Baseball fans should be eternally grateful to the Milwaukee Brewers for making the mascot race an integral part of the major league baseball experience. After the word got out on those racing sausages, the once popular scoreboard dot races became as outmoded as helmet liners.
In the two decades since the Brewers introduced their fleet meats, some franchises have offered their own versions of mascot races. All well and good, but the entertainment potential of the races has barely been tapped. Waiving my usual consulting fee, I forthwith offer my suggestions to all major league teams regarding their mascot races:
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST:
Baltimore Orioles—The racing Ripkens (Cal Sr., Cal Jr. and Billy) is the first thing that comes to mind. Given that Baltimore is the birthplace of Babe Ruth, another possibility might be the Racing Bambinos: three versions of the Babe compete with themselves: a youthful Babe with the minor league Orioles, a slightly older Babe with the Boston Red Sox, and a mature Babe with the New York Yankees. I would omit the Boston Braves Babe, as that version of the Bambino was so old and fat he could never win a race anyway. On the non-baseball front, how about a mascot race composed of local cultural icons, such as H.L. Mencken, Edgar Allan Poe, and John Waters?
Boston Red Sox—It might be tempting to go the patriot route here with the likes of John Adams, Paul Revere, and John Hancock, but I think more recent history is the key, to wit, the Racing Kennedys! Imagine JFK, RFK, and Teddy going head to head 81 times a year at Fenway Park. Perhaps the race could be augmented by the punk rock music of the Dead Kennedys.
Tampa Bay Rays—Since St. Petersburg is home to so many retired people, I think a wheelchair race would be appropriate. As to whether the wheelchairs should be motorized, wheeled by the contestants, or pushed by an attendant…that I leave up to the Rays management. Walkers would be another option. Such a race would take much longer, but it would afford fans a chance to get a bite to eat, hit the bathroom, and still get back to their seats in time to see the finish.
Toronto Blue Jays—The Rangers used to have (and may still have) a live dot race that featured people dressed up as dots. Since a dot is two-dimensional and people are three-dimensional, that meant that the dot costumes ended up looking like colored hockey pucks with appendages. Now I ask you, could anything be more appropriate race for Toronto? Other than that, how about a hoser race? Imagine three mascots dressed up in mackinaws and wool hats, one with a can of Molson, another with a can of Labatt’s, and another with a bottle of Moosehead.
New York Yankees—It’s difficult to imagine a stuffy franchise like the Yankees having any sort of mascot race, but if they did, it would likely be Yankee immortals like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio. I think I would prefer the three Yankee drinking buddies, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Billy Martin. Guess which one would be cast as the sore loser? Given the location of Yankee Stadium, I can also imagine a contest of graffiti artists racing to a piece of plywood, tagging it, and then racing home.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL:
Chicago White Sox—The Black Sox offer not three, not four, not five, but eight possibilities. Yes, Joe Jackson, Swede Risberg, Happy Felsch, et al could be entered in some sort of rotating schedule. The Windy City is also noted for its wealth of outstanding writers. Personally, I’d love to see a mascot race between James T. Farrell, Nelson Algren (both staunch White Sox fans), Carl Sandberg and Theodore Dreiser—with Mike Royko (a Cubs fan) as a dark horse.
Cleveland Indians—The racing pierogies of Pittsburgh would be just as much at home here, but too late for that. Or is it? (Parenthetical legal question: Do teams copyright their mascot races?) At any rate, since the Rock and Roll Hall of fame is within walking distance of Progressive Field, racing rockers would be a fitting diversion at Indians’ games. Think of the possibilities! Battle of the Guitar Heroes: Jimi Hendrix versus Eric Clapton versus Stevie Ray Vaughan. The Day the Music Died Victims: Buddy Holly versus Richie Valens versus the Big Bopper. Or drug overdose victims… a crowded field for sure.
Detroit Tigers—At first blush, an auto race among the Big Three would seem most appropriate. Much more fun would be a race between Motown Records artists: Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross —and Stevie Wonder, if someone could just get him pointed in the right direction. Actually, when I think of contemporary Detroit, the first race that comes to mind is a race to the bottom… but I don’t know how to represent that in a mascot race.
Kansas City Royals—Hey, how about the James brothers (Frank and Jesse) versus the Younger brothers (Cole and Jim) versus the Millers (Bob and Clell) and the Fords (Bob and Charlie)? Or how about the Racing Trumans: Harry, Bess, and Margaret? (Harry’s not on Mount Rushmore, so he doesn’t qualify for the Racing Presidents in Washington.)
