7 Major League Baseball Stadium Icons

Ernie Tyler is given a tribute for attending 3,769 consecutive baseball games.
Ernie Tyler is given a tribute for attending 3,769 consecutive baseball games.
Greg Fiume, Getty Images

Every baseball stadium has its characters, including fans, hecklers, and longtime team employees. These people are as much a part of the identity of a team as the players themselves. Here's a not-at-all-exhaustive list of seven baseball stadium icons, beginning with the woman who set the standard upon which future generations of icons would be judged.

1. Hilda Chester: Cowbell Lady

If Christopher Walken attended a Brooklyn Dodgers game in the 1930s, he may have clamored for less cowbell. Hilda Chester wouldn't have listened. Chester, who had a job filling individual peanut bags before Dodger home games, was a regular heckler in the bleachers at Ebbets Field. After Chester suffered a heart attack, her physician forbade her from yelling, so she let her presence be known by banging a frying pan and an iron ladle instead. In the late 1930s, Dodgers players presented Chester with a brass cowbell, which she rang while berating players "“ against her doctor's orders "“ in her Brooklyn accent until the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958. Chester died in 1978, but is still considered one of the most iconic baseball fans of all-time.

2. Ronnie Wickers: "Woo Woo"

woo-woo.jpgWickers, whose life story was made into a 2005 documentary, WooLife, is an icon among the Bleacher Bums at Chicago's Wrigley Field. Wickers was abused by his mother and raised by his grandmother on the South Side of Chicago. He attended his first Cubs game in the 1940s and estimates that he began his idiosyncratic and piercing "Cubs, Woo! Cubs, Woo!" chant around 1958. Wickers worked as a custodian at Northwestern University for many years, but was homeless from 1984 to 1990 while he struggled to come to grips with the deaths of his girlfriend and grandmother. Since then, he has capitalized on his celebrity by making money through appearances in commercials and at parties, in addition to washing windows near Wrigley Field. Today, you can still find the 68-year-old Wickers in the bleachers, wearing a Cubs jersey with "Woo-Woo" on the back, delivering his trademark chant.

3. Mike Brito: The Radar Gun Guy

radar.jpgBaseball insiders know Mike Brito as the longtime Dodgers scout who discovered pitching sensation Fernando Valenzuela while on assignment in the Mexican Leagues. Casual observers know Brito as the Panama-hat-wearing, radar-gun-toting, cigar-chewing guy in the suit who sits behind home plate at Dodger Stadium. Brito provided radar gun readings for no extra charge for 20 years until the installation of luxury seats and an automatic radar gun forced him out. He remains a scout with the Dodgers, but is skeptical of modern radar guns, telling the Los Angeles Times, "They want people excited, they want big numbers, but you can't fool people who know baseball." In addition to his scouting prowess, Brito has also enjoyed a successful acting career, appearing in at least 10 Mexican films. He has appeared in one American film, Talent for the Game, in which he played a baseball scout. [Photo from Flickr user Michael G. Baron.]

4. John Adams: The Drummer

drum.jpgBy day, Indians fan John Adams works on computer systems for AT&T. By night, he plays drums "“ well, drum "“ for sellout crowds in the city that's home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In an interview with the New York Times last year, Adams estimated he has taken his 26-inch-wide drum, nicknamed Big Chief Boom-Boom by legendary Indians broadcaster Herb Score, to all but 34 of the more than 2,500 home games the Indians have played since Aug. 24, 1973. Adams is also the inspiration for one of the greatest ballpark promotions of all-time: a bobblearms doll featuring his likeness, which the Indians gave away last season. Adams has set rules for when he plays the drums (never after a pitcher comes set, always when the Indians have runners in scoring position, are tied or trailing late in a game, or are ahead in the top of the ninth). "I don't see myself as being anything extra special," Adams told the Times. "I'm just a sports fan "“ a tough sports fan. And anybody who's a sports fan in Cleveland has to be tough."

5. Ernie Tyler: The 84-Year-Old Ball Boy

ballboy.jpgTyler is inarguably the Iron Man of stadium icons. On Monday, the Orioles' umpire attendant worked his 50th consecutive Opening Day. From 1960 until July 2007, Tyler didn't miss a single Orioles home game; his impressive streak ended only after he accepted an invitation from baseball's other Iron Man, Cal Ripken Jr., to attend Ripken's Hall of Fame induction ceremony. In addition to rubbing mud on new baseballs before the game and delivering balls to umpires between innings, Tyler manages the umpires' room at Baltimore's Camden Yards. During the game, he can be seen sitting near the Orioles dugout, waiting to retrieve a foul ball that dribbles behind the plate or deliver a handful of baseballs to the men in blue.

