When you are talking about sports mascots, one of the first at the top of your mind has to be the Phillie Phanatic. There are three MLB mascots in the Baseball Hall of Fame. There’s the San Diego Chicken, who started as a radio station mascot but then became the mascot for the San Diego Padres.
Also, one time Pete Rose dressed in the Chicken’s outfit in the WWE and was tombstoned by Kane. Somehow, it’s not the least dignified thing the former Cincinnati Red has ever done. There’s Youppi, who was the mascot for the Montreal Expos and now hangs around at Canadiens games. Then, there’s the Phanatic.
How did this wonderful mascot come to be and how much money does he earn to joke with fans and players?
The Story of the Phillie Phanatic
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The Philadelphia Phillies front office started cooking up the idea of a mascot in the winter of 1977. They called upon the company Harrison/Erickson, run by Wade Harrison and Muppets designer Bonnie Erickson, in order to craft the mascot for the team.
The Phanatic is described as a flightless bird from the Galapagos Islands, though he is covered with green fur and is also quite large, like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. He wears a Phillies uniform and, of course, does not speak. The Phanatic debuted in 1978 in a matchup with the Chicago Cubs, and the city of Philadelphia took to him pretty quickly, in the same way they took to Rocky and Cheesesteaks. Considering this is the city that once booed Santa Claus, that was far from a given.
David Raymond was the original Phillie Phanatic performer in the Phillies iconic costume, but in 1993 he ceded the role to Tom Burgoyne, who refers to himself as the Phanatic’s “best friend.” Since we’re assuming you are an adult reading this, we can say that he’s the guy in the suit. Sorry if we ruined any childhoods.
The Phillies mascot gets up to all sorts of stuff at Phillies games. He’s known for riding around on an ATV, a tradition that continued after the move from Veterans Stadium to Citizens Bank Park. He does his “Phanatic Dance” on top of the dugout and will warmup in the bullpen. The Phanatic is also known to mess around with umpires and players on opposing teams.
Not everybody loves the Phillie Phanatic’s antics, though. In 1982, he was tackled by St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Lonnie Smith, who was a former Phillie himself. Perhaps most infamously, the Phanatic was attacked by Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, though history has been kinder to the legacy of the Phanatic than Lasorda, so give that round to the big green guy.
Phillie Phanatic’s Salary
The Phanatic does more than just show up at Phils games or down at spring training. You can catch him at events all over Pennsylvania, many of which involve charity so Pittsburgh Pirates fans likely won’t complain too much about that.
Occasionally the Phanatic will reach across the aisle as well. He and New York Mets mascot Mr. Met were in an ad for MasterCard together, and the Phanatic was also in an ESPN commercial with New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter.
In terms of TV appearances, the Phanatic has been in episodes of “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” and “30 Rock”. Notably, though, he did NOT appear in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”. Instead, the show had to use a knockoff they called the “Phrenetic” in their episode “The World Series Defense.” At the end of the episode they call it out, and apparently MLB would not allow the Phanatic to show up in such a raunchy show.
Missed opportunities to hang out with the Paddy’s Pub gang aside, the Phanatic makes a ton of cash. Way more than that ironic crab mascot the San Francisco Giants tried out in 1984.
According to reports, the Phillie Phanatic gets $600 per hour for appearances. For comparison, the Milwaukee Brewers’ Bernie Brewer gets $275 per appearance, and the Detroit Tigers’ Paws gets up to $200 per hour. That’s big bucks for the GOAT of MLB mascots.
That being said, that’s not all the money that the Phanatic and his good friend Burgoyne make. Because of how iconic he is, the Phillie Phanatic can make a lot of money in merchandising as well. It’s rumored that the Phanatic (or the man behind the snout) reels in a six-figure salary per year.
Of course, the Phanatic now has competition in his own city with Gritty, the Flyers’ mascot. Then again, they could always join forces. After all, Bryce Harper wore a shirt featuring both the Phanatic and Gritty when he first showed up at Citizens Bank Park.
Publications from Sports Illustrated Kids to Forbes have named the Phillie Phanatic the best mascot of all time. In all four corners of the country, fans of teams like the Tampa Bay Rays, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels know the Phanatic. You might know him better than your own team’s mascot.
There are a few other MLB mascots in the Mascot Hall of Fame, which is a real thing: The Kansas City Royals’ Sluggerrr, the Baltimore Orioles’ Oriole Bird, and the Cleveland Indians’ Slider. None of them hold a candle to the Phanatic, and none of them make as much cash either.
If you are a fan of another NL East team like the Atlanta Braves or Miami Marlins, you might get razzed by the Phanatic if you journey up to Philadelphia for a Phillies game. Maybe he’ll cover you in silly string or buff your head. In a way, though, it’s kind of an honor. You are interacting with a legend. Tommy Lasorda may not have appreciated him, but we do.