Minnesota Twins—How about racing moose (that’s plural, not singular)? Granted, the antlers might be a problem in the clinches. Better yet, how about famous twins (done in three-legged race style): The Krays, Chang and Eng, the Olsens, Ozzie and Jose Canseco. In the best tradition of Minnesota Nice, all contestants could cross the finish line at the same time so no one’s self-esteem would be wounded.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST:
Houston Astros—Racing armadillos would be a natural. The Texas Heroes (see Rangers below) would also work here. Now that the Astros are in the same division as the Rangers, perhaps some sort of reciprocal arrangement could be worked out. Given the prominence of mosquitoes in metropolitan Houston, a mosquito race (West Nile Virus, Malaria, and Dengue Fever) would be appropriate, but I’m guessing the Atlantic League Skeeters, located in suburban Sugar Land, would strenuously object, though perhaps not to the point of litigation.
Los Angeles Angels—Given the ballpark’s proximity to Disneyland, the easiest thing to do would be to invite Mickey, Donald and Goofy over for some friendly competition. If Goofy runs half as funny as he walks, there’s plenty of entertainment potential. And what better way to end such a race than with a classic Donald Duck temper tantrum? Or how about racing angels? Go Michael! Go Gabriel! Go Lucifer—no, wait, he’s the villain! If he wins we’re all doomed!
Oakland Athletics—This is a toughie. As Oakland native Gertrude Stein once remarked of her home town, “There’s no there there.” Similar comments have been made about the Oakland Coliseum, or whatever they’re calling it these days, by ballpark aficionados. Maybe racing elephants (let’s name them Jumbo, Gumbo and Numbo), since the white elephant been the team’s logo since the days of Connie Mack. Or how about racing mustaches in a nod to Rollie Fingers and the Swinging A’s of the 1970s? Or going further back, perhaps the racing acorns, a nod to the Oakland Oaks of the Pacific Coast League. Now if the A’s ever move to Santa Clara County, I could see racing computer chips..maybe Chip, Chipper and Chippest?
Seattle Mariners—Because of its verdure, Seattle is sometimes referred to as the Emerald City, so a Wizard of Oz race would be the obvious choice. Like the scarecrow, it’s a no-brainer. Roll out a faux yellow brick road and let the scarecrow take on the cowardly lion, the tin man, and Dorothy in her red shoes (actually silver in the book, but don’t try to explain that to sports fans). Or something altogether different: Racing salmon… sockeye… steelhead…
chinook… can’t you hear the crowd chanting, “Let’s go, Coho!”
Texas Rangers—The current Texas Legends contestants (Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and Sam Houston) make for lively competition, but considering the Rangers used to be owned by George W. Bush, I think a second front on the racing Presidents (see Washington Nationals below) series might be in order. The highway between Austin and College Station is called the Presidential Corridor because it connects the presidential libraries of Lyndon Johnson and George H. W. Bush. Now that the George W. Bush Presidential Library has opened in Dallas, there is a presidential triangle. So there you have your three racing Texas Presidents. As an alternative, the three First Ladies: Lady Bird, Laura and Barbara.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST:
Atlanta Braves—Well, the first thing I think of is the Confederate triumvirate on nearby Stone Mountain: Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. But in today’s political climate, that will never do. Well, how about a competition featuring characters from Gone With the Wind? I can easily envision mascot renditions of Rhett Butler, Scarlett O’Hara and Mammy…well, no, that won’t do either. Maybe we could sub Ted Turner for Mammy and get away with it. After all, he is the founder of Turner Classic Movies, so it’s not entirely out of left field. Or, since Atlanta is the home of Coca-Cola, perhaps Classic Coke versus Diet Coke versus Cherry Coke versus Tab… wait a minute, do they still make Tab?
Miami Marlins—When I think of Miami, I think of South Beach, and when I think of South Beach, I think of… well, how about a bikini race? No mascots this time, however, but the real thing. At the finish line I would install a wading pool filled with mud so the competition can segue from racing to wrestling. Fan apathy has been a problem for the Marlins in 2013, so something radical must be done to combat it.
New York Mets—The airlines that fly into nearby LaGuardia could sponsor airplane mascots at Citi Field. Southwest vs. Delta vs. American or whatever. Or how about Big Apple races… winesap versus Red Delicious versus McIntosh. Little green would be the perennial underdog. Or how about female impersonators? Bear with me on this one… Citi Field is located in QUEENS! So a mascot race of female impersonators would therefore be… a DRAG RACE!
Philadelphia Phillies—You could easily field a race with great statesmen from the city’s long history (Benjamin Franklin, William Penn Frank Rizzo), but I think it would be much more fun to have other notable figures forever associated with the Quaker City: Dick Clark, Rocky Balboa, Bill Cosby and W.C. Fields. It might not be widely known, but all three of the famed Barrymore siblings—John, Lionel and Ethel—hail from Philadelphia. The racing Barrymores would surely add a touch of class to the game day proceedings at Citizens Bank Park.
Washington Nationals—The racing Presidents are a hit so there’s not much chance of displacing them. Instead, why not widen the field? Rather than limit the competition to iconic (i.e., Mount Rushmore) Presidents, why not include the lesser ones? I’d love to see Millard Fillmore go head to head against William Henry Harrison and James Buchanan. As a bonus, deciding on who should be included among the lesser Presidents would surely engender a spirited debate. Hey, how about a race involving the most corrupt Presidents? No shortage of competition there either! Assassinated Presidents would give us a field of four. Or how about Watergate miscreants… Richard Nixon, John Mitchell, John Dean, G. Gordon Liddy, Frank Sturgis and E. Howard Hunt?
