Friday, August 9, 2013

The Best Mascot in Baseball?

Mascots don't figure prominently in baseball history.  The most famous mascot ever was quite unofficial and in the end a highly negative influence.  If you are not aware of The Curse of the Billy Goat, rectify this unacceptable shortcoming forthwith.

So I don't understand my fascination with Minor League mascots.  Some things just are, and can't be explained.

On our recent road trip I had considerable trepidation regarding the Clinton Lumber Kings mascot.  Here he is:

A large angry man with a spiked bit of wood.  Other versions feature a bat or an axe.  Not exactly warm and cuddly.  Also difficult to transform to something akin to most mascots.  He is just a bit too humanoid.  Here is what they came up with:

Eerily similar to that creepy Burger King guy from commercials a few years back.  Must be my German peasant ancestors speaking to me but The King always struck me as a callous and indifferent despot, his very face frozen in a mocking leer...

Heck, I was prepared to give the Clinton mascot a shot.  But oddly he was not at the game we attended.  Injured maybe, I figure it is pretty easy to trip and fall wearing those big heads.  But upon reaching the park at Cedar Rapids we were in for a real treat. The mascot of the Kernels, a certain "Mr. Shucks" was a consummate pro, (large) head and shoulders above any other mascot I have seen work the crowd.

Mr. Shucks was there before First Pitch, teasing the visiting team and stirring up the home fans.  The grass skirt btw is part of the Beach Night promotion I mentioned last posting.

Shucks was everywhere.  Standing on top of dugouts, dancing on stilts behind home plate, waving a flag and running down the lines.  He or she (thinking female, hard to say..) was especially good with small children, many of whom might have feared the Lumber King.

I thought it was superb use of what at first glance was not especially promising material.  I mean, the Kernel's logo is this enigmatic homunculus who seems to be a morphed baseball bat and ear of corn:

The costume designers had a ways to go to get to Mr. Shucks.

Shucks was indomitable.  On previous occasions we had encountered mascots that either preferred to hang out in the dugout or were unable to keep up the enthusiasm level through a difficult game.  But nothing stopped Mr. Shucks.  As the Kernels were down to their last out, with a runner in scoring position, my brother was hunched over intently watching every move of the pitcher, the batter, the runner.  He felt something lightly brush his shoulder, just a fly perhaps.  Absentmindedly reaching up he felt a huge black spider!  Of course is was Mr. Shucks who had tiptoed up behind him and deftly used a rubber spider on a fishing pole to punk him.

Even after the game Shucks soldiered on.  In fact, it was then that I saw her (?) make a solitary error. Shucks was still roaming about with the fake spider.  Fans were relaxing in their seats watching on the Jumbotron as a Buffet style "Beach Band" played. There was a nice young couple there, the woman leaning sweetly on her man's shoulder.  A perfect target.  But when Shucks "spidered" her the reaction was a bit unusual.  Shucks dropped the fishing pole, came around to the front of the couple and seemed to be pleading for forgiveness.  It is hard to emote wearing a big grey melon head.  But I saw hands clasped to the face in a "Home Alone/Edvard Munch" gesture of, well, Shock.  I saw baby rocking motions and hands covering eyes to convey that the - I am thinking breast feeding - infant had not been noticed.

Ah well.  Even Hall of Famers make the occasional error.  They are all human.  But for what it is worth Mr. Shucks, whom I last saw up on stage with the band rocking out 90 minutes after the game was over, was a fabulous mascot.

I hope some scouts from the Organization were on hand.  Mr. Shucks has earned a late season call up.

Addendum.  Shockingly I have just learned that Mr. Shucks lost out in the fan voting for Best Mascot. He/she wuz robbed I tell ya, robbed.

Addendum.  This rather nice write up dated 27 August has an "out of costume" photo of the man inside the suit.  And some nice thoughts on his desire to make it to the Bigs.  Does this seem to touch on several of the same points made on this humble blog 18 days earlier?  Yes indeed.  If there was any borrowing it is just fine with me.  I want to see Shucks do well and any contributions on my part, small, large or imaginary, are OK.

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