A Fan's Gear: Octopiand Tennis Balls


During a telecast of the last baseball game of the season between the Detroit Tigers and the Toronto Blue Jays (when Detroit had to win three straight to win the AL East flag) the camera focused on a security officer carrying an object off the field.

An octopus.

Tim McCarver, calling the game for ABC, used his phenomenal recall of sports trivia--which he usually reserves for such subjects as Shakespeare and root canals--to reveal that the throwing of an octopus is a Detroit tradition. Detroit Red Wings' fans at the Cobo Arena frequently celebrated goals in big games by tossing an octopus on the ice.

McCarver was probably the only person in Tiger Stadium that day who knew this strange fact.

But the whole incident made me think of other times.

Other games.

When New York Giants fans showered their 1986-87 NFC champions with the ticker-tape parade Ed Koch would never hold.

When Reggie Jackson had money thrown to him after clouting three moonshots in one game against the Los Angeles Dodgers to win the 1978 World Series.

When Spiridon Louis had coins, jewels, and rings thrown in his path when he entered Olympic Stadium in Athens as the winner of the 1896 Olympic Marathon.

When, in a much less dramatic moment on opening day of the 1986 season, a "Fenway Bleacher Beachball" came floating into the bullpen, Bob Stanley promptly raked the soul out of the ball and got rocked when he came in to pitch the next inning.

And ice hockey games.

When reckless college students tied chickens to goalposts.

When noisemakers hooted endlessly at RPI games, creating such a defeaning roar that players could not hear the official's whistle. (The NCAA Competition Committee's "RPI Rule" now makes use of such rattles illegal).

When fish, not octopi, get tossed from the rafters simply because they're easier to smuggle into the arena.

And when tennis balls get tossed from the seats, as I found out during one incredulous weekend.