Something happens to people at Nationals Park when Gerardo Parra steps to the plate. They stand at attention, they extend their arms, they clap rhythmically, mindlessly, incessantly. They do it as if hypnotized by this lovable journeyman utility guy with the .234 average and .684 OPS.
It is the “Baby Shark” phenomenon, and it is baseball’s latest, strangest rallying cry in a long, long line of them.
From Tug McGraw’s “Ya Gotta Believe!” mantra to Harry Kalas singing “High Hopes,” to the 1979 Pirates betraying their birth certificates and claiming “We Are Family,” teams have used all sorts of songs, sentiments, slogans, symbols and superstitions on the road to MLB glory. Some rally cries have more staying power than others, and some have more success than others. But all of them have a place in baseball lore.
With “Baby Shark” firmly entrenched in our heads, let’s rank an admittedly incomplete list of 10 memorable gimmicky rally cries from a generation’s worth of teams that reached the World Series.
1) Angels: The Rally Monkey (2002)
On June 6, 2000, two evil-genius video-board operators named Dean Fraulino and Jaysen Humes took a clip of a monkey jumping from the “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” movie and superimposed the words “RALLY MONKEY!” over it. When the Angels came back to beat the Giants that night, a legend was born. And the legend was fully realized two years later when the Angels staved off World Series elimination and a 5-0 deficit in the seventh inning of Game 6 to beat the Giants and force a victorious Game 7.
That 2002 run was also audibly/annoyingly augmented by fans’ use of Thunder Sticks, but it’s the Rally Monkey that endures. Every other creature-turned-cheerleader since, no matter how successful, has been an homage or imitation. You don’t monkey with greatness.
2) Twins: The Homer Hanky (1987 and 1991)
A blizzard enveloping Minneapolis was nothing new, but the Oct. 7, 1987, debut of the Homer Hanky brought the whiteout indoors at the Metrodome, where fevered fans waved the white towels distributed by the Star Tribune newspaper as if the Twins’ fate depended on it (and maybe it did). It worked well for the Twins in that ’87 run to glory and again in ’91. But MLB had to institute a so-called “Homer Hanky Rule” preventing the distribution of white towels because of the impact it can have on players tracking fly balls.
Still, the Homer Hanky was back -- this time in red -- in 2019. But the “BOMBA SZN”-emblazoned hankies sold by the team and the Star Tribune couldn’t clean up the mess that was the American League Division Series vs. New York. Apparently Yankees are stronger than hankies.
3) Cardinals: The Rally Squirrel (2011)
There is an argument that the Rally Squirrel should rank ahead of the Rally Monkey, as it arrived on its own accord and not as part of a programmed video shtick. However, we can’t be entirely sure that this St. Louis-supporting rodent wasn’t familiar with the monkey’s work and wanted to try to replicate his impact.
What we know for sure is that a squirrel scampered onto the scene of Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium, briefly interrupting play. In Game 4, a squirrel (we choose to believe it was the same squirrel, only because that’s more fun) ran across home plate as Roy Oswalt threw a ball to Skip Schumaker. A squirrel (again, let’s choose to believe it was the same one) even ran across the warning track at Citizens Bank Park (885 miles away!) before Game 5. Clearly, this has something to do with the Wild Card-winning Cards upending the 102-win Phillies en route to one of the squirreliest World Series wins of all time.
4) Rays: Cowbells (2008)
Though the cowbell actually had a place in baseball in the 1940s, when a woman named Hilda Chester used to make her presence known from the center-field bleachers at Ebbets Field, it was reportedly the "More Cowbell” sketch from “Saturday Night Live,” in which Will Ferrell aggressively demonstrates the passionate bell-banging that went into the recording to Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” that struck a chord with Rays owner Stu Sternberg.
The Rays began having cowbell giveaways, and when the Rays caught fire in the fall of ’08, you couldn’t possibly squeeze “More Cowbell” into Tropicana Field. It was already filled to the gills with that ear-piercing sound.
