|Lions, Tigers, and Bears Oh My! Major League Mascots||| Print |||Send|
Written by Laura K. Nist (Contact & Archive) on August 11, 2003
Okay, well maybe the Chicken isn’t so dumb – after all he was the first pro mascot and even though the Padres have a new mascot, the Friar, the Chicken, who is now a free agent, is still making a very good living entertaining people at sporting events across the country. After the Chicken’s 1974 debut, which was originally a one-week stint sponsored by a local radio station, baseball owners saw the marketing potential of mascots. Now love them or hate them, twenty-five of the thirty Major League Baseball teams have adopted mascots.
Entertaining the fans seems to be the main objective of the mascots. Some of the mascots such as Ace, the Blue Jays' mascot, perform acrobatics - doing cartwheels and flips on top of the dugout while other mascots like San Francisco’s Lou Seal have perfected their dance moves. Granted entertaining is difficult without an audience and for some teams getting the fans there is half the battle. Some of the teams’ marketing departments have come up with wacky promotions in the hopes of increasing attendance. The Cleveland Indians mascot, Slider, celebrated his 13th birthday this week with his friends, the Pirate Parrot, the Mariner Moose and the Phillie Phanatic. A few weeks ago they had a Christmas in July promotion and Santa Slider drove around the field throwing hot dogs to Christmas music. When they had ‘turn back the clock day’ at Jacobs Field, Slider dressed as Elvis.
Of course being a mascot is not all fun and games. In addition to clowning around at baseball games they make many outside appearances – often representing the teams at charity events, parades and promotional tours. During All Star Week most of the mascots travel to the host city and while not competing in the mascot home run competition they make special appearances – this year they visited children at a hospital in Chicago. Wally the Green Monster participates in the Red Sox’s literacy program, Raymond the Devil Rays mascot invites kids to become members of his DREAM team, which stresses five concepts: drug-free, respect, education, attitude and motivation and Dinger, the Rockies mascot, works year-round promoting physical fitness and literacy to elementary school students.
These major league mascots don't get paid according to batting averages, slugging percentages, wins or saves – they make their money by amusing fans and getting laughs. Some of the MLB mascots such as the Phillie Phanatic earn over $100,000 a year, which includes salary and bonuses for numerous outside appearances. But most of the mascots are unknown college-aged individuals who earn between $30,000 and $45,000 a season.
Albeit $30,000 for six months of work may not sound like a bad deal, being a mascot isn’t as glamorous as one may think. Mascots have to deal with taunting and provocations, verbal and even physical abuse from rowdy and drunken fans – to the extent that many of them now have escorts that are essentially bodyguards. Another routine job hazard that the mascots must endure is heat stroke. Stop and think about it – they are on the field – oftentimes on hot summer days - from the time that batting practice begins until the bottom of the ninth inning – running around and entertaining fans the entire time – all the while wearing a fuzzy costume that may weigh up to 60 pounds. Oh yea, that sounds like fun.
Fun? Maybe, but also controversial. Yes, even these sometimes beloved, sometimes furry mascots have been involved in their own fair share of controversies. The original Pirate Parrot was seen snorting cocaine in the restroom at the stadium and he later admitted that he had helped several players to procure drugs. The Phillie Phanatic who is one of the game’s most popular mascots is also the "most sued mascot" in baseball and has gotten himself into trouble for such things as knocking fans over and even hugging them hard enough to cause back injuries. He spent many summers getting into scuffles with the Dodgers' manager, Tommy Lasorda, abusing effigies and ridiculing Lasorda's Slim Fast promotions. The most recent mascot controversy was Randall Simon’s so-called attack of a sausage in Milwaukee.
Being a mascot can be a dangerous job. Several mascots have spent time on the disabled list for injuries incurred during games; Seattle's Mariner Moose crashed into an outfield wall while on roller blades and broke his ankle and Slider fell six feet off of an outfield wall, and tore a ligament in his knee.
Some teams, such as the Dodgers and the Cubs have never had a mascot while other teams had mascots that never endeared themselves to the fans and ended up being either retired or replaced. The Yankees’ mascot, Dandy, lasted for a brief time and most people, including George Steinbrenner, have either forgotten about it or blocked it from their memories. The original mascot in Cleveland was the Baseball Bug, who was so unpopular that the fans habitually pelted him with garbage. The White Sox had two mascots - Ribbie, an elephant, and Roobarb, who was an unidentified creature. There was immediate hostility from the fans towards them, even children delighted in attacking them so, eventually, they were retired. In the early 80’s the Giants introduced Crazy Crab, the anti-mascot and encouraged fans to boo and hiss at him. Unfortunately the Giants were having a horrid season and the poor crab became the object of hatred and abuse; he was battered by the fans and even the players got into the act by dumping drinks and other things into the suit.
Certainly not all fans enjoy the mascots but for some it can make a trip to the ballpark a memorable experience. Of the fans that loathe mascots, one of their most common complaints is that the mascot’s antics cause a distraction and make it difficult to watch a game - of course if your team is losing then a diversion by the mascot may be preferable than watching the game anyway. Most fans, however, love having a mascot and feel that mascots are a very entertaining sideshow at the ballpark. It has been said that the major league mascots are not as fun as those that are found in the minor leagues – of course minor league games are as much about family entertainment as they are about the game on the field and they can get away with a lot more than would be tolerated at the major league level. Either way, mascots can be a fun thing for fans of all ages and a reminder that baseball, after all, is just a game.