No sport can compete with baseball when it comes to the rally. Racing can boast of the dangerous and deadly Dakar Rally and Baja 1000. Tennis can produce amazing rallies, such as the one betwen Nadal and Djokovic from the 2011 US Open. Basketball has 21-2 runs to end a game, football has the two-minute offense and the hail mary; soccer has the 90th minute equalizer and the golden goal. Yet, baseball is king when it comes to the rally.
The 1984 Kansas City Royals won the American League West through attrition with 84 wins and a three game lead over both the California Angels and Minnesota Twins, whom had finished with a .500 record. It was of little surprise when the 102 win Detroit Tigers dispatched of the Royals in a three game sweep which saw the offense scrape together a grand total of five runs. In true Royals fashion, their offensive outburst was in game 2 where they managed three runs and 10 hits; they combined for a total of two runs and eight hits in the other two games. An incredibly successful franchise was looking at another long off season wondering what could have been and perhaps staring at the end of a window of contention that saw them rack up six AL West pennants between 1976 and 1984, but no World Series championship.
The 1985 team roster was very similar to the one from the year before. The big off season splash involved packaging a young Don Slaught along with Frank Willis in a four team trade that netted the team a 34 year old Jim Sundberg. The future of the team rested on the young arms of a trio of up and coming pitchers in Bret Saberhagen, Danny Jackson and Mark Gubicza and they had added reliever Steve Farr to the bullpen. By doing little to an 84 win team, it was hard to see how GM John Schuerolz had positioned the club to break through and bring back a championship to Kansas City. Luckily for Scheurholz, manager Dick Howser and the 1985 Kansas City Royals, Mrs. Anna Acock of Bonner Springs was busy that winter and likely provided a greater impact on the 1985 World Series than any move the team had made.
Long before the #RallyMantis(2) and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Rally Monkey there was a small stuffed character that brought a team and city a long coveted championship. During an off season that would have likely melted down Royals Review and crashed SB Nation’s servers, a creative creation from Mrs. Acock’s imagination and skill was born and she knew it had to be sent to her favorite team as a token of good luck. This pivotal moment in time was witness to the birth of the 1985 Royals Rally Clown.
The exact date the creation of the loving matriarch and devoted Royals fan first arrived in the Royals clubhouse is not known, but it had enough of an impact that it elicited a reply from manager Dick Howser on May 28th. Howser credited it with bringing the team luck during May as the team surged from several games below .500 to a few games above. In his gracious return communication, the fifth year manager promised to keep the Rally Clown in his office for the duration of the season because he believed it brought the team good fortune. The Rally Clown did not disappoint, as the 1985 Kansas City Royals would overcome a 7.5 game deficit in late July and insurmountable odds in the face of elimination to ultimately win a world championship and cement their legacy in franchise lore.
The success of a world championship apparently was not enough for the Rally Clown. On top of everything else, the plush charm could be found photo bombing a picture with then recent father and World Series MVP Bret Saberhagen and his newborn daughter in a November 1985 Sports Illustrated feature article (bottom right hand corner).
Anna Acock made more than one Rally Clown and according to her grandson Andy Brazee, one even resides to this day in the home of Royals legend George Brett. Brazee proudly preserves the last production of the Rally Clown at his home in the Kansas City area and was kind enough to provide pictures of the charm as well as the letter from Royals Hall of Fame member Dick Howser to his grandmother.
Laugh if you will at the premise of an arbitrary mascot providing a measurable increase in performance of a professional sports team, but no group of professional athletes are more superstitious than baseball players. Major league baseball players work almost every day of the week and are around each other all of the time in a game full of waiting around for minutes to see a few seconds of action. What may seem ridiculous to those on the outside can sometimes be exactly what a team needs during the grind that is a 162 game season.
Basketball players start fouling when they are down 10 with two minutes left. Football teams turn to the onside kick when down by two possessions and a minute on the clock. Goalkeepers come down to the other end of the pitch for a corner kick in extra time.
Baseball players turn their hats inside out and stand on the top step of the dugout. Baseball players embrace not just one Montedea as their mascot, but adopt another one after the original passes and provide it accommodations that are better than most people below the poverty line.
Before you count this 2016 iteration of the Kansas City Royals out of the playoffs and a possible third straight World Series appearance, remember the 1985 Royals Rally Clown. Know that Anna is somewhere watching on whatever cable or streaming option they have in the afterlife. She would approve of the #RallyMantis(2) and have a strong belief that something so seemingly silly could be exactly the deadline move the Royals needed. And she may not be the only one.