It took me more than five months to get around to it, but please don’t mistake tardiness for a lack of interest. Today’s post looks back at one of 2014’s most notable Minor League promotions. It is mandatory that you read it:
Major League Baseball has long been concerned with the issue of parity, working to insure that there is a level competitive playing field across the sport. Minor League Baseball, meanwhile, is more concerned with the issue of parody. At no time was this more apparent than this past August 27, when the Altoona Curve staged a night in honor of consummate pop parodist (and one of my personal heroes) “Weird Al” Yankovic.
I have long advocated for a Minor League promotion of this nature (see HERE), and previewed the Curve’s promotion this past August. While there is no wrong time to honor the work of Mr. Yankovic, “Weird Altoona Night” occurred during a particularly noteworthy time of his career. From the Curve press release:
His “Mandatory Fun” album reached #1 on the Billboard pop charts recently and he’s now being championed by his fans to be the entertainment at next year’s Super Bowl. So, the time is right for the Altoona Curve, Double-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, to celebrate the success of Weird Al Yankovic with “Weird Al(Toona) Night” on Wednesday, August 27. At the same time, the team’s rally mascot, Al Tuna, will play a starring role on the night when the Curve play the Richmond Flying Squirrels in a 7 p.m. game at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
(Note: Please take a moment to appreciate the fact that the Curve play at a stadium named “Peoples Natural Gas Field.”)
I am happy to report that, soon after this promotion took place, the Curve got in touch with photos and a recap. As a result of having recently enjoyed a five-month nap, I am just getting to it now.
Curve director of creative services Mark Milligan writes:
Please see the pictures attached for some of our staff dressed as Weird Al and some sponsor slides that makes me question if I need my college degree for this.
So here we go. Here’s Curve general manager “Weird” Rob Egan, who apparently did the best he could with the wigs that were available from the promo supply closet.
This staffer — who I believe might be ticket associate Luke Johnson — didn’t even wear a wig. Weird Al purists were appalled.
Milligan also sent along the team’s “Weird Al” playlist for the evening. These songs were used for between-inning contests tailored to the “Weird Al” theme. (My commentary on each song is in parentheses.)
— Seat Upgrade – ‘Such a Groovy Guy’
This, a deep cut off of Al’s eponymous 1983 debut album, is an original composition in which Al reveals that his idea of romance involves “pouring chocolate pudding down your pants.” Regardless of the specifics, it is clear that a seat upgrade would make any fan feel groovy.
— Sheetz Shuffle (Find the ball under the hat on the videoboard) – ‘Bob’
This Bob Dylan-themed stylistic parody, from 2003’s Poodle Hat, inspired a spot-on “Subterranean Homesick Blues” parody video. The lyrics consist entirely of palindromes, and yet still sound quintessentially Dylan in content. “God, a red nugget, a fat egg under a dog/Go hang a salami, I’m a lasagna hog.”
— Sheetz Tags (a social media to screen promotion) – ‘Word Crimes’
A parody of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” which transformed 2013’s misogynistic ear worm into an impassioned screed against flagrant grammar and syntax transgressions. An all-time classic Weird Al track (and video), and for my money the best song on Mandatory Fun.
— Gift Card Giveaway – ‘Bedrock Anthem’
This song is a parody of Red Hot Chili Peppers “Give It Away,” which would of course be far more apropos as regards this contest. Al’s version is about The Flintstones. It’s fine for what it is, but a much better classic TV-themed parody within Al’s oeuvre is 1990’s “Isle Thing” (Tone Loc’s Wild Thing, with lyrics about Gilligan’s Island).
— Minute to Win It (Twinkie Weiner Sandwich eating contest) – ‘Eat It’
“Eat It,” Weird Al’s best-known parody, makes sense in this context. But, given the name of the contest, the Curve could also have opted to go with the nostalgic balladry of 1985’s “One More Minute.” (One of my greatest fourth grade coups was convincing the bus driver to play this song on the way to school). In any case, the Twinkie Weiner Sandwich employed in this between-inning endeavor is a nod to this scene from the 1990 cult classic film UHF:
— Budweiser Thirst Inning – ‘Beer Barrel Polka’ performed by Frankie Yankovic
The Curve took some liberties with this one. While Al and Frankie are both famous accordion-playing Yankovics, they are not related to one another.
