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Hilda Chester

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Hilda Chester
(The Queen of the Bleachers, Howling Hilda)

[edit] Biographical Information

Hilda Chester is possibly the most famous fan in baseball history. Sitting the bleachers of Ebbets Field beginning in the 1920s, Chester yelled from the stands at players. She gained notice as a large woman in a flower-patterned dress who berated the players in her Brooklyn accent. Soon, writers were giving her passes and she was a regular in the outfield.

In the 1930s, Chester was hired by Harry Stevens to bag peanuts before games, thus giving her free admission once the peanuts were broken down from the larger bags. A widow of very limited means, she also worked as a hot dog vendor at a local racetrack.

After a heart attack, Chester was the first to use a brass cowbell, donated by the Dodgers, to cheer on her team. When she had a second heart attack, Leo Durocher personally visited her in the hospital.

When the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles, CA Chester moved her allegiance from the Brooklyn Dodgers to the New York Yankees, but it was not the same, not for Hilda and not for Brooklyn. "Howling Hilda" will always be remembered as the Dodgers greatest fan. She was also a passionate New York Rangers fan.

Her daughter Bea Chester played briefly in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in the 1940s. However, because she was almost destitute during the Great Depression, Hilda had not been able to properly care for her and she grew up at the Brooklyn Hebrew Orphan Asylum. When Hilda died in 1978, she lived alone in a small apartment in the Far Rockaway section of Queens, NY and her body was not discovered until a week after her death, as she interacted with very few people by then. Authorities could not find any family member and she was buried by the Hebrew Free Burial Association.

[edit] Further Reading

  • Rob Edelman: "The Enigma of Hilda Chester", The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 44, Number 2 (Fall 2015), pp. 73-80.

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