The story of Gattis McCann the Rally Raccoon begins about three years ago, in our backyard, near the Heights area of Houston. It’s only about four miles from downtown, but it’s a somewhat wild area—streaked by creeks and dotted with wooded areas and parks.
Our neighborhood is on a slight rise above a riverine forest, which lines the mouth of a sluggish creek at its point of entry into concrete-lined White Oak Bayou. That little wood is home to all manner of critters and varmints: several species of turtles, pond and tree ducks, frogs, flying squirrels, owls, and even a “good God bird” or two, as Texans have long called the shockingly crow-sized pileated woodpecker.
There are also plenty of raccoons and opossums, and it was the latter that led the way for Gattis McCann to become our good luck totem. For as long as my wife has lived here—now more than ten years—opossums have patrolled the backyard. Because they live on average in the wild only for two or three years, this is now a multigenerational phenomenon.
Raccoons followed the opossums to our yard. A couple of them, Annie Mae and Gattis McCann, have grown comfortable enough to come in through our back door and share meals with our cats in our dining room while we watch TV in the living room, about ten feet away.
Gattis, who we believe is the son of Annie Mae, is especially unafraid, probably because he was born and raised in our yard. When we shoo him away from the indoor bowls, he’s increasingly reluctant to comply. Sometimes, he’s downright ornery, refusing to flee farther away than a few feet.
Over the course of this long and epic World Series, I have found him to be our family’s Astros good luck charm. When he’s in the house and the Astros are at bat, good things happen. When he is in the house and the Dodgers are at bat, he has to go outside. It’s that simple.
It all started a century ago during game two. Back then, we were calling him Fat Face, thanks to his portly stature, prominent jowls, and his rounded snub nose. If you saw his with his panda-like features side by side with the elegant, fox-like Annie Mae, the cruel name makes sense.
He toddled into the house with the Astros tied at three in the tenth. Almost immediately, José Altuve and Carlos Correa hit back-to-back home runs. We looked at the raccoon in awe. The legend of Fat Face the Rally Raccoon was planted.
In the celebrations that followed, I failed to consider that Fat Face was good luck only when the Astros were at bat, and thus didn’t scurry him out of the house during the bottom half of the inning, when the Dodgers tied it back up. (The Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig seems to be very receptive to the raccoon’s power—two of his three hits in this Series, both of them extremely clutch, have come in his next at-bat after Fat Face appearances.) But no matter, his mojo carried over for the Astros into the eleventh inning and powered George Springer’s two-run game-winning homer into the Chavez Ravine bleachers.
Fat Face was AWOL for the next two games—I think the cold snap sent him scuttling to the cozy confines of his secret lair, which we’re yet to discover. (We will know where it is when we find the empty sack that once contained some expensive cat food, which he dragged off into the night in full view of two humans about a week ago.)
We split those two games, and he returned for game five. That’s where it gets weird.
I was filming Fat Face with my phone while he was reaching his hand in and out of the cat bowl, placing individual bits of kibble on the ground to eat from the floor. Altuve was at bat, and I told my wife I was considering trying to embellish the raccoon’s legend by waiting to post the video on social media until the Astros had scored a few runs. She told me that would be cheating. I shrugged in agreement and posted it to Facebook.
Within seconds of it hitting the web, Altuve whacked that double off Brandon Morrow. Carlos Correa followed it with that weird towering moon shot into the Crawford Boxes.
If you’re keeping score at home, on their first at-bat after this raccoon appears in our dining room, Altuve and Correa have gone four-for-four with three home runs and a double in this World Series. That’s a slugging percentage of 3.500 and an OPS of 4.500, numbers that make Babe Ruth look like Mario Mendoza. Let’s see you pull that stat out and read it on-air, Joe Buck!
Anyway, I shooed him out for the Dodgers’ half of the inning, and he was gone for the rest of the game. But once the victory was sealed, a triumph he had assured with his presence in the seventh, I renamed him Gattis McCann: He most closely resembled those two stocky, hirsute fellows, and like them, he played a key role in helping the Astros win. Fat Face would never do for such a lucky creature. I am sorry now for the ugly name I gave him: Maybe one day he can write a redemptive memoir about his abusive kithood named He Called Me Fat Face.
I abhor New Age-y superstitions, but hey, I am willing to give the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the potential for an Astros World Series Championship. According to Presley Love of the website Universe of Symbolism, the raccoon as spirit animal stands for being fearless and going after what you really want—in this case, the first World Series title in 55 years of frustrating Astros history.
“Raccoon teaches the craft of exploring every nook and cranny—every conceivable option,” my new online guru teaches. And yes, one can see that borne out on the field: Astros manager A.J. Hinch faced such dilemmas many times in this Series when mulling over his relief pitching.
As a masked creature, a raccoon plays many roles in its day-to-day life, I learned. That’s true in life—parent, employee, spouse—as well as in baseball—hitter, pitcher, fielder, baserunner, and coach. Plus, being nocturnal, raccoons also bring the gift of night vision—and the Astros hitters have showed plenty of that!
Love also claims that raccoons teach us to eat raw food, but since Gattis McCann has recently quite emphatically shunned raw carrots in favor of highly processed cat food, we are junking the suggestion that we prepare a fruit and veggie smorgasbord for game six, for either man or beast.
Now, the trick is getting him to cooperate. As with cats, raccoon-herding is not easy, but the back door will be open, and a bowl will be waiting just inside for Gattis McCann the Rally Raccoon.