Ten Embarrassing Incidents Involving Baseball Mascots
Here’s yet another piece I wrote for someone else that ended up on the cutting room floor. As the opening paragraph indicates, this sucker was supposed to run back in late May / early June…
Well, it’s baseball season once again, and you know what that means—steroid denials and hot dog consumption are both up. It also means the return of those bizarre baseball team mascots, the costumed rabble-rousers who are often just as out of control and misguided as the fussy, overpaid players they’re supposed to be supporting. Here now, ten jaw-dropping instances of mascot-related insanity from the annals of major league history. See if your favorite team’s funny person has broken anyone’s neck, been sued for millions of dollars, or fallen victim to serious fan aggression!
1. San Diego Chicken Attacks Woman…At Basketball Game?
Is there a bigger mascot in the game today than the San Diego Chicken (pictured above)? No, of course not, but this ball game institution (who sometimes goes by “The Famous Chicken” when appearing in competing markets) has not been immune to legal ramifications stemming from his buffoonery. In January of 1991, the Chicken appeared at a Chicago Bulls game (wrong sport, bro!) and proceeded to tackle a Bulls cheerleader (wrong way to get her number, bro!). The injured spirit girl sued the Chicken, who is actually a human by the name of Ted Giannoulas, and a Chicago jury awarded her $300,000. Giannoulus was forced to pay up, but being the Michael Jordan of mascots, we’re sure that was just chicken scratch to him (bad pun, bro!).
2. Billy The Marlin Almost Maude Flanderses A Guy
In July of 2000, fishy Florida mascot Billy the Marlin decided to liven up the baseball proceedings at a Marlins home game with his trusty air-pressurized t-shirt gun. Billy fired into the stands and accidentally hit an elderly male fan in the head. The man fell unconscious, but recovered and filed a lawsuit against the loveable mascot and his dangerous, crap-loaded bazooka. During the trial (in which John Routh, the man who was in the Billy costume at the time, saw his face obscured so as to protect the innocence of South Florida’s children), it was admitted that the victim in question may have been conked on the head and incapacitated by another fan’s elbow during the mad t-shirt scramble. Billy the Marlin was found not guilty and lived to launch promotional ballpark items another day.
3. Mariner Moose Crashes Into Wall, Outfielders
Generally one would imagine heavy machine operation and oversized animal costumes do not go together (see previous example), but try telling that to Seattle’s Mariner Moose. This West Coast staple is best known for his antics and hi-jinks while piloting an all-terrain vehicle around the warning track of the Kingdome. 1995 saw the Moose famously break his ankle during a championship game between the Mariners and the Yankees after crashing into an outfield wall while being towed by his ATV on inline skates. Not satisfied with one serious bust-up, the Moose added accident number two to his resume in August of 2007 when he nearly plowed his Moosemobile into Boston outfielder Coco Crisp. Crisp kept his cool and did not unload on the goofy Moose; apparently Coco has a personal rule about attacking former running mates of Ken Griffey, Jr. (Mariner Moose was Griffey’s VP pick during a fake White House run in 1996 that was devised by Nike).
4. Crazy Crab Gets Beaten Down
In 1984, the San Francisco Giants debuted Crazy Crab, the MLB mascot fans were encouraged to abuse; manager Frank Robinson even filmed a TV spot in which he had to be physically restrained from attacking the sad-looking crustacean. This deft parody was perhaps a tad ahead of its time—Giants fans didn’t pick up on the irony and took the open invitation to beat up on Crazy Crab with absolute glee. So much frightening crap was thrown at Crazy Crab (bottles, batteries, etc) that his shell had to be reinforced with fiberglass. Even players took to pelting poor Crab, alias Wayne Doba, with various pieces of equipment. Two San Diego Padres tackled Doba during the final week of that inaugural season, causing enough injury to warrant a lawsuit; a $2,000 settlement was eventually reached in Doba’s favor. The Giants retired Crazy Crab at the end of ’84, but the much maligned sea creature has made periodic appearances since then (most recently in 2008).
5. Dandy Yankee Also Gets Beaten Down
The 1980s were a rough time for the Yankees. Sure, they had Don Mattingly, but the Bronx Bombers only clinched one pennant and never made it to the World Series. To boost morale, the Yank front office reluctantly agreed to the addition of a giant pinstriped bird with a large mustache named Dandy, the first official mascot the team ever had. To say Dandy was not accepted by the Yankee Nation is a bit of an understatement. After being beaten up in the stands by bloodthirsty New Yorkers, the person playing Dandy quit. The Yankees chose not to replace this employee and the character known as Dandy faded into the ether. To this day, many notable Yankee officials are on record as denying Dandy ever existed, which, if you’ve ever been to the Bronx, is a perfectly acceptable way of dealing with things.
