Posted: Wednesday August 17, 2005 12:25PM; Updated: Thursday August 18, 2005 10:23AM
There'll be no question about which hat the Philie Phanatic will wear into the Hall Fame.
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Congratulations are in order. The Phillie Phanatic, the San Diego Chicken and the Phoenix Gorilla have been inducted as the inaugural class into the Mascot Hall of Fame.
One quibble with the process. The Hall was founded by Dave Raymond -- the original Phanatic. Nothing beats enshrining yourself in your own Hall of Fame. It strikes me as something a banana republic dictator would do, like in The In-Laws when the general played by Richard Libertini put himself on his country's flag. On the other hand, there's now a chance I might win some sort of writing award. All I have to do is endow one, and I'm all but a shoo-in.
Back to the mascots. You can't really argue with the three choices. The Chicken started the whole craze, the Phanatic popularized the "furry thing on an ATV" bit, and the Gorilla was the godfather of the mini-trampoline. (In my younger days, I worked at a minor league park and saw both the Chicken and the Phanatic sans oversized heads. I remember thinking Raymond was an exceedingly nice guy. The Chicken had a bit of a 'tude.)
I've always had an affinity for mascots, primarily because they are incapable of changing their expressions, which I find hilarious. Kissing a baby? Goofy smile. Disco dancing on the dugout? Goofy smile. Getting punched in the groin by a petulant six-year-old? Goofy smile.
My favorite mascot moment came during the 1995 AL playoffs. Slider, the Indians pink thing, fell off the top of the outfield fence at the Jake while doing a somersault. The poor guy tore his ACL. So he's writhing around right field in pain -- though you'd never know it from the goofy smile he was stuck wearing. The first guy to come to his aid? Jose Mesa, who was in the Tribe's bullpen. It was a touching scene: a downed furry beast who can't stop smiling, being comforted by a guy who barely spoke English. Not something you see every day.
Slider's not the only mascot to be wounded in the line of duty. The Mariner Moose took a horrific spill while he was being pulled around on rollerblades by an ATV. He hit the fence at the Kingdome and broke his ankle. In 1995 the Mighty Ducks mascot, Wild Wing, caught fire trying to leap a wall of fire. (Feel free to make your own crispy duck joke here.) In 2002 the Nets lost their mascot, Sly, when he hurt his knee doing the limbo.