It is a tribute to what a great career Andrew McCutchen has had, and how widely beloved he has been throughout it, that he has had the opportunity to tweet the single word “Furries” three distinct times, at three distinct stages of his baseball life. Even in a very good big league career a player might not have occasion to tweet it even once, but McCutchen has been around long enough, and has been sufficiently committed to posting during that distinguished career, to have made it something like a tradition. On Friday, before his Brewers took on the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park, McCutchen tweeted it again. This time, as in the previous instances, he had his reasons.
That makes it sound ominous, so to clarify: the reason was the same reason as before, which was that the second-largest furry get-together on earth was taking place in Pittsburgh during July 4 weekend, and McCutchen happened to be playing baseball in town at the same time. Sunday is the last day of this year’s Anthrocon Convention, which returned to Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center after two years of COVID-driven online convening. As it has every year since 1997, the event featured workshops and dance parties and a parade in which a couple thousand people in fur suits walk through Pittsburgh’s cultural district; organizers told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that they were expecting a record 10,000 participants. A non-costumed representative of the event, who appeared on local news alongside a participant credited onscreen as The Noodle Dragon, said that the convention filled out its reserved blocks at 11 Pittsburgh hotels. The weather in Pittsburgh has been around the low 90’s for the entire time of the convention, which is something you are free to think about as much or as little as you’d like vis-a-vis all the people walking around in fur suits. (“Fursuits used to be like wearing your grandmother’s sofa,” Anthrocon chairman and CEO Sam Conway told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, “but the technology has allowed them to have cooling gear.”)
Anthrocon has long since outgrown the Westin attached to the convention center, but the connection between that hotel and the convention and visiting baseball teams has guaranteed over the years that baseball players, broadcasters, and fursuited conventioneers have overlapped. In 2009, when an abject and already out-of-it Mets team visited Pittsburgh over the holiday weekend, it came up during the team’s broadcast. When an SNY camera caught Pittsburgh’s parrot mascot doing his thing in the crowd, Mets play-by-play guy Gary Cohen noted that it was “one of many animal figures in town today.” Color commentator Keith Hernandez, as he is prone to do, took it from there.
Keith: We saw a few of them in the hotel, didn’t we?
Gary: The strangest convention I’ve ever seen is at our hotel here in Pittsburgh. You know you travel around the country and see parts of society and our culture that you never would have encountered anywhere else. There’s a group of people about 4,000 strong convening in Pittsburgh this week–people who dress up as stuffed animals.
Keith: They’re cuddly bears. They like to cuddle.
Gary: There’s birds, and dogs and wolves.
Keith: What are they called, ferriers? Alls I know is I got in the elevator with four of ’em, and the odor was horrific.
Gary: Not the Pirate Parrot, he’s an actual mascot.
Keith: I had to get off. I’m not lying. I got on at the 17th floor, going down. I had to jump off at the 10th floor. I almost passed out.
Kevin Burkhardt, then the Mets’ on-field reporter and now a play-by-play guy on Fox’s NFL broadcasts, was equally perplexed. “Our hotel is overrun by people dressed up as animals,” he tweeted. “Anthrocon? And they act as animals.” Burkhardt posed for a picture with an attendee in a beaver costume, and all involved seem to have been warily respectful of each other in their comings and goings. Again, you should feel free to imagine Mike Pelfrey maneuvering through the continental breakfast layout alongside The Noodle Dragon, or Jeff Francoeur waiting patiently for someone dressed as a whimsical cartoon fox to finish using the waffle station. It is probably for the best that the players didn’t discuss these interactions much, although Bobby Parnell did tell the Newark Star-Ledger that “the first thing I saw coming down the elevator this morning was a fox.”
In 2007, during a nearly 15-minute portion of a Brewers/Pirates telecast devoted to the convention, Milwaukee play-by-play guy Bob Uecker explained to broadcast partner Jim Powell what he imagined goes on at Anthrocon:
They kind of gather in a huge fur ball. You can’t really see the leader, he’s in the middle. You can hear him mumbling and talking, trying to talk, kind of like a—swing and a foul by Braun—kind of like a mom with a cubby, trying to keep it warm.Milwaukee Record
It is probably asking too much of any broadcaster to show the deadpan equanimity that Uecker displayed in 2007. (“That’s what they feel,” the Milwaukee Record transcribed. “They wear animal costumes because they feel a little animal-ish. There’s a strike. I’ve felt that way myself a couple of times. I haven’t dressed up for it.”) If these two communities—people who walk around in the heat of summer wearing overstated and uncomfortable-looking costumes as an expression of their personal identity and shared community, and also furries—are going to acknowledge each other at all, it should probably be expressed in the ways that McCutchen has expressed it.
In 2014, McCutchen saw it as a player at the very end of his peak, and the Pirates’ franchise cornerstone. It was then that the defending National League MVP, who was on his way to his fifth All-Star Game selection, posted this:
By 2019, McCutchen had been traded away, and then traded again. That summer, he returned as a visitor, during the first of his three seasons with the Phillies. It seems reasonable to infer that he and his teammates were also staying at the Westin:
Then as in 2014, McCutchen’s replies were a mess of users saying “um” and replying with deep-fried Stephen A. Smith GIFs. But when McCutchen posted “Furries” for a third time last Friday, things were different.
For one he is with the Brewers now, and more of an elder statesman than the star he once was; for another, while there were plenty of users stumbling eagerly to declare it A Bruh Moment, all involved have been doing this long enough to know that this, just like Anthrocon, is just another tradition, continuing. McCutchen’s posts are direct and judgment free—he simply saw something (furries) and said something (“Furries”). What else is there to say, really?