October 17, 2008
Now that we've solved the mystery of why baseball players are wearing all of those necklaces, let's move onto another ...
If you've watched a postseason game involving the surprising Tampa Bay Rays, you've probably asked yourself why the fans at Tropicana Field ring cowbells the entire game.
After all, the Tampa/St. Pete area isn't exactly known for its cattle production and none of the Rays players have bovine-related nicknames. What's more, the team is named after a sea citizen, not a farm animal and it plays baseball, not high school football (the sport where you're most likely to hear constant clanging).
No, there seems to be no obvious reason for why the cowbells have become synonymous with a team that holds a 3-2 ALCS edge over the Red Sox going into Saturday night's Game 6.
That is, until you realize the reason is the most obvious of all.
That's right. The entire Tampa Bay cowbell movement was borne out of the famous Saturday Night Live "More Cowbell" skit starring Christopher Walken, which first aired in 2000 but continues to have a cultural impact today.
According to this St. Petersburg Times article, the cowbells debuted at Tropicana Field at the 2006 home opener for no other reason than the team's new owner — Stuart Sternberg — thought the Walken sketch was hilarious. Believing that cowbells could become the Rays' version of the Angels' Rally Monkey, Sternberg asked the team's entertainment director if they could begin playing the claim of Walken's famous character that he had to have "more cowbell." The director did and a Tampa Bay tradition was born.
"The clip is drop-dead funny," Sternberg told the paper at the time. "It gets funnier and funnier each time. We'll bring in other bits, but I'm hoping this one becomes our — and the fans' — signature."
More than two years later, there's no doubt it has. The team's most famous fan is named The Cowbell Kid (that's him above), the team hands out cowbells as giveaways on select nights and a special video explaining "Cowbell Etiquette" is played at each Rays' home game.
Since the noisemakers are legal under MLB rules, it also gives them a decided homefield advantage when The Trop is full. According to this article, the Chicago White Sox took batting practice with piped-in cowbell noise before they played the Rays in the ALDS earlier this month.
Postseason Puzzler Status — Solved. (Now let's go ahead and try to set the record for most "More Cowbell" and "I have a fever" comments on one blog post.)
* * *
BONUS: The following are times when it is considered appropriate to ring a cowbell at Tropicana Field (from Cowbell Time):
1. When a Rays batter reaches base or scores a run.
2. When a Rays pitcher has two strikes on a hitter.
3. When the scoreboard asks for "More Cowbell."