You could see the playfulness right from the first tap, as Cody Bellinger crossed home plate and morphed into the “Kid” to Max Muncy’s “Play.” Belli just kept on tapping toes the whole way back to the dugout. It was a gloriously fun moment for baseball fans (though decidedly not actual Rays fans) to see such a simple, almost childlike gesture take hold of Game 1 of the World Series.
But there was a seriousness that belied the playfulness. You see, Belli bombed his previous homer celebration.
That bash with Kiké Hernández popped the 2019 MVP’s shoulder out. It was something noted early on in the game before the home run by Joe Buck and John Smoltz, as they wondered how negatively it would affect Bellinger on the field and at the plate (Apparently not so much).
But Belli learned his lesson regardless, moving away from mauling teammates with his priceless arms and into the “straight foot,” as he put it. It’s a lesson plenty of others could take and run with, ending an era that began ostensibly with the Bash Brothers, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire in Oakland in the ’80s. You can probably thank ’roid rage for those.
Of course, the award for self-immolation after a homer came in 2010, when Kendry Morales broke his leg jumping on home plate. That same year, Chris Coghlan injured his knee delivering a shaving cream pie in celebration of a walkoff win.
Nowadays, pileups at the plate, especially after walk-off taters, are commonplace. And the risk of injury is obvious when you have all cylinders of adrenaline pumping and body parts flailing about.
Now listen, I am a huge fan of baseball needing “the fun.” I’m not arguing for guys to matter-of-factly round the bases and take their seats. Baseball is a slow-paced game, and unique celebrations should be encouraged. Old timers like Rickey Henderson with his “snatch catch” and current exuberant stars like Fernando Tatis Jr. often rankle stodgy defenders of baseball’s unwritten rules with their loosey-goosey ways (and yes, a lot of that is inherent racism). But some guys just know how to put on a show.
Bellinger has been added to that legion. He and the Dodgers last night showed everyone a better way, just by putting one foot in front of the other.