The Greatest Baseball Mascot Ever
The Chicago Cubs are thinking about adding a mascot in order to make the team more “kid-friendly” in connection with the team’s five-year $300 million plan to renovate Wrigley Field. The Cubbies are currently one of only four major league teams (the others are the Angels, Dodgers and Yankees, according to wikipedia — at least three teams have multiple mascots, not counting costumed idiots who run 7th inning stretch races — the Reds apparently lead the majors with four different mascots) without a mascot.
It’s a crying shame. Mascots are a blight on the game, at least in the mind of this hard-core baseball fan. When I shell out the bucks to see a major league baseball game, I come to see the action on the field, not to watch some costumed jack-ass parade around in the stands. Mascots have always struck me as bush league entertainment which no major league team should dignify.
At least the Giants’ current mascot Lou Seal (some one dressed up in a fluffy seal costume at AT&T Park) largely stays out of the stands and instead rides around in a golf cart on the outfield and foul territory grass firing souvenir T-shirts and the like into the stands using an air cannon during the half innings. At least a few lucky fans get something out of this silliness.
It could be a lot worse. I went to a Phillies’ game at the Vet in 1991, and I can’t tell you how irritating I found the Phanatic. Granted, we had paid for upper deck seats and then in the second or third inning talked our way into the lower deck box seats with a facile lie about how we joining our family but had lost our ticket stubs (we were college age at the time and I still locked like a high school student). Now that ticket prices are really high, you can’t get away with that stuff anymore.
Even so, once in the lower deck, the Phanatic briefly blocked my view of the game in progress more than once with his “antics.” Each time, I naturally enough shouted out, “Get the f@#$ out of the way — I’m trying to watch major league baseball!” Even then I had a rapier-like wit…
It pains me to acknowledge that in three years of this blog, I have never once mentioned the greatest of all major league mascots by a wide margin — the San Francisco Giants’ Crazy Crab.
The Crazy Crab lasted only one season — 1984 — but he was worth his weight in, well, dungeness crab meat. He would come out during the 7th inning stretch to his theme song, “Love That Crazy Crab” and the fans would go wild. Everyone in the stadium would boo for the duration of the time that the Crazy Crab was on the field and probably half (including me once I saw others doing it) would try to throw garbage at the Crab or at least onto the field.
You have to understand that in 1984 the Giants were terrible (they finished 66-96, the worst record in MLB), and they played in a horrible stadium (Candlestick Park was one of the first 1960’s era multi-use poured concrete stadia — they hadn’t ironed out the kinks of what was a bad idea to begin with: the fans were miles away from the foul lines in order to make space for football games, and the winds at Candlestick Point which picked up around 3:00 p.m. and continued throughout the night were brutally cold). After Opening Day that year, only serious baseball fans came out to watch the Giants and their opponents play, and we had little use for the Crazy Crab.
Even so, as someone who turned 16 that summer, I loved the Crazy Crab if only because it was so much fun to hate something that intently. It was the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to the “Two-Minute Hate” described in George Orwell’s 1984, except that the animosity towards the Crazy Crab was probably more sincere. I have little doubt that if the 11,000 or so of those of us in attendance had had the opportunity to physically confront the Crazy Crab en masse, we’d have torn the poor SOB inside the crab suit to shreds.
The Giants’ website at the link above says that the Crazy Crab was always intended to be an “anti-mascot.” I don’t remember it that way. At first, the Giants’ organization seemed serious about the Crazy Crab as a mascot and only started playing up the Crazy Crab as a joke once the fans responded with utter ridicule.
I was reading the San Francisco Chronicle’s sports pages religiously in those days, and I don’t recall any claim that the Crab was presented as anything but legitimate at the outset. Again, you have to remember that 1984 was the acme of the initial mascot craze. The San Diego Chicken was introduced in 1977, was a huge hit, the Phillie Phanatic was introduced in 1978, was a huge hit, and then every team had to have a mascot. The Giants were one of the last hold-outs, but they had to try something since the product they were putting on the field most seasons in the early 1980’s was poor.
At any rate, the Crazy Crab made the fans completely unruly, and the players on the field started getting into the act. According to the Giants’ website, the poor SOB inside the crab suit was eventually tackled by a San Diego Padres player and later sued the Giants for an allegedly resulting back injury. I guess that’s why the team generally keeps Lou Seal inside the golf cart today.