The St. Louis Cardinals are the most successful MLB franchise in history, with 11 World Series championships. But they’re also known for their quirky mascots, including Rally Cat and Mr. Redbird.
The st louis cardinals baseball is the St. Louis Cardinals, a Major League Baseball team in Missouri. They have been around since 1882 and are one of the most successful franchises in all of sports.
AT MIDNIGHT, THE SEARCH PARTY assembles with six traps and a variety of fish juice, and five volunteers disperse. On a humid summer night in a downtown St. Louis park, they sift through the bushes with the help of smartphone flashlights.
It’s Aug. 11, 2017, a little more than a day after Rally Cat vanished, and half of St. Louis is looking for a long-tailed good-luck charm who walked into their life at a Cardinals baseball game. The cat was last seen at Citygarden, a public park with enough foot activity in the previous 24 hours to prompt authorities to issue a tweet urging the public to “let the experts do their job.”
And the volunteers at STLFCO (St. Louis Feral Cat Outreach) are optimistic tonight. They TNR about 2,000 stray cats each year, and they have a hunch he’s still around because of a primal trait shared by nearly all non-domesticated cats: fear. Even when a housecat runs away, according to board member Savannah Rigley, it hunkers down and only travels a few blocks.
Around 1 a.m., a small figure emerges on a pedestrian walkway. He comes to a halt for a split second, looks at Rigley, and then dashes into the undergrowth. With so many people about, the cat isn’t going to come out, so Rigley and three others return home. Amy Jordan, a nocturnal former certified nursing assistant who catches cats, drives to QuikTrip to give him some room.
It’s around 3 a.m. now. A long-haired cat had gone viral twenty-nine hours earlier when it rushed onto the field at Busch Stadium during the Cardinals’ game against the Kansas City Royals, clawing and biting a young grounds staff worker as the crowd screamed. What happened next made the cat famous: Yadier Molina hit a grand slam on the very next pitch when play resumed, lifting St. Louis to an 8-5 victory.
If it had occurred in a different place or during a different sport, the kitten could have become a statistic, one of the estimated 70 million stray and feral cats roaming the United States. However, baseball fans, particularly in St. Louis, are a superstitious bunch. A section of the Cardinals’ fan base thinks the Rally Squirrel that raced across home plate during the 2011 National League Division Series would have prevented the Cardinals from winning their previous World Series ten years ago.
Jordan returns to Citygarden after drinking a cup of coffee and listening to half an hour of late-night idle gas station chitchat. She takes a look at the first trap.
Two small eyes, lit by a streetlight, return her gaze. The caged animal is drenched in fish juice and seems to have gotten his paw caught in a lamp socket. Jordan does something she wouldn’t usually do with a wild, unsocialized cat: he looks imploringly at her. She pierces the cage with her fingertips and touches his face.
She says, “Hey, little friend.” “Don’t worry, you’ll be OK.”
She had no idea that the scruffy cat would become a sensation.
Rally Cat would enthrall St. Louis for a month in the summer. His tale was more engrossing than the game of baseball. Hundreds of people would queue to adopt him. He was sought by the St. Louis Cardinals, who intended to nurture the kitty in their clubhouse. What started out as an apparently decent purpose turned into a weird, suspenseful tale about a tiny but legendary person whose whereabouts are still unknown.
On July 11, 2018, 11 months after his capture, the feral-cat outreach shared a photo of a wonderfully floofy adult cat on Facebook.
It stated that Rally Cat was no longer active.
In August 2017, a cat rushes across the field at Busch Stadium during a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals. Jeff Roberson/AP Photo
THEIR MEETING WAS SHORT AND INVOLVED A VISIT TO THE ER, BUT Lucas Hackmann is well aware that the cat will be with him for the rest of his life.
As he recalls the night, Hackmann adds, “I mean, shoot, he barely weighed a pound.”
“I recall feeling as though I were floating. With that cat, I could have ran three kilometers. You had a lot of adrenaline coursing through your veins… For a brief time, you nearly pass out.”
Hackmann is now 24 and training to be a physician’s assistant, but whenever he meets new people in social situations, the cellphone video always comes up, and one of Hackmann’s pals will ask, “Do you remember the cat guy?”
Rally Cat didn’t leave any scars, but Hackmann wishes he had. Nurses stopped by the hospital that night to take pictures of Hackmann, an ordinary college student with khaki shorts, a blue shirt, and a gnarled-up hand. He appeared on a radio program four hours after leaving the hospital, then SportsCenter two hours later. He was the topic of a Conan O’Brien joke and was later memorialized as a bobblehead with the cat. Hackmann is really smiling while holding the cat, so the small statue isn’t a perfect replica.
It had been a Wednesday evening. In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Cardinals were down 5-4 to the Royals, and the game had an air of desperation about it for both teams, who were both hanging around.500. With two runners on and no outs, Royals submarine-thrower Peter Moylan was called from the bullpen, and he was locked in, swiftly forcing a lineout and a strikeout. He purposefully walked Dexter Fowler to face Molina, who is right-handed.
The cat then dashed into the field. His back was arched, and he walked in a gallop rather than a run. He raced across the outfield grass, paused as he neared Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain, and then accelerated. Cain remained rooted to his place. As the cat approached the warning track, he stood there watching.
When the game came to a halt, Hackmann was standing at the top step of the visitors’ dugout, and everyone looked perplexed. He claims that if an obnoxious fan runs onto the pitch, the ushers will deal with it. But who is in charge of stray cats?
So he volunteered and dashed out onto the field, surrounded by 88,000 people. His heart was hammering in his ears, and he could feel it. On the warning track, he surrounded the cat and leaned down to pick him up. He hadn’t given it much consideration.
Hackmann’s expertise with the family poodle and Shih Tzu didn’t help him pick up a frightened cat at a Major League Baseball game. Adrenaline and instinct were his only guides. He raced with the cat tucked under his arm like a football, squirming, poking, and thrashing his body against Hackmann’s chest. While sprinting, he used his other arm to corral the cat and shifted to an uncomfortable grasp that looked like he was carrying a soiled diaper. His instinct urged him to sprint to the dugout, but the squad was already there. His greatest worry was dropping the cat, which would cause the game to be further delayed. The audience erupted in applause with every bite, scrape, and painful response.
He didn’t toss the cat aside. Instead, he dashed into the stands, leaping over a wall and disappearing.
During an interview with ESPN last month, Moylan, who loves animals and jokingly referred to the kitten as “an evil, witchcraft-spelling cat,” claimed he did his best to remain focused during the two-minute wait that appeared to last 20. However, he was unable to do so.
“I was there the whole time,” Moylan adds. “It was enjoyable.”
Hackmann, who was bleeding and in agony, dashed to the concourse in search of a first-aid facility. He claimed he put the cat down on the concourse and watched him scamper out of Gate 3 toward the Stan Musial statue outside, eager to get rid of him.
Hackmann heard the crowd scream as Molina blasted a fastball over the left-field wall. He inquired, “What happened?” In his back pocket, his phone was constantly ringing. The first phone he took was from his employer, who, of course, inquired about his well-being but also asked, “Where is the cat?” The cat has gone.
“It wasn’t a rally cat at the time,” he adds. “It was only a stray cat,” says the narrator.
During the bottom of the sixth inning, groundskeeper Lucas Hackmann rescues the cat. On the following pitch, Cardinals’ Yadier Molina hit a grand slam, and St. Louis won 8-5. Getty Images/Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Tribune News Service
Rally Cat’s first ownership lasted less than 30 minutes.
Christmas, the Cardinals, and cats are Korie Harris’ three favorite things. Harris was in a standing-room-only section near home plate watching the Kansas City-St. Louis game, and as Hackmann left the field with the cat, she knew she had to act. According to Harris, she asked an usher what would happen to the cat, and the usher informed her it would most likely be tossed out into the street.
When Harris arrived at the front gate, he saw the kitten.
