleveland tradition.
For 33 years now, Adams has lugged his drum to the ballpark. His total of games attended stands at more than 2,000 and counting. "I was sitting out in the bleachers, and there was no seats to bang out there," Adams says of his first nights. "They were just bleacher seats. So, having played drums and helped lead cheers, I thought I'd get a drum and use that. And I came to a couple games and banged on it, like we did with the seats and clapping." Adams was a young man then, not quite 22. He didn't have the Fu Manchu mustache that he sports today, and his hair was black, not the salt-and-pepper it is now. But he has continued to bring his drum for all three decades now, despite the inconvenience and the cost that comes with having to buy a season ticket for the drum. "I'm the only person in Cleveland with a season ticket for an inanimate object," he says with a laugh. In the 33 seasons of often mediocre baseball, Adams has been bringing his drum to Indians games, and the Tribe has rewarded him with just six playoff appearances. And, of course, Adams has no World Series championships to celebrate. "It's still baseball," he says. "Anything can happen. I sat here, I saw a perfect game. How many people can ever say they saw a perfect game? How many people can say that? Not many. "Though it's amazing how there's more and more people who were there [when you ask now]." The perfect game was Len Barker's, which came on May 15, 1981. It remains one of Adams' favorite memories. It came in old Municipal Stadium, a park so universally derided that it long ago was dubbed "The Mistake by the Lake." But Adams rejects that nickname with a surprising passion. "Every seat in that ballpark faced second base," he says. "You didn't have to cringe or turn or anything. The sight lines in that ballpark were such that any seat you sat in, you saw the entire field and all the fly balls. "That ballpark was a fabulous ballpark, absolutely fabulous. Everybody complains about the poles. Well, if you're hollering and screaming that nobody was there, and [you] had to sit behind a pole, then you were an idiot. If no one's there, and no one's sitting behind a pole, you're an idiot."
Adams says all this while watching the July 5 game against the Yankees. Trailing 1-0 in the third inning, the Indians get a solo homer from Todd Hollandsworth. Adams is in the middle of answering a question when Hollandsworth hits his blast. As the ball soars toward the right-field fence, Adams starts banging his bass drum.
It's a booming sound, hard on the ears of anyone sitting in Section 183. Adams pounds quickly until the ball lands in the seats, producing a short, staccato sound. The booms grow longer and deeper until Adams lets out a whelp and stops drumming. He reaches out with one of his drumsticks and does an elaborate high-five ritual with his wife, Kathleen.
"We needed that," he says over the din of the crowd.
Hollandsworth's homer is the Tribe's first hit of the day, and it was also Adams' first real chance to demonstrate his work with the drum. Unlike the Angels and their Rally Monkey, Adams doesn't have hard and fast rules that govern his actions.
"Being a drummer, I march to the beat of my own drum," he says. "I make up my own rules. If we have someone in scoring position, I'll start the drum up. When the pitcher sets, I stop hitting it as well.
"If we're behind, seventh, eighth inning, I'll start it up. Of course, if it's a tie game or anything, I'll try to get a rally going. Of course, I never want to see a bottom of the ninth inning here, and then, for the last out, I start very slow, and with each pitch I get faster and faster and faster."
Sadly, Adams couldn't spark any kind of rally this day. The Yankees scored eight runs in the fourth and went on to beat the Tribe, 11-3. But even when the game was well out of reach, Adams continued to bang away with every potential threat.
It's that kind of dedication that has earned him a special bit of recognition from the Indians. The Sunday after the loss to the Yankees, the Indians gave out John Adams "BobbleArms," a toy that features Adams with his drum. Fans can bobble his arms up and down to bang on the little instrument.
It's the first time the Indians have given out a Bobblehead of a fan, and Adams is well aware of the significance.
"It's still hard to sink in," he says. "It's difficult, because I'm nobody. But what's really nice is that I've had fans from different cities come up who've heard about it and say, 'Hey, congratulations, you deserve it.'
"It's quite an honor. I don't know if I'm deserving, but it's quite an honor. I kind of like thinking about it as celebrating all the fans. It's a first. They've never had anything like that for a fan before, so this is historical. Like I said, it's a great honor. But the real honor, to me, is when people come up to say hello."
As the game with the Yankees winds toward its end, a young man of college age treks up to Adams and shakes his hand. The young man has been listening to Adams' drumming for years and has come up to introduce himself.
Adams beams, and, for a brief second, he sets down his drumsticks.
: : : This Edition: July 19, 2006 : : :
Andrew Bare is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.