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May 10, 2011

Wezen-Ball

Your Handy Dandy Mascot Guide

by Larry Granillo

Oh, the mascot. Love 'em or hate 'em, they are as much a part of today's game as nine-figure contracts, HD ribbon boards, and journalistic digs at Alex Rodriguez.

These costumed, oversized creatures are clearly intended to appeal to the elementary school set, with their bright colors, funny shapes, and/or cartoon influences, but one need not look far to see that they often appeal to much older groups. The Racing Sausages, Mariner Moose, the Phillie Phanatic... people of all ages get excited by these classic mascots on a nightly basis.

Mascots, as we know them today, haven't always been a part of baseball. Clubs may have had a small animal or a particularly charming child or young man of some sort rooting them on, but their "mascot" status is a bit different than what we see today. Red Sox fans may remember Nelson de la Rosa, the personal mascot of Pedro Martinez during the 2004 World Series run. The 1920s Yankees had a couple of human mascots in Little Ray Kelly and Eddie Bennett (who had previously left the 1919 White Sox and 1920 Dodgers after they lost their World Series when they didn't bring Bennett along with them). You can read about some other human mascots here.

The official, costumed mascots that we know and, ahem, love today came into being in the 1960s and 1970s, beginning with Mr. Met and the Phillie Phanatic (by way of San Diego's "Famous Chicken"). Below is a first attempt at an "exhaustive" look at baseball's mascots, organized by team and sorted roughly by debut. I say "exhaustive" because I'm confident there are holes here and there. Not all mascots catch on and, more often than not, teams make very little fuss about a mascot's debut. Failed mascots, then, are very difficult to find in newspaper accounts and the like. They can easily disappear to history if the knowledge of their existence isn't volunteered by someone who was there. If anyone has more to add about the listed mascots or knows of any mascots not included here, please speak up in the comments. It's the only way we can make the list better. (You can click on any of the pictures to be taken to the site where they originated.)

Your Handy Dandy Mascot Guide


New York Mets
Mettle the MuleMr. Met - The "human" version of Mr. Met came into being at the start of the 1964 season, the first modern mascot. Some time in the 1970s, Mr. Met stopped showing up at the stadium. He returned to Shea Stadium in 1994 and has been with the club ever since.
Lady Met - A female version of Mr. Met. She apparently made some appearances early in Mr. Met's existence, but hasn't been seen recently. One wonders how much hot, baseball-on-baseball action was seen in those early, halcyon days.
Mettle the Mule - In 1979, the Mets brought a mule named Arthur to Shea as a mascot. His name was quickly changed to Mettle after a public contest. Mettle would pull a cart up and down the foul lines before games, retiring to a pen in the outfield for the game. When the club was sold after the season, Mettle disappeared.

The "Famous Chicken"
I grew up in California calling him the San Diego Chicken, but the Chicken was never formally affiliated with the Padres (he did appear in 520 consecutive Padres games, though). The Chicken began his career in 1974, but his fame kept growing. He may have been at his most famous in 1977, when his popularity made ballclubs start thinking twice about mascots.

Philadelphia Phillies
Phillie Phanatic - The godfather of all current mascots. Mr. Met may have been the first real mascot, but it was the Phillie Phanatic, created in 1978 in response to the Famous Chicken, and his quick success that made teams start experimenting with mascots. The non-sensical nature of the Phanatic's design, and his unnatural colors, are a common theme to many mascots over the last 30 years.
Philadelphia Phil and Phyllis - Short-lived mascots from 1971, when the Phillies opened Veteran's Stadium. The pair were children with oversized heads dressed in colonial garb. Unsurprisingly, they were quite popular during the bicentennial in 1976. They were replaced by the Phanatic (and for good measure).

