Inside the wild and dangerous world of pro sports mascots

Rick Ford knew that Dandy was once doomed from the outset. 

The short-lived Yankees mascot — a 7-foot-tall, pinstriped, mustachioed fowl in a group cap — most effective lasted from 1979-’81 earlier than being axed.

It debuted in July 1979, however was once benched weeks later when catcher Thurman Munson, whose facial hair appeared an terrible lot like Dandy’s, was once killed in a airplane crash. Team proprietor George Steinbrenner had licensed the personality, however was once by no means a fan: Dandy ended up banished to the higher deck of Yankee Stadium.

Ford, a tender actor at the time, had the indignity of enjoying Dandy for a season.

“Nobody had any idea what I was or what I was doing there,” he informed The Post in 2019. “[The audience at ] just looked at me like, ‘What the hell is this thing?’”

Since getting rid of Dandy after just two years, the Yankees haven't had an official mascot.
Since getting rid of Dandy after simply two years, the Yankees haven’t had an reliable mascot.
Madison Ford/Midcoast Studio

Ford additionally recalled an look at Madison Square Garden in 1978 when, blinded through the spotlights, he jumped off the degree. “The crowd just started ripping me to pieces as I lay on the floor. I thought I wouldn’t get out alive,” he informed The Post this week.

“I had all this fur in my mouth — I couldn’t breathe. All I could hear was people shouting ‘Unzip his head! Unzip his head!’”

In the unmarried season that Ford spent as Dandy, he won simply $40 according to sport and $105 for private appearances.

Rick Ford played Dandy for just one season and was paid $40 a game.
Rick Ford performed Dandy for only one season and was once paid $40 a sport.
Zack Wajsgras

But, he alleged, “They never paid me. I was always chasing money so I kind of kidnapped the costume and told them I’d return it when they paid me.”

It’s an excessively other tale for mascots nowadays. 

A up to date record from Sport Business Journal published the astonishing salaries of some of those group characters. At the best for the NBA is Rocky the Mountain Lion of the Denver Nuggets, who reportedly makes $625,000 a yr, adopted carefully through Harry the Hawk of the Atlanta Hawks on a wage of $600,000. The Chicago Bulls’ Benny the Bull pulls down a fab $400,000 yearly.

Rocky the Mountain Lion of the Denver Nuggets
A up to date record on NBA mascot salaries published that Rocky the Mountain Lion of the Denver Nuggets makes $625,000 yearly.
NBAE by way of Getty Images

It’s severe cash for what, on the face of it, turns out like a foolish process.

But Dave Raymond, the godfather of the mascot business, stated it’s hard earned.

“There is really good money to be made, sure, but only for the people that are the most talented,” he informed The Post. “Remember, the most effective explanation why they’re making that cash is they’re [driving] two or thrice that quantity for the group. ‘

Phillie Phanatic
Dave Raymond, who was the Phillie Phanatic, recalled a frightening incident with a automobile like this one.
Getty Images

“So as long as the character brand has been taken care of properly and built properly, and the organization cares about that character brand, and then you have a great and talented performer, then it’s worth paying them that and making sure that they’re happy.”

In 1978, Raymond was once employed to be the new Philadelphia Phillies mascot — a inexperienced furball through the identify of Phillie Phanatic that he performed for 16 years. He’s long gone directly to lend a hand design characters for groups —together with the Flyers’ polarizing Gritty — in addition to discovered the Mascot Hall of Fame and even run a boot camp for mascot actors in Whiting, Indiana.

He recalled as soon as narrowly avoiding immolation throughout a sport. As the Phanatic, Raymond was once using a three-wheeler automotive round the stands; the gasoline cap was once unfastened and, as he pulled a wheelie, the gasoline leaked out and lined the decrease part of the gown — simply as some fanatics within reach had been lights cigarettes.

Boxer and social-media provocateur Jake Paul knocked Clutch of the Houston Rockets to the court in April.
Boxer and social-media provocateur Jake Paul knocked Clutch of the Houston Rockets to the courtroom in April.
Getty Images

“All I could imagine was that the Phanatic was going to go up in flames,” he stated. 

