While baseball might be the slowest-paced of the four major sports, there's something about going to a ballgame that basketball, football and hockey cannot compete with.
From the smell of the hot dogs to the crack of the bat to the energy that builds in the stadium as the home team's pitcher gets set to deliver an inning-ending strikeout, the game-day experience at a baseball game is unique. And it's only enhanced by the presence of mascots.
From shooting t-shirts and hot dogs into the stands to interacting with fans at their seats, in the walkways and anywhere fans can be found at the ballpark, mascots have become a major part of a team's game-day festivities. Some have even become synonymous with the team itself.
We'll look at everything that makes these mascots the stars they are today, how teams developed the character and see if we can't come to an agreement on who the king of the mascots really is.
Let's get going.
*The most famous mascot in sports history, of course, is the San Diego Chicken, but contrary to popular opinion, he has never been the official mascot for the San Diego Padres. So if you're looking for some love for the feathery one on this list, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed.
Four teams in baseball: the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees don't have time for childish things and, thus, have no official mascot.
That said, the Rally Monkey, seen throughout Angel Stadium, might as well become the Angels' official mascot. Meanwhile, there is talk of the Cubs introducing a mascot as part of the proposed renovation project at Wrigley Field, according to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.
Homer the Brave didn't always look like Mr. Met, but after Atlanta dropped the "Chief Noc-A Homa" logo in 1988, the metamorphosis began.
While it's understandable why the team made the change, it seems like a lazy one. I mean, clearly ripping off another team, with the only real change being the jersey that he wears and adding some eye black?
To make matters worse, the Braves haven't bothered to tell his story—or give him a social media account to interact with fans throughout the season. His official page on Atlanta's website is essentially a big advertisement to book Homer for your next special occasion.
It's almost as if the Braves don't actually want to have a mascot.
While the story behind Arizona's mascot is kind of cool, I can't get past the menacing look on D. Baxter the Bobcat's face, which falls somewhere between "Give me all of your money" and "Mmmm...dinner."
Named by Brantley Bell, the son of Jay Bell, Arizona's second baseman from its inaugural season in 1998 through 2001, D. Baxter made his debut in 2000 and has been hanging out at the stadium ever since.
As for how he wound up being a Bobcat, there's two parts to the story. First is the stadium itself, as Chase Field used to be Bank One Ballpark—"BOB" for short. Coupled with the fact that Arizona has a rather large bobcat population, it was a pretty easy connection to make.
Introduced to the world in 2002, Rangers Captain is a 6'8" palomino horse who wears a No. 72 uniform at every game, honoring the year that the team moved to Texas from Washington.
Given how central a part horses play in the lives of many Texans, it makes sense for a horse to be the team's official mascot.
That said, the name leaves much to be desired.
His name, thought up by a young fan during Redsfest in 2002, who won season tickets for submitting the winning name, is an ode both to the line drives hit into the outfield gaps and a gap in the stands at Great American Ballpark, through which you can see into and out of the stadium.
Developed by the man who bought us the Philly Phanatic, Gapper is nowhere near as popular as the team's three unofficial mascots: Mr. Red, Rosie Red and Mr. Redlegs.
His lack of popularity among his team's fanbase, coupled with the fact that he is essentially the Phillie Phanatic painted red, puts Gapper near the bottom of the list.
When your team name is the Tigers and you play in Detroit, there are really only two ways you can go with a mascot: an oversized Tiger or some sort of ode to the auto industry.
The team made the right call in 1995, when Paws was introduced to the world at Tiger Stadium.
Sure, the name is kind of lame, he doesn't have any history and he looks like a poorly drawn version of Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, but Paws is effective for what he is: a big, dancing Tiger.
Hatched from a giant egg found underneath the outfield stands at RFK Stadium while it was being refurbished for the Nationals' inaugural season, Screech the Eagle has been Washington's mascot since April 17, 2005.
