By Glenn Campbell, Hat World/LIDS Co-Founder & Executive Vice President, @Wear_a_lid on Twitter
If you have been following the MLB playoffs at all in the last few weeks or watch any of the sports networks, you have no doubt heard about the St. Louis Squirrel. The infamous rodent now dubbed “The Rally Squirrel” by the St. Louis faithful has appeared in both of the Cardinals’ home playoff games. Well I have firsthand knowledge of this legend as he and I had a close encounter in Game 3 on October 4 in St. Louis.
I am a St. Louis Cardinals baseball “nut” you could say. I am certain that is what attracted the Rally Squirrel to me in the first place. I have been a season ticket holder for the past 13 years and have been a Redbirds fan dating back to my childhood in the 1970s.
This 2011 season has been crazy for so many reasons. I try not to miss any Cardinals playoff games, home or away, but I made the mistake of booking some work-related business trips for early October back when the Cards were 10 ½ games out with a month to play. Oh boy, has my travel schedule been turned upside down! That is the last time I ever write-off my beloved Cardinals before they are mathematically eliminated. They overcame one of the largest deficits in history to make the playoffs on the last day of the season.
In an unbelievable five-game series, capped by one of the best pitching performances I have ever seen by Chris Carpenter, the Cardinals eliminated the Phillies in the divisional round of the playoffs. My Cards are currently tied at one game apiece with the Brewers in the NLCS. I am convinced none of this would be possible without the “Rally Squirrel.”
I was sitting in my front row seats just down the third baseline past the dugout with three buddies for Game 3 of the NLDS. The Cardinals were down 3-0, Philly clearly had the momentum, and we needed a spark. With two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, play was stopped as our hero came on the field. The squirrel ran from right field all the way to second base then stopped and looked around. I assume he peaked at the scoreboard and saw his team trailing. He continued in my direction and stopped as if he was telling third base coach Jose Oquendo something and then came bounding right over to me.
If you were watching that portion of the national television broadcast like my wife and kids where, you saw one of my buddies reach over the wall and point at our little furry mascot. Then you saw yours truly – donning a red Cardinals hat with my sunglasses atop the visor – reach over and try to grab him. “What would you have done if you caught that squirrel?” I have been asked countless times over the past week. As I’ve told everyone, I was caught up in the moment and all I can remember thinking in that instant was, “Getting that squirrel would surely get me on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top Ten plays of the day.” Truth is, I just wanted to thank that squirrel for showing up and changing the mojo.
My Cards lost 3-2 that night but it wasn’t the squirrel’s fault. We stranded 14 base runners, nine after our furry friend came onto the field. Down two games to one, he came back during Game 4 on October 5 and darted across home plate while Skip Shumaker was batting. That squirrel clearly got inside Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt’s head and the Cardinals went on to win 5-3 and tie the series at two games apiece. Then, just when you thought the Cardinals didn’t stand a chance heading back to Philly to face their ace pitcher Doc Halliday in Game 5, Rally Squirrel magically showed up again on the field in Philadelphia before the game. The rest, as the cliché goes, is history. Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter pitched the best game of his career, the Redbirds won, and are now in line to win their 11th World Series in franchise history.
Everyone has opinions about superstitions and curses, and baseball has its fair share of animal-related lore. Ask Chicago Cubs fans about the Billy Goat of 1945 and the black cat of 1969. I am confident the Cardinals’ “Rally Squirrel” of 2011 can change history for St. Louis in a good way. When I sit in my seats October 12 for Game 3 of the NLCS, I’ll have a new shirt on that gives a big shout out to my furry friend. The shirt will be available in LIDS, LIDS Locker Room and the Cardinals Clubhouse stores operated by LIDS in the St. Louis area. Don’t be surprised to see that squirrel on the field. My first purchase at the ball park that night will be a cold beverage and a big bag of peanuts. Big enough to share if my friend happens to come by and visit again.