Stella Case No. 009, Originally Published: 9 October 2002
Anthony Ercolano, 44, is a fan of the Seattle Mariners baseball team. A big, big fan. The former Microsoft employee has a pair of season tickets to the exclusive “Diamond Club” section right behind home plate. They cost him $32,000.
“He’s loud,” says the Mariners’ attorney, Bruce Johnson. “That’s the gist of it.” Very loud. And, apparently, very constant. He shouts at short players to “stand up.” He makes baby-crying sounds when batters argue with the umpire. On and on. And since he’s just five rows behind home plate they hear him — and so do the other fans nearby.
Mariners Executive Vice President Bob Aylward called Ercolano on the phone to ask him to tone it down or move farther from the action. Johnson says the Mariners “have full authority to protect nearby fans in the Diamond Club from the heavy, incessant volume of noise created by Mr. Ercolano” and that the team is “rightly concerned for the well-being and comfort of their fans, including those in the Diamond Club…. These fans do not come to the ballpark to be repeatedly and constantly assaulted by Mr. Ercolano’s noise.”
But since, Ercolano says, “I believe in being loud at a baseball game,” he would have none of these suggestions. Incensed at being hushed, even in private, he sued the team in King County Superior Court claiming that the baseball franchise is violating his freedom of speech and “possibly breaching his season-ticket contract.” His suit asks for a guarantee he will not be ejected from any game, that his season tickets will not be revoked and, of course, he wants an unspecified amount of monetary damages.
“Really, what he wants is to be free of harassment,” says Paul Meiklejohn, Ercolano’s attorney. “And he’d like an apology from the Mariners.” He says his client’s enjoyment of baseball is the “game and cheering and teaching his [daughters] about the game.” But perhaps even more, Ercolano “feels that he spent a lot of money for these tickets … and he didn’t expect to be belittled.”
Funny, but isn’t that pretty much what the Mariners’ are saying? The case gives a chilling new meaning to the classic lyrics:
Katie Casey was baseball mad.
Had the fever and had it bad;
Just to root for the home town crew,
Ev’ry sou Katie blew.
On a Saturday, her young beau
Called to see if she’d like to go,
To see a show but Miss Kate said,
No, I’ll tell you what you can do:
Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,
I don’t care if I never get back,
Let me root, root, root for the home team,
If they don’t win it’s a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out
At the old ball game.
- “Fan Sues after Team Tells Him to Shut up,” Seattle Times, 28 August 2002
I was unable to find any updates on this case, but I’ll take a wild guess and suppose that he couldn’t renew those tickets the next season, even if he wanted to.
Chad in Washington: “[The plaintiff] is paying TOP DOLLAR for his seats. And he obviously gets into the game. That is his right. To be told to be quiet IS an abuse of his rights. In New York, he’d be the norm. I don’t think he should get a monetary award, but I think every human being has the right to be heard at the top of their lungs, if they so desire (unless they are threatening harm, or being obscene, but that’s not the case here). If anything, the Mariners should be paying him to get the crowd into the game. If they are putting pressure on him to shut up, then I feel he has every right to take them to court.”
My 2020 Thoughts on the Case
“Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man’s nose begins.” —An unnamed judge in a June 1919 Harvard Law Review article by legal philosopher Zechariah Chafee. It just seems to apply here.
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