Hilda Chester

The following biographical profile of Hilda Chester has been excerpted from Bums: An Oral History of the Brooklyn Dodgers, written by Peter Golenbock and published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1984.

“The most famous of the Dodger fans — perhaps the most famous fan in baseball history — was named Hilda Chester, a plump, pink-faced woman with a mop of stringy gray hair. Hilda began her thirty-year love affair with the Dodgers in the 1920s. She had been a softball star as a kid, or so she said, and she once told a reporter that her dream was to play in the big leagues or to start a softball league for women. Thwarted as an athlete, she turned to rooting. As a teenager she would stand outside the offices of the Brooklyn Chronicle every day, waiting to hear the Dodger score. After a while she became known to the sportswriters, who sometimes gave her passes to the games. In her twenties Hilda worked as a peanut sacker for the Stevens Brothers, Harry, George, and Frank, who owned most of the concession stands across the country. In those days peanuts came in fifty-pound sacks, and it was her job to put the peanuts into the individual bags before the ballgame. She enjoyed most sports, including horse racing, and in her capacity as peanut sacker she was able to work and attend the Dodger games. By the 1930s she was attending games regularly, screaming lustily, one of hundreds of Ebbets Field regulars.

“Shortly after suffering a heart attack, she began her rise to fame. Her physician forbade her from yelling, and when she was sufficiently recovered, she returned to Ebbets Field with a frying pan and an iron ladle. Banging away on the frying pan from her seat in the bleachers, she made so much noise that everyone, including the players, noticed her. It was the Dodger players in the late 1930s who presented Hilda Chester with the first of her now-famous brass cowbells.

“In 1941 Hilda suffered a second heart attack, and when she entered the hospital this time, she was an important enough personality that Durocher and several of the players went to visit her. As a result Durocher became Hilda’s special hero, and by the mid-1940s she was almost the team mascot. Sometimes during short road trips, Hilda even went with the team. Hilda loved Leo, and when Durocher struck a Dodger fan with brass knuckles and was sued, Hilda perjured herself in court, trying to trump up a reasonable explanation for Leo’s barbarity. ‘This man called me a cocksucker,’ she lied to the judge, ‘and Leo came to my defense.’

“During the games Hilda lived in the bleacher seats with her bell. Durocher had given her a lifetime pass to the grandstand, but she preferred sitting in the bleachers with her entourage of fellow rowdies. With her fish peddler voice, she’d say, ‘You know me. Hilda wit da bell. Ain’t it trillin’? Home wuz never like dis, mac.’ When disturbed her favorite line was, ‘Eacha heart out, ya bum.’”

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