The List: Monkeys And Possums And Squirrels, Oh My

If you’ve learned one thing over the years from reading Baseball America, one thing at all, it’s that baseball is a game for humans. It’s played by humans, officiated by humans, announced by humans, analyzed by humans and watched by humans.

Sometimes, though, those humans, through the unending slog of the season, need to draw strength from somewhere beyond their means. They need inspiration from a source previously unknown and unneeded.

What they need, you see, is a rally animal. The tradition of rally animals is rich, diverse and, of course, hilarious, tracing its lineage back many years, to a team that no longer exists.

Today we provide brief dossiers on these lovable heroes who spur squads to perform at levels they never thought possible.

The Newcomers

Rally Possum—Louisiana State
This fella first surfaced in a game in May between LSU and Arkansas, with the home Tigers in the midst of clawing back from what had been an eight-run deficit against their Southeastern Conference rivals. When the possum appeared, the Tigers had trimmed the margin to just five runs. After the critter was disposed of (carefully and with no harm done), the Tigers completed the comeback. Naturally, LSU kept the possum around for the rest of the season, calling on its powers when their opponents had a lead that needed to be erased. The team also drew up T-shirts and plush versions of their furry, feisty hero. He gave the team one last boost this past weekend, when he helped LSU rally in the ninth inning to tie their Super Regional matchup against Coastal Carolina. Alas, after the Tigers had tied the game, the Chanticleers struck in the bottom of the frame to send LSU home for the season and return Rally Possum to the nocturnal life.

• Rally Owl—Florida
When your conference foe gets a sweet Rally Animal, naturally, you want one as well. So, to combat Rally Possum and his obviously ineffable powers, the swamp-dwelling Gators made peace with the skies and called upon Rally Owl, the only known enemy of the Rally Possum. Did it work? Sort of. The Gators vanquished the Tigers in the SEC tournament semifinals, but then bid adieu to Rally Owl, presumably leaving him to finish his meal of possum in peace. This was a foolish move. Florida, sans owl, lost to Texas A&M in the title game. The lesson here? Never trust a human to do an owl’s job.

Gary Croswell—Wright State
That’s right, a Rally Animal with a human name. Presumably, the Raiders wanted to disguise their new secret weapon to allow him to blend in with surrounding humans. Croswell came to be after a deer sacrificed itself in front of the WSU team bus. To commemorate the loss, the team got a stuffed deer head and kept it in the dugout for the rest of the season. The name comes from their bus driver’s first name, Gary, and the name of the bus company, Croswell. The deer stayed with the Raiders throughout the rest of the season, which lasted into regionals, where they lost to host Louisville. After the season, coach Greg Lovelady gave Croswell his release from the team. It was fun while it lasted.

Two Squirrels

Before Gary Croswell, Rally Possum and Rally Owl, a pair of squirrels helped guide their local teams to big wins. For their efforts, the bushy-tailed heroes found themselves on baseball cards and all over YouTube.

New York Rally Squirrel
Poley Walnuts front

This curious critter found himself precariously perched on the foul pole down the right-field line in old Yankee Stadium. Up and down he went while fans cheered his every move. Eventually, he made it to the top of the netting and stood triumphant, knowing he had the best seat in the house.The Yankees won that night, 5-3, and they won again the next night when the squirrel reappeared. For his efforts, the squirrel was honored with a name—Poley Walnuts—and a baseball card from Topps.

St. Louis Rally Squirrel

Imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery, so Poley Walnuts from the Bronx must have been elated four years later to find out that his act had caught on in the country’s heartland. The act started in Game 3 of the 2011 National League Division Series between the Cardinals and Phillies, as he bounded across the warning track in the outfield at Busch Stadium. The next night, in Game Four, with the Cardinals up 3-2, a squirrel waited until Phillies righty Roy Oswalt was about to deal, then scampered across the field right in front of home plate.

Later in the series, some Phillies fans heaved a stuffed squirrel into the Cardinals’ bullpen at Citizens Bank Park. Reliever Octavio Dotel kept the trinket and adopted it as the team’s postseason Rally Animal.

The Cardinals won the World Series, and the team put a tribute to Rally Squirrel on their World Series rings (look directly below the Cardinals logo).

Rally Squirrel Rings

The Godfather—Rally Monkey

Before there were squirrels and possums and owls, there was the Rally Monkey, the clutch capuchin who helped spur the 2002 Angels past the Giants to the World Series title.

Although the run to the Fall Classic was when the Rally Monkey gained its most fame, it actually debuted two years earlier, when the board operators at Angels Stadium used a clip from “Ace Ventura” with a monkey superimposed over the top, to fire up the crowd.

The team won that day, and the bit continued. Sixteen years later, the Rally Monkey is the Angels’ official mascot, and he’s been electronically inserted into all sorts of pop culture from the past.

He’s even been featured—getting fired—in a SportsCenter commercial.

So the next time your team is down and all seems lost, look not to a rally cap or a piece of lucky clothing or a time-honored superstition.

Instead, hope that the animal kingdom smiles upon you and your team.

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