Best Ballpark Traditions for Every MLB Team
Part of being a baseball fan is the subculture. Your part of a larger group and take pride in your team or city. In team traditions, we often see tributes to the city, the team’s fans or a period of excellence in the franchise’s history.
Throughout Major League Baseball, each team and ballpark offers a unique experience. These traditions, celebrations and tributes instill a sense of pride in fans and can provide a welcome distraction during down seasons.
These are the best traditions for all 30 MLB teams.
Arizona Diamondbacks: Outfield Pool
How it started: Team installs pool in right-field stands for new ballpark.
Bottom Line: Arizona Diamondbacks
As legend has it, when reviewing plans for the new Chase Field for the expansion Diamondbacks, one of the developers made a comment about the old showers at Comiskey Park in Chicago.
This spiraled into an idea that was a laughingstock at first, but it has come to be a real staple for the team, even inspiring the Jacksonville Jaguars to add a pool to their in-game offerings.
Atlanta Braves: Tomahawk Chop
How it started: Team begins selling foam tomahawks.
Bottom Line: Atlanta Braves
It’s unclear exactly when this first became a thing because the Braves have been around since the early days of Major League Baseball. However, it really took off in the 1990s, when the Braves were rolling, and the team started selling those foam tomahawks.
They proceeded to dominate throughout the decade, and the chop became part of the ballpark experience in Atlanta. Some find the chop disrespectful to Native Americans, but the tradition continues.
Baltimore Orioles: Thank God I’m a Country Boy
How it started: GM wanted to liven things up.
Bottom Line: Baltimore Orioles
In the 1970s, Orioles general manager Frank Cashen wanted to spice up the ballpark atmosphere. Shortstop Mark Belanger suggested John Denver’s "Thank God I’m a Country Boy," and the song remains a seventh-inning standard to this day.
In 1997, just three weeks before passing away, Denver surprised fans with a live performance atop the home dugout.
Boston Red Sox: Sweet Caroline
How it started: Fenway employee in charge of music played the song to celebrate a colleague’s baby.
Bottom Line: Sweet Caroline
The relative age of this tradition may surprise younger fans, but something you come to learn in sports is that ownership means everything.
Despite Fenway employee Amy Tobey starting this eighth-inning tradition in 1997, it wasn’t a mainstay until 2002, when new executive VP Charles Steinberg made it a popular ritual at Fenway Park.
It’s now one of the most anticipated portions of any sporting event.
Chicago White Sox: Thunderstruck
How it started: Entertainment managers for the team looking to get away from organ music, played it to pump up the fans.
Bottom Line: Chicago White Sox
Looking to pump some more energy into the home crowd, the White Shox entertainment crew began playing the AC/DC pump-up song when the Pale Hose took the field.
It just happened to coincide with the team’s first championship season in more than 80 years.
There was an uproar in 2015 when the team attempted to move away from the tradition, but it was immediately reinstated at the behest of the Twitter mob.
Chicago Cubs: Seventh-Inning Stretch
How it started: Harry Caray started singing in the press box. When he passed away in 1998, the singing continued in his honor.
Bottom Line: Chicago Cubs
On any given day, you never know who might be singing the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley. The tradition has become a rite of passage for any notable sports fan who visits the friendly confines.
The list of participants is lengthy and all-encompassing, ranging from professional golfer Bubba Watson to Ozzy Osborne.
Cincinnati Reds: Open the Season
How it started: Beginning of the league
Bottom Line: Cincinnati Reds
Some may not be aware, but the Reds were the very first Major League Baseball team, and as such, they have hosted the "official" Opening Day for more than a century.
With all the pageantry and pomp and circumstance you would expect, Opening Day in Cincinnati is a must-visit sporting event.
Not so much for the baseball but rather the party.
Cleveland Indians: John Adams the Drummer
How it started: John Adams brought his drum to the game to add to the noise of "seat banging," which was a rally-starting tactic used by fans.
Bottom Line: Cleveland Indians
When John Adams showed up to Cleveland Stadium for a 1973 game with his bass drum, he probably didn’t anticipate doing it for the next 40 years.
Little did he know that fans would cling to the drum beating as a sign of team pride. Over the past 47-plus seasons, Adams and his drum have missed less than 50 home games.
Colorado Rockies: The Humidor
How it started: To combat the unusually high number of homers hit at Coors Field because of the altitude, baseballs began being stored in a humidor.
Bottom Line: Colorado Rockies
This was a tough call between the humidor and high ERAs, but the two essentially go hand-in-hand.
In an effort to combat the altitude, which leads to the Rockies’ perennially inept pitching, the MLB keeps those baseball stored in a humidifier, in an effort to "soften" the baseball.
It doesn’t seem to have helped the problem, but it remains the most notable thing about baseball in Denver.
