You gotta be Krazy to take credit for this
OAKLAND, Calif. — Krazy George Henderson has spent the past quarter-century trying to convince everyone that he debuted the “Wave” during an Oakland Athletics’ playoff game against the Yankees — not those Washington state football fans who claim the Huskies first performed the now famous cheer.
Debate aside, the Wave is 25 years old and still going strong.
“It’s been really interesting,” Krazy George said recently from his home in New Rochelle, N.Y. “I see it at the Olympics. There’s a video of Fidel Castro doing it. If it had actually originated in New York at a Yankees game, they would have thought it was sent by the gods.”
Krazy George, 62, says he spent three years perfecting the Wave.
He first pulled the move — in which fans take turns, by section, standing up and waving their arms — on Oct. 15, 1981, at the Yankees-Athletics American League Championship Series game in the Oakland Coliseum in California. The University of Washington, meanwhile, did it two weeks later, on Oct. 31.
Former cheerleader Robb Weller had returned to campus for a homecoming game against Stanford. He began a vertical version of the Wave in the ’70s, but first did the horizontal Wave that day.
Washington acknowledges Krazy George as being first, but they remain certain that the Huskies popularized the cheer. And, it soon caught on at a Seattle Seahawks game.
It took a year and a half, Krazy George says, for the Huskies to fess up that they’d seen the Wave on television and given it their own twist. Good thing, too, because he has the proof on tape: The Wave was part of the A’s 1981 highlight video shown to potential seasonticket holders the next year.
“That’s the best-kept lie in the last 25 years. But now, most of the world recognizes me,” Krazy George said. “Their theory is that they came up with it in 30 seconds — ‘Oh, we just thought it up.’
“They kept doing it the whole football season, and of course, they were a big national football power with a big budget. I tell everyone to call Seattle and get their side of the story. It’s like a war with me.”
Krazy George, known best for pounding his drum in stadiums across the United States, is a California native who moved north to Napa from Southern California at 17. He left for New York three years ago.
A former high-school shop teacher, Krazy George’s lone job the past 30 years has been as a for-hire cheerleader, working all of about three hours a week. He averages one game every seven days.
In that 1981 baseball game, in which the Yankees eliminated the A’s 4-0 to reach the World Series, a crowd of 47,302 was on hand for the first Wave.
“We put it on the map in 1981,” said Shooty Babitt, a rookie on the ‘81 A’s. “A lot of people wish the Wave would go away now. A lot of people don’t understand when you should do it. [. . . ] The new-age fan doesn’t understand where the Wave originated. But Krazy George still looks the same today as he did 25 years ago.”
Mostly bald with blond curls above his ears, Krazy George wears his striped athletic socks pulled up and always has a drum in hand. He has been featured in national magazines and TV programs and has several upcoming interviews with international publications.
That game in Oakland had been the biggest crowd yet for Krazy George, who had tried the cheer a couple of times at high-school rallies.
He knows there are plenty of fans who refuse to participate or become grumpy when their view of the game gets briefly blocked.
“As a professional cheerleader, I know why I do it: What it does is intensify the energy of the crowd,” Krazy George said. “It’s almost like an accomplishment. It’s their own competition, like a contest or video game. [. . . ] It takes 95 percent of fans doing it to make it great.”
Krazy George says he last got into it with Washington over the Wave before the 20th anniversary. Over the years, he has called its athletic director and president, not to mention newspapers and TV stations.
The way things are going, the Wave will carry on long enough for the lore to continue.
“You can start a Wave, but nobody can stop one,” Krazy George said. “The only way it stops is if something exciting happens on the field.”
Still Krazy after all these years: At 62, Krazy George still knows how to work a crowd.