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Oct 19

A look back at my columns about baseball in general: Part 9 — Legends are born in October, so are surprises. This one is about the St. Louis Cardinals and October baseball. First published October 27, 2011, in The Examiner, an Eastern Jackson County, Mo., daily newspaper.

Legends are born in October, so are surprises 

“October is a fine and dangerous season in America” – Thomas Merton

October is indeed a lively month, always full of surprises and interesting fact and folklore.

Come to think of it, October could be my favorite month of the year with Halloween and quirky other holidays to celebrate such as the International Moment of Frustration Scream Day, National Cake Decorating Day and Leif Erickson Day (who was he again?).

But this particular holiday, “Squirrel Awareness Month”, is one we absolutely must talk about later in this story, and we will.

Mostly, I love the surprises that October brings whether from politics, weather changes, folklore or baseball. For example:

Politics: We know that politics can turn on a dime in the month of October, especially in presidential election years. Yet, candidates continue to surprise us with well-timed ‘October surprise’ news releases. They can rise to the top and influence the outcome of an election in a blip.

Weather: I don’t know why weather changes in October are such a surprise to me each year, but they are. Yes, I realize that the change in the seasons is coming, but on that October day when I first feel the cool, crisp fall air that feels so good, it is indeed a pleasant surprise. Watching the color change in autumn foliage likewise catches me by surprise every fall. I ask myself: “How many times have I seen this?” Still, it is breathtaking year after year.

Folklore: Did you know that October is really the eighth month of the year in the old Roman calendar that began in March instead of January (not the tenth as we know it today)? That is why October retained its name ‘octo’ meaning ‘eight’.

October’s birthstone is the opal, and legend has it that the opal will crack if it is worn by anyone who was not born in October. Actually, I once had an opal setting that cracked. I wonder?

Baseball: Remember, ‘Mr. October’ Reggie Jackson who could always be counted on to hit home runs in October during the World Series? And now, Albert Pujols is a Mr. October in his own right, tying Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson’s World Series record of hitting three home runs in a single series game.

However, the biggest surprise of all this October has to be the birth of another October legend –the Busch Rally Squirrel. I wonder if that crazy squirrel that ran all over the field at Busch Stadium during the Division series playoffs knew that October was Squirrel Awareness Month? Squirrels everywhere are no doubt cheering him on.

Here’s the back-story on ‘Rally Squirrel’ if you haven’t been keeping up on October baseball and squirrel surprises:

On October 5, 2011, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (stltoday.com) reported that a squirrel, now known as the ‘Busch Rally Squirrel’, ran across home plate while Skip Schumaker was at bat in the fifth inning during Game 4 of the National League Division Series. This series game was between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Philadelphia Phillies at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

The night before in Game 3 the squirrel made a brief appearance darting across the field into foul territory along the third-base line. Cards lost. In Game 4, he came back, only much bolder this time. Cards won.

With that, legend was born, and Rally Squirrel entered baseball lore as another Mr. October surprise.

As a result, grown adults dress in Rally Squirrel costumes at baseball and football games, kids are dressing up as Rally Squirrels for Halloween, and squirrels everywhere are certainly celebrating Squirrel Awareness Month. After all, who has done more for them than Rally Squirrel?

Additionally, Rally Squirrel has his own Twitter account @BuschSquirrel, and, yes, even though I am a loyal Kansas City Royals fan, I am a proud follower.

After Game 3, the squirrel tweeted, “We need to win. I’m not ready to hibernate yet.”

In a recent interview with the Post-Dispatch, Rally Squirrel insisted that Matt Holiday, Cardinals left fielder, urged him to charge the plate. “There were sunflower seeds in it for me,” Rally Squirrel said.

What can you say? Rally Squirrel is baseball’s newest celebrity and perhaps it’s biggest October surprise ever.

Gotta love October.