Detroit Tigers: Detroit Rock City
How it started: Single released by KISS in the 1970s was taken on as an anthem for Detroit.
Bottom Line: Detroit Tigers
Detroit is a city that take its sports seriously, so it’s no surprise that when KISS dropped "Detroit Rock City" in 1976, the Tigers adopted it as their unofficial theme song.
While it’s not a daily ritual, chances are that if you take in a game in Detroit, the anthem will be pumping as the Tigers take the field.
Houston Astros: Hop on the Home Run Train
How it started: When Minute Maid Park opened, the team wanted to pay tribute to Houston’s Union Station.
Bottom Line: Houston Astros
The train is a trademark of one of the most unique ballparks in baseball and runs through the outfield at Minute Maid Park as a nod to the city’s roots.
It’s been there since the stadium’s opening, but only garnered notoriety recently, with the Astros triggering the locomotive with a flurry of home runs.
Kansas City Royals: The Fountains
How it started: Fountains in center field represent Kansas City as the "City of Fountains."
Bottom Line: Kansas City Royals
One of the oldest ballparks in the major leagues, Kansas City’s Kaufmann Stadium sports a fountain throughout center field that goes off at the start of games and on home runs.
It’s the largest privately funded fountain in the world, and on the off chance a home run lands in there, you’re likely to see a few wet Royals fans.
Los Angeles Angels: Rally Monkey
How it started: On June 6, 2000, the Angels came back to beat the Giants in the bottom of the ninth after the Ace Ventura monkey appeared on the video board with the words "Rally Monkey" on top.
Bottom Line: Los Angeles Angels
Shortly after the debut of the Rally Monkey, the Angels hired the monkey from Friends to star in originally produced clips.
It gained national recognition in 2002, when the Angels rallied from a 5-0 deficit in Game 6 of the World Series, ultimately winning in seven.
Los Angeles Dodgers: All-You-Can-Eat
How it started: Dodgers convert right field to All-You-Can-Eat Pavillion.
Bottom Line: Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles is a big foodie town, and the Dodgers adopted that vibe in 2008 when they introduced the All-You-Can-Eat Pavillion.
The ticket gets you exactly what that name implies, allowing some of the hungrier Dodger fans to indulge on unlimited Dodger Dogs, a trademark of Los Angeles baseball.
Miami Marlins: The Firesale
How it started: Marlins begin selling off top players.
Bottom Line: Miami Marlins
What should be listed here is the incredible statue that was built in center field when Marlins Park opened, but Derek Jeter tossed that, so we will go with the only other possible option.
The Marlins have perfected the trading of big-name players for high-ceiling prospects. Some work out well, like the Giancarlo Stanton deal, and some go horribly. See Christian Yellich.
But this has been standard operating procedure for a long time in Miami.
Milwaukee Brewers: Sausage Races
How it started: Team began sausage races in early 1990s with the bratwurst, Polish sausage and Italian sausage.
Bottom Line: Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers may have the best ballpark experience in baseball.
The home of sausage sandwiches and ice-cold beer, Milwaukee fully embraces the hometown vibes with the daily sixth-inning sausage race, featuring a bratwurst, Polish sausage, Italian sausage, hot dog and Cinco the chorizo.
As for the beer, there’s plenty of that to go around, as well.
Minnesota Twins: Minnie and Paul Shake Hands
How it started: Team installs neon Twins sign in outfield of new stadium
Bottom Line: Minnesota Twins
When the Twins built their shiny new outdoor ballpark Target Field, they installed a huge neon sign in center field showing a pair of Twins players, which was the original logo.
The team dubbed them "Minnie" and "Paul," named for St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Twin Cities.
After the Twins hit a home run, the sign lights up, and the two shake hands.
New York Mets: Raise the Big Apple
How it started: In an effort to improve the atmosphere at Mets game, the team installed the apple. The team attempted to retire it in 2007, but fans pushed back.
Bottom Line: New York Mets
Back in the days of Shea Stadium, Mike Piazza made raising the Big Apple famous in the early 2000s.
When they made the move to Citi Field, the Apple came with them, and now a new Mets slugger in Pete Alonso carries that burden.
It may be a little cartoonish and on the nose, but it’s a fun way to celebrate a homer.
New York Yankees: Roll Call
How it started: Fans began chanting for Tino Martinez, who responded.
Bottom Line: New York Yankees
The franchise with the most Hall of Fame players and most World Series championships also happens to have the most noteworthy and unique tradition.
The bleacher fans roll call the lineup in the top of the first inning each game, not stopping until the player acknowledges.
It gets the crowd involved early and creates a rabid, almost European football-like atmosphere.
Oakland A’s: The Tailgate
How it started: Raiders and A’s begin sharing Oakland Coliseum.
Bottom Line: Oakland A's
Typical of Oakland’s more communal environment, the tailgate is a longstanding tradition for A’s fans.
