Unless you’ve been living under a rock, especially a rock that lacks television and internet, you’ve likely noticed the prevalence of the home run celebration this season in Major League Baseball.
It honestly is a surprise, in retrospect, that it took so long for the homer celebration to develop. Baseball seasons are really long. They call them the “dog days” of summer for a reason, so any little extra gimmick a team can use to make each game a little more fun is more than welcome. But now the celly is here and it appears to only be growing.
We’re just a month-plus into the season and already 12 teams have debuted home run celebrations this season that did not exist last year. It seems only a matter of time before everyone is on board, but it felt like an opportune time to rank the early adopters. The sample size is large enough for those of us in the evaluation business to know what makes for a good celly and, perhaps more importantly, what does not.
So before the fun begins, here is the loose set of criteria weighed in the creation of these rankings:
How creative is the celebration?
Is there any particular origin story? What does that tell us about that team?
Is it fitting for either the name of the team or the region in which they play?
How fun does it look to participate in the celebration?
With all that in mind, let the judging commence!
Honorable mention: Blue Jays (home run jacket)
The Jays have ditched the jacket in 2023 in their search to become a true contender rather than a young, cocky team that collapses in the Wild Card Series. They still put a phantom jacket on each other in the dugout at times, but the actual piece of garb has passed on to the big coat hanger in the sky.
Although the jacket may have been a vestige of the too-big-for-their-britches attitude that came back to haunt the ‘22 Jays, it was still undeniably a foundational celebration upon which other teams have built. Some, as we’ll see later, have even taken direct inspiration from the jacket itself. So although it is no longer with us, we must acknowledge the jacket as an important step on the journey to get to where we are now.
12. Braves (big hat)
This celebration also no longer exists, but it debuted this season, so we’re including it on the list. Big hats memorably burst onto the scene this past fall, when Washington Commanders running back Brian Robinson iconically sported one during a postgame presser. Since then, everyone and their cousin has customized their own big hats, and a fan of the Braves had one made to give to the squad.
Unfortunately for the Braves, it simply wasn’t that cool. When every other team is upping the ante, simply wearing a piece of baseball gear with the team logo on it, albeit in gargantuan form, isn’t going to cut it. And then, in a fully predictable move given the state of apparel contracts in 2023, the official MLB cap sponsor New Era nixed the celebration, because Big Brother always wins.
But frankly, the hat isn’t worth getting up in arms to fight for. The Braves would be best served using the opportunity to cultivate a home run celebration worthy of a better ranking. Sometimes, a punishment can be used to create a positive overall outcome.
11. Royals (gladiator helmet)
If you asked a fan at the start of the season to name a connection between the Kansas City Royals and the gladiators, they would almost certainly be left sputtering without an answer. And when you actually hear the story, it just becomes sad.
Evidently, the Royals’ hitting coaches all got together and watched Gladiator. Bobby Witt Jr. described it as symbolic of the team’s mentality: “Everyone against us.” Unfortunately, this season, “everyone” has been coming out on top.
Wednesday night, the Royals defeated the Orioles to “improve” to 8-23 on the season. Even more upsettingly, it was just their second win at Kauffman Stadium all year. And they couldn’t even take the proper time to celebrate, as they played early in the afternoon Thursday and completely wasted an awesome eight-run comeback attempt in an excruciating 13-10 late-innings defeat.
Perhaps this is a sign that the better teams will inevitably rank higher on the list than the lesser ones. But wouldn’t it also just make more sense for K.C. to rock a crown whenever they smash a dinger, as rare as that occurrence may turn out to be? Maybe incorporate a robe or a staff? The whole thing feels slightly contrived and uninspiring.
This one is just a blatant rip-off of the Blue Jays, with the slight added touch of headwear that is admittedly way cooler than the jacket itself. Elvis Andrus is said to be the originator of the celebration, but there’s almost no paper trail we can follow to figure out why it was chosen.
And similarly to the Royals, the Sox are off to a dismal start to the year, including a 10-game losing streak that had fans ripping the team, especially a “Waddle and Silvy” caller named Berto, who tore into the franchise in such a systematic, vicious way that it had the hosts shaking with laughter.
