Sports Safari! When Wildlife Meets The Sporting Life
There is nothing worse than when a game or sporting event gets delayed due to inclement weather. Nobody wants to deal with lightning and rain or suffocating heat that makes play unbearable.
However, not all game delays are obnoxious.
On rare occasions, fans are gifted an amazing moment when animals decide to join the party. From pets to wildlife, these athletes have had run-ins that left a regular game with unforgettable moments in hilarious and bizarre fashion.
Batman is Born
It’s plenty easy to hate the San Antonio Spurs. They’re one of, if not the most dominant franchise in professional sports. That being said, one of the few players on the team who always remained beloved by all NBA fans is Manu Ginobili.
The Argentine baller plays with a cool swagger, always walking the walk rather than running his mouth.
There’s no better example of Ginobili being one bad man than the night he earned his “Batman” nickname by taking down a… spoiler alert… bat.
Whatever full moon witchery made this happen in 2009, bravo, because this spooky standoff between Ginobili and a bat went down on Halloween. Too perfect.
The Spurs were hosting the Sacramento Kings when a bat swooped down, delaying the game until Ginobili slapped it out of the air and scooped it up as if nothing even happened.
No, this wasn’t Ginobili putting on a tough guy act. Even his postgame interview made light of it like it was no big deal:
“When you can’t dunk anymore, you have to find a way to make it into the news. So that’s what I did. I grabbed a bat. I didn’t’ think it was a big deal. Then the whole arena started chanting my name.”
As it turns out, even Batman needs to play it safe and get rabies shots.
No Fly Zone
There was nothing special about the matchup between the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants on March 24, 2001. It was just another Spring Training game.
The only real attraction was that The Big Unit, Randy Johnson, was commanding the mound.
The lefty’s legendary arm had already achieved mythic status, and he would go on to win the World Series later that year, but it was the seventh inning of this exhibition game that solidified his status as an unparalleled menace on the mound.
In the seventh inning, with Calvin Murray at the plate, Johnson unleashed a 105-mph heater. As soon as Johnson released the ball – we’re talking milliseconds – a dove swoops right into the line of fire.
At the snap of a finger, a baseball diamond turned into the aftermath of a war zone.
“It exploded, feathers and everything, just ‘poof!’ There were nothing but feathers laying on home plate. I never saw the ball, nothing but feathers,” Murray said of the insane incident.
The “interference” was chalked up to a no pitch. Unfortunately, there was no redo for the dove. RIP.
May the legend of the Rally Squirrel live on forever in the hearts of MLB fans.
The St. Louis Cardinals may have a bird as its official mascot, but the beloved squirrel that made its first public appearance in 2011 has certainly earned its place as an honorary member of the team.
It all went down during the National League Division Series between the Cards and Philadelphia Phillies.
The squirrel first ran out on the field in Game 3, causing a game delay, but that wasn’t its last appearance.
In Game 4, Rally Squirrel returned with a vengeance.
In the bottom of the fifth, Skip Schumaker was at bat for the Cards, facing pitcher Roy Oswalt. With a 1-1 count, the squirrel tore across home plate as Schumaker threw inside for a ball.
Schumaker and manager Charlie Manuel argued for a no pitch to no avail. Though it hadn’t crossed the plate yet, the squirrel did appear to be in his line of vision.
The Cards won that game and, strangely enough, the squirrel saga continued in Philly. Before Game 5 began, a squirrel reportedly aggressively ran at none other than Oswalt. That same day, a Philly fan chucked a stuffed squirrel into St. Louis’ bullpen that pitcher Octavio Dotel held onto.
That stuffed squirrel enjoyed some champagne compliments of Dotel when the Cards won the NLCS. By the end of the postseason, the Cards (and Rally Squirrel) were World Series champs.
Problematic Pine Marten
An association football game in 2013 between FC Thun and the FC Zurich of the Swiss Super League went from mundane to mayhem in the cutest way imaginable when a pine marten burst out onto the field.
“Burst” really is an accurate description, because the little critter looked like a super athlete rushing out on the field right at the ball.
When play was blown dead to take care of the pine marten, a Yakety Sax looking chase ensued.
Even though Thun was home, it was then-Zurich defender Loris Benito who came out the hero after his dramatic attempt to end the small streaker’s time in the spotlight.
Benito was not messing around, squaring up and pouncing at it like a linebacker.
The Swiss defenseman executed a perfect dive, scooping the pine marten in one swift maneuver. The field invader didn’t go down with out a bite, getting a nice nibble of Benito’s finger.
Benito eventually won the war, handing the four-legged streaker off to be removed from the field, but not before taking a chomp that’d force him to receive rabies shots to be safe.
Mantis, Marlins and Morrison
In 2011, the Florida Marlins were on the road, facing the Washington Nationals, when they were unexpectedly greeted by guest in the dugout.
The Marlins were wrapping up an 11-2 blowout over the Nats when a praying mantis made a surprise appearance.
