Amazing and super stupendous

The circus that is minor-league baseball.

C’mon, word-slingers, there’s a funeral in it for you!
  • C’mon, word-slingers, there’s a funeral in it for you!

A friend emails a link, says I must needs watch the video. Ever the obedient householder, I click and behold Tara the Hero Cat. You’ve seen it, a four-year-old boy is playing on his bicycle in a suburban driveway alongside the family station wagon. Cut to: short-haired Labrador-chow mix sneaking around the car. Then, boom, beast attacks small child. The attack is real, it’s violent, and it’s continuous. But then, into the frame comes Tara the Hero Cat racing toward the assailant. Tara jumps and hurls her body into the creature’s rib cage. Dog runs off, Tara at his heels, and little Jeremy is saved.

The clip goes up on YouTube, collects 1,000,000 hits within 24 hours, 21 million hits as I write this. Tara appears on network TV, ESPN, local newscasts, written up in newspapers coast to coast. The day after the attack, Tara debuts her Facebook page. A few days later, Tara unveils her Twitter account plus a personal website offering Tara T-Shirts, Tara beach totes, necklaces, pants, coffee mugs, gym bags, shopping bags, and the rest.

My favorite Tara cash-in was last week’s minor-league baseball promotion. Tara the Hero Cat throwing out the first pitch at a Bakersfield Blaze/Lancaster JetHawks game.


Minor-league baseball is one of the few places left where you can find authentic P.T. Barnum promotions. The essential ingredients in any P.T. Barnum promotion are a circus carny’s hyperbole so broad as to provoke a smile, mixed with a double dose of black humor. Let us count the ways:

1) Charleston RiverDogs. Single-A. New York Yankees affiliate. Nobody Night.

The RiverDogs locked out their fans, locked out customers who had already purchased tickets and parking passes. Fans were not permitted to enter the ballpark until the fifth inning, thereby allowing the RiverDogs to set a new attendance record: zero, nada, nothing, nil, zip.

2) Bisbee-Douglas Copper Kings. Independent League. Popsicle Night.

This was an especially touching promotion honoring the memory of Ted Williams. Baseball enthusiasts will recall that after the Hall of Famer died in 2002 his head was cryogenically frozen and stored at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in nearby Scottsdale.

We will ignore the controversy fomented by former Alcor CEO Larry Johnson who wrote a book, Frozen, in which he reported that Williams’s head was used for batting practice by a technician. Apparently the technician was frustrated while attempting to dislodge Ted’s head from a tuna-fish can.

On Ted Williams Popsicle Night the Copper Kings gave away popsicles to the first 500 fans entering the ballpark. Since the team had 1000 popsicles laid away, 500 popsicles were left for the popsicle-inflamed mob to consume. For safety’s sake, the aforementioned popsicles were stored in conveniently located concession stands.

3) Brooklyn Cyclones. Short-Season A. New York Mets affiliate. Pregnancy Night.

A pregnant woman threw out the first pitch. Pregnant women ran around the bases barefoot. Pregnant women were offered pickles, ice cream, and anchovy pizza at “craving stations.” The seventh-inning stretch was renamed the seventh-inning stretch marks. A laugh riot.

4) Mahoning Valley Scrappers. Short-Season A. Cleveland Indians affiliate. Liposuction Night.

Fans register for the promotion. The Scrappers select five finalists. The final five are invited onto the field where the winner, using an unknown criteria, is announced. Special thanks to Valley Surgical Arts and a tip of the hat for the added event that made the evening super special. Liposuction Night was also All You Can Eat Night.

5) San Rafael Pacifics. Independent League. Salute to Indoor Plumbing Night.

The Pacifics went all out for this one. Not only did the first 500 fans checking through the turnstiles receive a free Pacifics toilet plunger, but one lucky fan was awarded a free bidet courtesy of Roto-Rooter. But wait, there’s more. In-game entertainment featured the crowd-pleasing and surprisingly competitive “Musical Toilet Seats” challenge.

6) Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Triple A. Philadelphia Phillies affiliate. Celebration of Life Night.

Indeed, Life Night is a dancing-in-the-street celebration of life. The triumphant winner receives a free funeral.

Fans were invited to submit an essay answering the questions: Why do you deserve a free funeral and if awarded what would your funeral look like?

You’ll want to put your best effort forward because the funeral, awarded on the field in the sixth inning, includes a casket, embalming or cremation, hearse, headstone, flowers, and a funeral or memorial service. That’s $10,000 worth of death donated by Reichel Funeral Home and Northampton Memorial Company. Thanks, guys.

According to the AP, one man wrote that he had ALS and his family and friends were watching his “life quickly draining from my body.”

Good times. Happy times. You guessed it — that word-slinger’s essay won the gold.

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