Indians march to beat of Adams' drum
Tribe fan has added special rhythm to games for 37 years
In addition to hot dogs and seventh-inning stretches, there's the steady beat of a drum that remains a constant at Cleveland Indians games.
John Adams first experimented with the drum 37 years ago. Municipal Stadium lacked seats optimal for "seat-banging," what Adams called the popular noise-making genre at sporting venues at the time.
So for a Friday night game against the Texas Rangers, Adams sat perched above the left-field bleachers with his bulky bass drum, pounding away during moments of high intrigue.
He never planned on making it a nightly tradition.
But when Bob Sudyk of the Cleveland Press assumed that Adams would be drumming in the stands during a game later in the week, Adams felt he didn't have a choice.
"He interviewed me and he said, 'Are you going to come to all the games?' and I said, 'I don't know,' " Adams recalled. "He said, 'Are you going to be at Tuesday's game?' and I said, 'I don't know, I don't think so.' But when he wrote the article, he said, 'If you want to hear John, come out to tonight's game, and you'll hear his drum.' So, not to make a liar out of Bob, I showed up with my drum, and then I came to the next game and the next game and the next game."
Nearly four decades later, Adams will tote his drum to the left-field bleachers for the 3,000th time on Wednesday night at Progressive Field. He's missed just 37 games in 37 years, and only one thing has prevented Adams from passing through the turnstiles during his streak.
"Work -- that's the only thing that has made me miss a game," he said.
When Adams isn't present, fans take notice.
"The ushers will tell me how people complain that I'm not there," he said. "That's the highest compliment -- when your presence is felt by your absence. I think the worst thing that could happen is when no one notices."
Adams wasn't always a stadium fixture.
He said he attended about 20 games each season, and even though he was given the green light by the Indians' front office, he never planned to make the drum a ballpark staple.
"[They] said, 'John, we really like what you're doing. Would you come to all the games?' " Adams said. "And I said, 'No.' I didn't want it to be an obligation. And since then, I've come to just about every game. ... It sure wasn't planned."
Perhaps the only part of Adams' feat more impressive than his dedication is the durability of his drum. The 26-inch bass drum has survived the wear and tear of 37 years, undergoing regular maintenance.
"I have it patched up, everything just holding it together," Adams said. "I want it to last as long as it can. But I guess everything only lasts so long. This drum is really the cheapest, junkiest low-quality drum you could ever find. But what it lacks in quality, it makes up in volume."
The drum takes up enough space that when Adams started purchasing season tickets in 1994, he had to buy the instrument its own seat. Still, he maintains the 10-pound drum isn't a burden to lug to and from the ballpark every summer evening.
"After we win a game, the drum feels like two ounces," he said. "After we lose a game, it feels like 200 pounds."
Adams is 59 years old. He and his drum have weathered 37 seasons of chilly Aprils and crisp Septembers that bookend blistering Cleveland summers. But the one constant through nearly four decades of Indians baseball doesn't see an end in sight. Adams said for as long as he's alive, the beat will go on.
"I don't plan on quitting," he said. "I'll keep going until I can't go anymore. I just want to keep going. Maybe another 37 years, how's that? We'll consider this the halfway point."
Zack Meisel is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.