— Burrito Scream (burrito coupons given away to screaming fans) – ‘Tacky’
“Tacky,” a parody of Pharrell’s “Happy,” was the first single released off Mandatory Fun. If the team wanted to go deep on this one, they could have chosen the scream-laden midsection of “Nature Trail to Hell in 3D” (the closing song on In 3D).
— Grounds Crew dragging the infield – ‘Handy’
Well, why not? Grounds crew members are the handiest people in the ballpark. This, a parody of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy,” is the leadoff track on Mandatory Fun. “Hardware Store,” one of the strongest tracks off of Poodle Hat, would also have been an acceptable choice.
— T-shirt Launch – ‘Bohemian Polka’
This, off of 1993’s “Alapalooza,” is Al’s polka-fied rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Carry on, carry on.
— Birthday Announcements – “Happy Birthday” played on the accordion
I mean, sure, that works. But I’m very disappointed that the Curve passed on the opportunity to play Al’s “Happy Birthday,” in which birthday wishes are offered amid a dsytopian landscape of poverty, famine and nuclear armageddon. “Well what’s the matter, little thing? You think this party is the pits? Enjoy it while you can, we’ll soon be blown to bits!”
— Eye Ball Race (Hamster ball race) – ‘Rye or the Kaiser’
In which “Eye of the Tiger” is reconfigured, describing a post-retirement Rocky and his new life as a deli proprietor. But given that this is a hamster ball race, it’s a shame that a “Harvey the Wonder Hamster” reference wasn’t worked in at some point.
— Kiss Cam — ‘If That Isn’t Love‘
An Al original off of 2011’s Alpocalypse, in which he extols his gentlemanly bonafides (“I’ll kiss you even if you have omelettes for breakfast, and I can’t stand omelettes.”)
— Sing for Dairy – ‘Amish Paradise’
This, off of 1996’s Bad Hair Day, is one of Al’s best known parodies. The Curve milked it for all that it was worth.
Mascot Race – ‘Another One Rides the Bus’
My favorite Weird Al song of all time is this, a parody of Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust.” Y’know, in case you weren’t aware, Al has been doing his thing for quite a while now.
Dessert in Curve, PA — ‘I Love Rocky Road‘
A perfect choice, of course. This, like “Another One Rides the Bus,” “Happy Birthday,” and “Such a Groovy Guy,” can be found on Al’s 1983 self-titled debut. It goes without saying that this album is an all-time classic, probably my favorite of all.
Fan Cam — “Polka Face”
Each Weird Al album includes a polka medley of (more or less) current Top 40 hits. This one, from 2011’s Alpocalypse, includes snippets from the likes of Lady Gaga, Lady Antebellum and various other notable ladies (and gents).
Sweetfrog Selfie Winner – ‘Livin in the Fridge’
This is a parody of Aerosmith’s “Livin on the Edge.” I’m not sure what this song has to do with selfies, but I’ll trust the Curve’s judgement on this one.
Chili’s Delivery Dash – ‘Taco Grande’
This homage to Mexican food, from 1991’s Off the Deep End, is a perfect choice for a contest sponsored by Chili’s. “Taco Grande” is a Gerardo parody, not to be confused with Al’s Geraldo parody from the UHF film:
Angry Birds Ballpark – ‘I Can’t Watch This’
Another cut from Off the Deep End. This is a parody of MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This,” in which Al rants against the banality of television.
When I started writing this blog post I really had no idea what I was that I was getting myself into, but I suppose that sentiment applies to most of life’s endeavors. At any rate, I hope that, in addition to illuminating my love for Weird Al, that this post illuminates how much detail must go into each and every Minor League Baseball promotion. I commend the Curve for the work they did on “Weird Altoona Night,” and hope that other teams follow suit in 2015 and beyond.
Until next time, I thank you for your continued support.
So much has been experienced this week in Ohio, and there is still much more to come. I’m in Mahoning Valley right now, fresh off an epic night with the Lake County Captains that will be a lot of fun to document. Saturday finds me in Akron, and then on Sunday I can finally return to NYC’s comforting embrace.