6. Mark Simons: The Doorman

simons.jpgIf you've seen any highlights from a Milwaukee Brewers home game, chances are you've seen Mark Simons. While he sports a different authentic jersey from his impressive collection for each game, Simons has occupied the same seat behind the visitors' dugout at Miller Park since 2001, and his mug is visible every time a right-handed batter steps to the plate. A Brewers broadcaster anointed Simons "The Doorman" after watching him gesture for former Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa to take a seat in the dugout after striking out, but "The Homer Gauge" might be a more appropriate nickname. Simons, who keeps his heckling completely PG, is usually the first person standing with his arms raised when a Brewers batter connects with a ball that is about to leave the park.

7. Robert Szasz: The Happy Heckler

heckler.jpgIf a heckler hurls insults at a player and no one is there to hear it, does he make a sound? Yes, in the case of Robert Szasz, who has owned Tampa Bay Rays season tickets behind home plate since 2003. Szasz began heckling one player from the opposing team per series and his family-friendly taunts, which pierced the idle silence of once-sparsely populated Tropicana Field, were regularly picked up by Tampa Bay's local broadcast and subsequently rebroadcast on ESPN's SportsCenter and Baseball Tonight. Szasz, who drinks Sierra Mist and takes Robitussin to keep his voice in top form, aimed to capitalize on his cult following by writing a book, The Happy Heckler. There's nothing happy about the financial trouble the real estate developer is in today, however. According to an article in the St. Petersburg Times, banks have filed five lawsuits against him since January, claiming he has stopped paying on more than $9 million in loans.

Thursday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Guitar Kits, Memory-Foam Pillows, and Smartwatches

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As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 3. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

10 Amazing Facts About Bruce Lee On His 80th Birthday

Photo courtesy of The Bruce Lee Family Archive
Photo courtesy of The Bruce Lee Family Archive

Bruce Lee is one of pop culture's most multifaceted icons. Legions of fans admire him for his movies, his martial arts prowess, his incomprehensible physical fitness, his championing of Chinese culture, and even his philosophies on life. Yet for all the new ground Lee broke, most of his recognition only came after his death at the age of 32. Read on to learn more about the life of this profound, if enigmatic, superstar.

1. Bruce Lee’s first starring role in a movie came when he was just 10 years old.

In 1950’s The Kid, a pre-teen Bruce Lee played the role of Kid Cheung, a streetwise orphan and wry troublemaker, based on a comic strip from the time. Starring opposite Lee, playing a kindly factory owner, was his father, Lee Hoi-chuen, who also happened to be a famous opera singer. (Bruce Lee was actually born in San Francisco while his father was there on tour; Lee would move back to the U.S. in 1959).

According to Lee biographer Matthew Polly, the movie was a big enough success in China to earn sequel consideration. There was just one problem: A young Bruce Lee was getting into fights at school and out on the streets, so his father forbid him from acting again until he straightened up—which, of course, didn’t wind up happening.

2. Bruce Lee was deemed physically unfit for the U.S. Army.

While he may have walked around with body fat in the single digits and could do push-ups using only two fingers, Lee still managed to fail a military physical for the U.S. draft board back in 1963. Despite being an adherent to physical fitness all his adult life, it was an undescended testicle that kept him from fighting for Uncle Sam in Vietnam.

3. Bruce Lee was an exquisite cha-cha dancer.

Long before he was known for breakneck fight choreography, Bruce Lee’s physical skills were focused on the dance floor. More specifically, the cha-cha. In Polly’s book, Bruce Lee: A Life, the author explains that the dance trend made its way from Cuba through the Philippines and soon landed in China. And once the cha-cha settled into the Hong Kong social scene, it didn’t take long for youth dance competitions to spring up. Lee had been taking part in cha-cha dancing since the age of 14, and in 1958, he won the Crown Colony Cha-Cha Championship. Foreshadowing his later dedication to martial arts, Lee would keep crib notes of all 108 different cha-cha steps in his wallet so that he could obsessively memorize them.

4. Bruce Lee refused to lose a fight to Robin.

The Green Hornet aired its first episode in September 1966, with Bruce Lee as the Hornet's (Van Williams) lightning-quick sidekick, Kato. The series would immediately be compared to Batman, ABC's other costumed crime-fighting show, and it wouldn't be long before a two-part crossover episode was in the works. And as heroes do, before they teamed up, they first had to fight each other. According to Newsweek, since Batman was by far the more popular show, the script featured a fight between Burt Ward's Robin and Bruce Lee's Kato that was set to end with the Boy Wonder getting the upper hand. But who would really buy that?

Well, Lee certainly didn't—and he knew no one else would, either. Williams later recalled that Lee read the script and simply said, "I'm not going to do that," and walked off. Common sense soon prevailed ... sort of. The script was rewritten to change the ending—not to a Kato K.O., but to a more diplomatic draw. Though The Green Hornet was Lee's first big break in the United States, the series itself lasted only 26 episodes.

5. Bruce Lee trained numerous Hollywood stars.

As Bruce Lee worked to become a big-screen heavyweight, he made a living as a martial arts trainer to the stars. Among Lee’s students were Steve McQueen, James Coburn, James Garner, Roman Polanski, and Sharon Tate. For his services, Lee was known to charge about $275 per hour or $1000 for 10 courses. McQueen and Coburn grew so enamored with Lee over the years that they remained close friends until his death in 1973, with both men serving as pallbearers at Lee's funeral (alongside Chuck Norris).

