With the Orioles off to their best start since 1997, there have been plenty of wins to celebrate in this young season—eighteen, to be exact, against just nine losses. And the Birds' on-field leader, Miguel Tejada, has introduced a unique, intricate mode of celebrating those wins with his teammates. If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about: immediately after each Oriole win, Tejada greets infield-mates Brian Roberts and Melvin Mora with a dizzying routine of hand- and back-slapping that ends in an embrace or a macho pose.
Gettin' Miggy wit it
Columnist Kevin Cowherd of the Baltimore Sun examines this phenomenon in a story today entitled "The Move." The headline comes from the name of the ritual employed by Tejada and Cowherd in the story. Actually, Cowherd takes Tejada's unimaginatively generic description and elevates it to quasi-official status:
That hand-slap, hug, gangsta-pose routine - you have a name for that? we asked.
"No, we don't have a name," says Tejada. "We just call it a move. The move. Sometimes maybe somebody hits a home run, and we say: 'Let's do the move.'"
OK, well that's a name, isn't it?
Tejada nods and smiles. Sure, why not?
So now we have a name for it: the Move.
To me, "the Move" is not descriptive enough a name for such an elaborate practice. I have decided to call it "the Miggy," after Tejada, who authored the ritual. Again from Cowherd's article:
As for the back story, here it is: The Move is the artistic creation of Tejada, a native of the Dominican Republic, who first saw a version of it while playing winter ball in the Caribbean.
He started orchestrating it after O's wins last season, his first in Baltimore after arriving as a free agent and signing a zillion-dollar contract.
I'm not sure whether, in that last sentence, Cowherd is trying to make a causal link between Tejada's contract and the development of the ritual. Did Tejada want to give fans a little something extra for their money, as if his fine hitting and glovework weren't entertaining enough? Well, more likely Miguel's effervescent personality felt stifled by the muted way that baseball players usually celebrate wins: a handshake or a fist-bump here, a back-pat or a butt-slap there. And so he invented his own victory dance, giving us the Miggy.
Anatomy of a dance
Here's Cowherd's description of the infielders' win celebration:
Shortstop Miguel Tejada and second baseman Brian Roberts meet. They do this hand-slap thing - palms up, palms down, palms sideways - that morphs into a hug and sometimes a hip-hop pose thing, Roberts with his glove on his head, Tejada with his between his legs.
Then Tejada and third baseman Melvin Mora do a lengthier, more intricate version, this one with a little kick to it, a little spice, a little salsa.
I reviewed some video of the ritual, featuring first Mora and Tejada and then Mora and Roberts. (I guess we can still call it the Miggy even if Tejada isn't one of the players doing it.) The whole thing happened quickly, lasting about five seconds, so I had to pause it and advance it frame by frame to better appreciate what was going on. The entire sequence is too complex to describe in great detail, but from what I can tell it consists of several alternating right and left palm slaps, followed by a few back-of-the-hand brushes or wrist/forearm taps, then a mutual, two-handed back slap. This back slap may be extended into a concluding embrace or transitioned off (with a backwards hop) into a pose.
I agree that Mora and Tejada's version is the most graceful and swinging, although Roberts does a credible job with it. Infielders, of course, are known for their litheness and manual dexterity, so it's not surprising that they perform the act so effortlessly.
Mora mentioned in last month's Baltimore Magazine that first baseman Rafael Palmeiro has learned the celebration too, although I don't recall seeing him do it. And other players are coming up with celebrations of their own, as Cowherd explains.
As might be expected, the Move as practiced by Tejada, Roberts and Mora has sparked a number of Move-like routines among other Orioles.
Now, after a win, the outfielders, particularly superstar Sammy Sosa and Luis Matos, will run toward each other, leap into the air and do a graceful - well, sometimes - palm-slap.
It ain't the Flying Wallenda Brothers, say some press box observers, but it's definitely ... different.
And closer B.J. Ryan, after locking up another save, does a jumping, Move-like thing with Sosa, although Ryan hesitates to attach any mystery to the exercise.
I haven't seen these, but they sound like variations of the leaping, group high-five that the Washington Redskins' "Fun Bunch" used to do after touchdowns in the early 1980s. (That was before the NFL began penalizing excessive end-zone celebrations.) So as far as originality and complexity go, these postgame win routines rate lower on the totem pole than the Miggy.
Flapping their wings to fly?
I've seen the Miggy routine many times in the past year and have long been amused by it. From an anthropological perspective, it appears to be a super-evolved type of handshake, similar to the secret handshakes used by best buddies or gang members. Except, of course, this one is not secret but very public, being done in the middle of the infield in open view of fans in the stadium and on television. As Cowherd wrote, it has roots in the Caribbean, where people are more touchy-feely in their greetings and more rhythmically aware than the average white American. (Stereotypically, at least. I'm no expert on such matters.) And I may sound sacrilegious in saying this, but the rhythmic hand contact also reminds me of the patty-cake games that little girls practice on playgrounds. (Aside: It's often been said that professional baseball is grown men playing a boys' game. Well, now you could say we have men playing a boys' game and then capping it off with a glorified version of a girls' game. But I digress.)
So-called secret handshakes are passé to me, as they lost their coolness factor in my late teens. If anyone else were doing this hand-slapping ritual, I would consider it unhip, even dorky. But because Tejada originated it and has made it a signature feature of the Orioles' wins, I just laugh it off as one of the quirky habits that pro athletes engage in, along with the omnipresent butt-slaps and superstitions such as wearing the same shirt every day during a winning streak. Being a major-leaguer is a stressful job, so it's natural for a player to keep the pressure off with routines that provide a controlled, regular environment. Cowherd, once more:
The Move, say Tejada and Roberts and Mora, is a pure expression of joy and a way to stay loose during the long season....
To get themselves psyched for a game - or to break a losing streak - Tejada and Mora have been known to square off and do the Move just because they passed each other in the hallway.
"If we lose three in a row, four in a row," Mora says, "we'll be talking and say, 'Let's do the [Move] before [the game]."
The Move, it seems, wards off bad karma, too.
Whatever works, I guess. As long as nobody wears himself out doing it, I would have no problem if the entire team burst into the Miggy dance after every Oriole win. If everyone did it, the team victory celebration would take twenty minutes instead of two, but if it builds camaraderie and confidence, all for the better.