But when I see the word "Screech," I'm thinking Saved By the Bell. Undoubtedly, plenty of others are as well.
It makes sense, of course, to have an eagle representing our nation's capital. And yes, eagles do screech. But unless Dustin Diamond is inside the costume, the name is just an issue I can't get over.
Hatched from a giant egg in a pregame ceremony at Memorial Stadium on April 6, 1979, the Orioles mascot is a dead-ringer for the team's old logo (which was re-introduced in 2012) and is a pretty cool looking bird.
Yet, for all the time, money and energy spent on designing and producing the team's mascot, "The Oriole Bird" was the best that they could do on the name?
Since making his debut in 2004, fans have been trying to figure out what, exactly, Southpaw is.
Is he a dinosaur? A monster? Someone who badly needs a shave?
On top of that, there's no real clue as to whether his name comes from the fact that the team is located on the South Side of Chicago or if it's an homage to quality left-handed pitching.
While there's something subtly cool about Southpaw, the lack of any history as to who he is and where he comes from puts him behind some of the more developed mascots in the game.
Considering his family history—his great grandfather co-wrote the song "Rockin' Robin," and his dad invented bird shadow stickers for office windows—that Ace wound up a mascot must be somewhat disappointing for the elders in his flock.
But since 2002, Ace has spent his days cheering on his beloved Toronto Blue Jays, first as part of a duo with his special lady friend "Diamond," but on his own since 2004.
Named for, well, you guessed it, the "ace" of a rotation, this 6'0" blue jay looks sharp in a uniform.
In 2011, he introduced Toronto to his younger brother, Junior, who can often be seen clowning around with his older brother throughout the Rogers Centre.
When you think of a giant purple dinosaur, Barney is the first thing that comes to mind.
Dinger loses some points for that, but the story as to how he came about is sort of cool. During the construction of Coors Field, crews found a number of dinosaur fossils, including a triceratops skull that measured seven feet in length.
All of a sudden, having a purple triceratops as the team's mascot makes a bit more sense, doesn't it?
While the story is cool and his name, an ode to home runs, is fitting, there's still that connection to Barney that keeps Dinger near the bottom of our mascot rankings.
Originally named by former team owner Wayne Huizenga, Billy the Marlin is an 8'0", 250-pound version of the team's nickname come to life.
As far as fish go, Marlins are some of the coolest. And seeing as how they are also known as billfish, the name "Billy" fits.
When the team changed its logo and colors prior to the 2012 season, Billy got a new paint job and some new threads to wear around the team's new ballpark.
He's also one of the oldest mascots in baseball, having made his major league debut back in February of 1993.
His name, T.C., is in respect to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, which is appropriate, as the team has incorporated the two cities into its logos since it first became a franchise. He is also based off of one of the Twins' biggest sponsors, Hamm's beer, and its mascot, the Hamm's beer bear.
Very clever, marketing department. Very clever indeed.
A native of Bear River, MN, T.C. made his major league debut in 1991 and is a past Quadruple-Crown winner in the Carnivore League, leading the league in batting average, home runs, RBI and number of trout eaten in a single sitting.
The association between the A's and elephants goes back to the team's roots in Philadelphia, when the team was sold to Benjamin Shibe. New York Giants manager John McGraw commented that Shibe had bought himself a white elephant, something that was valuable but a burden at the same time.
Not long after McCarthy's comments, A's manager Connie Mack selected an elephant to use as the team's logo. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Stomper, the son of Stella and Stanley, stands 6'6" and made his major league debut in 1997, quickly becoming one of the more recognizable mascots in the game.
Permanently cross-eyed from watching too much television, the Pirate Parrot made his major league debut in 1979, just in time to watch Willie "Pops" Stargell and the "We Are Family" Pirates win the World Series.
He's gotten goofier, shaggier and fatter over the years, and comparisons to the Philly Phanatic are inevitable, especially with both residing in Pennsylvania.
