First Mascot Hall of Fame inductees

Mascots have a ball at Hall inductions

PHILADELPHIA -- The rain that fell steadily could not erase the smiles from hundreds of kids.

When the 40-plus mascots from around the country arrived at 14th and JFK Boulevard in downtown Philadelphia for the first annual Mascot Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Tuesday, the kids' jubilation was evident.

"It's the Phanatic! It's the Phanatic!," screamed one youngster.

"You're the best, Phanatic! Can you take a picture with me?" another kid asked.

The Phanatic joined the Famous Chicken and the Phoenix Suns' Gorilla among the first class of inductees. The first mascots induction honored great mascot performers, performances and programs that have inspired tradition and positively affected their communities.

When asked if he was the most popular mascot, the Phanatic nodded and wrapped his hands around a reporter.

The original Phanatic, Dave Raymond, donned the Phanatic costume from 1978-93. The Hall of Fame event was put together by Raymond as part of the Raymond Entertainment Group.

"It's a way to show the kids and all fans that this is fun," Raymond said. "To still see the smiles on their faces is incredible."

Phillies chairman Bill Giles was responsible for the birth of the Phanatic in '78. He never expected it to be this popular 27 years later.

"When I helped create this in 1978, I had no idea it would develop like this," said Giles, who introduced the Phanatic into the Hall of Fame. "The popularity has gone beyond the ballpark and into the marketing and tourism of the city of Philadelphia. It is very surprising and amazing at the same time."

When the mascots arrived for the ceremony, they immediately began interacting with everyone. Other mascots included Hip Hop from the Philadelphia 76ers, Swoop from the Philadelphia Eagles, Coyote from the San Antonio Spurs, Mariner Moose from the Seattle Mariners, Clutch from the Houston Rockets, Rapidman from the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer along with many others.

Nine-year-old Aaron Smith attended the event as part of the Newark (Del.) Boys and Girls Club. It was even better than he thought it would be.

"It's so cool," Smith said. "I love Hip Hop and the Phanatic."

The Famous Chicken could not attend, but the Gorilla made it. So did Suns owner Robert Sarver as well as former Suns Cedric Ceballos and Connie Hawkins.

"There is a lot of wet fur here," joked Sarver. "The Gorilla has meant so much to the city of Phoenix and he has taken on a life of his own. The community loves the Gorilla and we're honored to see him inducted today."

The Gorilla walked by an unsuspecting woman and took her umbrella to shield himself from the rain. When the woman asked for her umbrella back, the Gorilla put his hand out as if to ask for money.

"I'm not paying you a dime," she said.

As the Gorilla walked away, she took out a dollar and handed it to him. He then gave it to a child and showed his animation.

"This is all about fun," Raymond said. "I use that word 'fun' a lot but it's true. Everyone is having a great time with these mascots."

Andy Jasner is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.