We all know about the Washington Nationals’ tradition of racing presidents, the racing sausages at Milwaukee Brewers home games, and Pittsburgh’s racing pierogis. But a few other stadiums across the majors actually have similar traditions that are a bit more obscure.
San Francisco Giants – Jotunrace
The San Francisco Giants prove every game that Norse mythology is far from mythical and that we are all eternally damned for not worshipping Odin or believing in the existence of a “world-tree.” In the middle of the fourth inning, Skadi, Hraesvelgr, Surtr, and Bergelmir descend from Jotunheimr, the land of the giants, to race around the warning track. It is unknown how these giants (and one giantess, obviously) make their way from their world to ours, nor do we know why they chose to appear 81 times a year for just a few seconds. In a 2013 incident, Madison Bumgarner was injured by Surtr’s back heel as the giant landed in AT&T Park. Due to the size of the giants, these races last just for one step and end in a tie almost every time.
Arizona Diamondbacks – Snake Race
No trip to Chase Field is complete without the third-inning snake race. The mascots are suits that resemble snakes in that they have no holes for legs or arms. The talented actors and actresses that play the four snakes (Cobra, Boa, Anaconda, and Steve) must wriggle along the warning track on their stomachs, starting and ending behind home plate. The slow rate of movement usually means the race lasts about 45 minutes, except on days when Boa tries to constrict her opponents out of the race, in which case they can last even longer.
Miami Marlins – Marlin Race
The Marlins famously thought outside of the box when Marlins Park opened in 2013. One of the many quirky features of Marlins Park is the retractable warning track, underneath which lies a pool housing four actual live marlins. Those marlins run/swim a race that begins at the weird home run edifice in center field, and ends around third base. A tarp is put over the first-base dugouts in a mostly futile attempt to keep the water out, and fans in the first rows often get splashed by the graceful yet strong jumps and twists the marlins perform as they race towards the finish line. One of the marlins, named Wayans, has only won once.
Cincinnati Reds – Red Race
As part of the oldest mascot race in the country, four Reds mascots have been running around the perimeter of their ballpark since 1903. The race pits Scarlet, Crimson, Maroon, and Blood against each other, with fans cheering on their preferred shade of red. The racers used to wear old, turn-of-the-century swimsuits, but the garb has since moved to full skintight body suits. The fans of the different colors have split into factions, with the Blood Faction being the largest and most well-funded. For much of the 1984 season, the Bloods paid Jackie Joyner-Kersee $5,000 a game to don the blood-colored body suit. Famed Reds PA announcer Joe Martin notably has a rather difficult time discerning between the shades, and announces the wrong winner about 90 percent of the time, much to the ire of fans, especially those who believe he is being paid off by the Scarlet Faction.
Kansas City Royals – Game of Thrones
Predating the George RR Martin novels by three years, this is one of the most competitive “mascot” races out there. Every day, the King or Queen of the park selects three fans to dress up in 17th-century royal accoutrements and race around the outfield portion of the warning track. The winner of each race becomes the Prince or the Princess of the park, and is allowed to race the next day in defense of his or her crown. The three losers are immediately kicked out of the ballpark and are never allowed to return, not even to retrieve their belongings. If the winner of the race has a faster time than the current King or Queen, he or she becomes the new King or Queen, and the old one is executed live on the video board. The executions are usually staged, except for when King Brad II didn’t get the memo and almost actually killed Queen Lindsay IV.
Photo credit: Terren Peterson / Creative Commons
Raynell Cooper is a writer and survivor of King Brad II’s reign of terror. You should follow him on Twitter.