While the Pirates Pierogies have cut into the Parrot's fame with their in-game races, this bird still rules the roost in Pittsburgh.
An alien of the Homerunus Spectacularus variety, Orbit served as Houston's mascot from 1990 through 1999 until the Astros moved out of the Astrodome. Then, as the team announced, he hitched a ride on the space shuttle Discovery to return to the Grand Slam Galaxy and was replaced by Junction Jack.
With Houston's move to the American League West in 2013 coinciding with Junction Jack's retirement to a carrot ranch in the hill country of Texas following the 2012 season, Orbit returned for his second tour of duty with the Astros.
A fan of Texas barbecue and breakfast tacos who loves to do the moonwalk, Orbit's youthful looks are befitting of a team in the midst of a rebuilding process and youth movement as it builds toward the future.
Born on the Farallon Islands, roughly 30 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge, Lou Seal (a clever play on the name Lucille) is both an ode to baseball's past and to San Francisco's history.
The San Francisco Seals, formerly members of the Pacific Coast League, played in San Francisco from 1903 through 1957 and count players like Frankie Crosetti, Joe DiMaggio and Lefty O'Doul among their alumni.
Seals can also be found sunning themselves down by Fisherman's Wharf, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city.
A great-looking mascot, it's hard not to like a seal who rocks a pair of orange sunglasses and a backwards cap.
Discovered by a group of the team's scouts who were out for a fishing trip in the Gulf of Mexico back in 1998, Raymond was offered the job of official mascot of the new ballclub in Tampa Bay in exchange for all the hot dogs he could eat, and he quickly accepted the position.
As for what the hairy blue creature is, his official page on the team's website breaks it down for us:
In 2005 marine biologists and zoologists made a startling discovery; Raymond is actually a previously undiscovered species of dog known as "Canus Manta Whatthefluffalus" or in layman's terms, a Seadog. Seadogs have all the traits of normal dogs. They enjoy going for walks, playing with kids, and fetching. Unlike other dogs they are five to six feet tall, walk upright, are blue in color, and chase catfish. While other dogs live on land, Seadogs usually live in or around the water. Seadogs are well known for their fun-loving nature, passion for baseball, and general good looks.
Considering that a Manta Ray or Sting Ray would have been terrifying for children to see walking around Tropicana Field, Raymond was a terrific idea and is one of the cooler-looking mascots in baseball.
Whenever fans have a direct role in the creation of a team's mascot, that earns extra points in my book.
More than 2,500 children under the age of 15 submitted ideas for Seattle's mascot after the 1989 season. Ammon Spiller, then a fifth-grader at Central Elementary School in Ferndale, WA, was the lucky one to have his entry chosen.
He explained his thinking to the team shortly after being named the winner:
I chose the Moose because they are funny, neat and friendly. The Moose would show that the Mariners enjoy playing and that they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. It shows they're having fun no matter what the situation.
The Moose, who made his debut in 1990, has found himself involved in his fair share of memorable situations.
Most notable among them are his failed ATV stunt during the 1995 ALDS that resulted in a broken ankle and bruised ego for the Bullwinkle look-alike and this incident during a game against the Boston Red Sox in 2007, when he ran into Boston outfielder Coco Crisp while riding his vehicle.
It'd be nice if he was given a proper name, as "Mariner Moose" definitely falls on the weaker-side of things, but he remains one of the more recognizable mascots in sports today.
Born in 1979, Fredbird quickly became one of baseball's most popular and recognizable mascots.
While he has a long history of messing around with players from his favorite team, the Cardinals, as well as the opposition and any umpires or members of the ground crew whose path he crosses, Fredbird is most well known for his penchant for "beaking" unsuspecting fans.
For those who are unfamiliar with the term, beaking is when Fredbird decides to wrap his entire beak around your head.
He only gained in popularity in 1995, when the team announced the creation of "Team Fredbird," essentially a group of attractive women who help Fredbird launch t-shirts and other giveaways into the stands.