The ninth inning visitor made a nice home for itself on the back of pitcher Clay Hensley’s jersey, eventually making its way up to the top of his hat. Hensley looked to get along great with his new fan.
When a curious Logan Morrison approached, that wasn’t quite the case.
With the praying mantis enjoying its spot on the dugout fence, Morrison walked over to offer a wave “hello.”
Clearly, the gesture was lost in translation, because the praying mantis lunged at Morrison, who promptly made clear he was not too cool with bugs.
Morrison’s teammates got a good laugh, as he thrashed around like there were bees in his shirt as it casually hung out on his shoulder before finally falling off.
While Hensley walked away from the game looking like Dr. Doolittle compared to Morrison, at least they both got the win.
Land Speed Record
NASCAR witnessed one of its greatest racers of all time in 2016 at the Michigan International Speedway.
This animal appearance came in the form of a groundhog, and a speedy one at that. This fella absolutely lit up the racetrack.
The speedy groundhog ended up setting a track record! Of course, that “track record” was for animals, coming in hot at a whopping 4.9 mph. Wooh!
As far as forcing an entire NASCAR race to stop, it sure must’ve been worth it to witness groundhog greatness.
The ridiculous stoppage on the track was full of fun, as one track worker, fully decked out in a helmet and gloves, helplessly attempted to stop the groundhog on his own with a shovel to no avail.
When the shifty speedster burned by the first worker, it was the next man on the track’s time to be a hero. It attempted to juke helmet No. 2, but this guy was a real pro. With one fell swoop of his trusty bucket, the groundhog’s incredible run finally reached its end.
The St. Louis Cardinals are pulling some kind of Snow White magic during their baseball games, because wildlife seems to flock to them.
In 2017, the Cards were hosting the Kansas City Royals when an adorable interruption appeared on-field.
It was a crucial moment in the game for the Cards. Down 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth, Yadier Molina was at the plate with two outs and the bases loaded when a kitten came zooming out across center field.
The feral kitty sped past KC center fielder Lorenzo Cain all the way back to the warning track until a grounds crew member finally caught up to it. He picked up the little fella only to receive a nasty chomp on his hand… followed by another big bite.
Molina clearly made the most of the delay, because when the game resumed, he cranked a grand slam that would end up bringing in the deciding runs for the win. Thus, feral kitty earned its “Rally Cat” stripes.
The cardinal had better watch its back, because with the extra effort these other animals are putting in, its mascot job security may not be a lock.
Cody Gribble, Gator Grab
Just because the NFL is a tough guy factory churning out Incredible Hulks on a constant basis doesn’t mean the PGA doesn’t have some athletes who are just as fearless.
Cody Gribble is a poster boy of proving golfers are far from tame.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Fla., has been a PGA Tour staple for over 50 years. While it’s had its fair share of unforgettable moments, Gribble’s casual encounter with an alligator is right up there with the most unbelievable.
It can’t be stressed enough just how absurdly casual Gribble really was as he walked right up to an alligator posted up by the water. With the gator looking the other way and apparently completely oblivious to anyone around, Gribble strolled right up to it with his hands in his pockets.
Barely even breaking his stride, Gribble leaned over and gave its tail a love tap.
The reptile was just as shocked as everyone watching and dove into the water to escape whatever could be crazy enough to actually come up to it.
Gribble just put his hand back in his pocket and offered little more than a short laugh as he carried on down the fairway.
The Bug Game
Some call it the “Midges Game,” others simply refer to it as the “Bug Game,” but everyone can agree that it’s best described as “gross.”
Turn back to October 5, 2007, when the Cleveland Indians hosted the New York Yankees in Game 2 of the ALDS.
Entering the eighth inning, the Yanks had rookie closer Joba Chamberlain on the mound trying to close out a 1-0 lead. An unseasonably warm October night made that a difficult task for Chamberlain when a plague of midges overtook the field.
Chamberlain walked one batter then, after throwing a wild pitch, was so distraught by the infestation that the game was briefly stopped to hose down the team with bug spray.
Little did Chamberlain or the rest of the team know… midges are actually ATTRACTED to the repellant.
Disaster ensued, as the midges continued to barrage Chamberlain, who threw another erratic pitch that ended up driving in the game-tying run. Cleveland would capitalize in extra innings to win the game.
Grossly disappointing as the game was, Chamberlain was able to look back and laugh at the situation, recalling how an end of the year auction actually sold off the infamous can of bug spray. He even met the kid who bought it at the following year’s Spring Training.
Rough Times for the Rockies
There must be something about the Colorado Rockies that rubs bees the wrong way, because it wouldn’t be Spring Training for the team without a good old fashioned swarm of bees taking over the field.
A true American pastime.
The team’s first major run-in with a hive came in 2012. The Rockies didn’t enjoy much success through the season, but at least escaping this Spring Training game against the Arizona Diamondbacks unscathed was a victory.
In the fifth inning, a swarm surrounded a camera box next to the Rockies box and, after a brief delay, they just had to deal with their guests for the rest of the game.
