The Power of the Bleachers
The Passing of "Rooters' Row," the Paradise of the
Baseball Bug and Its Effect on the National
Game in Cincinnati
By M. VAN BUREN LYONS
The passing of "Rooters' Row" in the Cincinnati park marks the end of one of the strangest institutions in modern baseball. The influence which this famous row exerted on the home players was at all times a formidable factor to be reckoned with in Cincinnati. But the building of the new park has altered all this and "rooters' row," with all it meant of good or bad, has passed away forever.
"ROOTERS' ROW" is gone. This famous institution, which has so long exercised an unwholesome influence on Cincinnati players, will exert that influence no more. To loyal Cincinnati bugs, "rooters' row" has been a potent, stirring reality for so long, they will realize its loss at once, but many equally loyal "bugs" in other cities of the circuits have perhaps never heard of it at all. For the edification of these people, as well as the recollection of Cincinnati fans, we may say that "rooters' row" was once the busiest, noisest, most influential section of the Cincinnati ball park.
From their vantage ground between home plate and third base, the loud-voiced rooters who used to grace this section of the scenery with heir presence posed throughout the game as arbiters, and while they perhaps did not control the situation, they did get on everybody's nerves from the umpire to the bat boy. The home players' bench was located directly in front of this celebrated row, and what the rooters used to say to some of these players when they came in after making a bone-headed exhibit could never be recorded here.
Clark Griffith felt the weight of some of these remarks and even his stoical soul was moved more than once, while some of the more sensitive players on the bench were greatly affected in their work. It stands to reason that a man cannot play his best game when a whole medley of frenzied human beings and near-human beings are shouting directions and criticisms at him. The best of intentions waver under such a fire, as all too many exhibitions on this historic field have shown in the past. It is hard to estimate the influence such rooting has on the winning or losing of a pennant in a major league city, but no one ever doubted the living presence of "rooters' row," and no player who ever graced a Cincinnati diamond but felt that influence in the days when it flourished.
Clark Griffith, when he was feeling the weight of undeserved criticism from the bleachers, told me once how this criticism affected him, and how it affected some of his best players. Even such a sterling performer as Hans Lobert was so influenced by the storm of criticism with which he was frequently greeted by the partisan fans of "rooters' row" that it became absolutely impossible for him to do his best work at his exposed position on third base. So "rooters' row" played a not unimportant part in that celebrated trade with Philadelphia, which resulted in so thorough a shaking up in the roster of both clubs.
Rube Marquard told me of the adverse effect of this same hostile influence which made it impossible for him to how effectively against Cincinnati at all times and was one great factor in his failure to make good upon his entrance to major league company. Only a pitcher of long experience and steady nerve can show to advantage under the galling cross-fire of uncomplimentary epithets which are hurled at him from such a group of spectators, and even he could not do his best work under such circumstances.
Fred Clark, of the Pirates, well knows the effect such a section of the bleachers can have on a team of major league players, for his long search for a first baseman who would fill that corner of the Pirate diamond successfully has been largely the result of a similar row of rooters near first base in the Smoky City.
The rebuilding of the grand stand at Cincinnati did away for all time with "rooters' row." Manager Hank O'Day can now go to bed at night without having his slumbers disturbed by a glimpse of a crowd of raving lunatics who used to make life so miserable for the home bench in the old days and the optimistic scribes in Garry Hermann's city can go on now predicting their annual pennant with much brighter prospects of success. Yes, the abolition of "rooters' row" means the dawn of a brighter day in Cincinnati, but it also means the passing of an old-time feature which was deeply woven in all the most stirring traditions
of the national game in Cincinnati.