The veteran of the mascot world, having made his debut in 1973, the story of how Bernie Brewer came to be is fascinating.
The full story can be seen in the video above (click here if you can't get it to load properly), but he's partly an ode to the team's original unofficial mascot, 69-year-old fan Milt Mason, who hoisted himself atop the scoreboard at County Stadium in 1970, refusing to come down until the team's attendance reached 40,000 fans for a single game.
When Milwaukee rebuilt the bleachers in 1984, Bernie was forced into retirement. But fans demanded that he return, and in 1993, Bernie Brewer made his triumphant return to the big leagues.
He's got the best mustache in baseball and, from atop his beer-barreled chalet, slides down into a gigantic beer stein every time Milwaukee hits a home run or wins a game.
While the Famous Racing Sausages have stolen some of his thunder, Bernie remains one of the cooler mascots in the game today.
He is a mystery man of God.
Nobody is quite sure exactly when the Swinging Friar came into existence (evidence goes back as far as 1958, when the Padres were still a minor league club), but the Swinging Friar is a terrific mascot that doesn't get nearly the amount of attention that he deserves.
He's a natural choice for a mascot in San Diego, as the city was built around Spanish Missions and settled by Franciscan friars in an attempt to convert Indians to Christianity.
That nobody knows exactly where he comes from or when he first burst onto the scene makes him all the more intriguing a character. And a character is most certainly what the friar is, looking as cartoonish as any mascot in baseball.
He's one of the cooler-looking mascots in baseball, with a crown that doesn't rest atop his head but that is part of it, making him vaguely resemble a character from The Simpsons.
Known for stealing popcorn, peanuts and cotton candy from unsuspecting fans while firing t-shirts and hot dogs into the stands, Sluggerrr would rank higher on this list if he had some history. There's got to be an interesting story behind how a 7'0" lion made his way to Kansas City.
Slider, the purple and yellow monster that lives somewhere underground behind home plate at Progressive Field, has made quite an impression on the baseball world since being introduced in 1990.
He's known for his cameo appearance in 1994's Major League II, but most notably—and painfully—for his injury during the 1995 playoffs.
In the middle of torrential rainfall, Slider decided it would be a perfect time to try and pull off a ridiculous trick: performing a somersault atop the outfield wall. He tried, fell six feet onto the field and tore ligaments in his knee, dragging himself off of the field and requiring a lengthy stay on the disabled list.
But he came back better than ever, was inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2008 and stands as an inspiration to his fellow mascots.
First introduced as an illustration on the team's programs in 1963, Mr. Met made his major league debut in 1964 as the first modern live-action mascot in baseball.
Mr. Met has become synonymous with his favorite ballclub and can be seen everywhere the team is, including overseas. When the Mets opened their 2000 season at the Tokyo Dome in Japan, Mr. Met became the first mascot in baseball history to make an appearance in the Far East.
Inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2007, Mr. Met is a living legend and one of the most recognizable mascots in professional sports.
When it comes to mascots, few hit the mark quite like Wally the Green Monster.
Sure, it took Boston fans a little while to warm to the idea of having an oversized green monster as a mascot after his debut in 1997, but Wally has quickly become a prominent member of Red Sox Nation.
Aptly named after the fabled 36-foot-high wall in left field at Fenway Park, Wally has become one of the most recognizable and popular mascots in the game, stealing the show from David Ortiz and Jorge Posada in what has become a legendary "This is SportsCenter" commercial for ESPN back in 2007.
All other mascots yearn to be the Phanatic.
Standing 6'6" and weighing 300 pounds, the Philly Phanatic is a fat, furry, green monster with a face that makes you laugh and a tongue that he sticks out with reckless abandon.
One of three MLB mascots elected to the Mascot Hall of Fame, the Phanatic is the most recognizable mascot in all of sports. And his wacky antics are a terrific representation of a fanbase that has given us plenty of wacky antics itself and may be the rowdiest in all of professional sports.