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5 animals that changed the course of baseball history

The human race is but a blip on Earth's timeline -- we've only existed for about 300,000 of the planet's 4.5 billion years. Animals, however, have been around for nearly 540 million years. They were here long before us and will undoubtedly be here long after we're gone.

These facts, quite surprisingly, lead us to the game of baseball. 

Some of your favorite moments in the game's history were not, as you may have thought, created by your favorite player or your favorite team. They were actually coaxed along by the all-powerful Kingdom Animalia. We are simply pawns in their beastly game of chess. Here are 5 famous animals that changed MLB history.

5. The Billy Goat 

Goat

You probably know the story by now: A goat attended Game 4 of the 1945 World Series at Wrigley Field with its owner, Billy Goat Tavern proprietor William Sianis. It even had its own ticket! But during the game, nearby patrons complained of a foul smell wafting from the goat's direction and the two were told to leave.

Sianis was infuriated and screamed that the Cubs would never win another game. He then reportedly went straight to a telegraph office and wrote a letter to Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley -- telling him they'd lose this World Series and would never win a championship again. The goat, we assume, was eagerly nodding Sianis on.

The Cubs, who were up 2-1 in the '45 Series, lost the game Sianis and his goat got kicked out of, lost the Series, 4 games to 3, and didn't win a title for another 70 seasons. 

4. The Black Cat

blackcat

It was Sept. 9, 1969, and the team involved, once again, was the Cubs. Chicago had been in first place all season long and was now just 1 1/2 games up on the Mets -- the team it was facing that day at Shea Stadium. In the top of the fourth inning, with the Mets already up, 2-0, a black cat ran onto the field and made a beeline for the Cubs' dugout -- running around Ron Santo in the on-deck circle before pausing and apparently glaring at Cubs manager Leo Durocher.

The cat disappeared under the bleachers, just as quickly as it had appeared.

The Cubs lost the game and went 18-27 down the stretch, losing the division to the Mets and failing to make the playoffs. The Mets went on to win their first World Series in franchise history. Fergie Jenkins, starting pitcher on that fateful September day, talked years later about the ominous feelings the cat gave him:

"That goat is since long dead -- I never believed that. The black cat thing is totally different."

3. The Rat 

This might be one you've never heard of. That image, one of the most enduring in MLB history, may not have been if it weren't for a rat. More specifically, "a rat as big as a cat."

Back in 1975, cameramen were told to follow the ball and not worry about player reactions. People watching on TV didn't care about bat flips or players jiggling their bellies in the dugout; they wanted prime time game action. But with Carlton Fisk up in Game 6 of the World Series against the Reds and the two teams tied, 6-6, in the 12th inning, Fenway Park cameraman Lou Gerard -- stationed in the scoreboard -- had an issue. Here's more from The Sporting News

"There were some rats running around," he says. "With Fisk coming up, Harry Coyle, who was the director at the time, he told me, 'Lou, you have to follow the ball if he hits it.' I said, 'Harry, I can't, I've got a rat on my leg that's as big as a cat. It's staring me in the face. I'm blocked by a piece of metal on my right.' So he said, 'What are we going to do?' I said, 'How about if we stay with Fisk, see what happens?' "

The live TV shot followed the ball, but the Fisk wave showed up on replays and quickly entered into the annals of baseball highlight immortality.

It gave rise to cameramen and women filming more player reactions -- like Joe Carter's leap or Kirk Gibson's first pump or Jose Bautista's bat flip. It also notched Lou an Emmy.

All thanks to a rat (part of a long line of Fenway rats).

2. The Midges

Taking advantage of an unseasonably warm October in Ohio, a swarm of midges flew from their nests on Lake Erie in search of mates on Oct. 5, 2007. Although some probably found partners that night, the majority seemed to take a liking to Joba Chamberlain's face -- producing one of the greatest GIFs of all time.

The Yankees' phenom reliever, who'd been absolutely unhittable during his '07 rookie campaign, had come in for the eighth inning to protect a 1-0 lead in Game 2 of the ALDS. Then, the bugs descended upon Jacobs Field and Joba came undone. He walked two batters, hit another and threw two wild pitches -- allowing the Indians to tie up the game, 1-1. Travis Hafner hit a walk-off single for the Indians in the 11th and Cleveland ended up taking the series, 3 games to 1. 

Chamberlain later learned that all the insect repellent trainers and coaches were putting on him was actually attracting more midges. 

"That would have been nice to know at the time," he said with a laugh.

The Indians lost to the eventual World Series champion Red Sox in the ALCS. To this day, the midges continue to haunt Cleveland (and Joba Chamberlain).

1. The Squirrel

Squirrels

The Rally Squirrel, which made its triumphant return for the Cardinals just last week, first showed up in the 2011 NLDS in St. Louis. Not only did it show up, but, many experts firmly believe it catapulted the Cards to a World Series victory.

The Cardinals were facing elimination in that Game 4, but won and then won again to advance to the NLCS. The rodent not only haunted pitcher Roy Oswalt by running across the batter's box, but it also popped out to surprise him again in Game 5 as he was walking to the bullpen. Phillies manager Charlie Manuel wanted it dead.

Nevertheless, the power of the squirrel took over the city and its fans -- becoming a good-luck charm en route to the franchise's 11th Fall Classic title.

Rally

There was even a mascot!

mascot

Reliever Octavio Dotel swore by the creature's ability to influence the outcome of games.

"Somebody threw [a stuffed squirrel] to us, like making fun of us," Dotel said. "They didn't know that it's our good luck; they gave us good luck to our bullpen and that's why the bullpen has been so great lately."