Mickey Hatcher took one for the team Friday. The Angels’ hitting coach got a slobbering smooch from a little monkey that hopped off the perch of Hatcher’s shoulder and puckered up.
If you have to ask why a distinguished coach took time from his busy schedule to pose with a monkey, you haven’t been to Edison Field in Anaheim lately. This is the summer of the Rally Monkey, a phenomenon as inexplicable as it is undeniable.
The irony is delicious. Disney, the team owner that put cheerleaders and bands on the dugout roof and fake rocks in the outfield, finally found something to stir the interest of Angel fans, purely by accident. It is, well, a picture of a monkey jumping up and down.
Now, crowds chant for the Rally Monkey to appear. Kids bounce around, imitating the monkey. Teens bring stuffed monkeys to the games, waving them giddily.
“It’s the goofiest thing you’ve ever seen,” said Rex Hudler, the Angels’ television analyst and a former major league player.
Disney marketers are now trying to pounce on the trend and make it their own, which is why Hatcher was cuddling up to a monkey Friday.
The legend of the Rally Monkey began June 6, as the Angels were losing to the San Francisco Giants. Video crew members Dean Fraulino and Jason Humes were pulling out all the stops in their attempt to whip up some crowd support.
They came across a video clip from the 1994 hit movie “Ace Ventura, Pet Detective,” staring Jim Carrey, that showed a monkey jumping up and down. They superimposed the words “Rally Monkey” over it and flashed it on the JumboTron. The crowd roared.
The Angels rallied, scoring two runs in the last inning to win.
An Edison Field craze was born.
And you don’t have to be there to participate.
“I’d be sitting there listening to the game on the radio, and I’d start doing the ‘Rally Monkey,’ ” said fan Kimberly Durant of Placentia.
Outfielder Tim Salmon voted the Rally Monkey a huge improvement over the tired old strains of “We Will Rock You.”
“That was stupid,” Salmon said. “This came out, and everybody jumped on it. . . . When the crowd gets going, it gets the players going.”
And so it does. The Angels have come from behind in 18 of their past 31 victories. On the Angels’ Web site, one fan praised the Rally Monkey as the perfect antidote to the Disney theatrics: “This is the kind of cool, funky stuff the Angels need--not guys in bear suits and dancing waters.”
Angel President Tony Tavares said he can’t quite explain the Rally Monkey’s success: “Just something we stumbled across. Dumb luck.”
Fans don’t seem to care. They have deluged the Angels with requests for Rally Monkey merchandise. The first shipment of 96 stuffed monkeys arrived Thursday and sold out within hours. A second shipment arrived Friday, and T-shirts are expected within three weeks.
But you won’t see the original Rally Monkey on them. To avoid copyright violations, the merchandising campaign features the celebrity monkeys that joined Hatcher Friday. They are the same white-faced monkeys that appeared in the NBC-TV series “Friends” and the 1995 movie “Outbreak.”
They wore tiny Angel tops and shorts, tails sticking out the back, during their appearance at Edison Field on Friday for a video shoot that will eventually makes its way to the ballpark’s big screen.
They frolicked, jumped, tossed the caps of rival teams into a trash can, stomped on home plate and held up signs, including one reading, “Rally Time!”
Rod Murray, the Angels’ entertainment director, promises to shield the Rally Monkey from overexposure.
“I’m so concerned about exploiting it and killing it,” he said.