May 7 is a big day in Oakland A’s history. It’s the date that Mike Fiers threw his no-hitter in 2019, the 13th no-no in franchise lore. That’s easily the most notable human achievement on that date, but expand to the rest of the animal kingdom and you’ll find another fun memory that proved to be even more impactful.
On May 7, 1990, with the A’s hosting the Yankees at the Coliseum, a cat ran onto the field and interrupted the game. After scampering around for a bit, she finally made her way into the A’s dugout and play resumed. After the game she was taken in by manager Tony La Russa, who named her Evie and looked for a shelter to place her in.
However, when La Russa and his wife Elaine tried to find a no-kill shelter, they discovered there were none in the entire East Bay. So, they made their own non-profit to find new homes for dogs and cats who were facing euthanization, calling it the Animal Rescue Foundation. Three decades later, ARF is now a nationwide institution and a highly rated charity.
Check out this writeup by John Hickey of Sports Illustrated for more details on the story, and watch some video footage below.
Thirty years ago today, a scared cat found herself on the field during an @Athletics game at the Oakland Coliseum. The rest, as they say, is history… pic.twitter.com/OIRNFJ81ex— ARF (@ARFtweets) May 7, 2020
Fiers’ no-hitter was great in the context of the sport itself, but Evie’s on-field adventure 30 years ago helped leave an even more lasting, positive mark on the world outside of baseball.
Of course, Evie is far from the only animal to make her presence known on an MLB field. Heck, she’s not even the only cat in Coliseum history, as noted by A’s Director of Minor League Operations, Zak Basch.
Seems like a good time to remind everyone that decades later, cats are still being rescued from the Coliseum. I found this guy there in 2016 and he’s still the best. https://t.co/5M4UhApvtD pic.twitter.com/LcRiFDfua4— Zak Basch (@zakbasch) May 8, 2020
The A’s have also encountered cats on the road, as you can see at the 1:32 mark in this video.
But perhaps the most famous Coliseum animal of the 21st century is the Rally Possum, who first showed up in 2014. With the A’s and Rays locked in extra innings, a possum scurried around on the field for a minute (video link) before disappearing back into the bowels of the stadium. The A’s then immediately loaded the bases and won the game on a walk-off single by Derek Norris, securing the possum’s place as a good-luck charm.
Five days later, there was another possum sighting at the Coliseum.
Possums also made a couple more appearances in 2015 (link 1, link 2), and there’s every reason to expect we’ll see them again in the future. One thing that doesn’t seem to change in any of the videos is that Glen Kuiper is not here for possums and he doesn’t care who knows it.
Not every animal who shows up at A’s games does so by accident, though. When the club was still in Kansas City in the 1965, then-owner Charlie Finley procured a mule to serve as the team’s new mascot. The mule was named Charlie-O and became a consistent presence around the A’s for the next decade, and for a brief period their relief pitchers would enter games by riding him out from the bullpen to the mound. The Athletic shares a story from ‘65 in which Finley, having already been denied permission to bring his mule into the White Sox stadium, hilariously smuggled Charlie-O into the dugout anyway, resulting in a 10-minute delay for that day’s game.
Oh, and while she’s never disturbed any actual game action, we can’t talk about A’s animals without mentioning Reba the Groundsdog.
Head Groundsdog Reba is doing a h*ckin good job preparing the field for tonight’s celebration. @dog_rates #OpeningNight pic.twitter.com/A1GMxOrA3G— Oakland A's (@Athletics) March 30, 2018
What about the rest of the league? There are too many animal encounters to count them all, but here are a few famous highlights.
- Arguably the most famous example is Randy Johnson accidentally hitting a dove with a pitch during a 2001 spring training game. The bird took a flight path between the mound and plate, and happened to pass by right as the Big Unit was unleashing his next offering, resulting in a direct hit and an exploding cloud of feathers. Here’s a four-minute documentary on the incident (narrated by the bird), which involved Johnson nearly getting sued by PETA for a ridiculous charge of animal cruelty.
- An even older classic is the black cat that interrupted a 1969 game between the Mets and Cubs during a tight pennant race. It didn’t change that game, as New York was already leading and held on to win. However, some cited it as another curse on the Cubs, who had been in first place all season before collapsing down the stretch and opening the door for the Miracle Mets to pass them and eventually win the World Series.
- In the 2011 NLDS series between the Cardinals and Phillies, the original Rally Squirrel made appearances in multiple postseason games at Busch Stadium.
- More recently, another Rally Squirrel showed up in Minnesota, leading to an actual game-changing rally for the Twins. Here’s a play-by-play breakdown by Jomboy.
- Back to the Cardinals. This time it was a cat, in 2017 against the Royals, with St. Louis facing a one-run deficit. After a lengthy delay while a groundskeeper awkwardly retrieved the cat, Yadier Molina hit the very next pitch over the wall for a go-ahead grand slam.
- Here are some skunks hanging out on a warning track last year.
- This bird montage begins with a Khris Davis highlight, and also includes a Coco Crisp blooper.
- This video montage features some Coliseum seagulls around the 7-minute mark, and Josh Reddick reacting accordingly.
- A couple more worthwhile animal lists from Cut4: Link 1, Link 2
- The non-baseball division features Kevin Harlan’s radio call of a cat during Monday Night Football; more videos (this time including dogs!); and this roundup of photos by The Atlantic.
But perhaps my favorite clip comes from Miami, with some background music added in post.
You know what they say, titanic song does make everything better pic.twitter.com/uJyCTaLvax— pete rogers (@petemrogers) April 12, 2017
Soar as high as your dreams can take you, little buddy.