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Baseball rituals have lost their uniqueness

Pies, walk-off celebrations, throwing back homers more copycat than creative

OK, this is ridiculous.

If nothing else, it is redundant.

Here's just one example why a slew of baseball rituals deserve more yawns than applauds. As soon as Oakland Athletics rookie Derek Norris reached home plate last weekend after his walk-off blast against the San Francisco Giants, he (all together now) flipped off his helmet, and then he (uh-huh) jumped on the plate with (you've guessed it) nearly everybody in Alameda County surrounding him.

That "thing" has gotten old, and so have a bunch of other things that suddenly have become baseball rituals.

Or shall I say ripped-off baseball rituals.

The throwing of home run balls back onto the field. Somebody smashing a shaving-cream pie into the face of a teammate being interviewed. All of the Rally (fill in the blank). On and on we can go, but these rank high among the primary offenders.

That said, even though I am a traditionalist, who still cringes at the thought of baseball without sunshine at Wrigley Field, I don't have a problem with those who give birth to a particular "thing." I'm perturbed by players, fans and teams in general who take somebody else's thing and pretend it is their thing to the point of making the original thing irrelevant.

The bottom line is, only folks who invented a particular thing in baseball should have the right to do it. Otherwise it should go the way of flannel uniforms.

You know, get rid of those things.

Like The Silent Thing.

A guy hits a home run, rounds the bases and returns to the dugout to find his teammates, coaches and manager acting as if they are preparing for a funeral. After a while, everybody celebrates, with all of this supposedly coming as a surprise to the home-run guy.

The Silent Thing happens so often these days that it appears to be part of the Official Baseball Rules of the Major Leagues.

Just this year, it happened after the slumping Albert Pujols ripped his first homer for the Los Angeles Angels. It happened after Nick Punto slammed a shot into the second deck of Rogers Centre in Toronto for the Boston Red Sox. It happened after Casey McGehee hit his first homer as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

It also happened after Atlanta Braves rookie Andrelton Simmons ripped the first home run of his career, and I'll expound on this one.

When Simmons returned to the Braves dugout, all of his teammates ignored him. They didn't even look in his direction despite his homer pushing the Braves closer to victory. Then, out of nowhere, they all leaped from their seats, formed the widest of smiles and rushed to congratulate the star of the moment.

Simmons told reporters afterward, "I saw the guys sitting down. I've got a good read on them. I knew what they were doing."

See what I'm saying?

The first time The Silent Thing was done, great. Funny. Clever. But now? Who cares? And the same goes for my opening examples. In no particular order, let's return to that "throwing back of the home run" thing that should only be a Chicago Cubs thing.

I mean, the Cubs haven't much of anything else to cherish, so why take even that away from them?

You shouldn't.

You should remember that, along the way to the Cubs' infamous collapse of 1969, the Bleacher Bums became particularly vibrant. As a result, they began an oddity by throwing back home run balls that were slammed into their midst by sluggers from the opposing teams. Just like that, a Wrigley Field tradition was born.

It was only a Wrigley Field tradition for years -- and even for decades -- and then it wasn't. It was everywhere, and it foreshadowed what would happen with The Shaving Cream Pie Thing.

Unlike the Cubs' tradition with home-run balls, the genesis of The Shaving Cream Pie Thing is more difficult to determine. But it was at least prominent during the early 1990s in Philadelphia, where reliever Mitch Williams loved smashing shaving cream pies into the faces of his fellow Phillies during interviews.

That heightened as a Phillies tradition entering the 21st century when Tomas Perez became the team's unofficial Pie Man.

Nearly a decade later, it also became a Yankees tradition, with A.J. Burnett primarily doing the honors. He switched the ingredients of the pie from shaving cream to whipped cream, which was good. Not only was it more soothing to the eyes of those being smacked, but it didn't totally rip off the Phillies' pie tradition -- or whoever invented it.

The Rally Cap Thing belonged solely to the 1985 New York Mets (if you don't include its cameo appearances with the Texas Rangers during the late 1970s). To promote rallies, Mets players turned their caps inside out or put them on backward, and they continued the practice through 1986 along the way to a World Series championship.

You've guessed it.

Copy cats followed.

If that wasn't enough, baseball went from The Rally Cap to the Rally Monkey, which actually was an ingenious idea. In 2002, the Angels started playing a video of a jumping monkey on their video screen at home games to inspire players and fans. It helped propel the team to a World Series title.

Nine years after that, the St. Louis Cardinals countered with their Rally Squirrel.


So much for uniqueness, and the Rally Squirrel following the Rally Monkey and the Rally Cap isn't it. Still, given the ties of St. Louis and the Cardinals to Clydesdales and a certain brewery, the Cardinals do play that Budweiser jingle during every home game.

Nobody else can do that with a straight face.

Then again, I was there in Oakland in October 1981 when something called The Wave made its national television debut. It seemed as if that crowd-pleasing thing would be the Athletics' "thing" forever.

You know the rest.

Terence Moore is a columnist for