If you’re a new baseball fan who enjoys attending games at the stadium, or if you have ever taken a noob to the ballpark, then you have probably approached this question from one side or another:
“Why is that kid wearing his baseball cap inside out?”
And like every other equally bizarre but equally precious baseball oddity, you could just shrug, and say:
Or, you could give a real answer, and explore the highly disputed history of the Rally Cap.
A “rally cap” is more than a baseball cap that is worn inside out. It is a time-sensitive phenomenon that occurs late in a game, when the team one is root-root-rooting for is losing. The cap is worn in solidarity to “rally” the team to come from behind and win the game.
The best time to break out a rally cap might be during the seventh inning stretch, and likewise anytime after that point is fair. However, putting on a rally cap any time before the bottom of the seventh, I would argue, is entirely uncalled for and premature… and means you have probably already had too much beer, because, well, you put your hat on inside out, you sad, drunk fool.
Like many mysterious baseball traditions that arise from superstitions, the origins are mostly disputed, seem equally likely, and not widely well-known. According to wisegeek, the Rally Cap came about in 1986, during Game Six of the World Series between the New York Mets and the Boston Red Sox at Shea Stadium.
The Sox were up 3-2 at the seventh inning stretch, when reportedly, the Mets players turned their hats inside out in hopes to brush elbows with Lady Luck. And in the bottom of the eighth, sure enough, New York scored a run to tie the game at 3-a-piece. So into extra innings it was, and despite Boston’s two runs scored in the top of the 10th, those rally cappin’ Mets answered back with three runs in the bottom of the 10th to win the game in walk off style. Not to mention that then in Game Seven the Amazin’s went on to win the Series.
But, of course they won. If this was, in fact, the first-ever instance of unified rallycapdom, it had to be a success, because otherwise, those silly inside-out hats would have never caught on! If the Mets had lost after that stunt, it would probably be forgotten forever. And in the off chance that it was not a forever forgotten failure, it would have been a pretty funny story…
“Hey, remember that one time, when the Mets wore their hats upside down?”
“Yeah, why did they do that?”
“I dunno, but they lost the Series.”
“And they looked like clowns.”
If this was not the first example of ballplayers wearing their hats outside-in, then it must be the most memorable one, because of the impressive outcome. Winning the World Series is the ultimate triumph in baseball, of course, so this attempt at rally-capping certainly stands out the most, and other possible instances of rally caps popping up in the annals of the late-1970s Rangers might fall to the wayside.
Indeed, many Texas fans claim that the rally cap made it’s first appearance in ’77 and ’78 when the Rangers finished first in their division. Although this story is less exciting than the come-from-behind WS win by the Mets.
Is it possible, however, that rally caps are an even older tradition from Mo-Town? Some say that the movement to overturn ballcaps began as early as the 1940′s with the Tigers in Detroit. However, there is little evidence that this was maybe more of a fashion statement than actually a final attempt to change the outcome of a game.
But keeping with the Detroitian theme, Detroit-based General Motors borrowed the rally cap icon for their ad campaign in 2009 when they were rallying to… avoid bankruptcy? Check out the video of the commercial below, which was actually argued (probably by all those people that get confused by rally caps) to be “out of touch with America” by Accelorator. It’s time you knew, not everyone in North America watches baseball. Remember when we talked about how many people wear their baseball caps rightside-out, and don’t even watch the game? So maybe GM should have checked out a different metaphor from the metaphor library.
In the case of rally caps, it is fitting to say that winners always write the history books. When the Mets won the Series in 1986, they were also awarded the privilege of officially writing the rally cap into history, whether or not they were the first to try on the rally cap.
Do you have a favorite baseball tradition? Is there a particular ghost of baseball past you would like to revisit? Ever wonder why they do what they do, and when they started doing it? If you have a suggestion, question, or submission for Throwback Thursday, contact Elise by tweeting @Elise_Myers.