6. Montreal Monster Ejected From A Game (Not For Being Canadian)
Youppie is certainly not the first name that jumps to anyone’s lips when the phrase “baseball mascot” comes up in conversation, although it should be noted the former Montreal Expo monster is one of only three mascots to be unofficially included in the Baseball Hall of Fame (the other two being the Phillie Phanatic and the San Diego Chicken). Youppie also holds the distinction of being the first mascot to ever be ejected from a major league game. On August 23, 1989, Youppie was causing quite the ruckus atop the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers’ dugout. LA manager Tommy Lasorda complained to an umpire, who then ejected the orange roustabout from that night’s match up. Youppie eventually returned to the game, although he was not allowed to leave the Expo’s general area. Currently, Youppie is the mascot for the Montreal Canadiens hockey team.
7. Phillie Phanatic Injures Someone’s Back…At A Paint Store?
The Phillie Phanatic, that unidentifiable creature who loves to flip snack trays out of concession workers’ hands and shake his hairy green belly fat at anyone he finds displeasing, is officially the most sued mascot in baseball history. The Phillies have lost a mountain of money thanks to their brazen alien friend, who’s been taken to court for (among other things) knocking an elderly man down at a church carnival and coming on to a female fan too strongly. The Phanatic was also once famously warned by the Secret Service not to “pull any shit” at a function involving former president George H.W. Bush. The largest sum this colorful troublemaker cost his team was $2.5 million, which was awarded to an Exton, PA, paint store employee who suffered a ruptured disc after the Phanatic aggressively hugged him during said store’s 1998 grand opening. What a baseball mascot was doing at a paint store, I have no idea.
8. Mascot Death At Hands Of Other Mascot
The Houston Astros had a character during the go-go ’90s named General Admission, a middle aged white guy in a Cavalry uniform who stood proud on an outfield platform in the Astrodome while fans pigged out on hot dogs and beer. The General would proudly fire off his cannon any time an Astro hit a home run while simultaneously affixing a representative gold star to his uniform. As para-military trends began to fall out of favor towards the close of the decade, Houston decided GA had to be replaced with a more kid-friendly mascot—Orbit, some kind of green outer space creature with questionable origins. At the end of the 1999 season, General Admission was literally killed off by Orbit; the extra terrestrial visitor zapped Houston’s stoic serviceman with an alien ray gun, making quick work of one of baseball’s more creative mascots.
9. Fake Muppets Attempt To Oust Clown, Fail
Beginning in 1960, Chicago resident Andrew Rozdilsky, Jr. began turning up to White Sox games at Comiskey Park in the clown costume he used to entertain neighborhood children. A baseball institution was quickly born as fans new and old embraced the cute, homegrown antics of Andy the Clown (the guy’s nose would light up whenever a child shook his hand—how adorable is that?). So, you can imagine the outcry that erupted in 1981 when the Sox decided to develop a couple of “official” mascots and told Andy he was no longer welcome. Opposition was so fierce against the banishment of Andy that the team’s decision was reversed one day after it was announced. When the new mascots, low rent Muppet-looking things named Ribbie & Roobarb, made their debut later that week, they were instantly met with verbal / physical abuse from the fans. Ribbie & Roobarb disappeared after the 1988 season, while Andy the Clown was a fixture until his retirement in 1991.
10. Pirate Parrot Hits That Sweet, Sweet Nose Candy
First appearing in 1979, Pittsburg’s Pirate Parrot engaged in the requisite mascot activities for his his team—sitting on pretty fans’ laps, dancing on the dugout, and shaking his big ol’ belly all over the place. In 1985, however, the Parrot (also known as Kevin Koch) found himself caught up in some far less PC shenanigans. Koch, along with a slew of big leaguers like Keith Hernandez and Tim Raines, was implicated in that year’s infamous Pittsburg drug trials for purchasing cocaine and introducing Pirate players to his Columbian connection. Although Koch escaped prosecution by cooperating with the FBI (they technically only had him for inter-state transportation of an illegal substance), the former Parrot is still mentally paying for his actions. “The guilt is so great,” he said in a 2006 interview. “It’s hard every day.”