“”He was just in this area on the ground with a few of guys standing around him,” Harris recalls. ‘Hey, that’s my cat; I’ll take him home since he’s terrified,’ I said. I still don’t believe Yadi had hit the game-winning home run at that moment. We just fled as soon as possible.”
The stadium was approximately a half-mile away from Harris’ flat, but the trek that night appeared to take considerably longer. They came to a halt to snap photos, and people asked if they could hold the cat. (Harris declined.) Cardinals security approached her at the end of the parking lot and inquired about the cat. She said that she lived close and that she was driving him home.
She had something in mind for the kitty. She’d take him for walks in the stroller she used for Mimzy Jackson, her other cat. “Yadi” was supposed to be his name. When the cat jumped out of her arms and vanished into the night, they were only a few blocks from her flat, near the lush grass and better pastures of Citygarden. A noise, Harris thinks, shocked him.
The Cardinals released a statement the following day regarding the strange occurrences of the night.
“”A fan seized the cat and claimed it was hers while our ushers attempted to control it,” the statement stated. Our security crew caught up with her as she was leaving the stadium and questioned her. She suddenly departed with the cat after that. According to reports in the media, the lady planned to take it home and care for it, but she misplaced it at City Garden. We’re hoping that someone will discover the cat and call us so that we can care for it appropriately.”
Because the Cardinals rejected an interview request for this article, it’s difficult to know the entire context of the press release, including why the team would want a potentially wild kitten returned to them. Nobody cared about the cat until Molina’s home run, according to Harris.
Despite the fact that her name was not included in the press release, she was “bummed” by the manner the team portrayed her involvement. The day after the game, she gave a radio interview, and reporters began hounding her, knocking on her apartment door and showing up at her workplace. Anonymous strangers blamed her for the Cardinals’ good-luck charm’s disappearance, accusing her of attempting to profit off the cat. She was being portrayed as a cat thief.
“My phone simply went nuts,” she said. “I’m not interested in becoming a part of the drama.” I had to take time off from work. The news kept popping up here, attempting to contact me.
“I simply remained in my home and began reading up what people were saying about me on the internet, and it was horrifying. I mean, I was sobbing as I sat there. I was simply checking to see whether the cat was all right.”
Harris was torn between being angry at the team she loved and being concerned that they would use the incident against her.
The Cardinals have one of baseball’s most fervent fan bases, and Harris is a microcosm of that. She has a Cardinals tattoo on her arm, and she longs for the other six months of the year when she can spend $32 a month to stand rather than sit while watching her games.
She went into hiding for a few weeks, and it was killing her not to be at the ballgame. She was concerned, though, that an usher would scan her monthly pass and tell her she needed to leave.
Harris decided to go undercover one day. She wore big sunglasses, straightened her curly hair, and flashed her pass.
“No one seemed to notice me,” she adds.
After hitting a grand slam against Royals reliever Peter Moylan, catcher Yadier Molina celebrates. Jeff Curry is a sports reporter for USA TODAY.
TNR WORKING WOMEN ARE OFTEN CHARACTERIZED BY THREE WORDS: CRAZY CAT LADY. The implication is that the individual is solitary, lonely, and surrounded by cats. But, if this group of animal supporters didn’t have a detached attitude, they’d be living with 300 cats. They capture the cats, neuter them, and then release them back into their colonies to reduce overpopulation.
TNR personnel are often mistaken with rescuers, said to Rigley, one of the volunteers who looked for Rally Cat in Citygarden.
“We’re tougher,” adds Rigley. “We’ll travel alone, to areas we’ve never visited before, and plant traps in dark alleys. Even if it’s difficult, we can return cats when others can’t.”
A group of STLFCO ladies were finally called it a night about 3 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017. In a Facebook message chain with a few others who didn’t travel to Citygarden, they recounted their encounter with the silhouetted cat and gave Jordan advice on how to catch him.
At 3:12 a.m., someone wrote, “Goodnight RC wherever you are!”
Jordan sent a message less than an hour later.
