Who’s the Greatest Mascot Ever? Welcome…the Phillie Phanatic!
The Phillie Phanatic is the official mascot of the Major League Baseball Team, the Philadelphia Phillies, but he is also the most beloved mascot in the world. Many polls and votes have made this large, furry, green creature the ‘best of the best.’ Yet, no one can seem to figure out exactly what the Phanatic really is. Somewhat resembling a large bird with a cylindrical beak that has a tongue sticking out at all the fans, the Phanatic is everyone’s favorite and the most recognizable mascot in all of American sports
Dennis Lehman was the name of the man who, in 1977, thought his favorite team needed a mascot; and one that was similar to the one everyone was talking about at the time – the San Diego Chicken. This young man – with the aid of a company called Acme Mascots which was interrelated with Jim Henson’s ’Muppet’ world – got together to create the beloved green Phanatic.
Taking away the ‘normal’ number on the back of the Phanatic’s mascot uniform, he instead wears a star, and this particular character was named for the fanatical fans of the team that the Phillie Phanatic is completely devoted to. Oddly enough, however, is the fact that the Phanatic was not the first mascot to call Veterans Stadium home. In fact, he replaced “Philadelphia Phil” and “Philadelphia Phillie” who were siblings dressed in 18th Century clothing that was supposed to invoke the city’s revolutionary spirit from 1776. The pair of mascots wore the team logo from 1976 through 1978, and were part of the team’s “Home Run Spectacular” that occurred at The Vet from 1971 through 79.
The Phanatic made his unforgettable debut on April 25, 1978 at The Vet, when the Chicago Cubs came to town, and he was formally introduced to the public on the local children’s show, Captain Noah and His Magical Ark. He was no easy sell with the managers and owners of the team, however. In fact, when a man came along to buy the Phillies, he later wrote in a book that the worst decision of his life was when it came to the creation of the Phanatic. The design would cost $5,200 for both the costume and the copyright ownership, or $3,900 just for the costume, with the creator retaining the copyright. At this time, he chose to just buy the costume. But, five years later, this decision would be the worst ever made because when he and his group of investors sealed the deal to buy the team, the franchise had to end up paying $250,000 for the copyright.
The Phillie Phanatic dressed in all kinds of fun mascot uniforms, including becoming Rocky Balboa during Opening day in 1986. During games, the Phanatic rides around on an ATV and wanders around the stadium getting fans and, in a nice way, making fun of the supporters for the opposition. The Phanatic is like a screen legend; he performs a number of regular routines on the field before the game and between innings. Some of the most funny and most-loved routines are things like: taunting and teasing the visiting team by dancing provocatively in front of their dugout; mocking the actions of their players; and stomping on things like batting helmets that represent the team.
In addition, the Phanatic loves standing on top of the Phillies dugout during the bottom of the seventh inning and performing “The Phanatic Dance,” leading the crowd with his movements and actions in order to put a “hex” on the opposing pitcher.
The Phanatic warms up the bullpen; shoots hot dogs into the stand with his ‘gun’ that’s attached to the ATV; visits broadcast booths; and, loves pulling pranks on the broadcasters, and serving them Philly cheesecakes in order to make their experience in Philadelphia even more fun.
The Phillie Phanatic also had his very own favorite player. The late umpire, Eric Gregg, was a Philadelphia native, and the Phanatic would greet him enthusiastically when Gregg was in charge. Gregg would play along with the Phanatic between innings, and even danced with him for the crowd.
Of course, the Phanatic’s antics are not exactly beloved by the opposing team, mind you. In fact, the Dodgers’ Tommy Lasorda really disliked the Phanatic when he mocked his own team. In 1988, Lasorda even assaulted the Phillie Phanatic during a nationally televised game after the Phanatic stomped on a life-sized dummy wearing Lasorda’s uniform.
Phillie is also not alone in life. He has a very loving family. His mother, Phoebe Phanatic, actually sometimes appears on the field with her son, and a younger cousin named Phred is also “around the ballpark.” Poor Phillie has done a great deal for his team – he was even “dyed” red as part of the team’s week-long promotion to “Paint the Town Red.” Although, luckily, he was returned to his regular color just in time for the fans and the season to begin in 2006. Another odd mention? The poor Phanatic is the most sued mascot in all of sports.
Even with all that on his plate – the Phanatic has enjoyed a seriously long and fun career. And in many venues, he is a true celebrity. He has appeared on “The Simpsons” by greeting a party of nuns who were disembarking from a ship at the future site of Philadelphia. He also appeared on “The Late Show with David Letterman” in a small skit; as well as on “Sportscenter” in a promotional advertisement with Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees.
The Phanatic was voted “best mascot ever” by Sports Illustrated for Kids, and in January of 2008, Forbes magazine named the Phanatic the best mascot in sports! You certainly can’t get any better than that!
In 2005, David Raymond founded the Mascot Hall of Fame and the Phanatic was inducted as a charter member. He has been the recipient of a “Great Friend to Kids (GFTK) Award;” and along with Youppi and the San Diego Chicken – Phillie is a member of the trio that are the only mascots on display in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown.
You also know you’re famous when a Ballpark – in this case Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia – gives you your very own store and fun parks. There is a true ‘gift’ to the fans called the Phanatic Phun Zone – a playground that offers fun for guests eight-years-old and younger with slides where they can climb, explore, and play games. There is also a separate area for toddlers. Located near home plate is the Phanatic Giant Shoe Slide where kids can slide in and out of a replica of one of the Phanatic’s sneakers.
In the end, there is no mascot uniform more heralded, loved, or widely known as the amazing Phanatic!