Rally Time!

by: Rich Daniels

Look around the ballpark late in the game and, if the home team is trailing, you'll probably see them. Rally Caps. 

From the dugout to the luxury boxes to the cheap seats, the superstition is observed in an effort to will a late-inning comeback. Just turn your ball cap inside out, slap it back on your head and you're part of the rally. But where did this idea come from?

Dial the clock back 76 years to 1942, believe it or not. The Detroit Tigers faced difficult times with the likes of Hank Greenberg and other main players having headed off to serve our country in World War II and one of the remaining players, no one knows for certain which one, decided to surrender his dignity by turning his cap inside out to loosen things up in the tense moments of the team trailing late in a game. It must have worked because the practice was adopted by a few more members of the team and continued over several seasons.

When the big stars returned to the major leagues, there seemed to be no room for the rally cap and it was not seen for decades. Then in 1977, the Texas Rangers, in just their sixth season of existence since moving from Washington, felt they needed a lift during a dismal campaign. Again, no one really knows which players started it, caps began being turned inside out late in games and enough of them must have felt it worked because they kept doing it. This time, however, fans had the advantage of television coverage and saw what the players were doing. The team's radio and television broadcasters got wise and began talking about it, something new and fun to discuss amidst a difficult season.

The Rally Cap had found its niche.

The cap was seen sporadically over the next few seasons but it didn't become a regular practice by any team until 1985 when the fun-loving New York Mets picked up on it. The boys from Queens were adding talent and becoming relevant in more and more games. Winning more often provides the opportunity for more late-inning comebacks. The rally caps started appearing in the dugout and the bullpen and all it took was a couple of come-from-behind wins for the practice to take off. When the Mets went to the legendary 1986 World Series and donned their rally caps during their iconic Game Six rally, there was no looking back.

Since then, the Rally Cap has evolved in some ways, although the traditional inside-out configuration is still the most popular. 

Other forms of the cap are used like "The Shark" or "Jaws" created by folding the backside of the cap inward resulting in a half-cap shape exactly like new caps are displayed in stores. Now put the cap on with the bill sticking straight up like a dorsal fin on the top of your head and you're ready to rally! Fittingly (no pun intended) The Shark was on full display in the dugout for the team from Hawaii during Sunday's Little League World Series final. There's also "The Kid", created by just turning your cap backwards the way Ken Griffey, Jr. used to wear his all the time. Another kind of rally cap is loosely referred to as the "Drive In" where you take the Shark and just rotate the cap so the bill, still sticking straight up from your head, now stretches ear-to-ear presenting a lateral flat surface resembling a movie screen. A lesser known form of the Rally Cap is the "One Flap Down" which was possibly inspired by the home run trot of the same name briefly popularized by Giants outfielder Jeffrey Leonard who chugged around the bases with one arm straight down by his side in a demonstration of dominance over the pitcher who just served up a home run ball to him. Take the traditional inside-out cap and turn the bill to one side of your head for the "One Flap Down'. 

Participation has become the key in the Rally Cap's popularity and, much like many good things in the game, that enthusiasm has spread to other forms of late-inning fervor. 

The Angels had the Rally Monkey, a clip played on the stadium video screen depicting a capuchin monkey adorned in an Angels jersey edited to appear as though it was cheering on the team. The Cardinals used the media attention the random scampering of a grey squirrel across the field in the 2011 National League Division Series as a good omen and began playing that and other video clips of squirrels to spur late inning enthusiasm led by their new unofficial mascot, the "Rally Squirrel". A World Series win that year was all anyone needed to know it worked. And the Tigers got back in on the rally trend in 2006 when pitcher Nate Robertson jammed a huge wad of bubble gum into his mouth to help induce a late-inning rally. The "Rally Gum" seemed to work and Robertson spent the rest of that season stuffing gum into his mouth at such a prodigious rate that it nearly filled his entire mouth at one point. 

The Rally Cap and other late-inning enthusiasm are now fixtures in the fabric of the game. You can spot it all over the country at all levels of the game. It's a means for players to alleviate the sometimes intense pressure of the game's toughest set of conditions and also a way for fans to go the extra mile in supporting their teams.

Just know that when you see a Rally Cap, you're witnessing fun in action. So don't be shy. Turn that cap inside-out, give your dignity a brief rest and support your team to the fullest!

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Daniels,
    The rally cap is amazing. I was at a minor league game just the other night working the sound when another amazing employee and I decided to put on the rally cap! The rest of the crew had no faith, but we weathered the storm of derision to support our team in the face of certain defeat; with the knowledge that our rally caps would spur the players on to better hits, pitches, catches, and a win! Alas, it was not to be, but dang was it fun!