Answer Man: What's with all the hand-flapping from the Cardinals?

News-DemocratJune 25, 2014 

I have noticed that when our beloved Cardinals get a hit, they now often use their hands to give a sign of wings flying when they get on base. My husband and I have theories about this, but they're probably all wrong. What's the reason? -- Carolyn Thomason

If you're a sports fan, I'm sure you've seen the elaborate behaviors athletes sometimes engage in to pump themselves up along with their teammates and fans.

Legend has it that Michael Jordan always wore his blue University of North Carolina shorts under his Chicago Bulls uniform.

New York Mets reliever Turk Wendell, once voted the most superstitious athlete of all time by Men's Fitness, would chew black licorice while pitching and brush his teeth between innings. Wade Boggs would draw a symbol meaning "to life" in the dirt before every at-bat.

Well, in addition to Jason Motte's stylish beard, players also have started to use the team-specific hand gestures you've noticed. When they reach base, they like to go a little crazy, folks, to show off their accomplishment, ramp up the crowd and try to spark the next batter to keep the line moving.

I'm not positive about this, but you may have to look deep in the heart of Texas for its origin. En route to the 2010 World Series, the Rangers started a "Claw and Antler" shtick, according to Doug Miller at mlb.com.

The Claw, described as a "non-contact" hand slap to celebrate a hit, was created by infielder Esteban German, who brought it up from his minor league days. It became so popular that they even did it when Texas Manager Ron Washington singled in an alumni game.

Equally popular and even sillier was the Antler, for which players placed their hands on top of their caps and then stretched out the palms to mimic a male deer's rack. While the uninitiated might confuse it with Bullwinkle, players say it honors a player's aggressive speed.

"You show you are running like a deer," outfielder Julio Borbon said at the time.

The gimmicks caught on with Ranger fans, who soon began wearing foam claws, homemade antlers and the requisite T-shirts. (See them in action at http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20101026&content_id=15842130&c_id=mlb)

As you might guess, the new custom spread as other teams just had to have their own signature move. In Tampa Bay, for example, Evan Longoria started a unity symbol that looks like two V-signs being mushed together (www.raysindex.com/2012/08/elliot-johnson-explains-the-rays-team-unity-hand-gesture-video.html).

Now it's in the Gateway City with the Redbirds celebrating their offensive accomplishments with their birdies on the wing routine. I suppose it's much like that old neon Cardinal which used to flap around the scoreboard after a home run at the old Busch Stadium

"This stuff started last year," our Cardinal reporter David Wilhelm told me. "It's just a hand gesture the players use that represents the Redbirds flying. Just silly stuff ballplayers do on occasion."

Could you try to explain again the weird dating system in your Saturday papers? -- C.P., of Belleville, R.A., of Fairview Heights, et al.

As our copy editor Jason Koch joked, we adopted the system to try to avoid confusion and apparently succeeded in confusing just about everyone. Let's see if I can make this somewhat clearer than mud:

Essentially, our Saturday papers now serve two purposes. Most of them go to our home subscribers to give them Friday's news. In the past, these would have "Saturday" on every page. No problem there, right?

But now we're doing something new with the Saturday papers that go into stores and vending machines. We stuff these with all of the coupons, classifieds and other inserts that our home subscribers will receive the next day. The news sections are exactly the same as the Saturday home edition, but we call these fat store copies our early Sunday edition and put "Sunday" on the front page.

Here's the problem: If we used "Saturday" and "Sunday" on every page of the news sections, we would have to make two plates for every page even though we would only be changing the date at the top. (Remember, the news sections are otherwise the same.) This superficial cosmetic change would cost us about $7 a page, Koch said -- or very roughly $160 a week and $8,000 a year.

So, we decided to change the date only on the front page and use the Julian week-year designation throughout the rest. For now, we hope home subscribers will simply take note of that "Saturday" on the front and ignore the rest if it seems all Greek (or Latin, I suppose, in this case) to them.

Today's trivia

You've probably heard of synonyms and antonyms, but what are heteronyms?

Answer to Wednesday's trivia: Would you believe that those colorful, wrinkly pieces of fleshy material underneath a rooster's beak may show how sexy he is? That's what experts think. These ornaments are called "wattles" and large wattles apparently are associated with high testosterone levels, healthy eating and the ability to evade enemies -- all signs of a good mate to their female counterparts. If only my double chin could spark the same reaction ...

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

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