- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Jimmy Hoffa may or may not be buried in Giants Stadium, but the ashes of Chip Noteboom’s dear departed mother have definitely taken residence at Lincoln Financial Field. So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

The bizarre tale of Noteboom scattering his mom’s remains during the Philadelphia-Green Bay game — a big Eagles fan, she — was, amazingly, only the first major story this week on the Cremation Beat. Two days after Chip was charged with misdemeanor trespassing, the Los Angeles Times reported that the ashes of John McKay, the late Southern Cal football coach, “were secretly spread on the Coliseum turf after his death in June 2001.”

This is getting creepy. I mean, how many dead people are there on our ball fields, anyway?

Well, there’s at least one — and maybe two — at Safeco Field. Late in the baseball season, a man hopped the third-base railing there and, using a Seattle Mariners souvenir cup, poured what appeared to be powder on the outfield grass. Don’t worry, he told police, I’m not some terrorist trying to spread anthrax. It’s just that the Mariners were my mama’s favorite team, and today would have been her birthday.

Who knows? Diane Griswold’s dust might be mingling with that of … actually, we never did find out his name. In May 2002, though, a container holding the ashes of another Mariners zealot fell out of an airplane and crashed against the stadium roof, sending the contents every which way.

The pilot was horrified. It was supposed to be just “a routine ash drop,” he said. A routine ash drop. Hopefully, a few particles of “John Doe” made it onto the field.

You know, this could be a lucrative revenue stream for teams if they were so inclined. Obviously, there are plenty of fans out there who, when the Great Scorer comes to write against their name, would like to Become One with their beloved ballpark. Think about it: People get married in stadiums all the time. Why not allow their remains to be dispersed there, too? Heck, teams could even offer a package deal, bill it as a kind of day-night doubleheader.

It’s hard to say when this became fashionable, this seeking of eternal life by having one’s cinders sprinkled on a playing field. When he died in 1941, for instance, Lou Gehrig was cremated, but his ashes were buried in a cemetery in Valhalla, N.Y., not strewn about the first base bag at Yankee Stadium.

These ceremonies have probably been going on longer than we realize, though, because they’re almost invariably conducted in secret. Consider how Mary Ennis, longtime Red Sox worshipper, came to her final resting place a few years ago. According to the Boston Herald, her relatives knew they couldn’t slip an urn past Fenway Park security, so they put her ashes in six Baggies, “proceeded to spread out all over the park … and casually dumped the ashes onto the field while everyone was distracted by [a] tribute [to Ted Williams], who had died that day.”

One time a nurse at an Arizona health spa approached Ernie Banks and asked whether he could spread her grandfather’s ashes at Wrigley Field. Ernie said he wasn’t sure whether the Cubs would go along, but he’d find out.

“So I called,” he says in Carrie Muskat’s oral history, “Banks to Sandberg to Grace,” “and they said, ‘Well, Ernie, we get a lot of requests from people who want to do that. We don’t publicize it because we don’t want to make it sound like a cemetery.’ ”

Too late for that. I’m not talking about the Cubs’ failure to win the World Series since 1908, I’m talking about their granting, in 1984, of a dying Cub fan’s last request. The fan was Steve Goodman, a songwriter whose works included “Go, Cubs, Go” and … “The Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request.” Goodman’s ashes lay under home plate at Wrigley — where they hardly ever are disturbed, except when the visiting team is batting.

Not everyone was amused by Chip Noteboom’s antics at “the Linc” the other day. These are, after all, anxious times. “We have zero tolerance for people who run on the field,” a policeman said. “We especially have zero tolerance for people who run on the field and dump an unknown substance in a stadium full of people.”

Order was quickly restored, though, and the Eagles went on beating the Packers, 19-14. No word yet on whether the ball took any lucky bounces for the home team around the 30-yard line. But if it did, Andy Reid knows who to thank.

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