Atlanta Braves
Chief Noc-a-Homa and Princess Win-A-LottaChief Noc-a-Homa - Oh yay, racist mascots. Everyone seems to agree that the Chief first showed up as a live person living in a tepee in the stadium sometime in the early 1960s, while the Braves were still in Milwaukee. I can't find direct evidence of this, though I don't doubt it. He was with the Braves by the time they moved to Atlanta. The Chief was a living representation of the "screaming indian" used in the team's logo. After home runs, he would come out and perform a dance. He was retired after the 1986 season, when the team and the mascot couldn't agree on a reasonable salary.
Princess Win-a-Lotta - A female companion for the Chief, the Princess joined the Braves sometime in the late-1970s or early-1980s. I had a hard time finding any specific information about her online.
Atlanta's Bleacher CreatureThe Bleacher Creature - Maybe it was Ted Turner, but clearly the Braves were looking for something to catch on in the late-70s and early-80s. The Bleacher Creature showed up around this time. A February 1979 newspaper article references the Bleacher Creature, so it likely debuted in 1978 as an answer to the Famous Chicken or the Phanatic. The Creature was a hideous green, shapeless blob wearing a Braves cap and with the word "Braves" written across his chest. He looks like someone spent maybe 15 minutes drawing him up. 
Rally - There is very little written about Rally the mascot online. He was a purple monster in the same vein as so many current mascots and was around sometime around 2000. His traces aren't completely gone, though. The mlb.com website provides a picture of Rally for kids to color here, though they mislabel him as Homer there. It's all very confusing.
Homer - The current mascot of the Braves, Homer is an Atlanta version of Mr. Met - a man walking around in a Braves uniform with a baseball for a head.

Milwaukee Brewers
Bonnie BrewerBernie Brewer - Bernie was a real man dressed in lederhosen and a big mustache in 1973. He was originally intended as a tribute to Milt Mason, a man who once lived on the County Stadium scoreboard for 40 days until a crowd of 40,000 showed up. Bernie lived in a chalet with a slide attached. After home runs, he would go down the slide into a giant beer mug. Bernie was retired in 1984, but came back in 1993. When he returned, Bernie was a costumed figure with an oversized head and mustache. When Miller Park was built, the beer mug/chalet was replaced with a terrace. Bernie still slides, but no longer into a beer mug.
Bonnie Brewer - A companion of Bernie's from 1973 to 1979, Bonnie was a lederhosen-clad young woman who helped sweep the infield clean during the seventh-inning stretch.
Racing Sausages - The Phillie Phanatic may be the godfather of current mascots, but the Klement's Racing Sausages are the godfather of all costumed racers. Originally a video screen race, the Sausages have been costumed racers since 1994. There are currently five sausages in the stable.

Baltimore Orioles
The Bird - The Chicken was popular in 1977. The Phanatic made it big in 1978. In 1979, teams all over the majors tried to latch onto the success with their own mascots. Most were unsuccessful. The Orioles were an exception, turning their oriole logo into a walking, costumed bird. The Bird has been representing the Orioles ever since.

New York Yankees
The Yankees' DandyDandy - A clear reaction to the Phanatic, Dandy debuted in the 1979 season. He was a tall, pinstriped, bushily-mustachioed monster of some sort. Compared to some of the mascots from that era, though, he wasn't all that bad. What doomed Dandy was George Steinbrenner's temper. Only weeks before Dandy's debut, the Boss went off on the Famous Chicken, who "hexed" Ron Guidry, causing Lou Piniella to chase him. Steinbrenner said that mascots "don't belong on the field." The statement doomed Dandy to wandering the upper decks of Yankee Stadium and, in the end, to failure. Dandy lasted only two seasons.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Pirate Parrot - Another post-Phanatic success story, the Parrot debuted for the Pirates in 1979. His design is simple and easy to like. His success may also be attributable to the 1979 "We Are Family" Pirates that won the World Series.
Pierogis - The Pirates were the first to copy the success of Milwaukee's Racing Sausages with the Great Pierogi Race, which began in 1999.
Captain Jolly Roger - A second mascot to go along with Pirate Parrot, Captain Jolly Roger is a costumed pirate, complete with pirate hat, beard, and eye patch. The Captain was introduced in 2006.

