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A look back at ‘Dandy’ — the forgotten Yankees mascot

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

The New York Yankees have always been an organization that stays true to its ways and traditions. Very rarely will they veer off that track, and when they do, it doesn’t typically result in a long-term change in philosophy.

A classic example of such an experiment came in 1979 when the Yankees decided to debut a mascot named “Dandy” as their answer to the San Diego Chicken and other mascots that were gaining popularity at the time. What exactly Dandy was intended to be is unknown, but he appeared to be cut from the same cloth — perhaps literally — as the Phillie Phanatic and Youppi, the famous Montreal Expos mascot.

View photo

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(Wallstreet Journal)

Dandy stood 7-feet tall, had fur, wore a painted on Yankees pinstriped jersey, and broke perhaps the most famous Yankees rule in the process by sporting a bushy mustache. He was… well, a bit odd looking and slightly awkward. And not surprisingly, he was gone almost as quickly as he appeared, as the Yankees retired him in 1981.

Although his tenure was short, he was still a part of Yankees' history, which means every now and then he deserves to be remembered and celebrated. So that's exactly what Todd Radom of SportsLogos.net did on Friday when he published an extensive article on Dandy's history, from his conception to George Steinbrenner's hesitation to approve to his disappearance.

Here are a few of the more interesting excerpts from the piece.

On Dandy's conception:

In 1979, the Yankees' marketing team, seeking to capture some of the goodwill (and revenue) associated with the Phillie Phanatic and his mascot brethren, stepped out of character and took a chance. They commissioned Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison, the husband-and-wife who were also responsible for the Phanatic and the Montreal Expos 'Youppi' to create a Yankees mascot.

The team leased Dandy from Harrison and Erickson for three years, at a cost of $10,000 per year.

Introduced in late July 1979, Dandy was immediately given boundaries. A 1981 Yankees game program states that Dandy is "a little different than the others... during the game he remains in the stands and off the field... (T)he Yankees introduced Dandy to help add to the enjoyment of families and children at the ball game. But they didn't want him to distract the players or umpires, or take away from the great game of baseball."

On George Steinbrenner's hesitation (via the Wallstreet Journal):

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner had final approval, and he met with Mr. Harrison and Ms. Erickson at his Yankee Stadium office one afternoon during the early part of the season.

He sat at a large oval table that overlooked the field while two top-level executives—both of whom had expressed their support for the project—sat quietly along a wall behind him.

It was clear to Dandy's creators that the onus would fall on them to convince Mr. Steinbrenner, who signed off on the mascot with one caveat. He pointed out that Dandy's fur was royal blue. "That should be Yankee blue," Mr. Steinbrenner said.

"I started to argue with him," Ms. Erickson said. "And you could literally see the guys in the back going, 'What is she doing?'"

On the poor timing of Dandy's debut:

Weeks prior to Dandy's scheduled introductio, during a July game in Seattle against the Mariners, famously hotheaded Yankee outfielder Lou Piniella threw his glove in disgust at the much-beloved San Diego Chicken. Steinbrenner reacted by saying that mascots had no place in baseball.

Dandy's debut was ill-timed in multiple ways. The Yankees' 1979 season is remembered as one of tragedy and disappointment. The team won back-to-back World Series the previous two years, but never really got untracked in 1979, playing close to .500 ball through the middle of the season. Then, on August 2, team captain Thurman Munson was killed when the Cesena Citation aircraft that was piloting crashed as it approached Akron-Canton Airport in Ohio.

The mustachioed Dandy bore more than a passing resemblance to Munson. The team and their fans were clearly in no mood for this new mascot in the summer of 1979, so Dandy disappeared from the Bronx for a bit.

On the end of Dandy:

Like many a failed acquisition, his contract was not renewed when it expired after that 1981 season. Never a good fit, the Yankees have not employed a costumed mascot since. In 1998, Yankees VP for Business Development Josepth Perello was quoted by the New York Times as saying "fans come to see the Yankees win. And that's the entertainment."

Radom's article fills in more of the blanks from Dandy's short run. It's a fun read, especially if you're a fan that wasn't aware or completely forgot the Yankees once employed a mascot.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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