June 15, 2010
The next time you ask a New York Yankees fan why they don't have a mascot and he responds with something like "the Yankees have never needed a mascot to generate interest in the team," make sure to bring up "Dandy" — the team's freakish and long-forgotten furry.
For background, Scott Cacciola of the Wall Street Journal has a great piece on Dandy's short life in Tuesday's editions. Created in 1979 as a response to the wild success of the Phillie Phanatic, Dandy looked like the psychedelic Krofft product of a mating session between Yosemite Sam, Thurman Munson's trademark mustache and a pinstriped bowling pin. Seriously, how scary is that thing?
But Dandy sadly spent most of his three seasons banished to making $40 a game in the the upper deck of old Yankee Stadium because — and you can't even make something like this up — Lou Piniella was angry after the San Diego Chicken placed a curse upon Ron Guidry a few weeks before Dandy debuted.
On July 10, 1979, the (San Diego) Chicken — on sabbatical from the Padres, his regular employer — was working for the Seattle Mariners at the Kingdome, where he threw a hex on Yankees pitcher Ron Guidry as he warmed up. Mr. Piniella, the Yankees' left fielder at the time, considered this to be in poor taste, so he chased the Chicken and, lacking apparent success, fired his glove at him in a fit of rage.
In the wake of that fiasco, Mr. Steinbrenner supported Mr. Piniella by telling reporters that mascots had no place in baseball — this, just two weeks before the Yankees were to introduce their own.
"It was so unbelievable," Ms. [Bonnie] Erickson [co-creator of Dandy with husband Wayde] said. "We just sat there in front of the TV with our mouths open. Did he forget or something? I can remember hearing him on the news: 'Those things don't belong on the field.'"
Cacciola has more on Dandy and his creators, including more photos, his awkward introduction just a few day's after Munson's tragic death and the one demand that Steinbrenner made before approving Dandy's three-year, $30,000 contract. Again, go check it out.
Dandy went away after the 1981 season after a dispute, and the Yankees have erased any evidence that he ever existed. There's little hope for a comeback, either, as the costume was unceremoniously destroyed by its owners 10 years ago.
Is it the worst mascot in baseball history? That's probably an unfair question to ask, as it seems creating characters that looked like they were inspired by bad acid trips was the real national pastime in the 1970s. No one was immune to the influence of Jim Henson.
But let's not allow the Yankees fans to pretend like they've always been above it all, either.
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