St. Louis Cardinals
Fredbird - The Cardinals mascot, a large, costumed cardinal (as in the bird), was another mascot introduced after the Phanatic's success. Fredbird has been with the Cardinals every since. (At this point, maybe I should amend my statement above: there were plenty of successful and unsuccessful mascots created in response to the Phanatic.)

Toronto Blue Jays
BJ BirdieBJ Birdie - The Blue Jays were still a new franchise in 1979, only two years old, so it was a bit more understandable for them to create their own mascot along with everyone else. BJ Birdie was a large, costumed blue jay. He lasted as the Jays' mascot for twenty years, when he was replaced by a new blue jay. (Notice that the successful post-Phanatic mascots were those that had an easily relatable connection to the team. This will be made more clear in the coming years.)
Ace - By the late 1990s, the Blue Jays started changing their logo, moving from the more traditional bird head to a more sleek, stylized look. In 2000, this extended to the mascot family. BJ Birdie was replaced with a pair of more stylized jays in Ace and Diamond. Diamond didn't last long, but Ace continues on.
Diamond - Ace's girlfriend. She was retired a few years after her debut (most sources seem to agree on 2004, but I can't verify that).
Jr. - Ace's son, introduced in 2011.

Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals
Souki, the Expos' first mascotSouki - A Montreal version of Mr. Met, Souki is said to have had antennae atop his head. The only pictures I can find of Souki seem to be more recent and have no antennae. Souki lasted only one year, the 1978 season.
Youppi - One of the greatest mascots ever, Youppi took Souki's place in the 1979 season. His appearance - a shaggy orange monster with a big head - suggests his design was inspired by the Phanatic. Youppi remained the Expos' mascot until they left Montreal for Washington. He is now a mascot for the NHL's Montreal Canadiens.
Screech - When the Expos moved to Washington after the 2004 season, they dropped all things Montreal to become the Nationals. This meant a new mascot and, as new residents of the nation's capital, a bald eagle was the logical choice. Screech has been the Nationals mascot for their entire Washington existence.
Racing Presidents - Another successful copycat of Milwaukee's Racing Sausages, the four presidents from Mt. Rushmore race each other every home game. Teddy Roosevelt has never won a race, which is a crock.

Minnesota Twins
Twinkie the LoonTwinkie the Loon - "Don't call them Twinkies", huh? After the Phanatic's success in 1978 and the success of other mascots in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Toronto, even more teams tried to hop on the bandwagon. Twinkie was not one of the successful ones. He was a freak of a bird, with thin legs and goofy eyes. The only photo I can find proving his existence shows him holding a bat with the word "Twins" on it, but who knows if that was a standard part of his costume. Twinkie lasted the 1980 and 1981 seasons.
TC Bear - Introduced in 2000, TC Bear is a much more traditional mascot than Twinkie ever was. The "TC" in his name stands for "Twin Cities".

Houston Astros
Houston's Chester ChargeChester Charge - Technically, the Astros belong much higher on this list. Chester Charge debuted in 1977, before all costumed mascots on this list except Mr. Met and the Famous Chicken. Chester was a Texas soldier riding a "horse" who came on the field during rallies. It's unclear how long Chester hung around, though.
Orbit - Debuting in 1990, Orbit was a nod to the Astros' space roots. Astro was a space alien of some kind who loved the Astros. His antennae ended in baseballs.
General Admission - Appearing sometime in the 1990s, General Admission was a US Cavalry soldier who lived at the Astrodome. He would fire off a cannon after Astros home runs.
Junction Jack - When the Astros moved from the Astrodome into Minute Maid Park in 2000, they retired Orbit in favor of Junction Jack. With the new train atop the stadium walls, and with the stadium built on the site of old Union Station, Junction Jack was given the job of railroad engineer. Jack, a rabbit, also has cousins Jesse and Julie who occasionally show up.