But thoughts of the Big Apple need to be set aside in favor of documenting my time in the birthplace of Johnny Appleseed.
I spent Tuesday and Wednesday in this fine metropolis, with the former evening being among the most exhausting and memorable that I have ever spent in a Minor League ballpark. It was a military appreciation night doubleheader, and the team went out of their way to offer an all-encompassing ballpark experience.
An extensive write-up of the evening is available RIGHT NOW at MiLB.com, featuring a photo gallery and video links. I’ll link to the videos from here as well.
After a practice session with the Bad Apple Dance Crew (in preparation for an in-game infield dragging performance), I hustled up to the broadcast booth and spent the second and third innings on the air with broadcaster and blogger extraordinaire Dan Watson.
We did the second inning on radio and the third on television (the TinCaps broadcast all of their home games on local cable). Watson, to his credit (or detriment) often picks up on the pop culture references I scatter around this blog and as such gave me ample room to riff on important topics such as the impending release of Weird Al’s “Al-Pacalypse.”
I was also a guest on Watson’s podcast, a discussion that allowed me to pontificate on who I am, what I do, and why I do it. This is often hard to explain (the evolution of my entire career can perhaps best be summarized as “making it up as I go along”) and opportunities to do so are appreciated. You can check out the podcast HERE.
Immediately thereafter I was hustled to a table on the concourse in center field for the Qdoba Burrito Eating contest. Myself, Private Griffith and Caleb had one minute in which to eat as much of a chicken burrito as we could. I totally eviscerated the thing and made a mess, but was declared the winner.
I was paired with a season ticket-holder named Michelle soon thereafter, and the two of us were tasked with catching foot-long sandwiches atop a Subway banner. The sandwiches (in actuality a pair of t-shirts inside a Subway wrapper), were shot across the outfield from a t-shirt gun.
Michelle and I went 0-for-3 at our assigned task.
Between games of the doubleheader, there was a National Guard swearing-in ceremony.
Shortly thereafter, I was one of a seemingly endless string of first-pitch participants. No pictures seem to exist of my ceremonial offering, but let me assure you that it was a strike.
This segued into the main event, an infield-dragging dance performance as a member of the Bad Apple Dancers. We shook our proverbial moneymakers to Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA.”
Afterward, we posed for the following photo.
Next up was a “Guess the Attendance” contest, in which I stood atop the dugout with on-field host Brad Shank (seen in the above pic on the far right) and failed to guess the evening’s correct attendance. I was then whisked outside the stadium into the outfield groundskeeping area to participate in a “Hamster Ball” race.
These things are bizarre — you enter into them while they are still deflated, and then a leaf blower is inserted. Soon you find yourself in a disconcerting spherical plastic echo chamber, propelling yourself down the third base line with the single-minded intensity of a domestic rodent.
By the time the second game ended, it was past 11:30 p.m. But was it time to shut things down? Of course not!
The TinCaps first staged the standard “Launch-A-Ball” contest. Activate your hula hoops!
You’d think that all this would have given me more than my fill of the TinCaps experience, and you’d be correct. Nonetheless, I returned the next day and spent the majority of the ballgame on a extensive food tour with culinary director Scott Kammerer. An article all about it has already appeared on MiLB.com. Read it!
I indeed sampled everything pictured. Clockwise from bottom left: Apple Dumpling, Cincinnati Chili Dog, Brisket Sandwich, Philly Cheesesteak, Turkey Leg. It was uniformly delicious, but Brisket Sandwich with Apple Dumpling for dessert would be my recommended pairing.
As the game was winding down I got a chance to catch up with Tug Haines. A New Jersey native, Haines is spending the entire season on the Minor League trail and documenting it on his website Casual Fan. This is an endeavor well worth supporting.
Video links should be added to this post shortly, and some further Fort Wayne odds and ends may appear throughout the next week. But, for now, I must humbly sign off.
I’ve written about literally thousands of promotions in my time here at MiLB.com, but it nonetheless took until yesterday until a team finally stepped up and staged this:
The team doing the saluting was the Harrisburg Senators, who had a very good reason for doing so. As the press release so helpfully explains:
This past week, the City of Harrisburg experienced a water main break that affected downtown Harrisburg and City Island. It took a couple of days for city workers and contractors to fix the problem, but fix it they did. After the problem was corrected, the New York based contractors were asked what caused the break. The answer, beavers.
