It’s exciting, it raises the energy level in Tropicana Field, it can even bring the crowd to their feet, it’s two of the most important words Rays fans will ever hear: “More Cowbell!”
The cowbell has become the favored noisemakers for Rays fans. Credit: Jenna West
Anyone who attends a game at Tropicana Field cannot miss the distinct sound of thousands of cowbells ringing in unison, as Rays fans love to support their team by ringing their cowbells. Rays players love the bells, while opposing teams hate them. Because of this, fans ring their cowbells as much as possible, especially during playoff games.
During the 2008 ALDS, the Chicago White Sox took batting practice with the sound of cowbells playing to prepare for the noise factor they would encounter at Tropicana Field.
In an interview with the St. Petersburg Times before Game 3 of the 2011 ALDS against the Texas Rangers, relief pitcher J.P. Howell said, “I was just telling some of the younger guys, they’re going to see the ‘Real Trop’ and how it can really get. This is what it’s known for here (tonight)… coming here can be pretty rough for the opponents, when they get the (cowbells). The more bells the better.”
Cary Strukel, a devoted Rays fan who sits in right field, has became the infamous “Cowbell Kid” because of his antics to excite fellow fans. He wears a blue afro wig and rings his oversized cowbell with a bat to pester opposing teams’ fans. He told the St. Petersburg Times, “It’s spectacular because it annoys Red Sox and Yankees fans…When you’re beating (the cowbell) for absolutely no reason, that’s not good, but if it’s in the ear of a Yankees fan, that’s okay in my eyes.”
While ringing cowbells is a normal occurrence for Rays fans these days, how did the tradition begin?
In 2000, Saturday Night Live featured a skit called “More Cowbell” as a spoof of the rock band Blue Oyster Cult. While playing the band’s hit song “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” Will Ferrell begins banging a cowbell. However, music producer Bruce Dickinson, played by Christopher Walken, walks in during their rehearsal and demands “more cowbell.”
Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg loves the skit and decided to give cowbells to fans as the 2006 season’s opening series promotional giveaway. Fans loved the cowbells and turned it into their signature sound at Tropicana Field.
The organization even created the video “Cowbell Etiquette,” which plays before every home game, instructing fans of certain times when they should always ring their bells. These rules include ringing cowbells when a Rays player reaches base or scores a run, the opposing team’s hitter has two strikes, or when the words “More Cowbell” flash across the jumbotron.
Every season, the organization includes cowbells in their promotional giveaways, and cowbells can also be bought in various sizes and colors at the Team Store or other novelty kiosks throughout the stadium.
The media likes to focus on poor attendance at Tropicana Field, blaming fans for not caring enough about the Rays to come to their games. However, fans that do come to Tropicana Field and support the Rays know how to turn up the noise during exciting plays. I think these fans could agree with Christopher Walken’s famous line in the SNL skit, “I got a fever, and the only prescription is more cowbell!”