Animal Interference: 11 Critters Who Interrupted Sporting Events
Ever since that squirrel ran across home plate just as Philadelphia’s Roy Oswalt was delivering a pitch in Game 4 of the NLDS between the Phillies and Cardinals (a game which St. Louis went on to win), people in St. Louis have been going nuts for the Busch Stadium Rally Squirrel. It’s become a symbol of…well, I’m not quite sure what. But people like it, and last night at Game 3 of the NLCS, the St. Louis Cardinals gave every fan in attendance a rally towel with the Rally Squirrel’s likeness.
But this isn’t the first time an animal has intervened, for better or for worse, in a pro sporting event. Hell, it’s not even the first time an animal has become a good luck charm for a team.
Here are 9 instances of critters getting in on the fun at pro sporting events.
12. Anaheim Angels Rally Monkey
As far as I know, the Anaheim California Angels of Los Angeles, or whatever that team is called now, was the first to introduce a rally animal.
Back in 2000, two video board operators for the Angels just thought it would be funny to take a clip of a jumping capuchin monkey from Ace Ventura and put it up on the jumbotron with the words “Rally Monkey!” written above it. After the Angels did indeed rally for a win, the monkey became a star. By the time the 2002 World Series came around, the Angels had hired their own official rally monkey (Katie) to incite rallies live an in person. Said rally monkey became an international superstar when the Angels came back from a 5-0 deficit to win Game 6 of the World Series.
Today, the Angels still use the rally monkey. They produce a series of videos that play on the jumbotron when the Angels are behind late in games. Here’s another:
11. Shea Stadium Black Cat Curses Cubs
The Chicago Cubs had a 9 1/2 game lead over the New York Mets on August 14, 1969. But in 3-game series between the two at Shea Stadium that August, a black cat crossed in front of Cubs legend Ron Santo while he stood in the warmup circle. Obviously, this cursed the Cubs, who went on to lose the division to the mets by 8 games. It was a late-season collapse for the ages, and it was all thanks to a frisky feline.
10. Moth Attack
Just a couple of months ago, on Monday, August 22, 2011, St. Louis Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday had to leave a game against the Dodgers after a moth flew into and got lodged in his ear. Team trainers tried to coax the little creature out of the ear humanely by shining a flashlight in there. When that didn’t work they just reach in with tweezers and removed it by force. The moth did not survive.
9. The Great Gnat Attack
In the 8th inning of Game 2 of the 2007 ALDS between the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians, a swarm of bugs enveloped the field at Cleveland’s Jacobs Field (yes, it was still called “Jacobs Field” then). They were so bad that they distracted rookie phenom Joba Chamberlain, who walked Grady Sizemore who later scored the tying run on a wild pitch. Cleveland eventually won the game in the 11th, and the Yankees cried themselves to sleep.
8. The Cleveland Seagulls
More animal interference from Cleveland! This time, it was the damned seagulls.
Apparently, given Cleveland’s location on Lake Eerie, the seagulls have a habit of flocking into the ballpark after games and scarfing up all the goodies left there by the fans. It happens like clockwork. But when the games run late, the seagulls still show up for their evening snack and have been known to get in the way. Like in 2009, in a game between the Royals and Indians, when one of the hungry birds flew into the path of a bloop single, interfering with centerfielder Coco Crisp’s effort to play the ball. A run scored and the Indians won the game because, unfortunately, there’s no section on “Seagull Interference” in the official MLB rulebook. Bummer.
7. Raiders’ Secret Weapon (Hint: It’s a Pigeon)
I like the idea of a special teams pigeon an all, but I thought pirates were supposed to have parrots for pets. But hey, whatever works, right?
6. Wimbledon Ducks
Wimbledon is classy. There’s a dress code, and they serve snacks like strawberries and cream. (Ooh la la.) So of course, when birds get in the way of the action at the All England Tennis Club, it’s not nasty scavengers like seagulls or pigeons. It’s fancy birds. Like ducks.
On June 29, 2007, play was halted when a mother duck and her little ducklings paraded across the grass court right as they were about to begin playing.
5. The Wrigley Cat
When a ferrel cat got onto the field at Wrigley in 2009, animal rights people went apeshit when a groundskeeper picked the kitty up by its tail to remove it. Luckily, before an angry mob was able to tar and feather the poor guy, Chicago’s WGN News cranked out this (video above) hart-hitting piece of journalism exonerating him.
On a related note, what is it with the Cubs and ferrel cats? (See #11.)
4. Dog Takes Dump on Diamond
You know why minor league baseball is so awesome? Because stuff like this can happen.
In 2010, the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals got themselves a lovable little pooch for a mascot. He’d hang with the team in the dugout for a while, they’d parade him out onto the field for a bit, and then he’d go and get petted by the kiddies up in the stands. Cute as hell, right?
Well, one game, the little rascal manages to get loose, and so of course he runs out onto the field…and takes a dump.
Is that not awesome?
3. Manu Ginobili: Bat Assassin
If the animals rights folks didn’t like the Wrigley guy picking a cat up by its tail (isn’t that what tails are for?), I’m sure they must have fainted when they saw this replay of San Antonia Spurs guard Manu Ginobili smack a bat out of the air with his bare hands.
The bat had interrupted play a couple of times, and I guess Manu had had enough. I like how, after he swats the little flying mammal out of the air, he picks it up himself and runs it off the court.
Also, did you notice how one of his teammates turns away in horror when the bat comes near him? Classic.
2. Seagull Steals Golf Ball
The official rules of golf differentiate between natural and manmade obstructions in the field of play. If the ball lands on a sprinkler head or something, you get to move it. If it lands under a bush, you’re screwed. But what does the rule book say about birds stealing your ball from the green and dropping it in the lake?
1. Randy Johnson’s One-in-a-Billion Bird-Obliterating Pitch
This incident from the 7th inning of a spring training game on March 24, 2001, has to be #1, doesn’t it? It is probably the most incredible thing that has ever happened or will happen on a baseball diamond. In fact, according to my calculations, the chances of anything like this happening at all, let alone again, are 8.43 billion to 1. (I’m not going to bother explaining how I reached this mathematical precise figure. You probably wouldn’t understand.)