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Well look what we have here. After the unveiling of “Clark” on January 13, 2014 by the Chicago Cubs, we are down to three teams in Major League Baseball who have not debased themselves adopting a mascot: the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and the New York Yankees. I admire these three proud franchises who have not simply catered to the hoi polloi and —- wait, what? The Yankees had a mascot? A fuzzy, goofy character to entertain children and inebriated fans? You’re kidding! Tell me more!
Travel back with me to the 1979 baseball season. Thirty-five years ago, when the House That Ruth Built was home to only 22 World Championships and Monument Park was filled with names like Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, and Berra. And the Yankees introduced “Dandy” a short-lived but very troubled figure in Yankee history1.
It all starts with the Phillie Phanatic, as so many baseball stories should. The Phanatic was introduced to the Veterans Stadium crowd on April 25, 1978. The Phillies decided they needed to reach out to more families at the ballpark and saw a mascot as one solution. Designed by Bonnie Ericson2and Wayde Harrison, the 6‘ 6” green fuzzy creature with a long tongue was an immediate hit, which made fans happy and the Phillies even happier. The club estimated that their new mascot added another $2 million in revenue through the sales of Phanatic-themed souvenirs alone.
It did not take long for word to travel from Philly to the Bronx. But unlike the then-hapless Phils, the Yankees fortunes were riding as high as they possibly could. The 1978 season was glorious. The Yankees won their second straight World Series championship, even though it took three managers to get there: Billy Martin, Dick Howser, and Bob Lemon. The roster was an All-Star team unto itself with Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles, Lou Piniella, Reggie Jackson, Ron Guidry, Catfish Hunter, Tommy John, Goose Gossage all penciled into the lineup at one time or another. And their success paid off, as they led the American League in attendance with over 2.3 million coming through the gates3 . Everything was coming up Steinbrenner.
But the Phillies showed that there was more money to be had.
So the Yankees turned to Ericson/Harrison, Inc. to create a giant, fuzzy, Yankee-themed mascot of their very own. The result? A tall pear-shaped body, akin to his green cousin from Philly, with a pinstriped body (“a dyed-in-the-wool Yankee fan”), a mustache that was to remind people vaguely of Yankee captain Munson, an oversized Louisville Slugger, and a Yankee cap…that spun around. He was nicknamed “Dandy,” as in “I’m a Yankee Doodle…” Now before we start judging it as atrocious, please remember that this was the 1970s, and that’s how the whole decade looked.
Ericson and Harrison had to present the designs personally to Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner. After a brief argument over whether the pinstripes were royal or Yankee blue, the Yankees’ principle owner agreed to contract Dandy for three seasons for $30,000. He would be presented to fans at the end of July 1979.
Then the San Diego Chicken had to ruin it all. The Chicken, the most famous of all baseball mascots, originally attached to the Padres but later on freelance (let’s hear it for The Baseball Bunch!) was working for the Seattle Mariners4 on July 10, 1979. As the story goes the Chicken put a “jinx” on Yankee ace Ron Guidry5, which Lou Piniella - fiery as always - did not take too kindly too. He chased after the Chicken, and threw his glove at him in a classic Piniella rage.
Following the game Mr. Steinbrenner, who apparently sided with his left fielder over a giant fake chicken, stuck a knife in the heart of Ericson, Harrison, and Dandy by saying that “mascots had no place in baseball.” Awkward.
Thus was Dandy doomed to fail. Because of the incident in Seattle, Dandy was not allowed anywhere near the field at Yankee Stadium for fear of distracting players or umpires. So while the Phanatic was dancing on dugouts and riding ATVs in the outfield, Dandy was relegated to the upper decks. Out of sight, out of mind.
Things got worse after August 2, 1979 when Thurman Munson died in a plane crash. The already ostracized Dandy was quietly hidden for a time as few fans would want to his Munson-inspired mustache around the ballpark.
Dandy was all but done. Rick Ford, the performer hired to dress up and perform as Dandy, had practiced choreography for weeks but it was shelved. The famed Yankee organist Eddie Layton wrote a special song for Dandy but it was never played and the music is lost to history. Dandy was to the Yankees as Sloth was to the Fratellis.
After the 1981 season, Ericson, Harrison, and the Yankees agreed to part ways. The Dandy costume was tossed out into the garbage but their company, Acme Mascots, still have the designs and the rights to Dandy. So if you hope he gets another chance, there’s still hope. The business partners survived the Dandy fiasco and continued to design mascots for MLB, NFL, and NBA teams including Youpie of the Montreal Expos, K. C. Wolf of the Kansas City Chiefs, Stuff the Magic Dragon (!) of the Orlando Magic, G. Wiz of the Washington Wizards, Hugo of the Charlotte Hornets (who will return when the Bobcats revert back to the Hornets in 2014-2015), and Jaxon deVille of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
But as we mock “Clark” for his resemblance to Kit Cloudkicker from TaleSpin and concerning lack of pants, we must remember that 25 years ago another storied franchise tried its hand at the mascot game….and it was much, much worse.
(Image of Dandy is copyright of Acme Mascots and Wayde Harrison and courtesy of whattalking.com)
Like Carl Pavano but the mascot made more appearances and cost 1/7000 the price.
 Ms. Ericson created Miss Piggy and Statler and Waldorf, so she is completely legit, and amazing.
 The Yankees were fourth in MLB that season behind the Dodgers (3.3 million), Phillies (2.6 & the Phanatic), and the Reds (2.5).
 The Mariners did not introduce their own mascot, Mariner Moose, until 1990
 Jinxes are not real.
Josh Eisenberg is the proprietor of Obitoftheday.com, the most popular obituary site on Tumblr. He also writes for MLBOffseason.com and just started ItHappenedin1974.tumblr.com. In his free time, Josh is an above average stay-at-home dad for his five kids and an excellent tour guide for the Chicago History Museum.
My contribution to this year’s blogathon.
Makes Clark seem like a good idea.