Opening night of the 2009 Major League Baseball season is just 12 short nights away as I write. Brooklyn’s baseball team is long gone, the Dodgers having played their last game in Brooklyn in 1957. While working on some research for a patron, I found a cheeky bit of ephemera for Brooklyn Dodger fans hiding in the Ephemera Collection files. Called “A Health and Safety Manual for the 1954 Baseball Season for Spectators, for Radio and TV fans and for all Brooklynites and other Dodger fans whereever they are,” this guide instructs Dodger fans on how to avoid such conditions as:
“Hyperpiesia Straphicoi Enthusiastae – Dodger Fans Hypertension”
“Ulcus Brooklynensis Lodorum – Brooklyn Praisers’ Ulcers – Duodenal, Peptic, and Gastric”
“Broken Noses – Brooklynese for an ailment which is not phychosomatic but is very disturbing”
This guide was produced by the Public Information Department, Brooklyn Chapter, American Red Cross and Radio Station WMGM (which broadcasted Brooklyn Dodger games in the 1950s). The editors allow that the guide may be somewhat in jest, but overexcitement by Dodger fans can lead to serious injuries (I agree - I've injured myself plenty of times as a fan).
The subtitle to this little piece is called "Care and Protection of Dodger Fans, Volume IV". Volume IV? Were they kiddng? Did they really have 3 previous editions? Well, judging from many articles and reminiscences, Brooklyn Dodger fans were pretty rowdy. I’ll keep their suggestions in mind this baseball season.
I've been a Dodger fan all of my life (the Los Angeles Dodgers, since I'm too young to have loved the Brooklyn team), but I have to admit, while I haven't broken anyone's nose at a baseball game, I have come close in my excitement -- never my anger. Choking on food while cheering, check. Tip #5 tells me how to avoid the combination of cheering and eating. These are a few of the highlights that I will heed while I am watching games in the ball parks (New York City sees the new Yankee Stadium and Citi Field open this year), listening to games on the radio, or watching the games on my laptop. Perhaps I will make myself a copy of these tips and read them before every game - if not for the advice then just for the fun of it.
Tip #3: “Root calmly, thoughtfully and coherently. Avoid sore throats, strained voice boxes, fisticuff provoking insults and guilt feelings which might arise as you wonder whether or not you exposed the children to undue profanity. When shouting (with controlled verve), take care not to shake loose bridgework, bite your tongue or dislocate your jaw.”
Tip #6: Don’t flail about during moments of exultation. When Roy Campanella hits that tenth inning home run, control any tendency toward wild waving. You might hurt your neighbor or yourself, or run your hand through the radio loudspeaker or television screen.”
Tip #9: If Dodger fielding or baserunning ever reverts to the days of Babe Herman (although with players like Robinson, Gillam, Cox, Reese and Hodges it’s unlikely), lower your head quickly between your knees to avoid fainting. Then remain perfectly still while regaining your composure. This goes double for dropped third strikes and Giant home runs with the bases loaded.
Photo: Top: Dom Barbuto, Brooklyn Eagle 1953
Illustration: Justine Ranson Schachter, 1954 from "How to Avoid Hyperpiesia Straphoicoi Enthusiastae, Ulcus Brooklynensis Ludorum (Duodeni, Pepti, et Gastri) AND Broken Noses." Care and Protection of Dodger Fans, Volume IV 1954