October may bring the start of the NHL and NBA seasons, but sports fans the world over recognize that October belongs to baseball. After six months and 162 games (per team), the Major League Baseball season wraps up with postseason action in October that culminates with the World Series, fondly known as the Fall Classic.
But while the top teams of the American and National Leagues battle it out, bizarre occurrences are often brewing beyond the diamond. Baseball is a superstitious sport. Good luck charms and curses are widely believed to help or hinder a team's ability to claim the coveted World Series trophy and rings. To celebrate the start of the World Series this week, here's a roundup of some good luck charms to boost your baseball banter.
Some people consider these furry critters cute, others consider them vermin with fluffy tails, but love or hate'em, squirrels are considered good luck charms in baseball... at least for the St. Louis Cardinals.
The rally squirrel made its debut during the 2011 National League Division series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies. The creature ran across the outfield in Game Three and interrupted the game. He made another appearance at Busch Stadium the following day for Game Four and this time scurried across home plate! Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt blamed the squirrel for distracting him while pitching to Skip Schumaker. The squirrel's random appearance caused such commotion that Philies manager Charlie Manuel threatened to shoot it!
St. Louis fans instantly adopted the squirrel as their mascot and lucky charm. Fame followed the little critter as he got his own Twitter account and theme song! Squirrel t-shirts and costumes were soon flying off the shelves. His good luck rubbed off on the Cardinals as they went on to win the 2011 World Series!
The squirrel's 15 minutes of fame turned him into a legend. The following year, Skip Schumaker, instead of using a typical pose for his baseball card, chose to feature the squirrel running across home plate! The Cardinals gave the squirrel the ultimate honour; they engraved his image onto their World Series rings. How about that?!
The Cardinals are facing the Boston Red Sox this week in the World Series, so there's a chance the Rally Squirrel may make another appearance this postseason.
The squirrel also happens to be the mascot for us at the Gal's Got Game so we're certainly believers!
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (yes the team name is a mouthful) may have Angels in the Outfield, but a fuzzy friend also came out to help them. Before the Rally Squirrel came on the scene, the Rally Monkey made headlines. Back in the summer of 2000, the Angels were facing the San Francisco Giants and losing 5-4 in the bottom of the ninth inning. To encourage a comeback, two video board operators decided to superimpose the words "RALLY MONKEY!" on a clip of the jumping monkey from Jim Carrey's 1994 movie Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. The Angels came back from behind to win the game.
The teams then met again two years later in the 2002 World Series. The Rally Monkey took centre stage during the series as fans used their monkey madness to ignite their team's spirit. Although the Giants lead the series 3-2 and were one win away from winning the championship, the monkey's magic prevailed and the Angels came back from behind to capture that game and the subsequent Game Seven to win the World Series!
Despite having won two World Series in the last three years, Giants' fans still harbour resentment against the monkey. The monkey must've been MIA this year given the Angels tanked in the regular season. Who knows, maybe someday he'll come out of retirement.
This year the Pittsburgh Pirates finally made it into the playoffs after a 21-year drought. Considered an underdog, the team needed all the luck it could get if they wanted to make it to the World Series for the first time since 1979. Pirate fever swept up Pittsburgh and everyone channelled their "inner pirate". St. Clair Hospital in Pittsburgh even introduced baby Buccos to the world, outfitting all newborns this postseason with Pirates onesies, bandannas and miniature baseball bats! (Check out the adorable photo the hospital tweeted!)
Although Captain Sparrow may seem like an obvious choice as a good luck mascot, another unlikely creature jumped into the limelight - a duck... a rubber duckie to be exact!
A 40-foot-tall rubber duck, which is an outdoor art installation known as The Rubber Duck Project, is floating down the Ohio River near the Pirates' PNC Park. The Dutch creator of the installation claims it has healing powers.
The duck may have helped the Pirates make it to the postseason, but unfortunately, the duck's luck wore out. The Pirates ended up losing in Game Five of the Division Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. Perhaps a furry friend may have brought the Pirates more good fortune.
Solid pitching and clutch hitting may get teams into the postseason, but sometimes good luck charms, animals and devoted fans are the key to capturing a World Series Championship.