Finally, a Squirrel Gets Its Own Baseball Card. Plus: Top 7 Rodents in Baseball History

from Wildlife Promise

And he didn't leave to play in California next year. (Wikimedia Commons | Sector001)

The new 2012 Topps Series 1 baseball card set features a single highlight from the St. Louis Cardinals’ incredible run to the World Series.

It’s the only thing about the Cards’ season that was stranger than Kyle Lohse becoming a solid starter.

It’s a squirrel.

The card commemorates Game 4 of the National League Division Series, when a bushy-tailed rodent scampered in front of the hitter, Cardinals’ utilityman Skip Schumaker, just before a pitch. Umpire Angel Hernandez called it a ball, and Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt and manager Charlie Manuel argued, because everyone knows that a squirrel on the field means an automatic timeout, right?

Anyway, the so-called ‘Rally Squirrel’ became a folk hero in St. Louis (Twitter account here; 27,000 followers) and the most famous baseball-adjacent small mammal since David Eckstein.

With Squirrel Appreciation Day just past and Groundhog Day already upon us, we thought it was a good time to salute Rally Squirrel and take a look at some other notable baseball rodents.

Unless otherwise linked, all nickname information is from the Don Zminda’s “From Abba Dabba to Zorro: The World of Baseball Nicknames.”

Orval Overall had a 2.23 career ERA. (Wikimedia Commons | EIC)

1) Roy Sievers, ‘Squirrel’

Slow, slugging former Senators’ great supposedly got this nickname as a basketball player in high school because he “(hung) around the basket like a squirrel around a tree.” Though a citation eludes me, I believe he supped on nuts, seeds and cones throughout the spring as well, hoarding and burying food so that he might revisit his caches years later.

2) Orval Overall, ‘The Big Groundhog

Early 20th century Cubs’ pitcher got this nickname because he was an agriculture student. Also: had a dense grey undercoat and digging claws. Alas, groundhogs may now be emerging earlier due to global warming, to their detriment—even worse than if Orval had reported for Spring Training in the middle of a Chicago blizzard (tip goes to Miles Grant for that tidbit as well as parts of this post).

3) Billy Shipke, ‘Muskrat Bill’

Old timer was almost my height/weight twin, and nobody knows what made him muskrat-like. Perhaps his well-adapted swimming tail. Though even that would probably not have helped him escape calamities like the Kalamazoo River oil spill.

Pictured: Billy Shipke during Spring Training. (flickr via Wikimedia Commons | Linda Tanner)

4) Cliff Melton, ‘Mickey Mouse’

Former New York Giant was born 100 years ago last month and had big ears. I’m surprised there aren’t more nicknames in this vein.

5) Whitey Herzog, ‘The White Rat’

Famous buzzcut Hall of Fame manager got this name for his extremely light blond hair. It’s also possible that his distinctly rat-like empathy contributed to his ability to rally a ballclub.

6) Gary Gaetti, ‘The Rat’

Slugging third-baseman got his Muroidean moniker for obvious reasons. And by that, I meant that he was omnivorous and a good burrower. What did you think I meant?

7) Don Zimmer, ‘The Gerbil’

Submitted without comment.

Honorable mentions go to to ‘Bunny’ Anthony Brief and Rabbit Maranville since rabbits aren’t true rodents but are often confused as such and often referred to together as members of the same ‘superclass.’

To learn more about squirrels, check out this blog post or the red squirrel page in our Wildlife Library.  You can find tips for sending your kids to ‘Squirrel School’ at Big Backyard.

Did I miss anyone? Tweet which of these baseball rodents (including Rally Squirrel) is your favorite using the hashtag #baseballrodents.