That Time the Yankees Had a Mascot, and Some Replacement Ideas

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports /

From 1979-1981, the Yankees employed a 7-foot tall, fuzzy team mascot named Dandy. Confined to the upper decks of Yankee Stadium, Dandy wore the bushiest mustache in club history.

Watching Team USA’s 4-2 comeback victory against Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday night, I witnessed an enthusiastic fan dressed in full Revolutionary War garb rooting on the Stars and Stripes. Though the gentleman looked more like Captain Crunch than he did George Washington, it got me thinking what a Yankees mascot might look like.

I’ve been a Yankees fan since 1994, so you’ll have to excuse my ignorance — upon unleashing a Google search on mascots, I had no idea the Yanks once employed a giant pinstriped wearing muppet.

I say muppet — because the folks responsible for bringing Dandy to life, Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison of Acme Mascots, had previously created Miss Piggy, Rowlf, Statler and Waldorf. As it turns out, Dandy was also a distant relative of the Phillie Phanatic, as well as the Montreal Expos’ Youppi. They too were made by Erickson and Harrison.

Though members of the Yankees approached Acme about the character’s inception, everyone involved in the creative process knew getting George Steinbrenner on board would be easier said than done.

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Before Steinbrenner would give his final approval, he and Erickson met to discuss final design elements. The biggest issue at the time for George was that he wanted the pinstripes on the mascot’s fur to be “Yankee blue,” which doesn’t seem all that unfair of a demand in my opinion. Eventually, Erickson won out because she somehow convinced Steinbrenner that navy blue looked more black on the creature and that royal blue was a better choice.

Fun fact: The name ‘Dandy’ was actually chosen by the fans as part of an American Express campaign. It’s said that the name is a play on the American folk song “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

Though many believe seven-time All-Star catcher Thurman Munson was the inspiration behind Dandy — especially since the mascot wore a large red mustache — Erickson said this wasn’t the case.

Erickson spoke to the Gothamist in 2016 about the case of mistaken identity.

"Dandy wasn’t based on anyone in particular, though some rumors have stuck around that he was inspired by celebrated Yankees catcher Thurman Munson. “My first idea was to do an old fashioned Yankee player,” Erickson explains, “I did a lot of research on the uniforms and we wanted to think of this as a sort of dyed-in-the-wool Yankee…. people did say that Thurman Munson was the inspiration, but I wasn’t even really that aware that it looked so much like him. And it really… in retrospect, it did.”"

Dandy was introduced to add a certain level of enjoyment to children and families during games, even though his jovial spirit was confined to the upper decks of old Yankee Stadium — never to touch the actual playing field. Following Munson’s untimely death on August 2, 1979, Dandy was shelved for the rest of the season.

After two more years of a less than cordial relationship, Erickson and Harrison refused to lease the Yankees the rights to Dandy because the pair felt their creation was never really appreciated or accepted.

Learning about the existence of Dandy got me thinking, though, if the Yankees were to ever again employ a mascot (which is highly unlikely), who or what would it be?

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A couple of options I came up with include:

  • Darth Vader: What’s the Evil Empire without the iconic Star Wars villain? No doubt, Disney would need a cut of the profits, but the cross-promotional efforts would be huge.
  • Uncle Sam: This is an easy one. Just look at the star-spangled top hat on the Yankees’ secondary logo. Add a menacing grin and a sharp beard to ol’ Sam, and you’re set.
  • George Washington: The father of our country, who just so happens to have the same first name as The Boss — who was born on the 4th of July. It’s kismet!
  • Yogi Bear-ra: I know the Cubs have a cute teenage-looking bear as their mascot, but the play on words is undeniable. Besides, the Yanks could dress him in full catcher’s gear. Adorable!
  • The Ghost of Babe Ruth: Think John Goodman in The Babe. Arguably the greatest player in baseball history, who better to represent the most successful sports team of all-time.