On Saturday night, the Cleveland Indians celebrated a remarkable accomplishment, complete with all of the pomp and circumstance one would expect from a first class organization. For super fan John Adams, it might as well have been another day at the office. You see, for forty years Adams has called the bleachers his home away from home, voluntarily attending each and every home game (with a handful of exceptions) to be the driving force behind each and every Indians rally.
If you’ve ever attended a game at the old Municipal Stadium or Progressive Field, you know who Adams is without possibly ever knowing his name. That rhythmic “boom, boom, boom, boom…” coming from the bleachers? That would be Adams. More specifically, that would be Adams and the iconic bass drum that has ingrained itself into Cleveland Indians folklore.
Often when writers describe the beauty and wonder of attending a big league baseball game, they focus on the same classic imagery. They describe the blueness of the sky and greenness of the grass. They focus on the smells, including hot dogs, peanuts, and over priced draft beer. They even focus on sounds like the crack of the bat or the slow, growing roar of the crowd as something exciting happens.
For anyone who is a fan of the Indians, we have learned to associate something else with baseball – that rhythmic beating of John Adams’ bass drum. It is so much a part of the game that without it we’d almost feel lost. For forty years Adams has been beating on that drum signaling the start of rallies and building excitement throughout the crowd. Without him, we’d be lost. He inadvertantly tells us when to pay attention and when to cheer. We know that when that rhythmic beating starts we need to put away the cell phones, put our conversations on hold and get ready to get on our feet.
As a kid growing up in the 90’s, my formative years were spent attending Indians games. In fact, many of my fondest memories center around that magical summer of 1995. We went to more games than I can begin to remember and after all of these years they have sort of meshed together into one overly complex memory. Bits and pieces stand out – home runs, memorable plays, clutch strikeouts. But, one thing ties them all together. You guessed it. John Adams and his drum.
I remember asking my dad about the drummer and feeling a sense of excitement when he told me he worked with him at Ohio Bell, which became Ameritech, which became SBC, which is now AT&T. There was almost immediate disappointment when he corrected me, saying he simply knew who John Adams was, but didn’t KNOW John Adams. I remember being explained the rules for when the drummer decided to drum and the situations in which I could expect to hear it. Sure enough, as if on cue, Adams began beating away with each rally and stressful late game situation. More importantly, I remember clapping along in rhythm every time.
I’m sure it was the same for hundreds, if not thousands of kids during the mid-90’s era of dominance. We were learning the game as we went along being pointed out key situations and plays from our fathers, grandfathers, or uncles. All the while, John Adams was serving as the sound track. I didn’t know it at the time, but the rhythmic beating of that drum was becoming so ingrained into my baseball subconscious that when I attend games now in foreign stadiums, I miss it. That drum beat is part of the game to me.
So now that John Adams and his drum have celebrated forty years atop the left field bleachers, what’s next? Hopefully the answer to that is another ten years. That would bring this already impressive run to an even more impressive fifty years. After that, Who knows? But like many fans, I just hope the Indians can put together one magical October run that culminates with a victory parade down Euclid Avenue.
Until then, the beat goes on, and on, and on…