If you went to any weekend baseball game at Sarge Frye Field this past season, you’d see Sir Big Spur - or, these days, Sir Big Spur II.
The 7-year-old, 8-pound rooster strutted its stuff atop South Carolina’s dugout, flapping its wings and occasionally crowing, to the delight of most (but not all) Gamecocks fans.
Watching Sir Big Spur II from Row 3, Seats 14-15, Mary Snelling and Ron Albertelli wore “Sir Big Spur Crew” T-shirts and basked in their feathered mascot’s celebrity. It wasn’t always so, however.
Four years ago, the Aiken couple fought a “Roostergate” battle with another fan, Barton Dumas, over bringing the bird to games. Snelling, 54, and Albertelli, 63, said they mustered 6,000 supportive petition signatures, distributed fluorescent stickers backing their bird - and eventually won.
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“(Former athletics director) Mike McGee told me to my face, 'You can bring the chicken,' " Snelling said. And they do.
The original Sir Big Spur (previously named
“Cocky Doodle Lou” for then-football coach Lou Holtz, it died at age 14) first appeared at Sarge Frye after Snelling had met Ray Tanner at a Dugout Club meeting. The 1976 USC graduate, given the rooster by a friend, asked the coach if he’d mind it roof-roosting during games.
“Ray said, ‘If it’s not between the white lines, I don’t care,’” she said. And a fowl tradition was born.
On SEC weekends, Snelling and Albertelli drive to Columbia in their 40-foot motor home, towing a 24-foot “rooster roller” transport that carries a remote-controlled “gator” (electric-powered toy jeep), a 7-foot Cocky doll behind the wheel and a cage on the back that houses Sir Big Spur II. Cost of the bird’s ride: about $45,000, Albertelli said.
They’ve taken Sir Big Spur to the SEC baseball championship in Hoover, Ala., and to the College World Series. But after the bird left a “deposit” on the infield at Omaha’s Rosenblatt Stadium, it was banned by the groundskeeper.
“The guy said, 'What if (Texas’ longhorn steer) Bevo wants in? We can’t let you in, either,' " Albertelli said.
So now Sir Big Spur II arrives via pet carrier, emerging on its 3-foot tether to patrol the dugout roof. Snelling keeps a thick scrapbook of the chicken’s clippings, including one from ESPN the Magazine.
“It’s crazy and funny,” she said.
Sir Big Spur II had no comment.