While teams like the Marlins, Rays and Athletics struggle to find enough fans to attend their games to make a minyan, some teams have to contend with having fans that are too passionate. Healthy passion for one's team is a good thing, and fans in cities like St. Louis and Detroit show the rest of the league how it is done.
Other fanbases have become notorious for their bad behavior, whether violent or just idiotic, and the worst fans give the rest of the teams' supporters a bad name. Sometimes this behavior stems from the anger of losing, sometimes it comes from the cockiness of winning and all too often it comes from a combination of too much alcohol and too little judgment.
Here we rank the five harshest fanbases—teams whose supporters are so negative, demanding and sometimes downright disgraceful that they give all baseball fans a bad name.
Chicago Cubs fans have earned a reputation as being loveable losers; Harry Caray devotees who seem to take a perverse joy in their team's foibles. Though Cubs fans are remarkable in the extent of their loyalty, even through decades of hopelessness, a number of incidents have marred the good name of Cubs fans.
Cubs fans have hit opposing players in order to steal their hats (Dodgers bullpen catcher Chad Kreuter in 2000) and recklessly charged the field as a result of angry feelings toward their own pitcher (Cubs relief pitcher Randy Myers in 1995), but nothing compares to what they have done to one of their own, Steve Bartman.
The tale of Steve Bartman has been told many times. In Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, a pop fly foul ball was hit along the third base side, and Bartman, a diehard Cubs fan, innocently reached up to catch a foul ball. His reach contributed to Moises Alou missing the catch, and the ball dropped foul, allowing the batter to continue his at bat.
Normally this would be the end of the story, but the Cubs then went on to walk the batter, give up a single, commit an error, give up a double, an intentional walk, a sacrifice fly, a missed cutoff man, another intentional walk, a double and a single, before the Cubs got out of the inning. This effectively ended the game, and the Cubs lost. Though the Cubs had another chance in Game 7, the life had been taken out of them, and they lost the series to the Florida Marlins.
Yes, Bartman's reach was unfortunate, and had Alou caught the ball things would have ended differently, but the Cubs had plenty of chances to put the game away, and they failed at each one of them. Yet Cubs fans have mercilessly hounded Bartman ever since, to the point that Bartman now lives in seclusion to a degree that would have made J.D. Salinger jealous.
What makes the Cubs fans behavior so atrocious is that unlike Jeffrey Maier or other notorious fans, Bartman was actually a devout fan of the home team and was doing what the great majority of fans would do in the same situation. Yet Cubs fans have selectively forgotten about the errors and poor pitching that followed the incident, and instead blamed Bartman for the disappointment.
Cubs fans are loyal and supportive of their team through good and bad times, but their treatment of Steve Bartman alone earns them a place on this.
Los Angeles sports fans are mocked, only partly unfairly, for being fair-weather fans who show up late and leave early, dressing to look good rather than to support their team and spending more time looking at the stars sitting in the stands than the stars on the field. While there are plenty of individuals in the stands who fit this description, Los Angeles also has some of the most passionate and loyal fans in the country. The Dodgers have long had one of the best yearly attendance figures in baseball, and their fans are relatively calm and respectful.
During the ownership of Frank McCourt, as security has become lax in the stadium and many old-timers have stayed away from Dodger Stadium, the situation at Chavez Ravine has started to resemble the stands of Los Angeles Raiders games in the 1980s and 1990s. Fights break out in the bleachers, some fans have become verbally abusive in a manner that no family should have to be exposed to at a baseball game and a general sense of lack of safety has permeated the stadium. This devolution reached its pinnacle when two attendees mercilessly beat a San Francisco Giants fan to within an inch of his life.
This beating was an isolated incident, but it was also indicative of the atmosphere that has become expected at Dodger Stadium, which has kept the best Dodger fans away and encouraged the attendance of the worst.
Dodger fandom is better than its current state, and hopefully it will one day return to what it was, but a few very bad apples have earned Los Angeles fans a spot on this list.
Yankees fans believe that all hatred directed their way is due to jealousy. While fans of every other team are certainly jealous of the Yankees success, the fans of the Bronx Bombers certainly don't help their cause with their behavior.
Yankees fans have thrown objects at pitchers in the visitors' bullpen, regularly start chants consisting of "colorful" language (though, to be fair, nothing worse than you'd hear on half of the street corners in the city) and spend more time chanting "Boston sucks" than rooting for their own team.
Yankee Stadium was also home to one of the scariest moments in baseball history, when a fan threw a Bowie hunting knife at the Angels' Wally Joyner.
Yankees fans aren't just harsh on opponents but are also harsh on their team. A Yankee can expect to receive very little slack from Yankees fans, and even some of the best Yankees ever have found themselves on the receiving end of the wrath of Yankees fans. Alex Rodriguez, one of the best hitters in the game's history, has never been truly embraced by fans. Once Yankees fans embrace a player, they will support him even when his quality of play no longer justifies it (see Derek Jeter in 2010).
While playing in the Bronx is a dream for many players, others would just as happily stay far away from the Bronx, the critical New York media and the demanding fans.
Once upon a time before 2004, Red Sox fans were brash and rude, but harmless. Their anger could be blamed on their frustrations at "The Curse." And who could blame them for expressing their disappointment? Sure, they demonstrated a persecution complex like no other, and liberally assigned blame for their failures (the New York Yankees, Bill Buckner, Harry Frazee, George Steinbrenner and Babe Ruth, just to name a few), but this was natural.
Everything changed once the Red Sox won it all in 2004.
Sox fans went from being lovable to bitter, expressive to angry. Sox fans still believed themselves to be underdogs fighting against the "Evil Empire" and their massive payroll, even though the Sox had the second highest payroll in baseball. This would be like Chevron believing they are underdogs because ExxonMobil is bigger.
If a player struggled for a few weeks, fans immediately began to call for management to poach a star player from another team. Blame must always be assigned for failure, as was made evident by the disgusting manner in which Boston blamed the team's recent failure on Terry Francona's reported personal troubles. Countless once-beloved Sox who have ceased to perform—Nomar Garciaparra, Terry Francona, Manny Ramirez, just to name a few—are no longer given respect for their past accomplishments, but are instead run out of town.
Sox fans will regularly sermonize on the faithfulness and devotion of "Sox Nation," but even though decades have passed and two World Series have been won since, they still can't let go of the ghosts of Bill Buckner and Bucky Dent. The Red Sox fans seem to enjoy wallowing in their failures, but at the same time they crow of their superiority.
Red Sox fans have generally remained peaceful, if often crass, but their ruthlessness toward former players and enjoyment in throwing themselves a perpetual pity party earn them their spot on this list.
Picking on Philadelphia Phillies fans is the easiest activity for anyone who follows sports. Their behavior is legendary: a fan intentionally vomiting on a child at a game, throwing D batteries at J.D. Drew, prostituting oneself for tickets. And that's not mentioning the actions of fans of Philadelphia's other sports teams.
When you consider nonviolent but equally stupid behavior—best exemplified by their regular booing of Mike Schmidt, perhaps the best player in Phillies history—their behavior is as stupid as it is classless.
Phillies fans say their behavior is simply a reflection of their unrivaled passion for their team. Those who criticize are just jealous of the Phillies fan support, as if that somehow exonerates their illegal and disgusting behavior that often makes Citizens Bank Park only a few degrees removed from Mad Max's Thunderdome.
Phillies fans seem to delight in their designation as the harshest sports fans in baseball, and their behavior has only gotten worse in recent years in what seems to be an attempt to live up to their reputation. Philadelphia has thousands of great fans who passionately support the Phillies, but the number of incidents can no longer be considered isolated.