But in the old days, relievers rode to the mound in the Bullpen Cart. Who remembers that? The cart’s top was a big Mets Cap. The sides were baseball bats, the rear were the seams of a baseball and the headlights were strategically placed within two fielder’s mitts.
Oh and Shea had one for the visitor’s, with a change of cap for each visiting team.
There is a reported incident at Shea Stadium that after the Mets won the division championship in 1986, Eric Bennett (a former stadium vendor) headed to the bullpen during the ensuing celebration on the field, hijacked the cart, and took it on a joyride around the outfield until the engine stalled.
Plenty of teams had them. What happened to them? I’ve seen two explanations:
1) Teams stopped using them because it promoted the wrong image: “We’re paying this guy how much and he has to get a ride to the pitching mound?”.
2) Teams stopped using them because of insurance considerations. There is a documented incident that ex-Phillie catcher, Mike Lieberthal re-injured a surgically repaired knee while stepping out of a cart in 2002. But that was a golf cart; not a bullpen cart. And he wasn’t a relief pitcher.
Where do we currently stand with the Bullpen Cart?:
1) There was a reappearance of the bullpen cart last year used for relievers during Sugar Land Skeeter (independent Atlantic League) games last year. People stood up; applauded and cheered at the sight of it. It runs on batteries, has leather seats and a sound system. It has a back-up camera and is air-conditioned.
2) The last major league appearance of a psuedo-cart was by the Brewers in 1995, when they shuttled relievers in with their Harley Davidson motorcycle and sidecar.
3) Golf carts are used during Spring Training.
4) Bullpen carts are used in Japan.
5) There is a report that a new prototype exists; called a baseball utility vehicle (called, BUV for short). Its got the hat and the bats BUT it doesn’t have the headlight/mitts.
Where do we go from here?
1) If anybody sees the Mets use a golf cart to bring in a reliever during Spring Training, let me know.
2) If anybody knows of another minor league team that uses a bullpen cart (its got to have the hat), let me know.
3) If anybody knows about an insurance clause that prevents a team from using a cart, let me know.