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Why all of you horrible savages are wrong for booing ballplayers

Jan 31, 2012, 6:50 AM EST

Ralph Branca

There are two areas in baseball — I think just two, but I’m sure someone will remind me if I’m missing any — in which I will freely own up to being an impossible annoying self-righteous prig:  beanball wars, as we discussed yesterday, and booing ballplayers.

My thing about beanball wars is pretty defensible I think, as guys really can get hurt. I don’t care what you say — even if you’re being rational and otherwise persuasive about it when you take issue with me — I’m never going to abide intentionally throwing a baseball at someone.

The booing thing: eh, I realize I’m out-of-step with most sports fans (with “most” meaning “virtually all”).  I just hate booing. I find it to be unseemly and kind of rude. I never boo anyone sincerely (I’ve ironically booed people before, not that it would make a difference to the target). I prefer to be all passive-aggressive about it and simmer with silence and resentment. Maybe it’s just a repressed Midwesterner thing. It’s our way.

Maybe if someone were truly villainous I’d boo them — like if a player did something decidedly evil in a game but somehow avoided being ejected — but I can’t ever feature myself booing my own team’s player simply because he made a mistake or was slumping. Or another team’s player because he played well against my team. Or any player because of some lame contract dispute years and years ago, a minor hubbub or scandal or what have you.

Anyway, the reason I bring this up is because the subject of booing was mentioned at a charity event featuring Bobby Valentine last night.  For those who don’t know, Valentine’s father-in-law is legendary Brooklyn Dodgers’ pitcher Ralph Branca.  Branca, as I hope you do know, served up the pitch that became Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” that catapulted the Giants into the 1951 World Series over Branca’s Dodgers.

A goat that cost the Dodgers the pennant? In Brooklyn of all places? Surely that man was booed until Hell wouldn’t have it, right? Wrong! Branca was at the event and spoke thusly:

In a discussion about big markets and small markets and how players respond to being booed, Branca took the microphone and reminded the crowd that he knew a little bit about the topic. Branca gave up one of the most famous homers in baseball history, Bobby Thomson’s three-run shot that gave the New York Giants the 1951 NL pennant over the Brooklyn Dodgers.

“Me get booed? Never,” Branca told a few hundred people at Fenway Park on Monday night. “I did lose a few [fans]”

I’m never gonna convince anyone that booing is low-rent. And the next time I write a head-shaking post about fans who, in my view, unjustifiably boo a player, I am absolutely certain you will all call me out for being the impossible and annoying self-righteous prig that I am on this topic.

But do your worst. Boo me, even. I don’t care. If people in Brooklyn in 1952 weren’t booing Ralph Branca, no one deserves to get booed, ever.

Now if you excuse me, I’m going to retire to my fainting couch. I feel a spell of the vapors coming on.

UPDATE:  This man is so, so right. That’s just one guy’s opinion.

  1. mets79 - Jan 31, 2012 at 7:00 AM

    I never boo my own team’s players and I don’t boo former players, like when Beltran comes back this year in a Cards uniform. I never understand booing a struggling reliever or a hitter mired in a slump. The boos definitely get inside a lot of guy’s heads making them perform worse which is the opposite of what I want as a fan. I don’t have any issue with people who boo the other team though

    • skids003 - Jan 31, 2012 at 8:27 AM

      I never boo umpires either, because unless you’ve tried it, it’s not as easy as the regular guy thinks. They have to watch something in fast action and make a split decision, and they are correct 99.5% of the time. Hats off to the guys in blue.

      • Utley's Hair - Jan 31, 2012 at 11:59 AM

        They’re bound to make mistakes from time to time, and that’s all well and good. But if they repeatedly make the same ones, that’s boo worthy. The strike zone is the strike zone. Shoulder to knee over the plate. The fact that pitchers constantly need to find different zones with different umpires is absolutely preposterous. The fact that some pitchers need to constantly find the shifting zone with one umpire is even worse.

        Now, those who inject themselves into the game for their own purposes…that’s a totally different can of worms.

    • papasadappa - Jan 31, 2012 at 8:51 AM

      Agreed. I hate at Citi when people boo Bay. Dont we want this guy to get better? Instead his own fans are getting in his head and making him worse. I won’t be booing Jose either. Not his fault the Wilpon’s wouldn’t pay him

    • mox19380 - Jan 31, 2012 at 11:42 AM

      Here I am agreeing with a Mets fan but I feel the same way. Booing your own team is essentially condemning them to ruin. Sure we hope a player is strong enought to ignore it but most people regardless will feel that added pressure of knowing the fans are against them. It seems counter productive. You’ve essentially conceded the game and assumed the role of hater.