Texas Rangers
Rootin' Tootin' Ranger - There isn't much to be found on the Rootin' Tootin' Ranger. Wikipedia says that the mascot was a man dressed to resemble Yosemite Sam who fainted due to heat exhaustion on the first day, never to be seen again. The only evidence I can find of the mascot is a call for names in a July 1979 newspaper. The paper says that the mascot will be unveiled in the July 20, 1979, game versus the White Sox. I can find no other references to him.
Rangers Captain - The Rangers current mascot is a palomino-style horse who walks like a man. The Captain has a horse's head and tail. He was unveiled in 2002.

Chicago White Sox
Chicago's Ribbie and RoobarbRibbie and Roobarb - The story is not much different than the Twins and Twinkie the Loon. Trying to capture some of that Phanatic magic, the White Sox trotted out a pair of strange creatures to liven up the crowd. Ribbie was a purple monster who looked like the cross between the Phanatic and an anteater. Roobarb was orange (with a bushy hairdo and hat) and looked a bit dull. He didn't even have a mouth! The two survived from 1981 to 1988.
Waldo - A cartoon mouse. It's unclear to me if Waldo was merely a cartoon or if he was ever costumed.
Southpaw - The White Sox have finally seemed to settle on a more-or-less permanent mascot. Southpaw debuted in 2004 and is a green monster of some sort. He is not fat and sports a bit of a snout to distinguish himself from other monster-type mascots.

San Francisco Giants
San Francisco's Crazy CrabCrazy Crab - Oh, this is a great one. In response to the mascot mania that seemed to be taking hold of the major leagues, the 1984 Giants tried something different. They introduced the Crazy Crab, an anti-mascot. Fans and players were encouraged to boo the Crab as he came out to cheer the team. Of course, inciting crowds of tens of thousands of people with negative emotion is never a smart thing, and crowds soon took things too far with the mascot (hurling dangerous objects, hitting the mascot, etc). Crazy Crab did not return for the 1985 season.
Lou Seal - Named after the popular Arrested Development character who bit off Buster Bluth's hand, Lou Seal the Loose Seal. (Ok, not really. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention. Lou Seal has been the Giants mascot since 1997. He is a callback to the old San Francisco Seals, the Pacific Coast League team before the Giants moved out west.)

Cincinnati Reds
Mr. RedMr. Red - Not to be confused with Mr. Redlegs. Cincinnati's first mascot began his career sometime before the 1981 strike (when an ad was placed in his name looking for work). Mr. Red is another of the Mr. Met-style mascots, though his empty eyes make him the worst looking in my opinion. He was discontinued by Marge Schott sometime in the late 1980s, but came back to the club in 1997. He was retired once again in 2007, when he was replaced by Mr. Redlegs.
Gapper - A monster-style mascot introduced when the team moved into Great American Ballpark in 2003. Gapper is red with a blue nose and hands.
Mr. Redlegs - The "retro" replacement for the dull Mr. Red. Another Mr. Met-style mascot, Mr. Redlegs wears an old-style uniform, a pillbox hat, and a 1920s mustache. He has been working Reds games since 2007.
Rosie Red - Because the Reds didn't have enough mascots, Rosie Red debuted in 2008. A feminine version of Mr. Redlegs, Rosie has black hair, bright red lips, a 1970s-era ballcap, and a skirt. We may be about three years from Rosie and Mr. Redlegs having little tiny Reds-babies on the riverboat deck in centerfield. It will be aired during a special live broadcast of "Modern Family".

Cleveland Indians
Slider - The second great wave of mascots began in 1990. The Indians were at the front of this wave, introducing Slider shortly after the All-Star break. Slider is a large purplish monster covered in yellow spots. He also has a bushy yellow nose to go along with his bushy eyebrows. Considering the possible alternatives (from the Indians?), this is one monster-mascot I can appreciate. Slider is still going strong in Cleveland, having recently been inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame.

Seattle Mariners
Mariner MooseMariner Moose - The other team at the forefront of the second wave of mascots, the Mariners introduced their new mascot in 1990 as well. Mariner Moose is exactly as you'd imagine. He continues to entertain the Safeco Field crowd today.

