This Fan Made Some Noise

Hilda Chester faithfully rooted for the Brooklyn Dodgers for over 30 years

March 03, 2012
(NBHOF Library)

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- An annual award bears her name. It is not a 24-carat gold-plated statuette like an Oscar or Waterford crystal like a People’s Choice Award.

Her award…is a vintage cowbell.  

However, that cowbell, encased and mounted in a Plexiglas box bearing an engraved inscription, known as The Hilda Award, speaks wonderful volumes about the woman it is named after. Her name was Hilda Chester.

The award was created in 2001 to recognize distinguished service to baseball by a fan by The Baseball Reliquary, a California-based, non-profit, educational organization, and is given in July at its Shrine of the Eternals Induction Ceremony. 

Hilda, or “This Mamma,” as she referred to herself, loved baseball and was a very devoted fan, especially by the 1920s. She rooted for over 30 years for The Brooklyn Dodgers, her hometown New York team, but it was how she cheered that led her to more than 15 minutes of fame.  

Sitting in her favorite Ebbets Field bleachers, she was often heard before she was seen.  By the 1930s, Hilda was a regular at Dodger games, hollering in her raspy, foghorn-like voice. But after suffering her first heart attack, doctors curbed it, so after recovering, she returned to the bleachers and made noise striking a frying pan with an iron ladle loud enough that even the players noticed her. 

But of the instruments she used to rev up the crowds and rattle opposing pitchers, she is most known for ringing a brass cowbell. The Dodgers presented Hilda with the first of her cowbells in the late 1930s, and with her signature noisemaker, she became a grand slam hit. So much so that, after her second heart attack in 1941, manager, Leo Durocher, and several players took time to visit her in the hospital. Once better, she was back at Ebbets ringing her bell and by the mid-1940s, she was almost team mascot, sometimes invited to travel “right along in da train wit da boys” to games nearby.  

She did not share many details about her life publicly, so though a multitude of people knew of Hilda, not many knew her personally. Some facts remain unverifiable regarding her birth and death, but people still remember her.

In 2008, the Tampa Bay Rays handed out cowbells to its fans because owner, Stuart Sternberg, was a big Brooklyn Dodgers fan.  

In her booming Brooklyn-accented voice, Hilda would say, “You know me. Hilda wit da bell. Ain’t it t’rillin?”

Tina Zayat is a fulfillment and shipping associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum