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Ryan Inzana

3 Animals on the Baseball Field

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Ryan Inzana

Back in the 1880s, one clever Phillies fan enlisted carrier pigeons to keep his colleagues at work updated with the latest scores. But other critters haven’t always been that welcome at the ballpark.

1. FOWL BALL

It takes less than half a second for a ball to leave a pitcher’s hand and reach home plate. Which means it took a supremely unlucky dove to fly headfirst into one of Randy Johnson’s overpowering fastballs in 2001. The incident was ruled a nonpitch, as though it never happened—a call the bird community no doubt protests.

2. BAD NEWS CUBS

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The Cubs haven’t won a championship in over a century. Most fans would blame that drought on the owners or players, but the Cubs have a different scapegoat—a real goat. In 1945, William Sianis brought his pet, Murphy, to Wrigley Field. Late in the game, officials removed the pair, citing the odor. Sianis vowed the Cubs would never win a World Series as long as goats were banned from the stadium, and, after 105 years with a championship title, the curse seems to be working.

3. SAFETY GNATS

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The midges in Cleveland root for the home team. Or so it seemed during a pivotal playoff game in 2007. With the Yankees nursing a one-run lead over the hometown Indians, a swarm of bugs descended on the field, seemingly focusing their attention on Joba Chamberlain, New York’s rookie pitcher. The gnats were so distracting that Chamberlain threw a wild pitch that tied the game, setting up the Yanks for an extra-inning loss.

This story originally appeared in an issue of mental_floss magazine. Subscribe here.

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video
Seattle Mariners Fans Are Going Crazy for These Crunchy Grasshopper Snacks
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Great Big Story, Youtube

Seattle Mariners fans have more than warmed up to the newest, offbeat addition to the Safeco Field concessions menu: toasted grasshoppers covered in chili-lime salt.

The crunchy snack, which sells for $4 and comes packed in a small container, has only been available for less than a season but has already sold 300,000-plus orders to date. That's about 1000 pounds of grasshoppers. 

Frequenters of Seattle's popular Mexican restaurant Poquitos will know that this delicacy—which first started as a novelty item on its menu—has actually been available to the public for six years. But it wasn't until local chef Ethan Stowell was hired to give the Safeco Field menu a hip retooling that the salty bugs found new, fervent popularity at the ballpark. (Also on the Safeco menu: fried oysters drizzled in hot sauce.)

Great Big Story met up with Manny Arce, the executive chef of Poquitos and visionary behind this culinary home run, to discuss the popularity of these crunchy critters. You can watch the video interview below:

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History
The First High Five Recorded in the History of Sports
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Denis Poroy/Getty Images

We don’t quite know who invented the high five—but we can pinpoint the moment it became inextricably linked with sports, which the short documentary The High Five explores below.

On October 2, 1977, Los Angeles Dodgers leftfielder Dusty Baker scored his 30th home run, making the team the first in history to have four players—Baker, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, and Reggie Smith—with at least 30 homers under each of their belts. Fellow outfielder Glenn Burke was so overwhelmed with joy and pride, he raised his arm and slapped his flat palm against the victorious athlete’s own palm. The moment transformed Baker and Burke into legends.

Sadly, the latter player faced hard times ahead: Burke was gay, and it’s believed that his sexuality prompted team officials to trade him to the Oakland A's the following year. In Oakland, Burke clashed with team manager Billy Martin, then retired early from baseball. Today, Burke is remembered for his charisma and talent—and for transforming a simple gesture into a universal symbol. “To think his energy and personality was the origin of that, that’s a pretty good legacy,” sportswriter Lyle Spencer says in the film.

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