With the Milwaukee Brewers trailing the Arizona Diamondbacks 1-0 in the win-or-go-home fifth game of the NLDS last week, center fielder Nyjer Morgan led off the fourth inning by ripping a double into the right-center field gap at Miller Park. As Morgan pulled into second, he raised both arms above his head while splaying the fingers of each hand so as to mimic a pair of claws. After being granted a timeout by the nearest umpire, Morgan turned and jogged back toward first to discard the elbow brace he wears while batting. He made the same exaggerated gesture for his excited teammates standing along the rail of the home dugout on the first base side of the field.
"That 'Beast Mode' will get this crowd going." said one of the announcers calling the game for TBS. And, did it ever. Backed by a raucous home crowd, Morgan would advance to third on a wild pitch to Ryan Braun and then come dashing home on a shallow sac fly by Jerry Hairston Jr. to tie the game.
Although Milwaukee has been cheering for the Brewers' demonstrative "Beast Mode" celebration since the middle of the summer, baseball fans around the country may still be wondering what exactly these guys are doing on the basepaths during their deep run into the 2011 MLB playoffs.
The sight of a burly slugger like Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder enacting the team's beastly celebration after clouting a key hit can be slightly menacing and, well, that's sort of the point. After all, the move is inspired by the Disney/Pixar film Monsters Inc., in which a band of meek monsters go to work each night to frighten children. The raised arms move employed by the Brew Crew is inspired specifically by the John Goodman-voiced character Sully (Watch examples here).
Fielder, whose hulking frame, when draped in a blue Brewers uniform, bears more than a passing resemblance to that of the blue monster, has two young sons who adore the movie. So, despite the foul-mouthed exuberance of Morgan's postgame remarks after driving in the series-clinching run against the D-Backs in the 10th inning, these Brewers do not always deserve an R rating. On the contrary, the team's signature celebration is not only kid safe, it's kid inspired.
Observant viewers watching the Brewers' clubhouse celebration after they punched their ticket to the NLCS may have even noticed that Sully was in attendance and sporting a Brewers jersey.
WATCH SULLY IN ACTION
"The Beast Mode thing is something we do for each other, to get each other fired up when something positive happens," Braun told MLB.com. "It's kind of taken on a life of its own."
Of course, not everyone enjoys the signature celebration. Grant Brisbee of SB Nation said of the new fad, "Oh, that damned "Beast Mode." After every Brewers hit, bunt, balk, walk, or catcher's interference call, all of the Brewers convulse into some sort of beastly pantomime. It's the sort of thing that you can only enjoy if you're a Brewers fan or a sociologist researching tribal mating rituals."
Brewers fans and players, though, are more likely concerned with the backing of "Beast Mode" by a Hall of Famer like Robin Yount than with the disapproval of a writer. After delivering the ceremonial first pitch before the second game of the NLDS, Yount got in on the fun, and showed some "Beast Mode" of his own.
The club had so much success with the gesture, that by game 4 of the NLDS, the Diamondbacks had introduced a celebration of their own known as "The Snake." Created by Arizona catcher Miguel Montero, the gesture was performed by cupping ones hand and making a striking motion.
While imitation is said to be the most sincere form of flattery, Morgan wasn't too approving of "The Snake." "I thought it was kinda corny," he told ESPN Milwaukee. "It's a copycat league so you know everybody's gonna do what they gotta do."
Whether or not "Beast Mode" becomes an enduring baseball meme like the Angels' rally monkey, which came to prominence during the 2002 postseason depends largely on whether or not Morgan, Braun and Fielder can continue to deliver moments that warrant celebrating.
As Sully said in the move, "Hey... may the best monster win."