A professional sports team’s identity is defined by its fan base. Home field advantage, free agent pursuits, jersey sales, and yes, even the big contracts are all driven by our desire to watch our favorite sports team. And while each and every professional sports team’s fan base may be different, at the core we all share the same belief: to forget about everyday life for a few hours and cheer on our team like maniacs.
And let’s face it, that’s what us fans are. Maniacs. We wear the same jersey to every game out of superstition. We wake up at ungodly hours to get the prime spot at the tailgate. We paint our faces, name our kids after our favorite athletes, and chant fight songs as if we’re in some tribal subculture. And despite how crazy we can be, every fan base has a small group of individuals who go beyond, pushing the outer limits of fandom. They’ve transcended the average life of a fan and have become local celebrities.
We’re of course talking about the Superfans. You know who they are, where they sit, and what they wear to every game. It’s a big deal if you run into them at the tailgate, or if they’re in your section at the stadium. Some of them get more TV time than the players or coaches. Many become a voice that represent the fan base. They don’t just support their favorite team, they’ve dedicated their lives to doing so.
It’s no question that Mets fans are some of the most loyal in all of baseball, and our superfans are no exception. Citi Field and Shea Stadium have boasted quite the cast of characters over the years, but in the end some superfans stand out more than others. It’s tough to cover them all, but after some research, I present to you my Superfan top 5:
1) Sign Man Karl Ehrhardt, AKA “Sign Man”, is one of the most iconic superfans in Mets history. He was known for holding up a variety of large signs at Shea Stadium during every Mets home game he attended.
He was seen doing this at Shea since the team’s inception in 1962, up through 1981 when he had a falling out with the team. Anything was fair game for one of Ehrhardt’s signs, whether it was words of encouragement for the team or taking a shot at management.
Although Ehrhardt passed away in 2008, he did have time to make amends with the team before that. In 2002, he showed to honor the Mets 40th anniversary with a sign that read “THE SIGN MAN LIVES”.
2) Pin Man
One of the most recognizable superfans at Citi Field, Nick Giampietro AKA “Pinman” turns heads for the amount of pins he has tacked onto his custom Mets jersey and hat.
His collection of pins is quite the display - ranging from static and dull to flashy and containing scrolling text. His pins are a collection that starts from the team’s 1962 inaugural year and culminate with the present day. Often seen taking pictures with the fans, Pinman has become a true mayor of the Citi Field seats.
3) Cowbell Man
Eddie Boison, AKA “Cowbell Man”, is another one of the more recognizable superfans at Citi. He can be seen, and heard, going from section to section trying to rile up the crowd by banging a cow bell. Eddie has been banging his bell since 1975, and has been a fixture for the Mets’ in-stadium experience for over 40 years.
4) Tie Guy
Ernie Searle, AKA “Tie Guy”, is another die-hard Mets superfan. He’s known for sporting a variety of Mets ties over the years, a collection that has grown to over 50 different types. When Ernie isn’t going nuts at Mets game, he’s still not far from the team. He works as a traffic director in the parking lots outside of Citi Field. He can be seen at games wearing one of his patented ties along with a dress shirt donning the number “69” on the back, as well as a custom “Tie Guy” hat.
5) Sign Guy
Not to be confused with “Sign Man”, Sal Candiano has also used signs to make his mark as one of the top Mets superfans. “Sign Guy”, as he’s known, sits in the same section each game with a plethora of custom-made posters that rally the Flushing home crowd on the Jumbotron. If you miss him on the big screen, look for him in section 301, overlooking the bullpen and holding up one of his patented posters.
Today will feel weird for many of us who have Opening Day traditions at the ballpark. It sucks. There’s no way to sugarcoat it. We’re also 4 months into this COVID world. I think we’re all accustomed to hanging at home by now.