Sting’s rousing performance of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley Field on Monday served as a reminder that baseball has some of the best traditions in sports.
With a tip of the cap to the Red Sox’s "Sweet Caroline" and the paddlers at McCovey Cove, we’ve mostly focused on less celebrated traditions, or ones that can’t be celebrated enough. Here they are in no particular order.
1. Bacon Tuesday in the right-field bleachers at the Oakland Coliseum
In 2011, the fans of section 149 in Oakland enjoyed the first Bacon Tuesday, a celebration of baseball, bleachers and bacon. The tradition formed out of a friendly jeering session targeting then-Royals right fielder Jeff Francoeur. One of the fans asked Frenchy whether he liked bacon, to which he replied “YES” enthusiastically. Francoeur later tossed the fans a ball wrapped in a $100 bill and instructed them to buy bacon or beer.
That they did, and Bacon Tuesday was born, with shirts commemorating the occasion, a display of large paper strips of bacon and, of course, delicious bacon treats.
Sadly, organizers postponed Bacon Tuesday 2014, pending Francoeur’s status (he’s now in the Padres organization) and the return of the Royals.
2. "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley Field
Local athletes, celebrities and others have carried the torch lit by legendary Cubs (and White Sox) announcer Harry Caray, who would sing the playful baseball anthem during the seventh-inning stretch. Many have taken the microphone, some have flopped, but it’s always interesting. Below is one of my favorite renditions. (To be sure, pretty much anything Bill Murray does will render that thing my favorite rendition.)
3. The Bleacher Creatures’ roll call at Yankee Stadium
Yankee Stadium has animated bleacher fans of its own with a long tradition of loud cheering and at least modest drinking. More importantly, in the top of the first inning of each game, Bleacher Creature “Bald Vinny” (Milano) leads the fans in a roll call of the outfielders and then infielders, cheering each player until they get an acknowledgement of some kind. New in town and don’t like it? Buckle up.
The tradition started in 2008 under Joe Maddon, who likes to see his players get loose in goofy outfits. The team has traveled in pajamas, hockey jerseys, nerd outfits, 1950s hats and more. This May, they adopted a Woodstock theme, which Maddon participated in.
Since 2000, the Los Angeles Angels have relied in part on the tiny shoulders of a crazy white-haired capuchin monkey. If you make noise, he will come, and help the Angels score runs. The way the Angels stadium people have integrated the monkey into popular movies on its jumbotron is brilliant. To wit:
The train is loaded with oranges and travels slowly across the wall from center to left field every time an Astros player hits a home run. What, are you not entertained? There’s just something endearing about a choo-choo train.
8. Bernie Brewer’s slide
Although Bernie now slides into his Splash Zone (as of 2009) and not a mug of beer after every Brewers home run, it’s still a great tradition. The role of Bernie the Brewer is also a pretty great job — he gets to chill in his own “dugout” atop the stadium and go whipping down a slide after each home run. Sure, he has to cheer and wear a gigantic foam head even during the summer, but the slide alone makes it a sweet gig.
9. The Washington Nationals Racing Presidents
I know, I know — the Brewers sausage race predated the Presidents Race. But it’s still a great tradition for the Nationals, who do it pretty damn well, too. I give the Nationals credit for sticking to the premise early on that the Teddy Roosevelt would constantly muff up or cheat and lose the race until he finally snapped a 525-game futility streak on Oct. 3, 2012, when Washington earned a playoffs berth.
Here’s one of the best races, when Teddy encountered the Orioles Bird.
10. The Marlins Mermaids (aka Energy Team)
Bring back these uniforms.
What the heck are the Marlins doing on a collection about baseball traditions? Well, they were the only team in the league to employ Mermaids. The organization re-branded its cheerleaders as the “Energy Team” and gave them a little more material for the uniforms, but we’ll always remember them more fondly as the Mermaids.