6. Roman Polanski may have (briefly) thought Bruce Lee murdered Sharon Tate.

In addition to providing Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate with kung fu lessons, Bruce Lee also lived near the couple in Los Angeles when Tate and four others, including Lee’s close friend Jay Sebring, were murdered by the Manson Family in August 1969. It would be months before the Manson Family was arrested for the murders, but in the meantime, according to an article from Esquire, Polanski had grown obsessed with finding a suspect, looking for potential perpetrators even amongst his own inner circle.

During one kung fu lesson in the months after the murders, Lee had mentioned to Polanski how he had recently lost his glasses, which immediately piqued the director’s interest. A mysterious pair of horn-rimmed glasses had been found at the murder scene near his wife’s body, after all. Polanski had even purchased a gauge to measure the lenses and find out the exact prescription so that he could do his own detective work, according to The New York Post.

The director, without giving himself away, offered to bring Lee to his optician to get a new pair—this would allow him to hear Lee’s prescription firsthand and determine if the specs discovered at the crime scene belonged to him. It turned out Lee’s prescription didn’t match, and Polanski never told his friend about his suspicions.

7. Bruce Lee had his sweat glands removed.

Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon (1973).Warner Home Video

Bruce Lee brought an impeccable physique to the screen that was decades ahead of its time. But because his roles required so much physicality, he would be drenched with sweat while filming. And apparently, the martial arts pioneer loathed the sweat stains that would show up on his clothing as a result. His solution? In 1973, Lee actually underwent a procedure to surgically remove the sweat glands from his armpits to avoid the fashion faux pas from showing up on camera.

8. Bruce Lee’s cause of death still raises questions.

Bruce Lee’s death at the age of 32 on July 20, 1973, was officially ruled the result of a cerebral edema, or swelling of the brain. Lee had complained about headaches on the day of his death, and was given a painkiller by Betty Ting Pei—an actress who claimed to be Lee's mistress—before lying down for a nap. He never woke up.

Though many reports at the time suggested Lee had an allergic reaction to an ingredient in the painkiller, Polly points to a mystery that began on May 10, 1973, when the star previously collapsed in a hot recording studio while dubbing new dialogue for Enter the Dragon.

In Polly’s opinion, Lee’s collapse had to do with heatstroke, since his stint in an overheated recording studio was compounded by a lack of sweat glands that prevented his body from cooling off naturally. Heatstroke can also cause swelling in the brain, much like was found during Lee’s autopsy. And Dr. Lisa Leon, an expert in hyperthermia at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, told Polly, “A person who has suffered one heat stroke is at increased risk for another" and that there may be long-term complications after the initial incident.

9. Footage from Bruce Lee’s Funeral was used in 1978’s Game of Death.

At the time of his death, Bruce Lee was involved in numerous projects, including the movie that would become Game of Death, his next directorial effort. According to Vice, there wasn’t much completed on the film by the time of Lee’s passing—there were some notes, a story outline (which simply read “The big fight. An arrest is made. The airport. The end.”), and 40 minutes of footage, including Lee’s now-iconic fight against NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Usually, a project in that situation would just be a lost cause, but production company Golden Harvest wanted to salvage what they could, so they hired Enter the Dragon director Robert Clouse to put together ... something. The result was a Frankenstein’s monster of a film, comprised of 11 minutes of existing footage Lee shot, overdubbed clips from his previous movies, and stand-ins to fill out certain scenes. The director even resorted to using an unfortunate Bruce Lee cardboard cutout to complete one shot.

That’s not even the top rung on the ladder of poor taste: When the movie called for Lee’s character to fake his death, they used footage from his actual funeral to realize the scene, complete with waves of mourners, pallbearers, and closeups of Lee’s open casket.

10. Bruce Lee’s posthumous success resulted in its own sub-genre.

Lee’s career was exploding in China and gaining momentum in the United States by 1973, but he passed away just a month before his biggest hit was released: Enter the Dragon. The movie, which grossed more than $200 million at the worldwide box office, catapulted the late Lee to icon status. But with the star himself no longer around to capitalize, there would soon be a wave of knockoff films and wannabes looking to take advantage of the martial arts craze.

Both affectionately and derisively known as “Bruceploitation” films, this strange sub-genre of martial arts cinema gave life to z-movie oddities like Re-Enter the Dragon and Enter the Game of Death, starring the likes of—and we’re not kidding—Bruce Le and Bruce Li. Jackie Chan was even roped into a few of these movies, like 1976's New Fist of Fury. In 1980, Bruceploitation even went meta with The Clones of Bruce Lee, starring Dragon Lee, Bruce Le, and Bruce Lai, who play genetic reconstructions of the late actor after scientists harvest his DNA.