The story behind the Van Slyke-Joe Kelly staredown

February, 27, 2014
Feb 27
GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Dodgers lost Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, but they did salvage one small victory.

One very, very small victory.

[+] EnlargeScott Van Slyke
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesThe Dodgers' Scott Van Slyke is adamant he won the stare down with the Cardinals' Joe Kelly during last season's NLCS.
Scott Van Slyke prevailed over St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Joe Kelly in the pregame national anthem staredown, you might recall. It was a strange start to a big game, Van Slyke and Kelly holding firm and standing in front of their dugouts for 12 solid minutes, delaying the game. Neither player would budge until umpire Greg Gibson threatened to eject them, Kelly taking a step toward the dugout first and Van Slyke, wearing a batting helmet, thrusting his hands in the air in triumph.

What the heck was that all about?

“I noticed him standing out there late and I was like, ‘I don’t want him being the last guy out there and showing us up a little bit,’ “ Van Slyke said. “It just went on from there.”

After the game, Kelly confessed to a superstition about being the last player on the field after the anthem. He thought the Dodgers got wind of it, but Van Slyke said he didn’t know anything about that until Game 5. He stuck it out after several Dodgers players, notably Adrian Gonzalez, urged him to hold firm.

“When the umpire started yelling at us, that’s when it was getting awkward,” Van Slyke said. “But then Gonzo and some other guys from the dugout were like, ‘We’ll pay your fines. Just stay out there.’ So, it was fun.”

There remains some disagreement about who actually won. Kelly maintained that his initial step toward the Cardinals dugout was simply a deke to get Van Slyke to break.

“His feet moved first. I got him,” Van Slyke said. “You can’t deke in a staredown. It’s like blinking in a no-blink contest.”

The playoffs were a whirlwind time for Van Slyke though he barely played. His dad, Andy, was a star outfielder for the Cardinals and both father and son make their homes in suburban St. Louis.

"Besides the Dodgers, the Cardinals have the best fans in baseball," Van Slyke said.

Mark Saxon
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.



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