“I got him!!!” exclaims the narrator.
She shared a picture of the cat peering out of its cage. The ladies matched the stripes and fur colors from the snapshot to the images splashed all over the news of Rally Cat while their husbands, lovers (and perhaps a few pets) slept nearby.
He seemed to be smaller than the kitten that dashed into the field. Jordan brought the cat to Terri Zeman’s home, where she set the trap in her freshly renovated bathroom’s clawfoot tub. Zeman handed him half a can of seafood Fancy Feast, shut the door, and turned out the lights.
A unique marking on his right flank — a bull’s-eye — helped establish that he was, in fact, Rally Cat.
STLFCO tweeted at 7:31 a.m.
Overnight, we caught a cat at @CitygardenSTL. We’ll attempt to figure out whether it’s #Rallycat or not.
They had no clue what would happen next: they’d be on the radio in an hour, and by noon, they’d be inundated with demands that they’d have to conduct a press conference in a community yoga studio, with the cameras trained on a cat in a metal cage.
They have little knowledge about Rally Cat. That day, he went to the veterinarian for a checkup, and he was handled with leather gloves and a bamboo scratcher to see how he would react. He wasn’t necessarily feral, a word for cats that have never been socialized and are afraid of humans. He wasn’t, however, a lap cat. He was found to be 4 months old, healthy, and male.
The Cardinals shared a picture of the cat on Twitter later that day. It stated, “The #RallyCat has been discovered!”
In early to mid August, the Cardinals were on a tear. That week, they swept their I-70 opponents and won eight consecutive games. The Rally Cat game pulled St. Louis within one game of the National League Central-leading Chicago Cubs after a dreadful start to the season.
Mike Matheny (who, ironically, currently manages the Royals) admitted to reporters after the game that he is not a cat lover.
“However, I really like that one,” he added.
The kitten was rescued by the Feral Cat Outreach in St. Louis. St. Louis Feral Cat Outreach provided this image.
THE TEAM SCHEDULED A “Welcome Home” ceremony for late August at the stadium, as well as a “Rally Cat Appreciation Day” on Sept. 10. The team’s interaction with STLFCO was friendly at first, but the ladies were dubious, particularly about the idea to shelter the cat among the commotion of 25 ballplayers. How would it go down with an animal that has been lurking in the woods for 24 hours?
Because of rabies fears, Rally Cat would have to be quarantined for ten days, and word of the rabies hold was one of the first indications that things were going to spiral out of hand. At least five individuals claimed to have been bitten by the cat in order to be able to touch it.
“Everyone wanted the cat,” says Christine Bowen, president of the STLFCO. “They each had their own strategy.”
Still, the ladies reasoned, if a very famous figure could bring attention to the problem of America’s 70 million stray cats, it could only be a positive thing. Purina even offered to send in a cat behaviorist to assist build a playhouse for the cat at the stadium, according to the report.
Miscommunication, however, harmed the team’s connection with the feral-cat volunteers. The ladies thought they were outclassed. Rigley adds, “They’re a multibillion-dollar company.” “If they wanted to, they could smash us.” They wanted their five board members to attend any meetings, since they all had day jobs to pay the bills and could only meet at night.
Ron Watermon, the Cardinals’ vice president of communications at the time, phoned a few days after the game to ask about the kitty. He found Lindsey Slama, a volunteer who also happened to be one of the organization’s greatest Cardinals fans. She was understandably thrilled to speak with someone of Watermon’s status — she’d always admired her local baseball club — and told him that it would be “neat” if one of the players adopted the cat so he could live in a proper home.
However, she worries whether Watermon mistook it as approval for the team’s adoption. (Watermon, who is no longer with the team and owns a communications firm, refused to comment for this article.)
“Rally Cat gets a home, but what about other cats in St. Louis?” wrote Tony Messenger in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Aug. 15. Unlike other of Messenger’s opinion articles, this was not contentious; rather, it provided an inside view into STLFCO’s work. One phrase, though, seemed to irritate the Cardinals. It said that following Rally Cat’s 10-day rabies quarantine, the cat will be adopted from a no-kill shelter.
