A Salute to the Phillie Phanatic

Baseball

A few weeks ago I turned on ESPN to watch a Sportscenter Special about the Phoenix Suns mascot the Gorilla.  It was a very interesting story that I won’t go into too much detail about, but the general gist of the story was about how the Gorilla revolutionized NBA mascots with his antics and his aerial, acrobatic dunks.  According to the story the Gorilla is made out to be one of the greatest mascots in sports history.  

While I do have a new found respect for the Gorilla and all NBA mascots after watching this story, I thought it would be a good idea to give recognition to the mascot who I revere as the greatest in sports, and the one who lends its name to our blog, the Phillie Phanatic.  Being a die hard Braves fan, there isn’t much about the Philadelphia Phillies that I can say I admire, the Phanatic is the one BIG exception.

The Phanatic made his debut in the 1978 season, just a few years after the San Diego Chicken began making appearances at the Padres and Chargers games. In an attempt to bring more families to the ballgames the Phillies front office created the mascot based on the extinct dodo birds commonly found in the Galapagos Islands and Jim Henson’s Muppets characters. The Phanatic has been keeping families, coaches, and players entertained for 36 years now with his antics.  As my co-author can probably attest, it is one of the coolest experiences for a young kid at a Phillies game to see the Phanatic riding around the field on his ATV, messing with fans of the opposing team, or even dancing in front of opposing players.

The Phanatic was portrayed by David Raymond from 1978-1993 and Tom Burgoyne has portrayed the Phantic since.  The Phanatic is such a popular icon that he makes guest appearances on TV shows like the Simpsons, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and the Late Show with David Letterman in 2009.  Behind Rocky Balboa, the Phillie Phanatic might just be the biggest Philadelphia icon in the long history of its city.  

The Phanatic is one of three mascots to be displayed in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, with Youppi (R.I.P) and the Famous Chicken being the other two worthy of this honor.  The Phanatic was voted “Best Mascot Ever” in 2008 by Sports Illustrated Kids and in my own opinion along with a myriad of others this is a title that the Phillie Phanatic deserves.  

Here’s to 36 more hilarious and entertaining years!

   

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MLB April Review

Baseball

Well we have reached the end of the first month of April, and of course every month (especially April) in the baseball season has its fair share of surprises, disappointments, and everything in between.  So why don’t we recap what the 2014 season has brought us through the first month.

Why don’t we start with the teams:

  • I think we can all agree that the Milwaukee Brewers have been the biggest surprise team starting the season strong with a 20 win in April.  A team that finished 14 games under .500 last year, many wonder what has sparked this hot start. Sure the return of your superstar player in Ryan Braun could certainly help… But apart from a three homer game in Philadelphia and a couple of clutch late inning HR’s in PIttsburgh, the fresh off a 65 game suspension all-star has not been the story for the Brewers.  The pitching has been the shining spot for the Brewers so far.  After going 11-15 with a 4.37 ERA, Wily Peralta is finally showing his potential as a top of the line starter going 3-1 in April with a sub 3.00 ERA.  More impressive than him so far is Kyle Lohse. The 35 year old finished April with a 4-1 record, a 2.70 ERA, and 40 strikeouts in 6 starts.  Finally, who could have possibly thought Francisco Rodriguez would have 13 saves in April? I for one did not.  The single season saves record holder has bounced around the league for the past few years, often in setup or middle reliever roles, but K-Rod found his way back to Milwaukee after being traded to Baltimore midway through 2013, and maybe it’s the 2008 version of himself that has been resurrected to become April’s most dominant closer.  Unless you believe in good luck charms, which the Brewers may have found in their new mascot dog, Hank, the Brewers and their staff have been the biggest surprise in baseball.

    Photo Credit: Scott Paulus/Milwaukee Brewers

    Photo Credit: Scott Paulus/Milwaukee Brewers

  • With the exception of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who have been battling injuries with losing their ace, Patrick Corbin, in Spring Training to Tommy John surgery, the Pirates have been baseball’s most disappointing team in April.  After making the playoffs, let alone finishing above .500 for the first time since 1992 last year, the Pirates hoped their winning ways would continue in 2014.  Unfortunately for them they look more like the Pirates of the early 2000’s.  Unlike the Brewers the pitching has been the Pirates’ downfall in April.  Three of their starters (Liriano, W. Rodriguez, and Morton) all went winless in April, and their bullpen has struggled to hold leads and close deficits. Reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen finished April with only a .286 BA, and Pedro Alvarez finished April well below the Mendoza line with a .172 BA and 25 strikeouts.  Let’s just say if you’re looking to Ike Davis for offensive support, you might be in some trouble…
  • Meanwhile after being two of the least competitive divisions in baseball last year, the NL East and NL West both have three teams over .500 (with the East having four and every team within 4 games of the lead).  The Angels saw themselves above .500 for the first time since Opening Day of 2013. The reigning World Series Champion Boston Red Sox finished April three games under .500 looking up at the Orioles and Yankees. And finally, it’s pretty safe to say the Detroit Tigers are going to runaway with the AL Central this year, and they are still my early pick to win the World Series.

Albert Pujols

There have been a myriad of individual standout performances in April this year:

  • I think I can safely assume I wasn’t the only one who thought Albert Pujols was on the back 9 of his career… but how could I ever doubt “The Machine?”  Coming off of an injury that caused him to miss most of the second half last year, Pujols launched nine Home Runs (including #500) in April and drove in 23 runs. The only player with more power in April than Pujols was 27 year old Cuban rookie Jose Abreu.  Abreu exploded into the show by breaking Pujols’ April Home Run record for a rookie by launching 10 of them (including a walk-off Grand Slam) and driving in 32 runs! Abreu can rip and Masahiro Tanaka is certainly capable of pitching in the MLB. He struck out 46 batters in 5 games, the 3rd most ever by a pitcher since 1900. His splitter might as well be hung in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and he remains undefeated in his last 2 seasons of professional pitching (Japan and MLB). Also the Braves pitching staff as a whole deserves the NL pitcher of the month award (although it’ll most likely go to Jose Fernandez), with Aaron Harang tossing two near no-hitters and resurrecting his career, Ervin Santana showing why he was eager to come pitch in the NL, and young starters Julio Tehran and Alex Wood showing they could be legitimate aces in the coming years.
  • Most fantasy baseball leagues had Bryce Harper going in the 1st Round… and those fantasy owners are kicking themselves for taking that risk.  Harper struggled to stay healthy last season, and he found himself undergoing surgery on his thumb at the end of April, but before he went under the knife, Harper was struggling to get his season going.  Harper batted .289 before his injury and clubbed only one home run.  His woes were so bad at one point, the Nationals new manager Matt Williams moved him down to 7th in the order.  We’ll see if he can turn it around when he returns from injury in July, but with his performance and injury troubles he earns my vote for being the biggest disappointment in baseball thus far.

On another note, Major League Baseball has implemented the new replay & challenge system, and so far it has failed to speed up the game of baseball (which for some odd reason they claimed it would do) and also led to more controversy as some calls continue to be missed.  (I’ll be writing an article soon about my opinion when it comes to the replay system.)

It’s been an exciting season up to this point and I look forward to what May will have in store! Hopefully our first no hitter and more of what we saw in April.