Stacey Samuels is propelled by his love of the sport.
Longtime Berkeley entrepreneur Stacey Samuels (a.k.a. “Super A” and “Super Niner”) can be seen at the Coliseum and Candlestick, wearing a propeller-driven baseball cap and rainbow cape, strumming his banjo through the aisles. Hippie freak? Absolutely–but a shrewd entrepreneur lies under the smoky haze. Samuels has sold over 1.5 million of his propeller hats worldwide–enough to send his four children through college and buy a house in Marin. Wavy Gravy wore Samuels’s very first propeller cap at an A’s game in 1976. Impressed by the overwhelmingly positive response, Samuels began hawking the caps undercover at games. After adding the cape and banjo, Samuels was tapped by the Warriors to perform at their home games for one season in 1980. Since then he’s cheered the A’s and the Niners with little more than a free pass to games. I tracked down Samuels recently to see if any of his unbridled enthusiasm would rub off on me.
Paul Kilduff: You became an A’s fan when the Giants broke your heart by trading away Willie Mays?
Stacey Samuels: That was so wrong, but it was really when they fired Lon Simmons–that’s when I really stopped listening to Giants games. I didn’t become a total anti-Giants person until the A’s started playing really good. And then in 1980, who comes to be the A’s announcer? Lon Simmons. He was for the next 15 years, and it was with KSFO. It was just like being a kid again.
PK: You’re also “Super Niner.”
SS: I grew up with the Niners and I never turn my back on them.
PK: Would you ever want to do your act at a Raider game? Would you be welcome?
SS: No. They’re the enemy. It’s not so much that I dislike the Raiders. I used to root for them when they had Jim Plunkett and Kenny Stabler. They were a fun team. The biggest cheer at a Raider game is when they announce the losing score from the Niner game. I’ve had my car vandalized by Raider fans.
PK: As a Raider fan I’d like to apologize for all the hooliganism of my fellow brethren–they know better.
SS: Actually, the crowd out there is amazing. All these years I’ve been pretty much the only guy in much of a costume at the Niner games. But at the Raiders games it’s like 200 people dressed as these weird things.
PK: The knock on the Niner fan is that it’s the white wine, carrot cake crowd. True?
SS: I think it’s a stereotype–like people from the Midwest are dull; people in New York are unfriendly. It’s just the opposite. That’s true about Niner fans. The Niner fans can get loud.
PK: But are they as colorful as Raider fans? It’s not Mardi Gras at Candlestick on Sunday.
SS: It’s not. But that doesn’t mean they’re not passionate. I definitely stick up for the 49er crowd.
PK: You get a free pass to games?
SS: I got a free pass to all Niner games for the last 17 years. And the A’s gave me a pass for like five years and then last year they stopped giving me one. I’m kind of under-appreciated by their management. They tolerate me. They have given me permission to walk through the stands.
PK: But you’ve got to pay to do this?
SS: I don’t want to hard-line, but it’s a shame. Believe it or not, they used to pay Crazy George $1,000 a game. That was 25 years ago.
PK: Just imagine what Crazy George’s fee is today. It boggles the mind.
SS: This is the thing about Crazy George: he’s the mercenary cheerleader. He invented the wave. He used to get behind home plate and have everybody wave their hands and whistle. But he’s never been to an A’s game since because they didn’t pay him. I wish I could’ve accomplished that. This is my 21st year playing the banjo [at A’s games]. People know me from generations now. And the ironic thing is most of them call me Crazy George.
PK: Have you invented any cheers?
SS: Well I guess . . . Slaughter the Indians. Split the Twins.
PK: You yell stuff like that?
SS: Well you know, I’m just being historically accurate. Ethnic cleansing of the Indians. Whatever you want to say.
PK: Have to work hard sometimes to get the crowd going?
SS: Even our sportscasters would complain when they would put up on the scoreboard, “Make some noise!” People are sheep. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with cheerleaders. That’s how I got my start. The Warriors paid me $25 a game in 1980.
PK: Ever get sentimental for the old days?
SS: I loved the late ’70s–that’s when I became an A’s fan. We used to sit in the third row behind the dugout and smoke two joints and it was always great. Then after a few years I started selling beanie caps instead of just sitting there.
PK: You were undercover?
SS: Not an official vendor. But a lot of stuff was tolerated back then. But the Haas family took over and it all changed.
PK: You wear a propeller beanie cap every day?
SS: It’s a great hat. Guaranteed to keep you warm, get you high, and keep you cool all at the same time. It’s great for meeting people. Women come up to you and want to blow on your propeller. How often does that happen?
PK: Yet, you’ve managed to stay married.
SS: It’s kind of a baseball widow situation. I’ve cut down now. There are only eight Niner games.
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