Like many of our readers, fall is my favorite time of year. The days grow shorter, the weather starts to cool and playoff baseball is just around the corner. As a lifelong Clevelander, I’ve been a sports fanatic my entire life, experiencing the periodic ups and mostly downs of the city’s professional sports franchises. Regardless of how my hometown teams fare in any given year, however, I always come back for more. Isn’t that the essence of being a fan?
For those of you who may not know, at its heart Cleveland is a football town. How else can you explain the Cleveland Browns still drawing impressive local TV ratings and respectable game-day crowds despite going 1-31 the past two seasons?!?! Even more incredible, how can you explain PCT Internet Editor Brad Harbison purchasing the HBO Go app for the sole purpose of gaining access to “Hard Knocks” so he can watch training camp footage of a team that will break his heart multiple times during the upcoming NFL season? Yet inevitably, like all dyed-in-the-wool Browns fans, Brad will be back for more in 2019. “Thank you sir, may I have another?”
No, at this time of year, I choose to place all of my emotional sports energy into the Cleveland Indians. What I love about baseball is the daily ritual of checking the box scores of the previous day’s games; looking ahead to the pitching match-ups for the coming week; and giddily anticipating the likely playoff match-ups for the post-season.
I even follow the Indians’ minor league teams to see which prospects may one day make the big league club or be called up when the roster expands to 40 players on September 1. You see, following baseball from the dawn of spring in early April through the chill of autumn in late October serves as a welcome respite from one’s day-to-day work responsibilities. However, on occasion, these two worlds collide, as they did for me earlier this year when a story about one of the New York Yankees farm teams — yes, those Yankees, the team that unceremoniously bounced my beloved Indians from the playoffs last year — caught my eye.
As many of you know, minor league teams, in an attempt to draw consistent crowds to the ballpark, plan all kinds of off-the-wall promotions. Some of the more epic promotions, according to Fox Sports, have included Speed Dating Night, where “eligible bachelors and bachelorettes changed seats every inning and documented their encounters on scorecards, which were sent to a dating company to set up possible second dates”; Seinfeld Night, which celebrated the 25th anniversary of that fabled TV show when the Brooklyn Cyclones renamed MCU Park “Vandelay Industries” for a night and players wore puffy shirts during pre-game batting practice; and Toilet Seat Cushion Night, where the first 3,000 fans of the Hudson Valley Renegades received a plastic toilet seat that doubled as a seat cushion, no doubt enhancing their game-day experience, although in exactly what way I’m not sure.
Which leads me to the Staten Island Pizza Rats (I told you there was a pest control industry connection!). You haven’t heard of the Pizza Rats, named after the infamous rodent that became an Internet sensation in 2015 after dragging a slice of pizza down the steps of a New York City subway? Shortly after achieving his hard-won fame, Pizza Rat wrote on his Twitter account: “Wasn’t trying to make a statement, humans. Just trying to get some damn pizza down some subway stairs.” But that’s not where the story ends.
In 2016, the Staten Island Yankees, which play in the New York-Penn League, sought a new team name to create a hometown identity, opening up voting to their fans. Predictably, among the monikers that were nominated, the name Pizza Rats won going away. Earlier this year, the team made good on its promise to rename the team (for a brief period of time), with players and coaches wearing branded Pizza Rats uniforms on four Saturday home games during the 2018 season. The team’s Pizza Rats gear, including custom-designed hoodies, T-shirts and ball caps, have been hot sellers, extending the legend of their namesake who, no doubt, has departed this earth either from strategically placed rodenticide applied by one of our readers, or from hardening of the arteries brought on by a poor diet. In either case, rest in peace Pizza Rat. You are now a permanent part of baseball lore and I couldn’t be prouder of you!
The author is publisher of PCT. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.