Mississippi State

An oral history about belief, rally bananas and Mississippi State baseball

Mississippi State celebrates after beating Vanderbilt 10-6 in an NCAA college baseball tournament super regional game Monday, June 11, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn.
Mississippi State celebrates after beating Vanderbilt 10-6 in an NCAA college baseball tournament super regional game Monday, June 11, 2018, in Nashville, Tenn. AP Photo

A potassium-filled phenomenon has swept through Mississippi State baseball in recent weeks, the fuel of a run to the College World Series and the symbol of a rescued season. Since the evening of June 3, when Mississippi State played Oklahoma in the regional round of college baseball’s postseason, bananas — yes, bananas — have been as synonymous with Mississippi State baseball as a bulldog, reports the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson.

Fans have raided Starkville grocery stores for the popular fruit, and a local bar held a banana split party during the super regional. Companies have rushed to supply banana-themed merchandise. The Mississippi State marketing department passed out 500 stress-ball like bananas emblazoned with a school logo.

In the dugout, the players have used bananas to mimic radar guns and mustaches and wrapped a banana in a towel so it could relax at a "spa."

Now, as the Bulldogs travel to Omaha, Nebraska, to play in their first College World Series since 2013, the banana has become much more than a snack. So how did this all start?

Gary Henderson, coach: I guess we're attributing it to Jordan Westburg at this point.

Jordan Westburg, freshman infielder: I got hungry in the second inning (of the June 3 regional game against Oklahoma) and went in the tunnel and grabbed a banana. When I came out we weren't throwing a whole lot of strikes and we weren't getting a whole lot of outs. I decided to get weird and I put it on my head. We started throwing strikes and getting outs after that.


Cole Gordon, junior pitcher: He put sunscreen on it and bug spray at one point.

Henderson: You got to be able to have a sense of humor if you play baseball and you're in the dugout. You have to.

Rowdey Jordan, freshman outfielder: We won and we used it the next game and we won again. It just stuck.

Amber Kay, marketer at Maroon & Co. in Starkville: I checked Twitter the night of the game and bananas were everywhere. It's fast fashion and when a trend takes fire you have to jump on it. I put a bug in several vendors' ears that it would be smart to do something.

Four days after it beat Oklahoma to advance to the super regional, Mississippi State played in Nashville against Vanderbilt. The Rally Banana fad caught fire.

Max Stillman, manager at Vowell’s Market Place in Starkville: We had 25 banana balloons and we sold every one.

Westburg: Some of the friends of the baseball team dressed up in banana Hawaiian shirts and banana shorts.

Jake Mangum, junior outfielder: There were (banana) T-shirts everywhere at the super regional.

Henderson: I think it's the quality of the banana as opposed to the number of them.

Mississippi State won game 1 on a walk-off home run by Elijah MacNamee. Vanderbilt tied the series a day later on a walk-off home run of its own, setting up a winner-take-all game 3. Westburg balanced a banana on top of his head. Bananas filled the stands. The Bulldogs won, 10-6, in extra innings.

Westburg: The fans brought inflatable bananas, and when we won the super they threw them on the field when we were running around giving everybody high fives.

Mangum: It's only weird if it doesn't work.

Kay: We've sold over 200 (rally banana T-shirts) in under 48 hours. That is severely uncommon. We have felt overwhelmed. We haven't felt a rush like this since Moor Cowbell. It's bananas.

Adelle Eubank, manager at Maroon and Co.: We're expecting two more shipments (Wednesday) but they already sold as well.

Jordan: I love bananas. I like them a little more now.

Stillman: Whatever we have that’s banana-related we’re going to put on sale starting Friday or Saturday.

Westburg: It's going to carry on into Omaha. We can all get behind it and hopefully it helps us keep playing well and playing loose.

Mangum: There's going to be so many inflatable bananas flying around in Omaha.

Hobie Hobart, owner of Hobie's on Main in Starkville: Don't sell your stock in bananas yet. Wait until after the World Series.