The Yankees need a mascot.
These playful and quirky symbols representing organizations have been a part of baseball tradition since the 1960s. Mr. Met brought baseball mascots into the world, and what better way to represent the game than a man with a giant baseball for a head—truly innovative.
The first real trailblazer was the San Diego Chicken. This oversized stuffed animal-like bird set the stage for the modern-day mascot. On-field antics ensued, and soon the chicken became a fixture in the baseball community. In 1978, the Phillie Phanatic debuted and subsequently became the most recognizable mascot in all of sports.
The success of these three pioneers led to a widespread rollout of the fun-loving creatures, and by the mid-1980s almost every team had introduced a mascot. Yes, that includes the Yankees.
“Dandy”, the forgotten and ostracized original Yankees mascot, was a large-bellied, Big Bird-esque, pinstriped creature, who sported an amusingly large handlebar mustache to match his oversized baseball bat. The soft rollout of the first Yankee mascot came on the heels of the Phanatic’s success, and was even designed by the same duo: Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison.
The lack of an official introduction to Dandy was due to George Steinbrenner’s comments following a run-in between the San Diego Chicken and Lou Piniella, with Steinbrenner demanding that mascots have no part in baseball. Not the best marketing tactic before the reveal of your mascot! Relegated to the upper deck, the confused patrons of the ‘Bronx Zoo’ in the late 1970s were not sure what Dandy was or why he was there. The sudden death of Thurman Munson didn’t help, as the character slightly resembled the late Yankees catcher. With little input from the organization about the design, and little input from the organization about how Dandy was supposed to act—the experiment was a flop. Dandy was quietly retired in 1981 and members of the organization refused to acknowledge his existence.
45 years have passed since the creation of Dandy, and since then the mascot field across the landscape of sports has only grown stronger. Currently, only the Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, and the New York Yankees don’t have an official mascot. It’s time for the Yankees to take that leap again.
I’m sure many will say they are goofy or corny, and you’re right—but that’s the point. This ballpark experience is supposed to be fun for the family. I’m sure one of the reasons the Yankees don’t have a mascot is because they think that their brand is above the gimmicks that come with having one on the field. Maybe Hal is honoring the tradition set forth by his father of disliking the fuzzy fanatics. Is he concerned about them not adhering to the facial hair policy? Do they not have enough un-retired numbers to have a whole team and a mascot wearing a jersey?
But from a marketing perspective, it feels like a no-brainer. You want kids to enjoy going to the game, and mascots are a reason for them to enjoy it.
Mascots are easy to brand and can be merchandised in forms that cater to their young target audience. Something can be said about the fact that these family-friendly enablers of fun have been around for over 60 years—they work. It’s time for the Yankees to let their hair down, embrace their failed attempts (Dandy will always be in our hearts), and have the big-brained marketing team come up with a mascot.
In the meantime, I brainstormed some ideas in an attempt to come up with a Yankees mascot. It had to be something that would not be too flashy and would fit the brand. It took me 3 seconds. The conclusion: A bear mascot named ‘Pinstripe’ who dawns a Yankees jersey and helps support the Yankee Stadium sustainability initiatives. The mascot would be fun with little frills and support something that the Yankees themselves support. What kid Yankee fan wouldn’t want to walk away from Yankee stadium with a bear stuffed animal? A simple solution to the lack of mascot fun in Yankee Stadium.
Hold on, I know what you are thinking, and the answer is Yes, Hal did just call me and make me the head of marketing.