CLEVELAND, Ohio — Before John Adams’ casket was wheeled into the Cathedral of St. John the Evanglist on Saturday morning, the organ player briefly played “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” causing more than a few smiles in the large crowd on a cold February morning.
When mass ended, the song was played again as the crowd followed Adams’ casket out of the church and onto East 9th Street. Then came the sound of bagpipes and drums from the Cleveland Firefighters Memorial Pipes and Drums, the West and East Side Irish American Clubs, the Red Hackle Pipes and Drums and the Great Lakes Pipes and Drums.
Before the music stopped the last sound heard was the pounding of a bass drum. It was perfect.
Adams, who died Monday at 71, and his bass drum became an extension of the Cleveland Indians and Guardians when he brought it to Municipal Stadium on Aug. 24, 1973, and started banging it to rally his favorite baseball team. He never really left after that.
“John attended nearly 4,000 Indians and Guardians games,” said Reverend Sean Ralph during the homily. “First of all it seems to say something about the optimism of Cleveland sports fans. It also shows his perserverance and dedication.”
Adams banged his drum for nearly 50 years at Municipal and Progressive Field until the 2020 pandemic kept fans out of MLB ballparks. Adams, divorced with no children, vowed to make it back to Progressive Field after the pandemic, but the onset of several serious health problems prevented that.
Vicky Arida, a friend of Adams, delivered the eulogy. She talked about his dedication and commitment to Cleveland’s baseball team. She mentioned how he had his own Wikipedia page titled, “John Adams, drummer.”
Then Arida said, “John’s middle name was Joseph. I think it should be changed to Volunteer.”
Arida said Adams could never say no to a charitable cause. He gave free swimming classes to students with disabilities at Cleveland State for over 40 years. In his hometown of Brecksville he volunteered to be a member of the community response team.
She spoke about the children who would come to see Adams drum at Progressive Field at the top of the left field bleachers. How Adams entertained them by putting peanuts on the drum and making them jump when he hit it. She thanked the doctors and nurses at Cleveland Clinic and the rehab centers and nursing homes that cared for him. She praised his neighbors who ran countless errands for Adams and who staged an opening day parade for him when he couldn’t make it to Progressive Field in 2021.
“I am certain John is in heaven cheering on the many volunteers who go unseen,” said Arida. “We will all miss our dear friend and never stop hearing his drum beat in Greater Cleveland.”
Lenny Barker, the last Cleveland pitcher to throw a perfect game, was one of Adams’ pallbearers.
“John asked for me and I would do anything for John,” said Barker. “He was a great guy.”
Asked what it sounded like to be on the mound when Adams was pounding his bass drum, Baker said: “I loved it because it meant we were winning. John was always there.”
Among the other pallbearers were Bob DiBiasio and Curtis Danburg from the Guardians, Terry Pluto of cleveland.com and Bob Rosen, president of the 455 Club, formerly the Wahoo Club.
The community is invited to make a donation to the John J. Adams Scholarship Fund. The 501c3 fund was created by Adams to financially support students, individuals and organizations in the arts, including music, dance, visual and industrial art.
Information on donating via check or PayPal can be found at johnjadamsscholarship.org.
Here is how some Guardians Subtext subscribers remembered John Adams:
“John was Cleveland’s heartbeat, strong and steady in good times and bad. I only hope he knew how vital he was to our enthusiasm for and enjoyment of every game. Oftentimes, he was the game.” — Barbara Zorc.
I only met John a few times as we both worked for AT&T. He was a true gentleman and added much to the games.” — Douglas Miller.
“Everyone has a John Adams story. That man sure did make our area of the world a better place. I was there for that first time he drummed. It blasted like thunder.”
“I figured it was a joke. He’ll get his, I told myself, like the “bad boys” did running to the upper deck to try to spell out dirty words before the poor ushers got to them.”
“Later during the game he drummed for a couple of Tribe batters. Then Herb Score heard the drum. He said two times (I had my radio) “Is that a drum out there!?” Then I looked at Herb in the booth with my binoculars — he was using his ever-present binoculars too, standing up, and he saw the drummer.”
“So the fifty-some-years-of-John-Adams started and I was there to watch it. It’s a valued cherished memory. I still heard his drum on home games when he was away sick these last years just like that first day, and I always will. I guess he’s the Guards guard now.”
“The Big Drummer Boy was sooo Cleveland. What a loss for us, and I’m not talking just baseball.” — Barb.
“Years ago at the old stadium we got cheap seats in the bleachers where this guy was banging on a drum during the game. At first we were annoyed and wanted him to stop. Later on at the new stadium, after we’d met the guy banging the drum, our kids wanted to try banging the drum/watch him do it.”
“We would go up to him and say hello and he was nice. I am sorry about his passing. It goes to show that making friends can happen in any situation.” — Robin Rood.