“It made a little bit of a ruckus,” Messenger admits.
Watermon referred to the kitten as “our cat” in an interview with the press soon after that, and claimed it will be returned to them. Watermon stated, “Mike and our guys are looking forward to loving and caring for him.”
Watermon’s “bullying methods” surprised STLFCO, which issued a statement stating no decisions had been taken regarding the cat’s long-term placement. Watermon retorted that their remark was “childish.” Suddenly, the happy-go-lucky tale devolved into a full-fledged catfight.
A group of volunteers who had quietly spent their spare time rescuing unwanted animals were suddenly embroiled in a public dispute over one stray kitten. Whether you were a cat person or a baseball enthusiast determined who was correct and who was wrong. STLFCO’s company address at the time was one of the volunteers’ home address, and the family would hear people screaming obscenities and the odd, “I hope you die!” outside their house for days.
Rally Cat had been living with Zeman, but the ladies were now concerned that he might be kidnapped. As a result, he was transferred three times.
Rigley adds, “It was too apparent he’d be at her home.” “You know the cat’s at Terri’s home if you’re a member of the St. Louis cat mafia.”
RIGLEY ACCEPTS that they were perhaps paranoid at times. They implanted a microchip in the cat and registered him with St. Louis Feral Cat Outreach right away. Rally During a mobile spay-and-neuter clinic, Cat lost his masculinity in a cloak-and-dagger manner. The ladies were unsure who they could trust since the gatherings are held at a community center and may attract individuals from beyond their group. So they hid his kitty carrier in a corner against a wall, covered it with some things, and had a veterinary technician take him out to the spay-and-neuter truck while no one was watching.
However, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The ladies simply wanted the media circus to stop and Rally Cat to be left alone by Aug. 24, a week after the “perceived bullying” volley. They wanted to return to their previous life. To connect with the team, the organization hired Albert Watkins, a well-known St. Louis lawyer and self-proclaimed loudmouth.
Watkins acted pro gratis for the ladies. He claimed his sister also conducts TNR work and that he didn’t realize the “sensitivities of cat people” until he saw two dead cats in her freezer one day. She said that she needed to wait until the earth thawed before she could properly bury the kitties.
Watkins worked fast, using cat jokes to convey the fact that Rally Cat would not be joining the squad.
The Cardinals came to a halt. In September, the group celebrated Rally Cat Appreciation Day sans Rally Cat. Watkins claimed he had an Italian meal with an unnamed Cardinals executive who “runs the roost” around that time, and it was pleasant. The Cardinals contributed money to the feral-cat outreach after the meal, according to Watkins.
“Not enough to purchase a Caribbean island,” Watkins adds, “but enough to make sure a cat that drew the attention of the public was looked after.”
In September 2017, a former STLFCO board member claimed they got a cheque for $1,853 from the Cardinals, which was thought to be part of the already-promised profits from Rally Cat Appreciation Day. Nonetheless, the act was seen as an olive branch by members of the charity. They wouldn’t have to battle anymore.
With a 6-3 defeat to the Atlanta Braves on Aug. 13, the Cardinals’ eight-game winning run came to an end. They went on to lose five of their next seven games. St. Louis couldn’t duplicate the early-August tempo and fell four games shy of a wild-card berth.
Rigley, Zeman, and Bowen are at a mobile spay-and-neuter clinic near the home where Rally Cat spent his first night, just weeks before the game’s four-year anniversary.
Tables full of caged cats in different states of sedation are in the room next to them. The majority of them are wild and would thrash against the metal walls if they could. But for the time being, they’re drowsy and submissive.
Bowen’s husband is waiting in the vehicle outside, and they’re meant to be doing errands together. When a cat calls, though, he adjusts and uses his phone to do business.
STLFCO will spay and neuter almost 50 cats outdoors in the mobile van, and they’ll have a nice supper tonight before returning to their outdoor colonies tomorrow. The colonies, according to Rigley, are everywhere; people simply don’t see them.
