It began on a sweltering night at Fenway Park, conjured into existence for the same reason as so many baseball idiosyncrasies before it: The team was struggling to get hits.
On Aug. 29, as the Red Sox trailed the lowly Miami Marlins in the bottom of the 7th, Boston players decided they needed something new to break out of the team-wide slump.
From these innocuous circumstances came the Red Sox shimmy, a noticeable quirk that’s become synonymous with the 2018 team’s winning ways.
Double trouble. 💥 pic.twitter.com/6YagLPyvDl
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) September 3, 2018
In September, Red Sox utility player Brock Holt tried to explain its August origin to Alex Speier of the Boston Globe:
We were talking about that today, “How did we start doing that?” The little shimmy thing, I honestly don’t know how it started. I think someone said we needed to change things up because we weren’t doing things for extra-base hits. Mookie [Betts] hit a double the other night in that big inning and did it, and I think it reminded all of us . . . Then I hit the triple and did it, then Blake [Swihart] did it, and it became a thing after that.
Holt was referencing the Red Sox’ win against the Marlins, in which Boston broke out with an incredible 11-run inning to win the game, 14-6. Swihart’s two-run double that made the shimmy a “thing” was, remarkably, his second RBI hit of the inning.
Why of all things did “the little shimmy thing” become the team’s go-to celebration? Like so many sports legends, it’s shrouded in mystery (or, possibly, secrecy).
“You’ve been misinformed,” Andrew Benintendi told Speier when the reporter attempted to investigate the inspiration for the shimmy. “I have no answers. I can’t give details.”
Regardless of why the hip shimmy became a Red Sox trademark, it’s been embraced by the team. The Red Sox Twitter account shared a whole thread of shimmies in September.
Major League Baseball has created a series of official shimmy GIFs, with Betts featured prominently:
Apparently there are shimmy rules, though they’re broken when the team wills it.
“Kind of an inside thing with the guys,” said second baseman Ian Kinsler in a September interview. “It was supposed to be only on doubles, but they wanted to see it when I was at first, so I gave it to them.”
And as the baseball has grown more intense with the start of the playoffs, shimmies have capped big postseason hits.
Mookie Betts, doer of damage. pic.twitter.com/FxyckKtzar
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) October 15, 2018
The shimmy appears to be the latest in a long line of Red Sox traditions. Each iteration of the team seems to produce something new. In 2003, it was “Cowboy Up.” In 2004, it was the “Idiots.” In 2013, it was the beards, and more recently, it was “Win, Dance, Repeat.”
So for the 2018 version, the slump-ending shimmy continues to be a defining trait.