Yankees: Adopting a mascot can energize fans and bring in a lot of revenue

A mural in memory of former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner III sits behind the bleachers 10 years after his death during training camp at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in New York. "The Boss" died on July 13, 2010.Yankees Training Camp
A mural in memory of former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner III sits behind the bleachers 10 years after his death during training camp at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in New York. "The Boss" died on July 13, 2010.Yankees Training Camp /

Today, 27 out of 30 MLB teams have a mascot. The New York Yankees and both Los Angeles teams are the only three teams that don’t have one.

And many fans are probably unaware the Yanks once had a mascot. To increase family attendance, George Steinbrenner asked Wayde Harrison and Bonnie Erickson (she also created Miss Piggy) to design the team’s mascot, Dandy (taken from the song Yankee Doodle Dandy).

Steinbrenner had the final say on how Dandy would look, and the Yanks agreed to lease him for $30,000 over three years. Dandy was a shaggy, goofy-looking bird with blue pinstripes. Many felt he closely resembled Thurman Munson because of the mascot’s thick mustache, which was unintentional.

In the end, Steinbrenner hated the mascot and exiled it to the upper deck of Yankee Stadium between 1979 and 1981 (terrible timing since Munson tragically died in early August 1979). After that, it was banished from the Stadium. When asked about Dandy years later, the Boss couldn’t remember its existence.

The use of mascots in business and sports, and how it could help the Yankees

A mascot is a character, a personified image that becomes a symbolic representation of a brand, company, or public figure. The term originates from the French word “Mascotte,” which means lucky charm. Historically, the term “mascot” was applied to figures of people, animals, or objects that symbolized good luck with a specific group of people. Mascots have been viewed as a symbol of luck and positive energy.

The corporate world and colleges and universities have featured highly visible mascots in promoting their identity and brand. Among the most recognizable mascots in the corporate world are the Michelin Man (Michelin tires), Pillsbury Doughboy (Pillsbury food and baking products), and Mickey Mouse (the Walt Disney Company). Familiar mascots among colleges and universities are Bucky Badger (University of Wisconsin, Madison), the Oregon Duck (University of Oregon), and Tommy Trojan (University of Southern California).

Corporate baseball executives have recognized the benefits of mascots and have adopted them widely in their team promotions and marketing. Baseball mascots have played a central role in club entertainment since 1964 when the New York Mets introduced Mr. Met. Other examples of baseball mascots include Wally the Green Monster, Raymond (Tampa Bay Rays), Ace (Toronto Blue Jays), and The Oriole Bird. The gritty Phillie Phanatic, familiar to fans of the Philadelphia Phillies and fans of other teams, is a classic baseball mascot.

There’s even a Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Indiana. Dave Raymond, who created the famous Phillie Phanatic and numerous other successful mascots, runs a Mascot Boot Camp to train performers.

Why the Yankees don’t have a mascot

So why don’t the Bronx Bombers have a mascot today? According to Max Rubin, “The New York Yankees, who take corporate-management levels of pride in policing their players’ facial hair, are too self-consciously dignified for a mascot.”

This suggests that past and present Yankee owners and executives feel that having a silly, inane mascot runs counter to the team brand of professionalism and a culture of excellence that’s been hard-earned and has existed for a very long time.

Maybe the Yankee organization thinks that mascots are for smaller-market teams that aren’t known for their winning culture … considering those organizations must entertain their fans to maintain and increase attendance at games.

The benefits of having a mascot for the Bombers

Unfortunately, this perspective reflects a lack of understanding of how and why mascots are created and the benefits of popular, endearing ones to sports teams. A good mascot attracts attention and provides a strong, enduring emotional connection between it and the fans — especially younger ones.

Yankee fans, in particular, are used to their team making the playoffs and winning the World Series. They are unusually critical and unforgiving when the Bombers are underperforming (which was clearly the case during the first half of this season). A good mascot can help keep spirits high when the team is not playing well so that television viewership and attendance do not suffer. Fans can have hope that the Yanks can turn things around. It’d also help with some viral social media moments. Any press is good press!

All baseball executives underscore the need for ongoing support from their fans. Such support translates, among other things, to team revenue. More people are willing to buy tickets and attend the games, purchase team swag, and potentially support their city to financially assist in building a new stadium when the time comes. Having a loyal and large fan base is essential. The Yankees already have that, which means they can only stand to benefit further with a mascot.

Given the enormous size of the local and national Yankee fan base, the club leaves an immense amount of money on the table by not having a mascot. Other baseball teams with popular mascots can create more merchandise and develop significant revenue streams to pay for team operations, salaries, and other expenses. The Yanks would raise millions of additional dollars if they could design and create a lovable mascot … and then we wouldn’t have to worry about saving a few million against the luxury tax!

Hal Steinbrenner should carefully consider launching a process for selecting a new mascot for the Yankees. He should solicit the help of Dave Raymond, who is the mascot design and execution guru, to get the ball rolling.

Instead of relying on focus groups, the Yankees owner could have Raymond develop three or four candidates for the team’s mascot and have fans vote online on which nominee is best for the team. Why not? It’s 2021. Let’s get on with it.