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July 8, 2011

Friday 5: Bald Vinny

“We’re just screaming names, man…it’s not f*ckin’ rocket science.” - "Bald Vinny" Milano

I had heard of the Bleacher Creatures, seen the videos on YouTube and on ESPN and the YES Network, referenced the "Derek Jeter...clap clap clapclapclap", but I had no idea who or what they actually are or what they represent.

So...I did what anyone would do.  I reached out to their most visable characters...their de facto leader.

"Bald Vinny" Milano.

Emails were exchanged. LOTS of them. Finally, we agreed to just talk on the phone...what a novel concept!

What followed was a great conversation with a guy who loves baseball, his family, his friends and, of course, the New York Yankees.

Oh...that conversation is also part of this week's "Friday (More Than) 5"!

HOVG: How exactly did you become the leader of the “Bleacher Creatures”? Did someone have to bestow the honor upon you…were feats of strength involved?

BALD VINNY: My only feat of strength is that I’m a loud motherf*cker. I was around in the right place at the right time…that’s pretty much it. The group was there before I got there in 1998. Roll call had started before I got there. The guy who was doing it had gotten a full-time job…I had just been laid off thanks to the dot-com bubble burst. I was (at Yankee Stadium) every day because of work with my t-shirt company, so one thing led to another. I was kind of anointed the job by Tina Lewis, who is our Queen Bee. She is the one who asked me to start and as it turns out…I’m really loud. It was “you did a really good job yesterday…do you want to do it today?” “Okaaaaaay.” After that it sorta took on a life of its own.

HOVG: Tell me about that. How have the players responded?

BALD VINNY: First, it was a simple wave. But when Johnny Damon came over…he started to get down on one knee and give us a double finger point. After that, everyone started taking it to a whole new level. Every outfielder has his own thing.

HOVG: The outfielders are fun to watch…much better than the infielders with their simple wave if you ask me.

BALD VINNY: The simple infielder waves are still their waves though, you know. (Mark) Teixeira does two fingers up and a quick flick of the wrist. Robinson Cano turns all the way around. (Derek) Jeter kinda just flips us off nonchalantly. And “A-Rod” turns around and gives us a full wave. Even though its not as pronounced as what Brett Gardner or Curtis Granderson does…they still have their own signature moves.

HOVG: Baseball traditions are pretty storied…most of the older, most established teams have them. At Wrigley Field, you’ve got the rooftops and the bleacher bums throwing the ball back. How would you describe the bleacher experience at Yankee Stadium?

BALD VINNY: The bleacher experience at Yankee Stadium is a lot more than just the roll call. We have our traditions that go back to the old stadium…home run pools, attendance pools, betting on the 4 Train. Now that I think about it, it sounds like we do a lot of gambling, but it’s really not like that. (Laughs) We’re just a group of fans that have that special bond of Yankee baseball. We’re all a little bit obsessive. We’re all a little bit neurotic. We all have quirky personalities that make us what we are. Everyone brings a different element

HOVG: In your years in the bleachers…what is your most memorable moment or moments? Any good stories?

BALD VINNY: Baseballwise…the best moments are anytime you are there for history. Anytime you get to see one of those moments that they re-play all the time. Like (Aaron) Boone’s home run or a World Series victory. Even defensive gems! At the end of the season, I watch the year-end video and I’m all like “I was at that game…I remember that.” I remember Derek Jeter’s first grand slam. I was there for two perfect games. I remember all the World Series victories. You watch the videos from 2001 and you remember what the city was like. You remember how baseball picked you up. Those memories are all there…that’s the reason I go.

HOVG: As a lifelong Yankees fan, you’ve seen plenty of the game’s greats take the field in pinstripes. If you had to put together a “Yankees Mount Rushmore” (featuring guys you’re personally fond of)…who would be on it?

BALD VINNY: Bernie (Williams) is number one without a doubt. He’s my all-time favorite. Period. Jeter. Mariano (Rivera) and Andy Pettitte.

HOVG: When you’re not getting Nick Swisher to salute you…what does “Bald Vinny” do for a day job?

BALD VINNY: I run I make and create t-shirts for the hardcore Yankee fan. Most of my stuff is geared toward the “Bleacher Creatures”, but I also do a lot of the anti-Red Sox and anti-Mets apparel. The rivalries are really big for my business. If you’re walking into Modell’s to get your first Jeter jersey…my stuff is probably a little advanced for you. I cater to the guys who, if you look in their closet, is full of Yankees gear. They’ve got Yankees tattoos. They spend their one-week vacation every year at Yankees Stadium That’s the kind of customer I try to attract. Aside from that…I have two wonderful kids and I am a stay-at-home dad. At night, I get to run around and play “Yankee Guy”.

"Bald Vinny" can be fond on Twitter at, naturally, @baldvinny and on Facebook.  And if you see him at Yankee Stadium, give him a shout...before he shouts at you!

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