Guardians remember drummer, lifelong fan Adams

'The beat of John’s drum was the heartbeat of baseball here in Cleveland'

January 30th, 2023

CLEVELAND -- For the last two years, all John Adams could envision was walking back into Progressive Field.

“I’m going to be ecstatic,” Adams told in 2022. “I think I’ll be walking a foot taller off the ground.”

The joy and anticipation of being surrounded by his baseball family once again helped push Adams through months of horrible health problems. He broke his ribs, had triple bypass surgery, underwent another heart surgery, battled problems with his thyroid, went to the ICU three separate times, broke his hip and lost the ability to walk due to an infection in his heel. No matter how difficult of a hand he was dealt, he remained optimistic, relied on fans’ prayers and confidently would say, “I’ll be back at Progressive Field.”

On Monday morning, we learned Adams won’t be able to fulfill that dream. After countless days of fighting every ailment that plagued him, Adams passed away at the age of 71.

“For nearly five decades, the beat of John’s drum was the heartbeat of baseball here in Cleveland,” said Guardians senior vice president of public affairs Bob DiBiasio. “We are all saddened by John’s passing. His dedication, commitment and passion for our franchise, at both Cleveland Stadium and Progressive Field, was unmatched. John will forever remain a member of our team.”

Adams was known as the man with the enormous bass drum at the top of the bleachers in section 182 at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. He’d bang the instrument in a loud, steady rhythm any time the team would have a runner in scoring position or was in need of a rally -- a tradition that began on Aug. 24, 1973, in an 11-5 Cleveland victory over Texas.

Adams bought the drum for $25 at a garage sale. He wanted to make some noise but didn’t want to bother anyone, so he worked his way to the top row of section 182 to keep his distance from other fans and started banging his drum. Little did he know, he found a home for the next 48 years.

Adams was a staple at Cleveland’s ballpark. Fans would filter in and out of his section to sneak a peek at what has created the rhythmic beats that cause everyone in the crowd to clap along in big moments of games. Many would draw the courage to walk up the steps and ask for a photo or join in with his drumming.

Adams would never say no. This was his family, and he loved every interaction he had.

A conversation with Adams could easily last hours. All you needed was a love for baseball or his team and Adams could tell story after story. His smile would stretch from ear to ear and the excitement he’d display about life and baseball was contagious.

“There’s nothing like being down at the ballpark,” Adams told last year. “Because it’s more than just the game; it’s all the people around you and all the people you see.”

Over his 48-year span in the bleachers (more than 3,500 games), Adams missed just 45 home contests. He attended three All-Star Games, 11 playoff series, three World Series, and he had a seat at Len Barker’s perfect game in 1981.

The mark he left on the Guardians was more than just being an avid fan who came to every game. Adams became a member of the organization through his loyalty and exuberance. Before his health problems advanced, the team wanted to make sure he knew that. On the anniversary of his first game with his drum in 1973, the Guardians visited Adams at his nursing home on Aug. 24 last year to honor him with a life-size drum made out of bronze that will forever sit on top of bleachers that were removed from left field and placed in Heritage Park for fans to remember his legacy.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” he blurted out when he was presented with the statue and named the 12th member of Cleveland’s Distinguished Hall of Fame.

It was always around this time every winter that Adams would begin preparing for another season of 81 trips to Progressive Field. But for the last two years, he’d realize Opening Day was out of the question and would immediately set a goal to walk into the ballpark before the end of the season.

Adams’ health prevented him from returning to Progressive Field one more time before he passed, but in 2023, his goal will be complete.

Adams’ drum and his legacy will forever be circulated through the walls of Progressive Field. And for anyone who knew Adams and his passion for baseball, there’s no doubt that his presence will be felt at each home game.