That was all the motivation the Senators needed, and they soon announced a promotion honoring “all fans with a connection to beavers.” This sub-demographic includes the following:
The Senators are giving fans a free box seat if they can produce proof their last name is Beaver or they are from or currently live in Beaver, PA. But that’s not all, the Senators will also give a free ticket to anyone with the last name of Cleaver, in honor of the television show Leave it to Beaver. And if you’re named Theodore, Ward, June or Wally, you can purchase a box seat for just $5. Not to be left out, graduates of Beaver College can also purchase a box seat for just $5.
The Senators are planning special events on Monday including a Dam building competition, a Beaver Cleaver look-a-like contest and a “blind race” since beavers have a terrible sense of sight and depend on smell and sound.
Moving from beavers to quarter-ton garden gnomes, the Reading Phillies recently delivered a life-size and copiously bearded Ryan Howard to one Amy Vandehei of Rosemont, PA (the winner of an Opening Night drawing).
More photos and info can be found on Tommy Viola’s “Philling You In” blog, and this report from WFMZ-69 is well worth watching. The next 550-lb giveaway on the R-Phils schedule is Crazy Hot Dog Vendor on July 10.
Continuing on in the “unorthodox figurines” category — in the wake of last week’s “Ken Griffey Jr. Spirit Bobble-Arm” giveaway, the Inland Empire 66ers have hidden five “gold” versions throughout the surrounding community. More details to be released soon, but in the meantime here’s a gold KGJ doll doing whatever it is a gold KGJ doll does.
Meanwhile, non-gold real-life KGJ is currently back in the Cal League for a two-day stint, assisting High Desert Mavericks players as part of his full-time consultant gig with the Mariners. The Mavs’ opponent during this time are the aforementioned 66ers, who KGJ played with in their previous incarnation as the San Bernardino Spirit. Meanwhile, Ken Griffey Sr. currently serves as manager of the Cal League Bakersfield Blaze. Got all that? I hope so, because there’s no time for further explanation.
Finally, it looks like the Boston Pops w/ Kenny Loggins Minor League ballpark tour has some company this season. Yesterday the Big Apple Circus announced a brief mid-July itinerary, featuring the mind–bending quintet of Mongolian contortionists, the cavorting canine troupe of American trainer Jenny Vidbel, a phenomenal hand–balancing act by Bulgarian–born Andrey Mantchev, the awesome artistry of the Wuqiao Acrobats from China….and the Big Apple Circus’s very own star clown, Grandma!
The stops on this Minor League extravaganza include Syracuse (July 13), Rochester (July 15), Lake County (July 17) and indy league Lancaster, PA (July 19). The tour was put together by ESI Concerts, responsible for the aforementioned Boston Pops ballpark tour as well as the annual Principal Family Fun Fest.
Number one on my Minor League Ballpark tour wishlist is, of course, Weird Al Yankovic. Please don’t forget that June 21 is the “Al-Pocalypse”, and that it is therefore your duty to ignore all my pleas to schedule a Weird Al promotion on this date.
Over the past several weeks, I have methodically taken note of all the teams who are planning some sort of Valentine’s Day promotion. My current tally now stands at 33, and I am sure there are some that I am missing.
But, you know what? I’ve written about this kind of thing before, in multiple MiLB.com feature stories (HERE and HERE) and blog posts (HERE and HERE). So at this juncture, I’m just going to make a simple request:
Send me funny photos and videos from your Valentine endeavors, and I will compile a (hopefully) hilarious blog post with the best of what I receive. In the meantime, here’s a video featuring a diaper-wearing mascot playing front office Cupid.
It’s otherwise a pretty slow day here in Minor League Baseball-land, but we’ll get by. We always do.
I do, however, want to highlight an event going on tonight: Minor League Baseball on Ice!
The NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning will be hosting “Minor League Baseball Night” at the St. Pete Times Forum on Friday. Not much to it, really — a bevy of Florida State League teams will have info booths set up on the concourse, attempting to educate fans on the wonders of Minor League Baseball.
And, according to the Brevard County Manatees website, anyone who visits the team’s booth and utters the words “Fear the Sea Cow!” will receive a special gift.
