Op-Ed: Top 5 Animal Encounters in Baseball

Fans+display+their+rally+squirrels+in+Saint+Louis.+Photo+courtesy+of+WikimediaCommons.

Fans display their rally squirrels in Saint Louis. Photo courtesy of WikimediaCommons.

The trend of viral animal videos is no stranger to the internet. For many years, various clips of curious creatures have populated the internet for our own amusement. Yet, sometimes, those videos happen to occur during a baseball game.

In the bottom of the eighth inning of game two of the National League Divisional Series (NLDS) between the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers, a goose flew onto the field. In honor of the goose, I thought I should share my top five animal encounters at a baseball game.

5. Randy Johnson’s Dove Incident  

I always believe there is a reason to watch Spring Training, and this 2001 incident proves my theory.

It was a typical seventh inning for Arizona Diamondbacks’ legendary pitcher Randy Johnson until a dove flew into the path of one of Johnson’s pitches. Unfortunately, the ball collided with the bird, and an explosion of white feathers ensued. It was said that the fastball clocked at over ninety miles an hour. I certainly would not want to fly through a fastball from the Big Unit. Now, Johnson mans a photography company, the logo signifying the infamous pitch. 

4. Persistent Pigeons in Detroit 

Animals have their own ways, don’t they?

A pair of pigeons disrupted a Pittsburgh Pirates-Detroit Tigers game in 2014 in the first inning. During a Miguel Cabrera at-bat, two pigeons entered the field and perched between home plate and the pitching mound. After several attempts to dissuade the visitors, Pirates starter Vance Worley decided to take matters into his own hands. Worley slowly rolled the ball from the mound. The pigeons, undeterred, stayed. In the hilarity of the situation, the Pirates broadcast could not hold back laughter. Grounds crew at Comerica Park eventually captured the pigeons with a net and a giant cardboard box.

3. Rally Squirrel 

Sometimes, teams rally around a specific animal. A famous example would be the Rally Squirrel that spawned rallies for the St. Louis Cardinals on numerous occasions. In 2011, the Cardinals were one game away from elimination in the NLDS to the Philadelphia Phillies. With St. Louis leading 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth inning, a squirrel bolted across the diamond before Philadelphia’s pitcher Roy Oswalt could pitch to Skip Schumaker.

The squirrel became a mantra for the team.

The team printed t-shirts and towels with the moniker and even got a spot on the championship ring. I would say that the charm worked. St. Louis ended up coming back in the NLDS and stunned the Texas Rangers in the World Series. Down in the ninth, St. Louis was a strike away from elimination in Game 6. Cardinals infielder David Freese launched a triple to tie the game and smashed the series-saving home run in the eleventh inning, evoking the famous words from Joe Buck, “See you tomorrow night!” St. Louis finished Texas the following night, capping one of the wildest playoff runs ever. 

Funny enough, in 2015, a squirrel made an appearance at yet another Cardinals-Phillies game, this time at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. The squirrel scaled the home plate netting and attempted to run along the wire, only to fall into the Phillies dugout sending players in panic.

Squirrels are not the only lucky charm for St. Louis. In 2017, the Cardinals were down a run with the bases loaded to the Royals when a cat sprinted onto the field. When play resumed, Yadier Molina hit a grand slam to put St. Louis on top.

2. Home-Field Advantage 

Other times, creatures can impact critical games.

A 2009 game in Cleveland between the Guardians and Kansas City Royals shows what wildlife can do to games. In the bottom of the tenth inning, Cleveland outfielder Shin-Soo Choo lifted a single into shallow center field. However, a flock of birds decided to blind and deflect the ball away from the Royal’s center fielder, Coco Crisp, who misplayed the ball, allowing Cleveland to score the winning run.

This was not the first time Cleveland benefited from the local fauna. Famously, during the 2007 American League Divisional Series (ALDS) against the New York Yankees, a plethora of insects crowded Yankees reliever, Joba Chamberlain. Chamberlain was clearly distressed, throwing a wild pitch, forcing the tying run to score in a game New York ultimately lost in extra innings. It is said that warm temperatures and bright lights helped cause the invasion of insects.

This year, New York faces Cleveland yet again in the ALDS, with reports that the insects are back in full power after an appearance at the Chargers-Browns game a week ago.

1. Classic Cat at the Kingdome  

This moment is a classic. In 1984 in Seattle, a cat ran wild on the turf of the Kingdome. When the ground crew went to retrieve the kitten, the cat scratched and bit the crew member. The attendant at the park galloped in pain, spinning in circles, trying to release himself from the cat. Mariners broadcaster Rick Rizzs recalled the moment several years later. “He is starting to run off the field to take care of the cat. All of a sudden, this cat munches down on his finger. The cat won’t let go, and all of a sudden [the attendant] is twirling around like a top, trying to get rid of this cat.” It is undoubtedly a sight to be seen.

Who knows what the goose will become. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, the goose did not bring well wishes as the Dodgers fell 5-3 to the Padres and, ultimately, the series’ final three games. All I can say is I am cheering for that goose.