      As for other teams and players. I don’t boo nearly as often or loudly as most Philly fans but the opposition is definitely fair game for being boo’d

    • natstowngreg - Jan 31, 2012 at 1:48 PM

      In 150+ Nats games over the last 7 seasons, I’ve booed 2 people. One was Pedro Martinez, after he threw at several Nats hitters. The other was Joe West, after a particularly obnoxious performance.

      But then, we Nats fans don’t boo much. There was that period mid-last season when Jayson Werth was booed, but not much else. That may change as the front-runners start to return to the Nats Park.

      What I find interesting is when visitors’ fans boo their own in our park. Victims have included Pat Burrell, Werth (as a Phillie), A-Rod (Yankees fans, 2006), and Tony LaRussa.

  2. phillyphreak - Jan 31, 2012 at 7:15 AM

    I boo my mailman when he brings more bills.

  3. Charles Gates - Jan 31, 2012 at 7:39 AM

    The ghost of Craig Calcaterra says nothing.

  4. paperlions - Jan 31, 2012 at 7:43 AM

    The only time I can ever imagine booing players on my team is for lack of hustle….and I don’t even remember doing that….booing just wasn’t a mid-western thing back then.

    Back when Hockey was a blue collar sport and affordable to attend, I remember booing the refs all the time for bad calls (i.e. any call that went against the Blues)…but that was all in good fun (we thought).

  5. bancacentral - Jan 31, 2012 at 7:44 AM

    In Spain’s soccer games they whistle instead of booing. I don’t know if 40,000 fans booing at Yankee Stadium would be more annoying than 90,000 drunken Spaniards whistling the hell out of a player.

  6. thehypercritic - Jan 31, 2012 at 7:46 AM

    I have no problem booing athletes who seem certainly worthy — the pre-prison Michael Vicks, Ben Roethlesbergers or Chris Raineys of the world.

    I can also understand booing those whose massive egos masquerade as false piety ala Tim Tebow or whose political advocacy I felt repellent, but I could never see myself booing an athlete for his professional exploits. I think the vast majority of sober adults over the age of 25 would never consider such silliness — and look those who do so with something close to pity.

    • skids003 - Jan 31, 2012 at 8:28 AM

      If you boo Tebow for that, you are the lowest of the low.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 31, 2012 at 9:02 AM

      whose massive egos masquerade as false piety ala Tim Tebow

      Wait, you think Tebow is faking it? Wow

      • thehypercritic - Jan 31, 2012 at 4:36 PM

        In a league absolutely filled with devout men of faith, the most demonstrative player who’s made a habit of jumping up and down after every first down since high school just happens to choose an expression of that common faith which calls attention to himself and some people think there’s a difference between what he’s doing and what OchoCinco does?

        I have no problem with victory dances and celebrations, I enjoy them, but cloaking his true intentions with the nonsense that it’s about how much he loves the supernatural hero from his favorite children’s book is absurd.

  7. thehypercritic - Jan 31, 2012 at 7:57 AM

    But the real question: Would Craig boo a pitcher who intentionally threw at a batter’s head?

  8. antlerclaws - Jan 31, 2012 at 8:00 AM

    The only player that I boo is A-Rod. Seriously.

    • yankeesfanlen - Jan 31, 2012 at 12:45 PM

      Leave ARod Alone! Glad I caught this.

  9. cshearing - Jan 31, 2012 at 8:02 AM

    I have little problem with booing, even if I would rarely do it. With a few exceptions, of course. But I think the fans paid their money, they have that right if they want to boo.

    What I cannot get past is the idiotic homer rambling, and then inane comments like “we all know everyone from Philly is a moron anyhow”. Boo the players, hate the team, but leave the people and the city out of it. There are assholes and idiots everywhere, even in your home stadium. Try to remember that.

    • cshearing - Jan 31, 2012 at 8:04 AM

      I should note that this board has very little of this type of behaviour, which is why I frequent it so much even though baseball is my third favourite sport. The other NBC Sports offerings that I go to (profootballtalk.com & prohockeytalk.com) do not share this level of commentary, and it gets frustrating fast.

      • paperlions - Jan 31, 2012 at 8:15 AM

        Amen to that, there is just about zero reason to comment on or read the comments on those blogs.

      • cur68 - Jan 31, 2012 at 11:21 AM

        You guys should check out the gol blog over at “Golf Talk Central”. Put you off golf for the rest of whenever. Comments section is nothing but a collection if blowhards trying to out elitist each other.

