Although its fans are incredibly passionate, Philadelphia can be a hard city. Its old stadium contained a jail. Their fans booed Santa Claus. Playing in Philly is not for the thin-skinned or faint of heart.
That’s why it’s always served as such an odd juxtaposition that Philadelphia is the home of one of the goofiest looking, most beloved mascots: the Phillie Phanatic. For years, the big green guy has been entertaining Philadelphia Phillie fans of all ages.
Philadelphia fans may be troubled, however, to hear that the Phanatic could be changing teams. How did we get here?
The origin story of the Phillie Phanatic
In the 1970s, the San Diego Padres introduced a new mascot: the San Diego Chicken. This larger-than-life cartoonish character would patrol the stands making fans laugh as the game went on. Other times, the Chicken would go on the field to interact with the players. Inspired by this, the Philadelphia Phillies commissioned the design firm Harrison/Erickson to create a mascot for them. One of the creators, Bonnie Erickson, had worked with Jim Henson on “The Muppet Show.”
In 1978, the Phanatic debuted on a local children’s television show on April 23, introduced by Tim McCarver. He would make his debut a few days after that at Veterans Stadium when the Phillies took on the Cubs. From there, one of sports’ most iconic mascots was born.
How the Phanatic entertains the Philly phaithful
The Phanatic would soon become a staple at Phillies games, traveling throughout the stadium to entertain the fans. In a write-up on the Phanatic’s 39th birthday, MLB.com would describe some of his shenanigans:
“The Phanatic soon became arguably the most beloved mascot in America. And, nearly four decades later, he’s still going strong: dancing atop the dugout, firing hot dogs from his ATV and pouring popcorn on anyone within arm’s reach.”
In a sport that can sometimes focus a lot on its unwritten rules and old school traditions, the Phanatic infused a well-needed bit of fun to the proceedings.
Unfortunately, nowadays the Phillies may be in danger of losing their beloved mascot due to a dispute over royalties for the character.
How the Phillies might lose the Phillie Phanatic
According to a story from NPR, the creators of the Phanatic – Wayde Harrison and Erickson – recently sued the Phillies over the character’s use. The story states that the firm was paid $200,000 in 1980, then renegotiated a new licensing deal in 1984 for $215,000. The Phillies assumed this payment gave them rights to the Phanatic forever.
Erickson and Howard see it differently, hence the lawsuit. They’re looking for millions of dollars in royalty payments for coming up with the Phanatic. The Phillies’ argument, summarized by NPR:
“The Phillies claim that the team has a 41-year investment in the mascot and that it is a ‘co-author of the Phanatic costume’ and ‘author of the Phanatic character.'”
Erickson and Howard want a new deal for a lot more money. Can the Phillies and the creators salvage the situation?
Predicting the phuture of the Phillie Phanatic
While the lawsuit over the mascot seems like nasty business, the Phanatic is worth too much to the Phillies to lose. Seeing as how they’re a team with deep pockets, it would be shocking if they didn’t come to some kind of arrangement with Erickson and Howard.
Sure, they could fight them tooth and nail in court. But it will only generate negative publicity and they may lose the rights to the Phanatic altogether, keeping him away from Phillies games permanently.
Expect the parties to settle out of court and to see the Phanatic cheering the Phillies on for years to come.