The Oakland Coliseum is one of the few baseball stadiums that still encourages tailgating. The team has embraced the atmosphere, despite its attempts to get a new home.
Typically, tailgating may be more of a football thing, so maybe sharing a stadium with the Raiders has rubbed off. Now, the A's have the stadium all for themselves. But will they stay in the Bay Area?
Philadelphia Phillies: Ring the Liberty Bell
How it started: Phillies move to Citizens Bank Park.
Bottom Line: Philadelphia Phillies
The nation’s first capital city is represented well at Citizens Bank Park, most notably by a 52-foot tall replica of the Liberty Bell.
When a Philly homer sails over the fence, the bell rings and lights up as fans celebrate.
It’s a fitting tribute and adds to the atmosphere tremendously.
Pittsburgh Pirates: The Racing Pierogi’s
How it started: Coordinator of in-game entertainment Eric Wolff begins running animation at games.
Bottom Line: Pittsburgh Pirates
Officially dubbed "The Great Pittsburgh Pierogi Race," the fifth-inning event dates back to the Pirates days at Three Rivers Stadium.
It quickly became a fan favorite, and has evolved from a video-board animation to a real-life on-field sprint 280 yards along the warning track.
The Pierogis have even traveled to Washington to race against the Presidents.
San Diego Padres: Camo Sundays
How it started: Padres begin wearing camo to salute the military.
Bottom Line: San Diego Padres
San Diego is first and foremost a military town, and the city’s only remaining major sports team celebrates that fact on a semi-weekly basis throughout the season.
The Padres camo uniforms have become a trademark, and select military personnel are given free admission along with a moment of tribute to them during the game for each home Sunday.
San Francisco Giants: Kayak in the Cove
How it started: Giants move to new Pac Bell Park on the San Francisco Bay.
Bottom Line: San Francisco Giants
A true beauty of modern stadium design, the home of the San Francisco Giants sits right on the water, creating an amazing picturesque backdrop for baseball.
Not many balls have been fished out of McCovey Cove since Barry Bonds retired, but the kayaks still roam the bay outside of Oracle Park in anticipation of a splash down.
Seattle Mariners: Rally Fries
How it started: Mariners broadcaster Mike Blowers sent a fan some fries.
Bottom Line: Seattle Mariners
After seeing a fan’s fries go flying as he tried to catch a foul ball, Mariners broadcaster Mike Blowers sent down a plate of fries to make up for it.
The next day, fans made signs asking for fries, as well. It seemed that each time Blowers sent down fries, the team scored a run or rallied back, and the fries became a regular occurrence.
St. Louis Cardinals: Opening Day Clydesdales
How it started: Budweiser takes Clydesdales on tour with a wagon.
Bottom Line: St. Louis Cardinals
Staying true to their Anheuser-Busch roots, the Cardinals celebrate every Opening Day at Busch Stadium with the Budweiser Clydesdales making an appearance.
It’s a majestic way to open the season, and a fitting one with a hat tip to the team and the city’s history.
Tampa Bay Rays: More Cowbell
How it started: Fans begin bringing cowbells to add to the noise.
Bottom Line: Tampa Bay Rays
The Brooklyn Dodgers get the hipster cred for starting this one, but the Rays co-opted the cowbell movement as they unexpectedly leaped into contention in 2008.
On their way to the franchise’s first trip to the World Series, Tropicana Field was a hotbox for more cowbell.
They haven’t come out in the same force since, but each time there’s a postseason home game, the cowbells are sure to be back.
Texas Rangers: The Dot Race
How it started: Chuck Morgan begins having three colored dot mascots race at home games.
Bottom Line: Texas Rangers
The OG of stadium races, the Dot Race predates all sausages, pierogies and presidents by a longshot. The Rangers began hosting the racing dots of Ozarka in the mid-1980s.
The fans cheer on the red, green and blue dots in the sixth inning of each home game, and while it may have been surpassed in terms of entertainment value, this race gets to claim itself as the one and only original.
Toronto Blue Jays: OK Blue Jays
How it started: Keith Hampshire and The Bat Boys release "OK Blue Jays."
Bottom Line: Toronto Blue Jays
When Keith Hampshire and The Bat Boys released what has come to be the anthem of the Blue Jays, they probably didn’t expect a certified gold hit.
Canadian baseball fans flocked to the single, and it has been a seventh-inning tradition for more than 30 years.
The song has been remixed over the years, but stays true to the jazzer-size roots.
Washington Nationals: Presidents Race
How it started: During the inaugural season at RFK Stadium, the Nationals played an animated car race between historical figures.
Bottom Line: Washington Nationals
Although it started as an animated car race, the Presidents Race has become the most popular live-action mascot race in baseball.
The first live event was held in 2006, and the idea took off, complete with season-long standings for the four regulars — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abe Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt.
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