Heartbeat of the Bleachers
The story of the most well known Cleveland Indians fan and his drum, Chief Boom Boom.
By Adam Sockel, Image by Cleveland Indians/Dan Mendlik
The drum beats and instinctively you start clapping. Another Tribe rally is beginning and John Adams is leading the fans in cheering on our beloved Cleveland Indians. It’s been this way for 40 years. I sat down with John to learn about the many hats he’s worn during his four decades of bleacher fandom.
How did your drumming get started?
Back in 1973, I used to attend games and realized there was nothing like cheerleaders. The bleachers didn’t have real seats to bang on. So I called the Indians and said I was going to bring a drum, which they said was ok as long as I didn’t bother anyone. I ended up being interviewed by the Cleveland press who said “If you want to hear John play the drum at the game come down Tuesday afternoon!” I didn’t want to make a liar out of him so I came to every game that week. Then the Indians front office called me and said, “We like what you’re doing. Would you be interested in coming to every game?” And, since that time in 42 years I’ve only missed about 41 games.
What is your favorite memory?
That’s tough. There’s so many! Two games stand out. First, when I saw Lenny Barker pitch a perfect game. Today, 637,000 people say they were in attendance, but I actually was. The other one would be the first World Series game. Everyone in Cleveland was buzzing in the ballpark and 20,000 people stood outside the stadium just to be there.
What does the recognition mean to you?
I don’t understand it because I’m just having a great time, but I sincerely appreciate it. I get to meet people from all around the world. People taking the time to come up and say hi to me and say they appreciate what I do means more to me than any award or recognition.
What do you love about Cleveland Indians baseball?
It’s a beautiful game. There’s no clock. It’s an exciting and dramatic journey we all take with the team every year. Anything can happen at a ballgame and it always does. I love Cleveland. This is my city and I’m proud to represent it.
When do you start banging the drum?
When there’s somebody in scoring position or if we’re behind late in the game. My favorite time though, of course, is for the last out in the top of the ninth inning for a Tribe victory.
What do you do when you aren’t leading the crowd at Progressive Field?
Catch up with all the work I didn’t do because I was at the ballgame! I love going down to Lake Erie and into the Metroparks. I do a lot of charity work. I’ve taught a class at Cleveland State for 38 years on how to instruct the disabled. I founded and am president of the Cleveland Blue Society. I am a CPR instructor and lifeguard instructor. For a number of years I also helped put on the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, teaching kids how to march and play drums. Above all, I’m a Clevelander. This is home and I am thankful for all the people in my life who have given me what I have. My goal is to give back more than I’ve gotten.