05/07/2008 5:42 PM ET
The Bigs List: Ballpark traditions
Music, food and toy animals make fans part of the game
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
Every ballpark's got one, and no, we're not talking about bathrooms, garlic fries stands, ATMs or bars where you can buy carbonated adult beverages for a 10-spot.
Nope, we're talking about tradition, and when it comes to baseball there are some wacky ones that don't make a lot of sense until you're sitting in the upper deck on a Tuesday night soaking it in. That's when they make tons of sense.
This week's Bigs List gives us the opportunity to put forth our nine favorite weird ballpark traditions. Enjoy.
1. Roll Call, New York Yankees: You have to listen for it, unless you're within a few sections of Section 39 in the right-field bleachers. That's where the customary game-opening rundown of players emanates from, and if the players don't acknowledge the loud, position-by-position announcements with a tip of the cap or a simple wave, they'll hear it until they do. From the chants that fit neatly into a four-syllable meter -- "DE-REK JE-TER" -- to the ones that don't - "A-Rod," "Ro-bin-son," and "Bob-by" -- this Bronx cheer works, and is a lot more family-friendly than the rest of the Section 39 utterances heard throughout a game.
2. Rally Monkey, Los Angeles Angels: Nobody noticed this ridiculously random JumboTron phenomenon until 2002, when the Angels actually started and continued rallies that ended in win after win in Anaheim, including the World Series. There isn't much to it: the Angels are losing late in the game, they get a runner on base, and they show a monkey jumping up and down under the words RALLY MONKEY. The fountains by the faux rock pile beyond center field go off, they play "Jump Around" by House of Pain, and the fans go wild. It's so bizarre that it works. Gloriously.
3. Sausage Race, Milwaukee Brewers: It's worth going to Miller Park just to see this tradition, which occurs after the bottom of the sixth inning as a promotion for the Klement's Sausage Company. Five mascot-dressed links square off in a race on the field, and you choose your personal preference: Will it be No. 1, "Bratt Wurst," in his lederhosen? How about No. 2, "Stosh," a Polish Sausage in shades and a rugby shirt? Maybe you want to place your bet on "Guido," an Italian sausage in full-on chef's garb. Or No. 4, "Frankie Furter," a traditional hot dog in a baseball uniform. Or maybe you'll go with the newest addition to the race, No. 5, or "Cinco," a chorizo who wears a sombrero. No matter how you slice it, it's unique, regional and classic.
4. "Sweet Caroline," Boston Red Sox: Where it began, maybe you can't begin to knowin', but one trip to Fenway Park and a listen during the middle of the eighth inning, and you'll know it's goin' strong. This Neil Diamond staple caught on during the 2002 season and is now a sing-along ritual in the Fens, with the fans adding the "So good, so good, so good" echo in the middle of the chorus. It's so good that Diamond himself will come sing it at the diamond this year. Now that's a powerful tradition.
5. "OK Blue Jays," Toronto Blue Jays: Maybe this Rogers Centre seventh-inning-stretch ditty didn't chart as strongly as "Caroline," but it's certainly got, well, more interesting lyrics. It starts with, "You've got a diamond, you've got nine men, you've got a hat and a bat, and that's not all," and it goes on from there, peaking at the chorus of, "OK, Blue Jays, Let's ... play ... ball!" Ardent Jays fans appreciate the 1980s references in the original song, such as, "Dave's put down a smoker," which apparently means former Jays hurler Dave Stieb threw a strike, and didn't castigate a patron holding a cigarette.
6. "Thank God I'm a Country Boy," Baltimore Orioles: You don't mess with a tradition that dates back to the 1970s, even if the message in this song doesn't really apply to the urban Mid-Atlantic. But sit down at Camden Yards and right after "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," you'll hear this John Denver chestnut -- written by John Martin Summers, by the way -- and you'll see the kooky fan in the straw hat and overalls dancing around on the JumboTron. And then you can close your eyes and remember that Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Cal all had to sit through it, too.
7. Rally Fries, Seattle Mariners: This is a new but tasty, albeit slightly unhealthy, one. During a game last June, the Fox Sports Northwest TV cameras caught a fan scattering his fries down the right-field line while chasing a foul ball. Mariners broadcasters Mike Blowers and Dave Sims eventually came to the decision that he deserved a new set of fries, so Blowers had one of the Mariners interns deliver them. The next night, signs calling for free fries were all over Safeco Field, and soon enough, the Mariners were scoring runs when the fries were delivered, prompting the "Rally Fries" moniker that has stuck -- even on the road.
8. "Nasty" Rally, Tampa Bay Rays: Only in a yard like Tropicana Field will you catch a professional wrestler with a blond Mohawk ranting and raving about his Rays in a jersey with ripped sleeves in a videotaped late-innings rally motivational message for the hometown nine. His name is Brian "Nasty" Knobbs, he's a season-ticket holder, and he's part of the famed Nasty Boys tag-team duo. And if you go to a Rays game, you'll see -- and hear him. Trust us.
9. Home Run Apple, New York Mets: The lovably dented, bizarre, kitschy-chic apple that pops out of a top hat for every Mets home run has withstood mammoth blasts off the bats of Darryl Strawberry, Mike Piazza and Carlos Delgado since its inception in 1980. It's as much a part of Mets lore as Ron Swoboda's catch, Mookie Wilson's grounder through Bill Buckner's legs, or the trade that sent Scott Kazmir packing for Victor Zambrano. Still no official word on whether the same apple will find a spot in the new ballpark, Citi Field. Here's a strong vote from the "Yes" corner. Tradition, after all, is tradition.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.