Indeed, it may be a dangerous process. Clutch, the Houston Rockets mascot, was once dancing round the courtroom in April when boxer and social media celebrity Jake Paul laid him out with a unmarried punch. “He was asking for it,” Paul stated. Clutch, with the one who performs him nonetheless inside of the gown, needed to be carried off the courtroom.

Bernie Brewer, in the meantime, is understood for throwing himself down an extended and winding slide every time the Milwaukee Brewers rating a house run. In August, TV reporter David Vassegh was once invited to check out it earlier than a sport and ended up smashing right into a barrier, cracking six ribs and fracturing his wrist.

The Milwaukee Brewers' mascot Bernie Brewer hurling himself down a treacherous slide to celebrate home runs.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ mascot Bernie Brewer is understood for hurling himself down a treacherous slide to rejoice house runs.
Icon Sportswire by way of Getty Images

The Post requested for a remark from Bernie however, his spokesperson defined, “Since Bernie doesn’t speak, it wouldn’t really make sense to have a quote from him in the piece.”

(Indeed, the actors who play maximum mascots are given the type of anonymity in most cases afforded to these on a witness coverage program.)

And God forbid a mascot move off-script. In 2003, Harvey the Hound of the NHL’s Calgary Flames determined to hang around at the back of the opposing group’s bench, occupied through the Edmonton Oilers — who had been down 4-0. Oilers trainer Craig McTavish ripped off Harvey’s tongue and threw it into the crowd.

Harvey the Hound of the NHL's Calgary Flames
Harvey the Hound of the NHL’s Calgary Flames as soon as had his tongue ripped off and thrown to the crowd through the Edmonton Oilers’ trainer.
Getty Images

Then there’s the bodily taxing nature of dressed in a 40-pound gown through which temperatures can leap as much as 20 levels upper than out of doors.

So the incontrovertible fact that Tom Burgoyne is now 56 and nonetheless enjoying the Phillie Phanatic — a job he took over from Raymond in 1988 — is implausible.

He implemented for the process by way of a mysterious P.O. Box commercial in the Philadelpha Inquirer, unaware simply what he was once getting himself into.

Harry the Hawk
Harry the Hawk of the Atlanta Hawks follows shut at the back of Denver’s Rocky with a wage of $600,000. 
AFP by way of Getty Images
Phillie Phanatic with Paula Abdul.
Tom Burgoyne has performed the Phillie Phanatic since 1988 and loves rubbing elbows with celebs like Paula Abdul.
The Phillies for the pictures

“It didn’t say that it was for the Phillies – it just said ‘Mascot wanted’,” Burgoyne informed The Post. “I applied, thinking I could make a few extra bucks maybe being that guy with a sign on the side of a road.”

Thirty-four seasons later and it’s nonetheless his excellent process. 

“The costume is magical. If there are days when I don’t feel right or I have back issues, I put the costume on, the pain goes away and my mood improves,” Burgoyne stated. “It’s kind of like putting on a pair of slippers.”

After playing the Phillie Phanatic, Dave Raymond went on to help design other mascots — including the Philadelphia Flyers' Gritty.
After enjoying the Phillie Phanatic, Dave Raymond went directly to lend a hand design different mascots — together with the Philadelphia Flyers’ Gritty.
Tom Burgoyne
Tom Burgoyne is now 56 and nonetheless enjoying the Phillie Phanatic.

It’s additionally a occupation that has taken him all over the place the world, from Japan to Europe, South America to Australia.  The Phillie Phanatic has dined with Supreme Court justices, guested on Jimmy Kimmel’s display, and rocked out with the likes of Elton John, Billy Joel and Paula Abdul.

“People wonder why I haven’t retired?” Burgoyne stated. “But I’m having too much fun!”

The Yankees, in the meantime, realized their lesson with Dandy — the group nonetheless doesn’t have a mascot.

“Last I heard, Dandy had ended up in an industrial shredder,” Ford stated. “He won’t be missed.”

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