Florida Marlins
Billy the Marlin - The first expansion team in 16 years began their existence with Billy leading the way. Billy is a man in a suit with the smiling, plastic head of a marlin. For a franchise that's gone through so many upheavals in its short existence, it's nice to know that Billy has been there the whole way.

Colorado Rockies
Dinger - Florida's expansion-mates didn't debut with a mascot. They waited a year before unveiling Dinger, a large, purple triceratops. That design was chosen after triceratops fossils were found at the site of the future Coors Field. Dinger is now known for his obnoxious (and possibly illegal) distractions behind home plate while the opposing team is pitching.

Detroit Tigers
Paws - Much like 1980 or so, the mid-1990s saw a number of mascots get successfully introduced. Other teams noticed and introduced their own. The Tigers were one of this latter group, introducing Paws the Tiger in 1995.

Kansas City Royals
Royals mascot SluggerrrSluggerrr - The Royals followed suit in 1996, introducing Sluggerrr the Lion. Lions are royalty, after all.

San Diego Padres
Swinging Friar - Another mascot with a bit of a murky history. The swinging friar logo has been associated with the team since its Pacific Coast League days. When they made the jump to the majors, the logo and name stayed with them. After the 1984 World Series, Joan Kroc removed the friar from the uniforms. He arrived again in 1996, now a costumed mascot (that you still see today). Some sources claim that a human version of the friar would appear at games during the 1970s and 1980s, but I can't verify that (and don't forget - while the Famous Chicken was never officially a Padre mascot, he basically served that role for years).

Oakland Athletics
Charlie-O - The A's were always an interesting team when they were owned by Charlie Finley. For 14 years - from 1963 to 1976 - the team kept a mule at the stadium as their mascot (it was a Missouri mule, introduced while the A's were in Kansas City). Finley, always the self-aware man, named the mule after himself.
Stomper - The real icon of the A's, though, as always been the elephant. The team finally embraced this to it's natural conclusion in 1997, when they introduced Stomper, their costumed elephant mascot. Stomper is typical of most recent mascots, as he is based off the look of an actual elephant. No weird shapes and incomprehensible colors here.

Boston Red Sox
Wally - Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Green Monster being painted green, the Red Sox introduced Wally, a green monster who is said to live in the wall. Wally looks a bit like a green, overgrown Elmo. He wears a Red Sox jersey with the words "Green Monster" written on the back. They really want to make sure you get the joke.
Lefty and Righty - Somehow, somewhere two giant red sock mascots were introduced to the Boston public. Someone needs to tell the Red Sox mascot department not to take things so literally.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Clutch the Angels mascot?Clutch and Scoop - Were there ever actually two mascots - bears, it looks like - named Clutch and Scoop? I can find pictures of the two bears from circa-1998, but no other mention of them on the internet. Maybe they were temporary mascots for a single night? Or were they some deluded idea of Disney that has been scrubbed from history?

Tampa Bay Rays
Raymond the Sea Dog - The last of the monster-style mascots, Raymond was introduced in Tampa Bay's inaugural season. He is blue and shaggy.

Arizona Diamondbacks
D Baxter the Bobcat - Officially his name is "D-Baxter" to go along with "D-Backs", but somehow I doubt anyone calls him that. A bobcat was chosen for their prevalence in Arizona and as a play on the word "Bob", the original nickname of Chase Field. Thankfully, Baxter is a better mascot than his name origins might lead you to believe (though I wish he looked a bit less "cool").
D-Backs Legends - Introduced just last year, large, costumed versions of four Arizona legends - Randy Johnson, Matt Williams, Luis Gonzalez, and Mark Grace - take part in the nightly Legends Race. Of the costumed racers, these four are by far the weirdest looking.


 

Related Content:  Milwaukee Braves,  1970s,  The Who,  Red Sox Nation,  The Call-up,  Ace

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