A squirrel steals home plate? A pigeon provides kickoff coverage? Unlikely animal sports stars might be more than coincidence.
Things got a little wacky earlier this week in the National League Division Series game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies when a squirrel made a mad dash across home plate in the middle of an at bat:
Shortly after the squirrel’s appearance, the underdog Cardinals extended their 3-2 lead, winning 5-3 and pushing the series to a deciding fifth game, which will be played tonight. Some fans are crediting the “Rally Squirrel,” who even has a Twitter account, with inspiring the team to victory.
The story reminded me of other times animals have gone streaking across the field of play. There was a memorable one from a 2009 Oakland Raiders vs. Philadelphia Eagles game, and ESPN had a little fun with the clip on their highlight reel:
When I did a a little reserach, however, I discovered that for some of the Raiders players, the pigeon’s performance provided more than just a chuckle.
The Raiders had been devastated several months earlier when a teammate, Marquis Cooper, died in a boating accident.
According to the Contra Costa Times, several players—and Marquis’s mother—believed the pigeon was a sign from Marquis.
“That was Marquis out there with you guys,” one player recalled Marquis’s mother saying. “That was something else. I just saw it on the field, wondering why it was there. Once I saw it with us, covering the kick, it was special.”
Why did they believe the pigeon was anything other than a wayward bird? Well, Marquis was a star on special teams—covering kickoffs and punts. His job was to stay in his running lane, provide containment in case the kick returner made a break for the outside.
The pigeon lined up right at Marquis’s position. And executed the game plan to perfection.
We’ve heard many stories about how animals have appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, to protect a vulnerable family, warn about impending danger or provide comfort. Was the squirrel at Busch stadium just trying to get 15 minutes of fame? Or was its run across home plate a message from some recently departed St. Louis fan to surviving loved ones?
Or maybe it’s more obvious ... God blesses Cardinals.
Has an animal shown up unexpectedly in your life, seemingly to provide comfort or safety? Share your experience with us.