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A Bird in the Hand

What happens when local wildlife decides to interfere with a baseball game? A stadium full of peanuts, popcorn and other leftover morsels is hard for local flocks to pass up, so it’s actually quite shocking that more bird to baseball collisions haven’t happened over the years. The rules regarding wildlife obstruction vary from situation to situation, and if an animal encounter happens in the stands, all you can do is run for your life. Let’s look at a few of the most famous examples of the meetings between the animal kingdom and baseball.

1. Randy Johnson murders a bird Everyone knows this one. In a 2001 Spring Training game, the Big Unit unwound one of his patented sidearm fastballs and it collided mid air with an unfortunate bird, resulting in a fantastic explosion of feathers and a stadium full of dumbfounded ballplayers. So, what’s the ruling from the umpire? Ball, strike, or no pitch? There is no specific rule in the MLB rulebook regarding an animal interrupting the flight of a pitched ball before it reaches the batter, so in that case Rule 9.01(c) comes into play. Rule 9.01(c) basically gives the Umpire discretion to make the “fairest” ruling, which in this case is to call a no-pitch.

2. Cleveland gulls help home team win In 2009, a hungry flock of gulls landed on the field in the bottom of the 10th inning in a game between the Indians and the Royals. Shin-Soo Choo struck a ball to center which deflected off of one of the over 2 dozens grazing birds, causing Royals centerfielder Coco Crisp to misplay the ball, which rolled to the wall and proved that the universe hates the Royals. In this case, MLB regulation states “If a batted or thrown ball strikes a bird or other animal on the playing field, consider the ball alive and in play, the same as if it had not touched the bird or animal.” So the animal is in play, and it’s probably going to try to make your life hell. Animals are mean spirited like that.

3. Hawk attacks in Fenway In 2008 a 13 year old girl named Alexa Rodriguez(!) was attacked by a hawk at a game in Fenway Park. It was the most epic collision of feathers, hair and blood since Pedro whupped Don Zimmer.

As a final note, legends has it that we have a rat to thank for one of the most famous baseball broadcast shots ever. Traditionally, cameramen allows followed the flight of the ball once it was struck, but the story goes that the left field cameraman was so distracted by a rat in the booth that he left the camera on Fisk, and so the world got to see him waving his arms to will the ball fair.