So is it possible that the awkwardness of such a struggling team is contributing to the low ranking? Yes, but it’s also just another jacket. No originality and not enough panache to merit much respect on a stacked list.
The obvious positives: it’s very team- and region-appropriate. We see powdered wig, we think of old-timey politicians, legislative sessions and how it all ties back to our nation’s founding. In the nation’s capital, that plays.
If a Nationals fan were to read this article and rip us for giving it such a low ranking, it would be entirely understandable. And once again, it’s also possible that if the Nats were a first-place team, we’d be looking at the celebration in a more positive light. But on the whole, this one just didn’t move the needle for us.
That doesn’t necessarily mean they should scrap it–we love the celebration movement and think every team deserves one. But because this was a recently introduced celly, it felt as though the bar had been raised by the time the Nats unveiled the wig. They didn’t fully fail to deliver, they just didn’t do enough to outshine the rest of the teams we’re about to discuss.
Similarly to the Royals, if asked before the season for correlation between the Cincinnati Reds and a viking, you’d likely have trouble coming up with a response. Moreover, you’d likely say, “Wait, isn’t there already another sports franchise in the midwest called the Vikings? Isn’t that a conflict of interest?”
And yes, the reasons for the connection are somewhat tenuous, which is why this celebration lands somewhat low on the list. Apparently, Luis Cessa thought the blonde, bearded, blue-eyed Jake Fraley looked like a true norseman, so he purchased the helmet and cape during Spring Training for celebration purposes.
Frankly, there are long-haired bearded guys on almost every baseball team now, so that backstory doesn’t sway us on the judging panel much. But what saved the Reds from an embarrassingly low ranking was that photo seen above of Jonathan India donning the viking apparel. Cincy is lucky to have such a striking young star on their side, because India could make just about anything look awesome.
This rather, um, suggestive… celebration has taken off in Baltimore this season as the Orioles have followed up last season’s surprisingly positive results to a fantastic start this season that would have them in first place in four of the five divisions that aren’t their own.
In fact, let’s just say it. The thing looks like a beer bong. Nobody is going to see that and say anything else. But as Kyle Gibson explained via text to Jomboy Media’s Trevor Plouffe, the contraption is meant to mimic a garden hose, symbolizing the team’s “grinder” attitude.
And if they weren’t already having enough water, the O’s have also used a wacky “sprinkler” celebration on doubles that is equally provocative, yet fun. It’s toeing a fine line, but the celebration just does clear the bar to earn the seal of approval from this governing body. Though it just missed out on the top half of the list, Baltimore is in a significantly higher tier than the teams just below them.
Last season, the Brewers rang a bell in the dugout after homers and other positive plays, which was fun, but not particularly meaningful. This season, the bell is out in favor of the cheesehead, which has been iconic to Wisconsin for over 30 years. And here’s the kicker you might not know: though the headwear has mostly come to be associated with Packers fandom, the original was spotted at a Brewers game in 1987.
There’s nothing particularly innovative about this celebration–the team is simply using a piece of garb that has existed a long time to fit in with the times. But there’s still a uniquely Wisconsin element to the whole thing that merits a top-half spot on the list. The remaining celebrations are all a bit more exciting, but this one is perfect in its own right.
As a bonus, the Brewers have also incorporated a spinoff of the iconic “Beat the Freeze” race at Braves games entitled, of course, “Beat the Cheese.” Milwaukee is really hitting on a theme this season.
The Mariners have a long history with the trident, which was incorporated in the team’s original logo in 1977. The team eventually dropped it from the logo in 1987, followed by changing up the color scheme altogether in 1993. But it has remained part of the team’s ethos all along and it is currently being revitalized not just by the home run celebration, but by the team’s City Connect uniforms as well.
The trident is undoubtedly a solid prop. It’s team- and region-appropriate, it looks great in the hands of Julio Rodríguez and company, plus it’s got a strong connotation to the act of hitting a home run itself. Powerful beings hit bombs, just as only powerful beings could wield a trident. The symbolism here is very strong.
The only thing keeping the Mariners out of the top three is the slightly confusing existence of the team’s Darth Vader helmet that also gets broken out after home runs. The helmet, originally created back in 2016 to celebrate sweeps, was the original home run prop. In 2023, it appears to have joined forces with the trident. Here’s the only issue–Darth Vader definitively did not go into battle with a trident! Without perfect synergy, there’s only so high on the list one can rise.
