Baseball mascots. Can't live with 'em, can't tie them up in a heavily-weighted burlap bag and dump them at the dead of night into the deep end of the Chase Field swimming pool while singing the Hallelujah Chorus. But not all mascot are quite as evil incarnate as others. They are, admittedly, almost a universal part of the baseball landscape these days, having grown to infect 26 of the 30 major-league teams since the arrival of Mascot Zero, Mr. Met, in 1964.
The term "mascot" in English dates back even further, to an 1880 operetta by Edmond Audran, which tells the story of a farm girl who brings good fortune to whoever possesses her - just so long as she remains a virgin. It is not clear how many of the current 26 major-league mascots adhere to this policy. But given one previous inhabitant of the D. Baxter costume was fired after a DUI and admitted marijuana use, it seems likely that mascot are these days no more virtuous than the rest of the population.
After the jump, you'll find our Power Rankings for all the MLB mascots currently in operation.
Not included in the list are non-mascots, such as the Racing Sausages or Presidents of Milwaukee and Washington respectively, though they certainly have their admirers. There is, in fact, an entire site dedicated to the fact that Teddy Roosevelt has never won the Presidents' race in Washington. Factors taken into account for the rankings include recognizability, originality, historical importance and amusing anecdotal evidence.
Phillie Phanatic (Philadelphia)
The most-sued mascot in sports, the team had to pay $2.5 million to a man after the Phanatic jumped him with a bear hug, causing serious back injuries. That's hardcore mascoting, right there. Falls completely into the case of "I have no idea what it is," but the tongue alone is just marvelous.
Mr. Met (New York Mets)
Mr. Met is the Night of the Living Dead of mascots i.e. done better since, but unquestionably vastly influential. Tony Clark was the first ever to wear Mr. Met's number, #00, in the 2003 season. He switched in June after Queens schoolchildren asked him what had happened to the mascot.
Bernie Brewer (Milwaukee)
Probably the only mascot on this list inspired by a real person - Milt Mason, who sat atop the Brewers' scoreboard for 40 days in 1970. Used to slide down his chalet into a giant mug of beer every time a Milwaukee player homered. Now he just slides, another victim of political correctness.
Mariner Moose (Seattle)
Probably the most hardcore in the league, the Moose broke his ankle in the 1995 ALDS, crashing into the Kingdome outfield wall while being towed on inline skates behind an ATV. Also mowed down Coco Crisp in August 2007. If Baxter was to do that to Troy-boy, even I might like him.
Billy The Marlin (Florida)
He's a marlin, and he's called Billy. Any questions? You'll not be surprised to hear that this one was christened by then Marlins' infamously tight owner, Wayne Huizenga - why bother paying for a name, or even having a contest where you have to come up with a prize? Just name it yourself.
Fredbird (St. Louis)
It appears that babies are a favored snack of the Cardinals mascot. I'm down with this. When not chewing on small infants, this mascot can also be seen on local television once a week, doing the Cardinal's Kids Club show with Andy Benes, who started the first game in D-backs history.
Captain Jolly Roger and the Pirate Parrot (Pittsburgh)
Cue sniggering from the British corner, where "to roger" is... Well, let's move rapidly on. The original Parrot, Kevin Koch, was part of the infamous mid-eighties Pittsburgh drug trials, in which he was accused of connecting players with a coke dealer. Makes a DUI seem tame in comparison.
Outside of Mr. Met and the Phillie Fanatic, the only baseball mascot to be inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame. The what? Yes: the Mascot Hall of Fame. Quite how Slider - once described as "like a giant walrus that's suffering from the Resident Evil virus" - qualified for the honor, escapes me.
Junction Jack (Houston)
A seven-foot tall rabbit, dressed as a railroad engineer. I certainly admire the psychedelic stylings underlying this concept, though it makes more sense when you recall the train motif at Minute Maid Park. He replaced the extra-terrestrial 'Orbit' when the team moved from the Astrodome.
Sluggerrr (Kansas City)
Those Three R's are obviously needed to separate him from all the other mascots called... Oh, wait: never mind. Sued this year, by a man alleging a hot-dog thrown into the stands by Sluggerrr "struck his left eye, detaching his retina and causing cataracts." Good job he didn't ask for ketchup.
Used to have a lady counterpart, Diamond, but they appear to have got divorced in 2004 - now Rosie Red is the sole demonstrably-female mascot in the majors. Replaced longtime favorite BJ Birdy four years prior to that - but given both are basically large blue-jays, not sure of the aim there.
Yes, I'm sure your first thought is that guy from Saved by the Bell too. The eagle from our nation's capital underwent a revamp before the start of last season, losing some weight - "the mascot equivalent of the trimmed down Ronnie Belliard" [not my line, Eric!] - and gaining baseball cleats.
