Baseball fans can be a rowdy bunch. The most noticeable of whom jeer, scream and cheer at the top of their lungs. One Dodger booster, who is likely the most famous in the history of game, started doing just that at Ebbets Field in the 1920's. Then a heart attack a decade or so later forced her voice to be silent (on doctors orders), so she did what only a rabid fan could. She attended games with a frying pan and an iron ladle, and banged away.
The fans noticed. The press noticed. And more importantly, the players noticed. In fact, they noticed so much that they gifted her a cowbell in hopes of saving their ears. I suppose they figured a cowbell was better than a frying pan.
This fans name was Hilda Chester, and featured above is a rare press photo of her from the NY Daily News that is currently on auction at RMY. As you can see, she is perched in her seat in the centerfield bleachers, with her sign at the ready (it says, "Hilda Is Here!"), in the midst of yelling in support and/or in frustration at her "boys."
"Howlin' Hilda," as she was also known, continued going to games til the very end. Once the Dodgers skipped town she tried rooting for the Yankees, but the magic created in that intimate borough of Brooklyn did not translate well in the Bronx.
For a more thorough write-up on the Hilda and her impact check out Rob Edelman's story at the SABR (Link Here). Below is an excerpt:
The Sporting News reported that she began regularly attending games “when a doctor told her to get out in the sunshine and exercise an arm affected by rheumatism.” It was not until the late 1930s, however, that Hilda was a conspicuous Ebbets Field presence. That was when Larry MacPhail, the Dodgers’ new president and general manager, inaugurated Ladies’ Day in the ballyard; one afternoon each week, for the price of a dime, women could file into the bleachers. “The price was right,” Hilda recalled years later. “I used to come to the park every Ladies’ Day. I was like any other ordinary fan. Then I started to get bored...,” and this resulted in her transformation from one of the anonymous masses into a uniquely colorful Dodgers devotee.
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