Looks? Check. Origin story? Check, given that Shohei Ohtani paid $2,500 to have the helmet shipped all the way from Japan and that man can do absolutely no wrong. Fun? You bet.
If you need a sign that the kabuto has really taken hold with the Angels, look no further than Wednesday night’s win in St. Louis. Jake Lamb hit a monster two-run shot to tie the game in the ninth (before Mike Trout went deep for the win, because he’s Mike Trout, obviously). When Lamb crossed home and went to greet his teammates, all he could think about was getting his moment with the helmet, screaming out, “Give me that f***ing hat!”
The only thing keeping the Angels off the podium is that the celebration shows that the team’s future is too closely tied to one man. They’ve done such a poor job of building enough of a strong supporting cast to convince Ohtani to stay long-term that they’ve had to make other concessions. “Yes, Shohei, we’ll wear whatever you want after we hit home runs!” is a nice sentiment, but so would winning games on days he doesn’t pitch and/or smash a pair of homers.
Regardless, the kabuto is an excellent prop, and the Angels’ home broadcast does a terrific job of highlighting it. Color analyst Mark Gubicza calls it to attention whenever the helmet is donned and the camera crew and production team makes sure to show it live and at the end of the inning. It all makes a video editor’s job a lot easier, so this full-time video editor is certainly appreciative.
We’re approaching elite territory now. It’s on the nose, but perfectly so. What did pirates wield? What replaces the bones in many a Jolly Roger flag? Swords, duh! The Pirates have also adopted yet another home run jacket of late, but we could do without that. The sword is the buried treasure we’ve come to admire.
This is also at the top of the scale when it comes to the fun factor. Perhaps it’s a credit to the early run of success the Buccos have enjoyed, but every player that gets to face the dugout camera and swing the sword around looks like they’re having an absolute blast. And perhaps no single player looks more iconic doing their team’s celebration than Ji-Man Choi, who could skyrocket any of these cellies up a few spots on the list.
There isn’t much more to say–the Pirates have checked all the boxes. It’s an indication of how strong the celebration game has become that there are still two teams left to name.
On looks alone, this one may appear a bit too high on what is a positively stacked list. But the origin story is what pushes it over the top.
Masataka Yoshida, the 28-year-old “rookie” Japanese outfielder, has garnered the nickname “Macho Man” for the walkup song he chose during his days with the Orix Buffaloes. Eventually the walkup song was accompanied by a video montage that included shots of Yoshida curling dumbbells, so fans began bringing inflatable dumbbells to the games to support the lefty slugger.
The Village People no longer play when Yoshida steps into the box at Fenway, but the Sox have adopted the inflatable dumbbells as their team’s home run prop, and the smile on a player’s face, especially Yoshida’s, when they get to hoist them is fantastic. Japanese baseball fan culture is truly a blessing for the game.
Plus, the Red Sox get bonus points for starting this whole recent homer celebration trend with the Kevin Plawecki-inspired laundry cart ride that began during the 2021 season. That charade lost its charm during the bitter ‘22 season and ended when Plawecki was DFA’d, so kudos for coming up with fresh festivities for the new year.
It took a while for the Twins to decide what their celebration would be, but it turned out they were just letting the hype build. When Byron Buxton went deep against the Royals Sunday, the baseball world saw him put on a vest and fake-cast a fishing rod and we were already delighted. Then we saw him turn around to reveal that the back of the vest said “Land of 10,000 Rakes” and… our jaws all dropped.
How has this not been a thing before? The Twins have been one of the most power-heavy lineups in baseball for the better part of a decade by now, punctuated by their 307 bombs as a team in 2019, the single-season record for all MLB teams ever. And now, four years later, they just figured out “Land of 10,000 Rakes” could be a thing? It’s absolute perfection.
The fishing rod alone would be enough for a high finish on this list. It fits all our regional and fun criteria and it looks great in Buxton’s hands in particular. But the vest is out of this world. In contrast to the various home run jackets we’ve seen, it’s a simple, clean look that screams “Minnesota Twins.” And for a team that is perhaps somewhat surprisingly in first place, it matches the good vibes. 10/10, absolutely no notes.