      • woodenulykteneau - Jan 31, 2012 at 12:00 PM

        People who play golf are elitist?!

  10. chadjones27 - Jan 31, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    I think it mostly has to do with how the comments section is set up. Here, you can reply directly to someone else’s post. So, it opens up for back-and-forth commentary. There, since your post may be 20 below who you were responding to, you can just hit-and-run. And never really have to justify your reasoning.

    • kopy - Jan 31, 2012 at 9:24 AM

      I agree with your point, but there is some sweet, delicious irony in how you didn’t reply directly to cshearing when you were explaining how nice the reply feature is.

      • chadjones27 - Jan 31, 2012 at 9:48 AM

        Oh yeah, look at that. Totally unintentional. I gave myself a thumbs down for that one.

  11. Jonny 5 - Jan 31, 2012 at 8:25 AM

    I only Boo the 10 year olds who get hits off my son when he’s pitching. ” BOOOO, ya bummy head!” Alright, maybe not.. I don’t remember booing at a baseball game ever. But hockey games demand you boo the refs. It’s an unwritten rule actually. Duh Craig! BOOOO!

  12. badmamainphilliesjamas - Jan 31, 2012 at 8:25 AM

    “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity…”

    • unclemosesgreen - Jan 31, 2012 at 9:10 AM

      After English class you have to go slouching back to horsemeat and Velveeta central, be careful out there. Your attempt to class up the Phillies phans hasn’t gone unnoticed.

      • badmamainphilliesjamas - Jan 31, 2012 at 9:47 AM

        Never Velveeta, unclemo, only provolone for me.

  13. ncphilliesguy - Jan 31, 2012 at 8:29 AM

    Booing is an expression of displeasure, and cheering is an expression of pleasure. It’s not personal toward the player. I have booed Schmidt, and I still think he is the best player I have ever seen play. Philly fans, and a lot of the players here understand that (ask Kruk, see his 2009 Phils Wall of Fame acceptance speech). Some don’t, and they should go play or be fans in Atlanta, St. Louis or San Diego.

    • nolanwiffle - Jan 31, 2012 at 9:14 AM

      What did Mike Schmidt do that would have warranted his hometown fans booing him? That’s akin to booing Santa Claus, and what kind of filthy, hate-filled fans would do that?

  14. itsacurse - Jan 31, 2012 at 8:32 AM

    • sleepyirv - Jan 31, 2012 at 1:35 PM

      Are we sure they’re not saying Boo-urns?

  15. sailorborn - Jan 31, 2012 at 8:42 AM

    Boo bad management — not the players. Most failings of a sports team is the fault of executives who have chosen the wrong talent to do the job. Boo them. In NY Steinbrenner and Mara deserve constant applause, and Wilpong and Johnson deserve not only boos but total boycott. We won’t even mention the boo deserving incompetents who run cablevision.

  16. ballparkprints - Jan 31, 2012 at 8:50 AM

    Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer. ~Ted Williams
    Real fans don’t Boo!

  17. raftershostmom - Jan 31, 2012 at 8:52 AM

    At most high schools, they try and remind parents and fans that the players are someone’s kids… please have respect for the game and the effort they are trying to put forth. For the most part, the same can be true at the college and pro level. I find it hurtful to boo someone who knows the’ve made an error or didn’t make the play they should have made. Why add salt to the wound?

    That being said…there was one game in which I joined the ENTIRE crowd in a chorus of boos directed at the opposing team’s field manager. He disagreed with the call by an umpire and proceeded to argue his point for TEN minutes. He was thrown out of the game but still wouldn’t leave. Finally, security came and escorted him away. Our pitcher was tossing the ball to keep his arm warm because the game was delayed for so long. Granted, he should have been escorted off the field much sooner than ten minutes, but this was a college summer league so the umps are learning the way of the game, too. I’ll never forget seeing the opposing team fans booing their own field manager because of his display.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 31, 2012 at 9:07 AM

      Same goes true for the officials, as someone above mentioned. It sucks getting 99.5% of the calls right, but hearing nothing but jeering/booing for the one you missed/got wrong.

      He disagreed with the call by an umpire and proceeded to argue his point for TEN minutes

      One thing I loved about being a soccer ref, if you are thrown out you have to leave the grounds, not just the field. Only ever threw out a coach once, long story, but telling him to the leave the grounds (4 fields side by side) pretty much eliminates him continuing to berate you on the sidelines.

  18. Alex K - Jan 31, 2012 at 9:04 AM

    I can only remember booing at a player on the Cubs one time. It was John Grabow during the 2010 season. His ERA+ that year was 58 in 25 innings. A tiny amount but most of them frustrating.

  19. anxovies - Jan 31, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    I hardly ever boo players from either side, and then only when one of them does something rude or outside of the unspoken rules of the game (like throwing a short, chubby, 70 year old coach to the ground during a free-for-all, even though he shouldn’t have gotten himself involved in the donnybrook in the first place). However, I do have a rational and persuasive reason to take issue with the idea that pitchers should not throw at batters. The batters are just asking for it. They stand on top of the plate decked out with all kinds of armor on their arms and legs, dig a hole for the back foot and lean out with their heads, hands and elbows in the strike zone. Where have you gone Don Drysdale? Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! (Sorry for the imperfect meter and need some music notes here). It’s pure self defense. Barry Bonds had more armor that King Arthur and he could hit the back through the mound at 100+ mph. Take a look at where Jeter’s arms are when he is at bat. If the umpires would start calling it a strike when a batter is hit on the arm by a fastball over the middle of the plate then I might agree with you about hitting batters.

    • stlouis1baseball - Jan 31, 2012 at 3:00 PM

      Well stated Anxovies. Two thumbs up!

  20. unclemosesgreen - Jan 31, 2012 at 9:08 AM

    Heckling is part of the professional sports environment, and a huge factor in homefield advantage. Surely you aren’t saying that players don’t deserve to be heckled when they don’t hustle? Surely you aren’t saying that home crowds shouldn’t get on the opposition and try to get in their heads? So do you also disapprove of the Cameron Crazies?

    Taking a stand against throwing a hard spheroid 100 MPH at another person’s head is easy to understand, but this is ridiculous. What are you, Miss Freakin Manners? As Ron Swanson memorably told Tom Haverford when Tom was bowling granny style “Son, people can see you.”

    • unclemosesgreen - Jan 31, 2012 at 9:18 AM

      Craig I think you need to grow and moustache and spend some time in a woodshop. Make something, carve something, it will help clear your head. Take Ron Swanson as your inspiration and you will be freed to boo. Liberated, even.

  21. stex52 - Jan 31, 2012 at 9:29 AM

    Personally, I am not much of one to boo. Sometimes I have strong sympathies with the anger around me, but I just don’t get into it. My possible times to break the rule:
    1. A really bush league play where a player starts a fight or tries to hurt someone.
    2. An appalling call by an umpire that changed the course of a game (really obviously bad).
    3. A player with Boras for an agent who shafted your organization and moved on (see Beltran, Carlos).

    But booing doesn’t change the flow of anything, and if anything is harmful in case 2.

    I would never boo an opposing player who played well, even if he smashed my team’s hopes in the process. Being a baseball fan is all about loving the individual performance. My model is the 2005 Cardinal fans who applauded the Astros when they won the NLCS in StL.

    • stex52 - Jan 31, 2012 at 9:40 AM

      Here’s an exception. Watching Jeff Kent pretend to play second base for your team is enough to make anyone boo.

  22. hushbrother - Jan 31, 2012 at 9:36 AM

    I tend to agree. Athletes do not deserve to be booed. Except Mike Torrez.

  23. scoregasmic - Jan 31, 2012 at 9:47 AM

    Woah woah woah refs do not get 99.5% right…maybe 40% at the most maybe, I’ve not seen 1 ref place the ball in the right place after a play this year.

    • nategearhart - Jan 31, 2012 at 10:36 AM

      Hello hyperbole, my old friend…

  24. shawndc04 - Jan 31, 2012 at 9:55 AM

    Booing has never made a baseball player hit or pitch better; it just makes them press. I might boo an obvious lack of hustle, but never lack of performance.

    • ptfu - Jan 31, 2012 at 10:10 AM

      Booing should be saved for truly douchenozzle-riffic behavior. Think John Rocker when he first pitched in NY, Clemens throwing a splintered bat at Piazza, Pedro throwing down Zimmer. Merely having Boras as your agent, or not re-signing with your team, or being A-Rod, isn’t even close.

  25. Mark - Jan 31, 2012 at 10:01 AM

    There are usually only two times I ever boo a player:

    1) They IBB someone. I pay to watch Jose Bautista have a few AB’s in a game, not to see the pitcher throw around him to see Lind hit.

    2) Somebody makes a really stupid play. Or drops a routine flyball.

    I really don’t like when people boo when former players come back.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jan 31, 2012 at 10:11 AM

      I like when columnists, usually Sox related [cough CHB cough] but I’m sure a Yankee scribe has done it as well, talk about how true fans will boo the opposing players, like Pedro, Buckner, etc, and instead they get standing ovations.

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