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL:
Chicago Cubs—Since Wrigley Field is not too far away from the site of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, famous gangsters would surely be apropos. Think of the possibilities: Al Capone, Frank Nitti, Bugs Moran and Machine Gun Jack McGurn, among others. But Chicago ain’t ready for reform yet, as the time-honored saying goes, and with handgun violence at dizzying levels today, perhaps we could go contemporary and have Glock versus Smith & Wesson versus Colt versus Baretta versus Magnum, or whatever.
Cincinnati Reds—Actually, the Reds themselves are probably what the City of Cincinnati is best known for, so how about different shades or red: chartreuse versus vermillion versus wine red versus blood red. “Zinzinnati” is one of the more Teutonic cities on the major league circuit, but Milwaukee already has the sausage race, so nothing doing there. Perhaps beer steins? Racing pretzels? How about Wagnerian opera characters? Go Siegfried? Come on, Fafner! Remember—the race ain’t over till the fat lady (Brunhilde) runs! Wait a minute—I’ve got it! Ziplines with Valkyries taking off from the upper deck!
Milwaukee Brewers—These guys deserve a bye since they got it all started. But if they ever tire of the sausage race… how about a cheeseheads race? Roquefort versus brie versus cheddar versus Swiss versus Velveeta versus…
Pittsburgh Pirates—They already have the pierogi race, but I guess you could have famous buccaneers… Blackbeard versus Long John Silver versus Captain Kidd versus Jean Lafitte. Jack Sparrow would be out, as the Disney folk would likely expect some sort of royalty payments. I can see an obvious commercial tie-in here with Captain Morgan. When Captain Morgan wins, rum on the house for everyone! Then again, Pennsylvania probably has a law against that sort of thing.
St. Louis Cardinals—Admittedly, Clydesdale racing sounds like an oxymoron, but it would be appropriate in this venue. There was a time when steamboat races on the Mississippi were major events. Why not bring them back to Busch Stadium—but with a local twist? The Webster Groves Queen, the Granite City Belle, the Spirit of East St. Louis… well, there’s another oxymoron. You say your favorite didn’t win? Well, that’s life on the Mississippi.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST:
Arizona Diamondbacks—Let’s see…racing saguaros, racing gila monsters, racing kangaroo rats… racing road runners would be ideal, but it just wouldn’t look right without a coyote in pursuit. It might be more fun to have a truck race with a stationary coyote as the target at the finish line. Or better yet, we could throw three coyotes off the Chase Field roof and see which one hits the ground first.
Colorado Rockies—I could see cross-country skiing mascots trudging their way across the field… well, no, might mess up the field too much. Perhaps mascots on skis representing the local ski resorts… Vail, Steamboat Springs, Breckenridge, sponsored by the Chambers of Commerce of said towns. Maybe a nod to the mining industry: Gold versus Silver versus Copper with tin as the working man’s favorite.
Los Angeles Dodgers—Racing celebrities would be appropriate, but that in itself is too wide a field. How about narrowing it down to movie stars who died before their time: Marilyn Monroe versus James Dean versus River Phoenix versus Jean Harlow versus Bruce Lee? Or maybe mascots representing various movie studios and genres: Bogart, Cagney and Edward G. Robinson for Warner Brothers gangster films; the classic Universal horror characters: Dracula, the Wolfman and the Frankenstein monster. Whatever format the race takes, since the smog is so bad in LA, the mascots should all be wearing surgical masks.
San Diego Padres—I can hear the old instrumental “Dueling Surfboards” here, and I can see deeply-tanned mascots (representing different beaches within the city limits) running with surfboards under their arms. Or how about racing friars… Dominican, Franciscans, Jesuits and Benedictines. Could go up the food chain with racy popes—pardon me, I meant racing popes. Not sure how much traction they could get with those slippers, however.
San Francisco Giants—In a nod to the classic North Beach literary scene of the 1950s, how about the racing beats… Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, Gary Snyder, Gregory Corso and Lawrence Ferlinghetti? The latter, by the way, is still alive and actually wrote a poem about the Giants called Baseball Canto. Another possibility would be famous giants, like Andre, Paul Bunyan, Dikembe Mitumbo and Goliath. A third possibility— and this one would be possible only in San Francisco—would be racing condoms. Now before you say this is too far out, even for San Francisco, check out some of the costumes (or lack of same) in the Bay to Breakers race, a century-old crosstown race held in the city every May.
So there we have it. One man’s humble suggestions to enhance the fan experience at every major league ballpark in America. As I said at the outset, there is no charge for my counseling. Just being able to witness some of these characters sprinting across the field would be payment enough.