In my mind, simply having a legitimate reason to say “Fear the Sea Cow” to a total stranger is a gift in and of itself.
Meanwhile, much of the country is still dealing with the after-effects of last week’s blizzard. Instead of stressing out about the situation, the Cedar Rapids have taken a “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach.
And since it’s Friday, I’ll close with a video even more gratuitous. Check out who can now add “Children’s Book Author” to his resume:
The previous post on this blog featured the following photo from the Trenton Thunder’s “NFL Kickoff Night.” It is quite possibly my favorite pic to emanate from a Minor League stadium this year:
So what, exactly, was going on here? Thunder director of public relations Bill Cook explains:
The kid signing for the cheerleaders was probably one of the funniest things I’ve seen all year. The cheerleaders threw out first pitches and then went over to the wall to sign for fans. After a couple of minutes that kid came down and said “Hey ladies, how’d ya like my autograph?”. The girls laughed and didn’t really know what to say, but since they were still holding the balls from their pitches the kid reached over, took one, and started signing it. As he handed it back, he said, “So, can I have your number?” The girls were speechless.
Truly, this kid is a role model. He carries himself with confidence and humor, and from here on out I will do my best to emulate his carefree approach to unorthodox social situations.
Also taking a carefree approach to unorthodox social situations are Peoria Chiefs players, who have recently been included in a remarkable trifecta of videos. First came the “Chiefstreet Boys”, then a rollicking Motown homage, and now this:
And it just keeps getting more ridiculous, as I just stumbled upon this:
Clearly, these guys are up for just about anything. Also up for anything are the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, who seem to specialize in unique ballpark innovations. The team is currently staging the “Battlefield Challenge” at Coca-Cola Park, a game-within-the-game that presents the tantalizing possibility of discounted concession stand items.
Sez the team:
The field at Coca-Cola Park has been divided into six battle zones that each team will attempt to
gain control of in an effort to conquer the entire playing surface.
Each team will have the opportunity to gain control of any
battle zone while they are at-bat. A base hit into any zone will give
the hitting team control of that zone until a base hit from the opposing
team lands in that zone.
And should the IronPigs gain control of all six zones, discounts will go into effect at the concession stands throughout the remainder of the ballgame.
Also, in what I believe is a Minor League first, the IronPigs are offering a week-long fan cruise this off season:
The package includes a souvenir IronPigs gift and exclusive
events (including an autograph session!) with IronPigs All-Star and
2008 World Series Champion Andy Tracy, IronPigs broadcaster Matt
Provence, IronPigs General Manager Kurt Landes along with popular
mascots FeRROUS and FeFe!
This seven-night cruise to the Bahamas and Florida
aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jewel leaves New York City on
November 14 and includes trips to Port Canaveral, Florida, Great Stirrup
Cay (Bahamas) and Nassau (Bahamas). While aboard the ship, enjoy all
included meals and entertainment!
Wow. This is way better than the Ben’s Biz Blog offseason cruise, which consists of ’70s rock singalongs on a leaky dinghy imbued with the scent of rotting seagull.
Finally, I am happy to report that the Orem Owlz recently staged a “Weird Al Night”promotion. The master satirist was recognized in the following ways (thanks to Owlz assistant gm Brett Crane for the report):
Middle of the 3rd: Videoboard Weird Al Lyrics (Fill-in-the-Blank)
[The contestant’s] goals was to fill-in-the-blank for three well-known Weird Al songs: “Like a Surgeon”, “Amish Paradise”, and “Eat It”.
Middle of the 4th and 5th: Weird T’Al’ents Contest
Middle of the 6th – “Eat It” Chocolate Pudding ContestThis was the messiest eating contest of the night and for
the season by far. Two contestants were chosen to compete against each other in
a timed eating contest. Each contestant was given three mini graham cracker
pies filled with chocolate pudding. Whoever finished their set of three first
won the designated prize from one of our sponsors. Of course, not all of
the pies were fully eaten and chocolate was everywhere. (“Eat It” was played
during this promotion).
This is a step in the right direction, but of course the ultimate goal is for all Minor League teams to stage at least one Weird Al promo every season. Please, everyone: