By Jason Klein
Originally Written ForIN New York Magazine – 4/12/11
Bald Vinny comes to play every night.
A staple within the hallowed walls of Yankee Stadium, like pinstripes and Sinatra, “Bald” Vinny Milano can be seen, and definitely heard, sitting in section 203 during every home game in the Bronx. It’s obvious that Milano is a passionate and dedicated Yankees fan. He is also the most prominent member of the Yankee Stadium Bleacher Creatures.
Although Milano is not the official leader of the Bleacher Creatures – that distinction goes to Tina “The Queen Bee” Lewis, a regular in the bleachers since 1983 – he became known as the face of the Creatures in 2005 after being featured on the YES Network’s “Ultimate Roadtrip.”
With his cult-like following comes a unique responsibility. Prior to the first pitch of every home game, Milano rallies the rest of the creatures to their feet, and works them into a pinstriped frenzy. As the first pitch crosses home plate, Milano gazes into centerfield, through his signature Oakley sunglasses, cups his hands around his mouth, and goes to work.
The Roll Call is underway.
Starting with the Centerfielder – Curtis Granderson has the honor in 2011 – Milano and the rest of the Creatures work their way around the Yankees defense, chanting the player’s name until they receive acknowledgement (typically a waive) from the player.
“Brett Gard-ner…Brett Gard-ner…”
A tradition in the Bronx since 1997, the Roll Call only takes place during home games. According to Milano, “it disrespects the other team” if done on the road. It’s also extremely difficult to rally enough troops to be heard while in enemy territory – not something the Creatures struggle with on East 161st Street and River Avenue.
“The Bleacher Creatures are the heart, soul, and passion of Yankee Stadium,” says Milano. We represent the most dedicated and passionate of Yankees fans, and we always show up in full force to do whatever we can to help the team win.”
According to Milano, the Bleacher Creatures are a different breed of fan. They believe their proactive approach to cheering benefits the Yankees on the field. With the Bronx Bombers in contention for a World Series almost every year, it’s difficult to argue with the results.
“Most baseball fans around the country only cheer when something happens,” says Milano. “Yankees fans cheer in order to make something happen. In the bleachers, it’s our job to make noise when there needs to be noise. We are always the first on our feet when we need a big hit. We’ll do whatever we can to give our team an advantage.”
“Mark Teix-eira…Mark Teix-eira…”
However, for Milano, it’s not just about peanuts and Cracker Jack at the old ballgame. Attending every single home game as a fan is a time-consuming task in itself – he’s missed only 7 games since 2004. For Milano, it’s also his livelihood.
Before and after each game, Milano is stationed on River Avenue, selling official Bleacher Creature T-Shirts, a business he developed in 2001. In essence, he’s truly just doing his job everyday at the Stadium, getting to enjoy a ball game during his lunch break
He often gets the question, “how do I become a Bleacher Creature?” According to Milano, there are only three simple rules to follow. First, a fan must willingly choose to sit in the bleachers. An everlasting passion for the Yankees is the second requirement. Finally, complete dedication is necessary. Milano is quick to point out that it’s easy to sit in the bleachers for a few games each year and claim to be one of them. That just won’t cut it.
“[Bleacher Creatures] attend 40-50 home games a year,” says Milano. “It’s about being there in person and supporting your team, day in and day out.
“Der-ek Jet-er…Der-ek Jet-er…”
Perhaps no one was as consistently devoted to supporting the Yankees as Freddy Schuman, the legendary super fan, better known as “Freddy Sez.” Schuman would walk around Yankee Stadium each night with a frying pan, urging fans to hit it with a spoon for luck. Schuman passed away in October 2010, during yet another Yankees postseason run, perhaps leaving Milano as the “next generation” face of the Yankees fan.
“That’s incredibly flattering to hear,” says Milano. “Freddy was such an iconic presence. I remember him when I was a kid. His longevity is really admirable.”
Rather than compare himself to someone like Schuman, Milano remains humble, just happy to be associated with a great group of fans, and the premier franchise in professional sports.
“I’m proud that I get to represent the creatures, and I appreciate all the support I’ve gotten from Yankees fans,” he says. “I’ve gotten to live out quite a few ‘Yankees fantasies’ over the years and I enjoy sharing those experiences with other fans.”
He gets to do just that, when he shows up to play, every night.
To view Bald Vinny’s Line of Bleacher Creature Apparel, visit www.baldvinny.com
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