5) Red Sox: “Sweet Caroline” (2013)
To be clear, “Sweet Caroline,” while a fairly recent phenomenon with respect to the long history of Fenway Park, was played at Boston’s hallowed home long before 2013. Amy Tobey, who helped make the music selections at Fenway, told MLB.com she played it during a 1997 game because someone she knew had just given birth to a baby named Caroline. The song later became an everyday staple of the in-park experience in 2002.
But 2013 was when the whole country sang “Sweet Caroline” for Bostonians. Neil Diamond himself performed the song at Fenway after the Boston Marathon bombings and donated royalties from the song to One Fund Boston. Other teams played it at their parks as a show of support. And then, the Sox went on a dramatic run to a World Series title that was “so good… so good… so good!” We’re torn here between the outright cheesiness and endearing earnestness of the song, so we’ll rank this one in the middle.
6) Nationals: “Baby Shark” (2019)
We don’t want to be prisoners of the moment, we don’t yet know the 2019 World Series result, and we don’t yet have the luxury of hindsight to conclude whether the “Baby Shark” phenomenon will stand as evidence of our ability to commingle in these otherwise divided times or our collective susceptibility to stupefying sounds. So we’ll put this one near the middle, too.
Parra’s 2-year-old daughter loved “Baby Shark,” so he selected it as his walk-up music while mired in a slump. The shark soon swallowed everyone in its path. And while the sight of 40,000 adults and children clapping along to a senseless song about a shark might seem crazy, is it really any crazier than the story of the 2019 Nats?
7) Indians: “This Is How We Do It” (1995)
The ’95 Indians had as power-packed a lineup as many of us have lived to see. They were flamboyant and fun and furious (well, OK, Albert Belle was furious) and had a flair for the dramatic, with 48 come-from-behind wins and 27 wins in their final at-bat in that strike-shortened season. After each one, they’d blast this Montell Jordan hit in their clubhouse, tip their cup and throw their hands up.
It worked until they ran into the buzzsaw that was the Atlanta Braves’ rotation, which apparently knew how to do it a different way.
8) White Sox: “Don’t Stop Believin’” (2005)
We can’t rank this one too high because it’s been incorporated in too many places, sports and otherwise. Motor City maniacs love to belt this tune out at sports events because of the geographically dubious reference to “South Detroit” (which is technically Windsor, Ontario). And given that Journey was formed in San Francisco, the Giants of the 2010s incorporated this song in the late innings of home games. That became awkward when they met the Royals in the 2014 World Series, because Kansas Citians had voted for “Don’t Stop Believin'” as a late-inning anthem, too.
But the White Sox were the first ones to journey with Journey to baseball’s Promised Land with this song as their soundtrack. A.J. Pierzynski, Aaron Rowand and Joe Crede heard it in a bar one night on the road, decided it fit the theme of the season and ran with it all the way to the franchise’s first title since 1917.
9) Giants: “Yes! Yes! Yes!” (2014)
This began with a WWE wrestler (or better put, yes-tler) named Daniel Bryan, who created the “Yes! Yes! Yes!” chant as a way to excite fans after a victory. Hunter Pence and Tyler Colvin adopted the chant in the Giants' dugout early in the 2014 season. And after the Giants clinched a Wild Card spot, Pence gave a speech to the AT&T Park crowd to instruct them how to do the “Yes! Yes! Yes!” during the playoffs.
Sure enough, the Giants went on to win it all, as used to be a biannual occurrence. And the “Yes! Yes! Yes!” was affirmative. But because the Giants had a lot of different rallying points in their run to three titles this decade (including the aforementioned “Don’t Stop Believin’” and Aubrey Huff’s rally thong), this one ranks low here.
10) Mets: “Who Let the Dogs Out” (2000)
This is most associated with the Mets, because this catastrophically catchy canine-themed ditty was the soundtrack to their run to the NL pennant. The Mets even had the Baha Men perform before Game 4 of the ill-fated Subway Series against the Yankees.
Let the record show, however, that five of the eight postseason teams in 2000 used “Who Let the Dogs Out” as their rally song that year. That’s in addition to its role with Ray Lewis and the Ravens in the lead-up to the 2001 Super Bowl and with the UConn Huskies women’s basketball powerhouse.
With this one, we do have the benefit of hindsight, and it seems fair to say that the fall of 2000 was not our finest hour as a society.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.