Rangers Captain (Texas)
One of the newest mascots, making his debut in time for the 2003 season, and is "designed in the fashion of a Palomino style horse." Has his own blog, though it's not exactly inspired literature - hey, wouldn't it be fun if the D-backs got IHSB to ghostwrite a blog for Baxter? Er, just me then...
Raymond (Tampa Bay)
Bit of controversy here, as the performer inside the suit was fired after the Rays' World Series appearance in 2008. The mascot lives on: I was expecting them to have a giant ray as a mascot, but apparently not - he's more manatee-like. So that's where Russ Ortiz went...
T. C. Bear (Minnesota)
Loosely modeled after the bear used to advertise the product of Hamm's brewery in St. Paul - the "T.C" stands for Twin Cities, of course. The high point of his career was probably an inside-the-park homer at the 9th Annual Mascot Softball Game at the Metrodome (below).
Why a not exactly "athletic" elephant? It dates from when John McGraw, then manager of the NY Giants, sniped that the Athletics' owners had bought themselves a white elephant. A's manager Connie Mack pounced on the idea, making an elephant the team's symbol. Now you know.
Lou Seal (San Francisco)
A replacement for the only ever "anti-mascot", the infamous Crazy Crab. Named partly after the old Seals Stadium, where the team first played on moving to San Francisco. Appropriately, there are doubts as to its sexuality, one fan saying, "I know she's a boy, but I think she's really a girl."
Wally the Green Monster, Lefty and Righty (Boston)
In the comments a little while ago, someone listed Boston among the teams without a mascot. And many diehard Red Sox fans likely wish it was still the case. Lefty and Righty are the "alternates" and are two red socks. With arms. And Boston caps. I swear to you, I am not making this up.
Swinging Friar (San Diego)
The Padres had one of the all-time greats, the San Diego Chicken - originally intended to promote a local rock radio station, rather than the team, but who became an icon in the late seventies, albeit unofficially. Compared to that, the Swinging Friar can only be considered as a pale shadow. .
All hail Wikipedia: "Paws is the mascot of the Detroit Tigers. He is a Tiger, representing the Tigers." Well, that's informative. I'd never have guessed. Mind you, he genuinely appears to have nothing of interest about him at all, despite lengthy minutes of Googling. Bland and unamusing,
Replaced the rather-dubious Chief Noc-a-Homa in the late 80's. Bonus points for PC-ness there. but he just looks too much like Mr. Met to get a higher ranking. Though in some pictures, looks more like Mr. Met after a three-day crack bender.
The Bird (Baltimore)
Sheesh. You're called the Orioles, and all you can come up with for a mascot name is "The Bird". Seriously? Wasn't there a small child passing, that you could ask for a name? [See: Baxter, D] I did find one reference to it being called "Gomez," but that's unsubstantiated and probably wrong.
Mr. Redlegs, Rosie Red and Gapper (Cincinnati)
For heaven's sake just pick one. The mentality behind the plethora of mascots at Great American Ballpark appears to be "Don't like this one? No problem. There'll be another along in a minute." Redlegs is another one following shamelessly in the Mr. Met approach, with his baseball head.
Southpaw (Chicago White Sox)
The White Sox have a bit of a checkered history of mascots, with failures like Ribbie and Roobarb in their past. This is little better: it doesn't appear to be anything, just a large furry lump, not distinguishable from any of the other mascots of species Largius Furrylumpii. Entirely "meh."
D. Baxter the Bobcat (Arizona)
If it looks like an idea a kid would come up, that's because it was: Jay Bell's son, to be specific. All relevance of a bobcat as a mascot evaporated when the park name was changed to Chase Field in September 2005. Baxter, however, still hangs around, like a nasty cold sore that won't go away.
I'm embarrassed to admit he and I share a birthday. Particularly aggravating when he gyrates behind the batter in the ninth, trying to distract opposing pitchers. I expect this behavior from drunk Cubs fans, not club employees. Baseball's unwritten rules should forbid this kind of thing.
Among the teams which are oversized-head free are the Yankees, Cubs and Dodgers, further evidence of their cold inhumanity. Suggestions as to possible mascots for them would be welcome. For the Yankees, I would propose a Borg, since resistance to the Evil Empire is futile - your free agents will be assimilated. But the next time you taunt a mascot, spare a thought for what is one of the more dangerous jobs in the entertainment industry. Orthopedic surgeon Edward McFarland, from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, surveyed mascots, and found 42% had suffered illnesses relating to heat. Additionally:
Almost all of the mascots reported injuries of one kind or another, the most common being ankle sprains, reported by almost one-third; 21 injuries were severe enough to require surgery. Among the mascot mishaps cited in the report: "falling off a wall while performing a somersault, being pushed off a 10-foot wall by a fan, falling off a dugout, flipping over moped handlebars during a skit, being tackled by fans and players, falling awkwardly when performing basketball dunks, being hit in the head with a bat and being run over by a van during a skit."