Fans Love for Baseball Mascots

Baseball Mascots
(Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Fans love for baseball mascots has grown in popularity the past 10 years. They have been around for quite some time but now,  fans expect to be entertained during the inning breaks and outside the game. They even want their team’s mascot to be available for autographs and pictures. Also, they are expecting them to show up at charity events, and to have a social media presence.

History of Mascots

According to The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, the first use of the word was in an 1883 issue of The Sporting Life in connection to a boy named “Chic”. He  carried bats and ran errands for the players. The first animal mascot may have been a goat. He or she was rumored to have wandered around the ballpark in Cincinnati in 1884, and was a beloved member of the team. The goat eventually won over the fans.

Clown Prince of Baseball

The “Clown Prince of Baseball” began to make mascots famous. There were three Clown Princes of Baseball, Al Schacht, Jackie Price, and Max Patkin. Former pitcher Schacht was considered the first Clown Prince. After his major league career ended, he entertained crowds at every park in the majors. He even did stints at World Series and All-Star games.  Jackie Price was a significant attraction at both minor-league ballparks and at major league stadiums with his antics. He could perform his tricks with a ball, a bat, and a glove.

Max Patkin

Fans love for baseball mascots could have started with another former player, Max Patkin. Of the three, he had the shortest career in the major leagues.  However, he is considered the most recognizable and known of the three “Clowns,” He performed for 51 years as baseball’s clown prince between 1944 and 1993. He stated he never missed an appearance when he was called upon to perform. Patkin would wear a baggy uniform with a question mark on the back in place of a number. While some mocked his act as unsophisticated and even childish, he was a beloved figure all around baseball. He never failed to entertain any crowd—and even travelled with the Harlem Globetrotters.

In 1988, Patkin was named “King of Baseball,” a title awarded annually in Minor League Baseball. That award would recognize an individual for their longtime loyalty to professional baseball. He even appeared as himself performing a routine in the popular baseball movie Bull Durham.

Change in the Game

Baseball began a change through the 1960’s with the game geared around bringing the entire family to the ballpark to enjoy what baseball had to offer. Owners saw the opportunity to increase revenues by catering not only to men, but also by reaching out to women and children—families—especially for weekend games. Families could spend their Saturdays and Sundays at the park and leave the entertaining to the home team. The brought on more mascots to keep the new crowd mix entertained.

Mr. Met

Mr. Met, who had appeared in programs for the New York Mets in 1963 and 1964, made his first live appearance and is considered the first “cartoonish” mascot. The Mets even introduced Mrs. Met to the delight of the female fans. Mr., Met was a part of the team until 1979, when he was removed for no real reason. The character remained off the team until 1994 when as part of a promotion with TV network Nickelodeon, Mr. Met returned to the delight of fans and has since remained a constant part of the franchise.

Other Popular Mascots

Mr. Met is given credit for being the first official live mascot of a major league team, but others set the tone as being popular with fans, owners, umpires, and even players. The San Diego Chicken and the Phillie Phanatic are likely the best-known and most recognizable mascots in baseball because of their more child-friendly costume designs. That caught the attention of other MLB owners causing other teams to create fan friendly mascots to entertain everyone.

Almost All Teams

Almost every major league club has a mascot of its own. They have become a mainstay for those teams. Currently only three major league teams have no official mascot: the Los Angeles Angels, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the New York Yankees. They have certainly tried but their mascots have never really been able to catch on with fans of those three teams.

Failed Mascots

Mascots have entertained and have been popular, but there certainly have been failed and unpopular mascots along the way. The San Francisco Giants had “Crazy Crab.” It was so unpopular with everyone involved in the game especially fans. The Crab was even booed when it appeared.

“Junction Jack” for the Houston Astros and “Rootin Tootin” Ranger for the Texas Rangers were also very unpopular with fans.

Good Athletes

Mascots have come to represent the culture of a team. As performers, they have to be as physically fit and most of the mascots are in just as good shape as the players. They need to deal with extraordinarily hot and sweaty conditions wearing a heavy costume. They also need to do all kinds of acrobatic stunts. They’re constantly in motion, needing to hustle between innings to get to as many fans in the second and third levels of the stadium.

More Than Just Baseball Games

Mascots can make in excess of 300 appearances a year which not only include performing at games, but also functions and events outside the park, hospital visits, visits to schools, charity events, etc. There is also a National Mascot Day every June. There is even a Mascot Hall of Fame. Located in Indiana, it currently honors nine mascots from baseball history.

They’ve Come a Long Way

Fans love for baseball mascots has grown and mascots have come a long way and may have become pop-culture icons. Teams have realized they need them to bring a fun and cheerful aspect to the ballpark, no matter how the game is going. Their hometown team can be in a long losing streak yet their mascots keep the crowd entertained.

No matter how crazy and wacky, they are part of the team. They also help build memories for people of all ages. That includes children and adults alike. The next time you attend a major league game, you can see the team’s mascot and you’ll appreciate the history and the spirit of fun the mascot brings to the game.

 

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James Marshall

James Marshall

Jim Marshall has lived in Phoenix, AZ for 50 years. He is an avid baseball fan, but enjoys all of Arizona's local sports teams, including Diamondbacks, Suns, Cardinals and Coyotes. In addition to the four major sports, he closely follows the Phoenix Mercury, Arizona Rattlers and Arizona State Sun Devils. Jim's passion for baseball continues beyond the field as he is an avid collector of baseball memorabilia. His favorite athlete of all time is Baseball Hall of Fame member Harmon Killebrew. In addition to watching, reading and talking about sports, he takes time to travel and appreciate the great state of Arizona with his lovely wife, Patti.

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