I’ve booed some of the greatest baseball players ever to grace the game, and I’m not a bit sorry for it. Booing is as much a part of the ballpark experience as hot dogs and the sweaty guy behind you who keeps kicking your seat. When a player or manager screws up badly or is wearing the wrong laundry, they are going to hear about it. That is how that goes.
When I was a kid sitting in the bleachers at Boston’s hallowed Fenway Park, Reggie Jackson would patrol right field almost close enough to touch in his detested Yankee pinstripes, and we would let him have it every time he showed his face. Later, it was Derek Jeter in the same despised uniform. He played shortstop, so we had to pull our boos way up from our shoelaces to make sure he heard us. He did.
Scattered boos at the game are entirely commonplace, but a full-throated Everyone Boo is special. It is an exhilarating community event, and when it happens, the guy kicking your seat as he boos over your shoulder is your sudden brother. When done properly, when everyone’s in it, when the decibels surpass annoyance and pin the needle to wrath, the building shakes enough to make the TV cameras tremble. You are your own thunderstorm in that moment, a collective demigod hurling thunderbolts at the puny mortals below.
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Donald Trump got a full serving of the Everyone Boo experience with dessert and a mint on Sunday night when he peeked out of his bubble for the very first time to take in a World Series game at Nationals Park in the District. They flashed his grimacing, rubbery visage on the Jumbotron and the crowd went ballistic for many long, sustained minutes.
“When the president was announced on the public address system after the third inning as part of a tribute to veterans, the crowd roared into sustained booing — hitting almost 100 decibels,” reports The Washington Post. “Chants of ‘Lock him up’ and ‘Impeach Trump’ then broke out at Nationals Park, where a sellout crowd was watching the game between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros.”
Past presidents have thrown out the first pitch at important games. This president is lucky he wasn’t thrown out of his chair by the wall of sound that was sent his way. Peppering the verbal onslaught were the banners that flew once it was known he was in the building. A giant red “Impeach Trump” banner was draped from the railings in the upper deck. Even better was the “Veterans For Impeachment” sign held up behind home plate, right where the TV audience couldn’t possibly miss it.
“For once,” wrote Deadspin’s Dan McQuade, “Donald Trump got booed by a bunch of people in red hats.”
Trump’s presence that night was not a surprise; the White House had telegraphed his intentions days before. The ownership of the Nationals definitely knew ahead of time, and made a special request to Major League Baseball that they not be put in the position of having to turn down a presidential invitation to join Trump in his box. Think about that one for a moment: Owners go to games to be seen with other important people. It’s half the fun of owning a team. Not so much with this president, whom the owners avoided as if he were a bag of pit vipers.
Booing presidents at the ballpark is a tradition that dates back to Herbert Hoover, but it was the vehemence of the crowd on Sunday night that stands out. This was more than just a moment of “Hee hee, let’s yell at the big shot in the luxury box.” Those folks at Nationals Park meant it with compound interest, and several of them cared enough to sneak giant banners into the park. “Stick to sports” was not on the menu.
It was the timing of the crowd’s outburst that is equally notable. Aside from rallies packed with friendly faces and the safe spaces of his own properties, Donald Trump has not tasted the air of the commoners in years. Just that morning, he had announced the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during a press conference riddled with fantasy and fabulism.
Perhaps recalling the exuberant response Barack Obama received after announcing the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011, Trump must have believed the fans at Nationals Park would hail him as a conquering hero. It did not work out that way.
Handwringers like MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, Delaware Senator Chris Coons and Chris Cillizza of CNN can lament the lack of respect shown to the office of the presidency by that ballpark audience after Trump’s “Lock her up” chant was thrown back at him. On the subject of respect, you can put me in the same category as Charles P. Pierce of Esquire. “Why should I respect the office of the president when the occupant so clearly doesn’t?” he asked.
Indeed. The old tricks don’t work anymore, and Mr. Trump has clearly worn out his welcome in large swaths of the country. Though they aren’t playing October baseball in Chicago, the Windy City had plenty of heckles ready for Trump when he arrived for a conference of police chiefs on Monday. Thousands of protesters shut down a major street and surrounded Chicago’s Trump Tower with sound and fury, making their presence felt. I sense a pattern developing.
These are grim days for a president who requires adulation the way mammals require oxygen. His exhausted Republican defenders are popping off in the public prints about how standing up for him “feels like a horror movie.” After enduring days of GOP nonsense about procedure, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has scheduled a Thursday vote that will put every House member on record as to where they stand on the ongoing impeachment inquiry.
Thursday is Halloween. Play ball!