Thursday, July 24, 2008

Baseball Mascots...Sort Of

In yesterdays Giants' 6-4 come from behind victory, it all came down to one crucial at-bat. An at-bat that preserved their streak of defeating the Nats every game this season (the season sweep was completed the following day on a brilliant 1-0 complete game hurled by Matt Cain). The batter, for the orange and black, was Rich Aurilia. He fought off some tough pitches and even had a couple of swing-through whiffs at the offerings of Washington National pitcher Luis Ayala. But the ghost of Rusty, as articulated by colorful commentator, Mike Krukow, may have had a hand in the key at-bat.

Aurilia hit a ball toward the right field corner, where in AT&T the field shrinks in that part of the park and all outfielder Austin Kearnes saw was a bench, an awning and gear adrift and did not have any room to reach out and try to catch the falling ball so it landed in foul territory for Aurilia to have another swing. On his next swing he connected solidly and drove the ball into the left-centerfield gap for a double and it drove in two runs. For good measure, Omar Vizquel rapped another double to score Aurilia and the Giants went on to win 6-4.

Getting back to Rusty, he was this mechanical figure who came out whenever a Giant hit a home run (and back then they had a guy named Barry who hit plenty of home runs). As for mascots, sort of, Rusty lasted one season. The same length of time the Crazy Crab lasted, one year, 1984.

The Giants' mascot now is a Seal. Lou Seal to be exact, which is shortened from his proper name of Luigi Francisco Seal. He doesn't stir it up the way the Crab did and personally I like Bob Fitzgerald's name of Melvin Otter better (after the Giant great, the first left-handed hitter in the National League to hit more than 500 homers).
Although I can see the association with a Seal, seeing as how the San Francisco Seals were a top Pacific Coast league team for many years (1903-1957).

Going around the league, here's a list of some mascots and their respective teams:
Toronto Blue Jays- Ace and his female counterpart Diamond.
Milwaukee Brewers- have Bernie Brewer. Bernie first came out in 1973 and lasted until 1984. But a fan favorite he returned, or better yet, came out of retirement in 1993.
Florida Marlins- Billy the Marlin. Derived from the fact that a marlin is a Billfish as well as a pun on the former player, then manager, Billy Martin.
Baltimore Orioles- the Bird
Pittsburgh Pirates- cartoon version of Captain Jolly Roger and the Pirate Parrot.
Colorado Rockies- Dinger. A purple triceratops dinosaur. Based on dinosaur bones found during the excavation of Coors Field.
St. Louis Cardinals- Fred Bird. (I suppose if you gave it a punk rock haircut, like that of the Charlie Sheen character in Major Leagues, you could call the mascot Free Bird.)
Cincinnati Reds- Gapper, the furry companion to Mr. Red
Seattle Mariners- Mariner Moose
New York Mets- Mr. Met. Like Mr. Redleg, he's a baseball-headed humanoid.
Philadelphia Phillies- Phillie Phanatic
San Diego Padres- The Swinging Friar. But you can never forget the character to put mascots on the map and that was the San Diego Chicken.
Oakland Athletics- mascot's name is Stomper. An elephant adorned with an Athletics uniform. The inception of an elephant is said to have come from a quote by the former New York Giants' manager, John McGraw, who commented how Benjamin Shibe (original A's owner in Philadelphia) 'had bought himself a white elephant.'
Isn't it ironic how the definition of a white elephant is: a supposedly valuable possession whose cost exceeds its usefulness. You most certainly could say this about several ballplayers then and now.
But because of the quote, Connie Mack selected the white elephant as the team symbol and mascot.
Stomper actually replaced Charlie-O the Mule. Charlie-O was from 1963-1976. When the A's moved to Kansas City, Missouri, the official state animal was the mule. There were questions whether Charles O. Finley would be loyal to Missouri so he embraced the mule and removed the elephant from the A's logo and changed the A's colors from blue, red and white to green, gold and white.

(thanks to Wikipedia for mascot information)

Kevin Marquez