Hulbert: DeWolf and the Kid

From SABR member Joanne Hulbert at The National Pastime Museum on February 27, 2014:

Every professional baseball game, from the first-ever played to the one played yesterday, has included a crowd of spectators, once known as cranks in the nineteenth century, and who eventually earned the title of “Fan.” No game has excluded them, as far as historians can tell, and no game would be complete without them. From the earliest games until today, those who came to watch over the progress of nine innings or more designated their loyalty to one side or the other, made wagers over the progress and final score, and ballpark cuisine began its evolution from coffee, hot oyster stew, beer, and cookies—the menu at the concession stand at a Worcester, Massachusetts, ballgame in 1860—to hot dogs, still more beers, and Cracker Jack.

Some turn-of-the-century cranks gained notoriety for their passion for the game and their home teams. New York City was the ultimate place to find a grandstand full of notable characters. DeWolf Hopper and Digby Bell, both prominent celebrities in their own right on the comic opera stage, were part of “The High and Mighty Order of Baseball Cranks of Gotham” and occupied seats at the Polo Grounds in a section of the grandstand cordoned off for them with a chain and padlock.

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Originally published: February 27, 2014. Last Updated: February 27, 2014.