Some of the best-known field-stormings -- the pair who jogged to third base with Henry Aaron, the responsible parties in the awful Tom Gamboa attack, and the hundreds who reveled in Disco Demolition Night -- are group activities, but the vast majority are solitary acts. Were it not for the buckets of adrenaline pouring through one’s veins like hot tar down a castle turret, I imagine the experience would be terribly lonely.
When I was small, I took many car rides along the stretch of I-70 that runs through Kansas. My adulthood is full of buildings and trees, and I now truly appreciate the spectacle of what my seven-year-old self took to be commonplace and boring: the feeling of being the highest point in the world, or at least within a stone’s throw. The towns of Hays or Salina might be 50 miles off, but between here and there, there is nothing. If it's night and lightning crashes, you see the entire bolt, head to tail. It’s quite a thing.
This is just fine if you’re a center fielder or scarecrow; you’re standing in a field for a reason, it makes sense for you to be there. But if you’re a field-stormer, an individual following no mandate but your own, how could purpose be defined, let alone expressed? Through which community could that purpose be confirmed?
Through the tribute of mimicry. One after another. Watch as the man streaks through the infield, and lend purpose to his act by vaulting the fence and performing a field-storming of your own.
Such a sequence happened on Saturday night in Seattle’s Safeco Field. The raucous crowd was giddy over their Mariners, who had won eight of their last nine games and threatened to push their record over the .500 mark (I apologize for bringing actual baseball into this space). The crowd sent not one, or two, or three, but four of its sons on to the lonesome diamond to be chased, tackled, hauled away, and thrown into an even more lonesome jail cell.
Is this to be celebrated? Oh Lord, don’t ask me. Please don’t confuse the postman for the priest. I wish only to present what we now know about this historic Saturday evening. Let’s begin.
(click to enlarge)
1. THE PROGENITOR
Days later, even as video has emerged of the other field-runners, I have been unable to find conclusive evidence of this gentleman’s trajectory. Like Super Bowl I, much of his revolution-sparking act is left to the imagination.
We are, however, treated to his triumphant goose-stepping as he was escorted from the field.
He could not have possibly known that he would inspire an unprecedented number of admirers, but somehow, he seemed to recognize that he had accomplished something meaningful.
2. THE GENTLEMAN
Here, friends, was a man with an objective, as simple as it was. Upon hitting the field, he made a beeline for center fielder Ichiro Suzuki, who (sorry to start the baseball talk again) is good at baseball (baseball talk over).
Extending a hand, he was ignored by Ichiro and blindsided by personnel from whichever branch of law enforcement that prioritizes the compulsion to tackle something over traumatic spinal injury. It’s clear, of course, that the tackle was overly fierce, which serves as evidence toward a delightful truth: security people, or at least some security people, enjoy this.
They know that crowds are entertained by field-stormers, and they know that they themselves are part of the entertainment. A crowd gasps and cheers after a solid tackle. Was it unnecessary? Well, I don’t know. Do you consider art unnecessary?
3. THE NUDIST
Saturday night spoiled us all. Not only did we see four different field-runnings, each with its own style, we were treated to a streaking about which more could be said than perhaps any other streaking. The streaker told a story through his actions, one that established a conflict and offered a measure of resolution.
If you truly love something, how best to demonstrate this love to the world? Sacrifice. This man ran on the field completely in the nude, thereby entering a fraternity that, at least on this side of the pond, is a select group. He is denied entrance, though, because he insisted upon wearing a hat. He loved his hat, and he made a sacrifice to that end.
That alone could fill a book, but fast-forward to about 2:05. One of the security personnel makes an explicit point to stomp on his hat, as though he could erase the events of the last two minutes with a pouty act of revenge.
That very sort of mean-spirited act has served as the complication for untold numbers of children's fables and Van Damme films. It appears obvious to us that our hero will find some measure of vindication. But how? He has been handcuffed, and they are walking him off the field and into the cold underbelly of the stadium.
There is an unspoken understanding between the Streaker and the Security. When The Streaker is caught, he recognizes that he has had his fun, and he does wish to struggle and thereby make life more difficult for The Security. With that sadistic act of hat-stomping, though, the trust was broken.
Cruelty, as we like to believe in America, is not without cost, whether now or in the near or distant future. From reader @NathanHBishop, who was present during the spectacle:
When his bare feet reached the warning track Mr. Streaker did a shimmy shake and managed, like a snake leaving its skin, to lose the towel and march from the field triumphantly nude.
If there is a Heaven, perhaps it is afforded to us by this digital age. There are no witnesses to the heroics of Joan d'Arc. But in addition to the thousands of ticket-holders in right field who bore witness to this gentleman's ding-dong, the image is plastered all over YouTube, across nearly a dozen videos (and growing), uploaded with such love and enthusiasm that despite the best efforts of Major League Baseball or, indeed, YouTube itself, it will persevere.
4. THE EPILOGUE
Of all the bodies of work that sprawl across multiple volumes, a good number of them peak well before the anthology is finished. We all recognize this, but we often tend to deride subsequent inferior works, and in doing so make a terrible error in judgment. Why must the best necessarily be the last? Why must everything necessarily be as good as the best?
It mustn't, I reckon.
This gentleman couldn't possibly have lived up to the streaker, but please, let us not make the mistake of discounting his effort. In fact, he was the most elusive of the four. Granted, his nemeses were quite sloppy -- two agents managed to dive and miss him entirely despite the fact that that he was running straight as an arrow along the foul line -- but he certainly made some impressive moves of his own.
In all, he made three men miss, and it took two more to take him down. And what a takedown it was! I'd like to offer sincere praise and appreciation for all involved here. The man in the Griffey shirt was daring and exhibited style. The security showed remarkable gumption before finally treating us to a rattling take-down.
And that was that. I wish I were there to see it live, but I feel extremely lucky to have seen it at all. Once again, I would prefer not to cast moral judgment upon any of these parties, but I would like to address a bit of ill-conceived sentiment that, unfortunately, I hear quite often.
Mariners play-by-play television broadcaster Dave Sims, as the fourth and final field-rusher was escorted away:
They will spend time in the pokey for a few days... they will not be missed.
Mr. Sims, you are, by all accounts I have heard, a good man. You are good at your job, and I genuinely appreciate your work when I tune in to a Mariners game. But did you not hear the cheers? Play that final video one more time. The boy is laughing and cheering. So is the grown man. So are untold numbers of fans of all types, all across the stadium. Do you believe that these men won't be be missed? Do you believe that these men were not loved? If you do, you are so, so terribly wrong.
For further reading on the matter of fans running on the field:
The last five fans to storm the field at Fenway Park
The Astros fan who stormed the field and escaped
The Sun Life Stadium streaker