Rally Cat has been seen for nearly four years, and the ladies are constantly on the lookout. When ESPN is asked whether they may meet the cat, they contact the owner. “It’s a tough no,” was the response.
Random individuals continue to ask whether they may adopt the cat. In March, a guy from Ohio contacted with a picture of his long-haired cat, Willow. He said that his grandpa was a Major League Baseball player in the late 1930s and that he would pay anything to adopt a renowned baseball cat.
“Could you help contact Rally Cat’s owners and inform them that I’m ready to pay a few thousand dollars and travel from Ohio to St. Louis to take him up?” the guy penned
“If there’s one city in the United States that needs some luck, it’s Cleveland!”
A cat escaped security and grounds crew workers during a game between the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium earlier this week. Getty Images/Adam Hunger
A CAT RUN OUT ON THE FIELD DURING THE BALTIMORE Orioles-New York Yankees game on Monday night, and the crowd exploded as a few employees attempted to restrain him. The cat, on the other hand, remained evasive. He raced between legs, climbed walls, and ran back and forth.
That night, Jackson Galaxy, a cat behavior and health expert and presenter of Animal Planet’s “My Cat From Hell,” got a barrage of messages. Galaxy claims that every cat that rushes into a field, whether it’s a Yankee cat, Rally Cat, or any other feline, is simply looking for a way out.
Stadiums are appealing to them because they offer shelter and food. Galaxy was just discussing with several of his coworkers why wild cats who spend their lives hiding from humans suddenly appear on the field during a game, in front of thousands of people. He speculated that a cat could fall asleep under a tarp and wake up at the most inconvenient moment. Or maybe the animal is dumped there.
While it’s easy to chuckle at such situations, Galaxy claims that the cat in New York had ran so far and gotten so wound up that it was in danger of dying.
“Imagine if that field had a dog on it,” he adds. “We’d be able to read that dog and comprehend its terror. We wouldn’t be shouting at them, provoking them, or laughing at them. Because we had dogs, we would feel terrible for him. We don’t have any cats.”
In 2017, the kitten was fostered for approximately a month before being adopted by a family from another foster home. The board members of STLFCO only give the phone number of someone close to the adopter, but after chatting for 20 minutes, it’s clear that the contact person is Rally Cat’s owner.
She agrees to a FaceTime chat, but is unsure whether it will work since the cat, who previously had his own press conference, is terrified of people taking photos of him with their phones. A big classic tabby with an enormous mane comes on the screen on a late-July day, though. His owner adds, “He’s in a terrific mood today.”
When the volunteers at STLFCO took care of him, he was named “Mongo” for a while, and he hasn’t been called “Rally Cat” in almost four years. His owners were cautious of attracting attention to the cat, and most of their family are still unaware of his past. R.C. is his nickname, but when he gets into trouble, he is addressed by his full name. Rally Cat is a cat that likes to rally.
A few months before to his arrival, the family had lost a beloved cat, and the animal filled a huge gap. He’s particularly close to the house’s pre-teen son. He enjoys lazing in his catio, is terrified of vacuum cleaners, and naps on the back of one of the family dogs on occasion. He drools when he’s pleased and has dog-like mannerisms.
The Cardinals aren’t exactly unique when it comes to being rejected by a cat. This random, drooling, uninterested critter, which sent a Major League Baseball club and its fan base into a frenzy, is still just a random, drooling, disinterested thing.
A Cardinals spokesman claimed they’d moved on in an email response to interview requests.
Rally Cat’s summer, on the other hand, served a purpose. It increased contributions to the feral-cat outreach, allowing them to TNR twice as many cats each year. It also provided a safe haven for a frightened stray cat.
Rally Cat’s adopter isn’t a huge baseball fan, but she does go to a few games every year since it’s the thing to do in St. Louis. She imagines her cat scampering toward the warning track as she looks out towards center field.
ESPN’s senior writer is Elizabeth Merrill. [email protected] is her email address.
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