In 2017, the bees were back for more spring training action, this time with the San Diego Padres alongside in the line of fire.
The game was almost over with two outs in the top of the ninth when everyone suddenly had to drop to the ground to avoid getting stung from the surprise attack.
Oddly enough, the Padres had already had to duck for cover a few weeks earlier when a swarm came buzzing in during the team’s batting practice.
Take notes, baseball fans with bee allergies. Rooting for the Rockies (and apparently the Pads) must be done at your own risk.
Professional golfer Andrew Loupe had one of his better outings on the PGA Tour in 2014 at the Puerto Rico Open.
Loupe ended up finishing the tournament tied for 12th place, but not before running into quite an entertaining roadblock first.
Nearing the end of the final round, Loupe made his way onto the green of the 16th hole when a disgruntled fan tried to ruin the golfer’s day.
An iguana waddled up to the Loupe’s ball, curiously sizing up the white sphere (likely thinking it was an egg of some sort).
The iguana looked to satiate its curiosity with an unsuccessful chomp followed by another unsuccessful nibble before guiltily taking off and running for safety in a sea of cattails.
Luckily, the iguana tried biting off more than it could chew and was only able to knock it around a bit.
The best part of the iguana finding out that this “egg” was the inedible sort was how guilty it looked the whole way through.
Each time it went in to bite the ball it would look up like it knew it was being watched before going back in for another try. That is one shady lizard.
Run Birded In
A 2009 showdown between the Kansas City Royals and Cleveland Indians ended thrilling (and bizarre) fashion when a 4-4 tie went into extra innings.
The Indians once again proved that home field advantage is a very real thing in Cleveland.
After the attack of the midges in 2007 against the Yankees, it was another flying obstruction that came to the team’s aid.
In the bottom of the 10th, Shin-Soo Choo stepped up to the plate for the Indians with runners on base when something amazing happened.
Choo swung away and made contact, sending the ball to shallow center right where a flock of seagulls happened to be.
The ball came crashing down, scaring the gulls and sending them off to escape the mysterious object.
It was the perfect description, as Royals outfielder Coco Crisp went in for what should have been a relatively routine grab only to completely lose sight of the white ball surrounded by other white flying objects.
Crisp narrowly missed the ball, and the winning run came in with ease. Shout out Cleveland wildlife for being the team’s most involved fanbase.
This one may not have been during a professional game, but the insanity of the situation is simply too good to pass up.
Florida continually impresses with its one-stop shop ability to deliver some of the craziest headlines on a consistent basis, and this falls right in line.
Alligators are a relatively “common” hazard of sorts on particular southern golf courses by bodies of water, but the Buffalo Creek Golf Club in Palmetto, Fla., seriously cranked up the intensity.
It’s believed that alligators are the least changed of all living reptiles from prehistoric times – this sighting confirms that gators are straight up dinosaurs walking amongst us.
In a 2016 video that is so unreal it was legitimately believed to be CGI for some time, a gargantuan gator lumbers across the fairway as it makes its way to a nearby lake.
The Floridians who stopped their game to watch the dino crossing casually filmed the scene as if there was no danger at all.
When the first video went viral, the public got an extra gift after another golfer released a video from an even closer view of the beast up close.
Luckily, these golfers got to leave their little Jurassic Park excursions on their own two feet rather than inside that monster’s belly.
Seattle Mariners, Bald Eagle
It is hard to imagine that there will ever be a more patriotic interruption in the history of sports than what went down before a MLB game between the Minnesota Twins and Seattle Mariners game in April 2018.
Twins fans were in for quite a treat at Target Field during the national anthem when an American moment for the ages happened.
An American eagle was supposed to come swooping down to land on its handler’s arm, but it decided on a different target.
Instead of the handler, the eagle decided that Mariners pitcher James Paxton’s shoulder looked like a much better landing zone.
Paxton, who just so happens to be Canadian, handled the situation like a champ, embracing the massive bird and keeping cool as it confusedly hopped on and off his back.
Maybe the eagle was trying to convert the Canadian, or maybe it had a special place in its heart for its new northern friend… its name is “Big Maple” after all.
As for the fans, they got to enjoy watching an American eagle give the visiting pitcher a scary surprise and watch their team walk away with a 4-2 win.
Pets on the Pitch
There are all sorts of reasons – sometimes it’s to raise awareness about a current event while other times it’s for little more than to show the world what they’re working with.
In this case, it’s just a doggo wanting to get a little loving.
A 2017 game between Belgrano and Quilmes in Argentina’s top-tier Primera Division was nearing the end of the first half when a streaker came rushing onto the field.
Of course, everyone can agree the streaker was still a very good boy, considering it was a doggo.
To make matters even cuter, the puppy ran out on the field just to get some good belly rub action from the player.
Unlike us humans who actively try to escape security, after this doggo got some good pets in, it let itself be picked up and carried off the field.
Always rememember: You scratch a pup’s belly, it’ll scratch yours… or something like that.