The Guide to Recognizing Your Mascots tour of baseball's minor leagues returns this week with the California League. I'm sorry it took me so long to finish this, I wanted to just write it, but everyone thinks I've got mental problems, so I had to stuff my lunchbox full of pictures of the Bakersfield Blaze and High Desert Mavericks and hitchhike to the West Coast myself. I had some troubles along the way (such as a hot shot blogger named Lucas who has already written about all of these mascots), but a helpful group of bikers took me most of the way. It saved me a lot of time, but I don't ever want to hear "Send Me An Angel" again.
Anyway, enough of my literary wizardry. If this is your introduction to the series, be sure to click the A Guide to Recognizing Your Mascots tag and read through the leagues we've already covered. This one will be just like those, except all the giant Muppet things have temperature names. Sh:t, I just ruined the entire article. Sorry, my only joke is about how the baseball llama's name is "Sunny."
Click through, enjoy the hilarity, and drop a comment. Don't make me get all emotional in a big dinosaur.
I was pretty disappointed to find out that the Blaze mascot was a dragon named "Heater" and not Lolita Davidovich with tassel pasties on her big banana boobs circa 1989. I know I date myself with these references sometimes (hey everybody, who loves Robotech?) but if you were nine when "Blaze" was released, you'd remember them too.
The Blaze website doesn't provide a lot of background on Heater, and mostly sends me to a .pdf file about how ten dollars in support of him will get me a membership card. The team has been around for 70 years and has been everything from the Dodgers to the Indians to the "Boosters," a team of minor leaguers who lie down on the ground so the other team can sit on them and be taller.
Wikipedia mentions Heater and suggest that he is "not to be confused with the former mascot of the Western Baseball League's Chico Heat." After a brief bit of Googling, let me assure you, the only thing I'm going to confuse with the Chico Heat's mascot is that transvestite Gremlin from Gremlins 2.
Wooly Bully of the High Desert Mavericks is an upright, hip-hop dancing bull in Stevie Ray Vaughan's hat who has entertained Southern California baseball fans for uno, dos, one, two, tres, quatro years. He seems pretty straight forward, but deeper analysis reveals his sad, doing-it-on-my-own overtones. I came into this entry ready to make Mel Gibson and Top Gun jokes, but then I looked up what "Maverick" actually means.
Southwestern U.S. an unbranded calf, cow, or steer, especially an unbranded calf that is separated from its mother.
There's a "rebel, cowboy" definition that the guys on the team with names like "Ogui" and "Yoervis" cling to as they're on the fast lane to Seattle Mariners glory, but Wooly Bully is almost certainly definition 1. He's been separated from his mother, and without branding they can't know who he initially belonged to. So they just keep him at the ballpark, and he keeps dancing, hoping to please the Adelanto natives with his antics so they don't drop him in the volcano.
Watch him now, watch him watch him
The High Desert Mavericks also have a guy called the "Rally Wizard," a secondary mascot who looks like a girl's action figure (or a knock-off troll doll) and only appears when the Mavericks are behind and need to rally. This is apparently a huge trend sweeping the Minor Leagues, as I first learned about it in the Salem Red Sox souvenir shop, where there is a big poster of a guy in a monkey suit with "RALLY GORILLA" written under him. I wanted to mention how wizards don't have anything to do with Mavericks or the desert (although they do have a lot to do with getting high), but gorillas don't have anything to do with socks so I guess you just type "rally" and shoot a random noun. Are you the Round Rock Express? You've got the Rally Burger! Big Buford the Rally Burger!
If you notice, the Rally Wizard has arms growing out of the top of his head, so I'm calling an Oz Misdirect - see that pointy hat on his head? I bet THAT is where the real wizard's head is, and the big weird face is just an elaborate breastplate. NOW we're talking wizards.
There is no God.
I don't know what in the goddamn f**k the Widow Geisel has been greenlighting as she gets closer and closer to the whimsical, Seussian Hell that awaits her, but the guy on the left is "Bernie," the mascot of the Minor League's equivalent to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Inland Empire 66ers of San Bernardino. I had to shorten the name or it would've run into the autoplaying Almay ads.
Bernie is a paint-by-numbers mascot with googly pupils that move around independently of his eyeballs, and his name is "Bernie" because "Bernardino" is the only part of that long ass name that sounds remotely identifiable. What else could they possibly give the team? You can't make a play on being "inland," unless your mascot is a guy who is exceptionally dry. What're you supposed to do with 66ers who are inland and empiric? "WELCOME TO THE GAME Y'ALL I AM A HIGHWAY FROM A GOVERNING COLLECTIVE LOCATED FAR FROM WATER." That sucks as much to write as it does to read. So no, Bernie ends up as a furry nothing who does local dentistry commercials and has a name like one of my Dad's friends.
I can't say it definitively, but the Lake Elsinore Storm might be the lamest team in professional sports. Seriously, their name is the "Storm," which is sort of a collective idea of independent elements like rain and barometric pressure and not one cohesive thing you can put on a shirt. Their logo is ripped from a No Fear shirt, and when you put the eyeballs on a black hat with an orange brim they come out looking like a Daffy Duck hat from some horrible Warner Brothers-run Disney World. On top of that, they have asinine promotions like "CHARLIE SHEEN-CO DE MAYO" (this is a real thing) and their mascot is copy-pasted over from somewhere entirely unrelated, as he is a green dog mascotting for a red and black weather team. And his name is THUNDER STORM.
I try to take a creative approach when I find teams like this, but seriously, these guys are making me facepalm so hard I've started pressing brain matter out through the pores in the back of my head. Oh, and did I mention that they have a Shrek Movie Night, and can't fork over five bucks and a car ride to Target or the video store to get a Shrek poster, so they get a child to paint one? If I ever end up in Lake Elsinore, I'm drowning myself. Oh who am I kidding, you know they don't even have a lake.
Despite having both the onomatopoeia and amalgamated nouns thing baseball teams love, KaBoom of the Lancaster JetHawks (the hawks that fly ... like jets) is easy to understand. Sure, he sort of looks like he should be flapping his wings and bird-laughing alongside some villain in a Don Bluth movie, but he's a bird and they're the hawks so whatever.
KaBoom (or "KB" for short... if I ever meet him, I'm going to tell him how happy I am that his sh:tty toy store that charged me seven dollars for Ninja Turtles action figures went out of business) has been the team mascot since 1996 (back when the team was the Lancaster Skeksis, of California's Dark Crystal League), but (like so many other teams) they keep expanding his universe, introducing "Stealth" (his little brother who is really into being in the military ... not a joke) and the Hawkettes, a group of fun bunching cheerleaders who, and I'm just guessing here, do the Chicken Dance about 47 times a game.
This is Wally the Walnut, the mascot of the Modesto Nuts, and yes, before you even ask they've got like forty other mascots with similar names. Al the Almond, Joey the Chestnut, George Washington Carver the Intellectual Black Peanut You Have To Explain To Your Kids. I just picked Wally because of this mark photo with a bunch of goats, and because he sorta looks like Freddy Krueger. He also bears a striking resemblance to Oyster Lucy. You'll love Wally the Walnut! "Oh Coach Weinstein! You've just got to start Bob Cummings! BEPPPPP"
There are few things as easy to make fun and overtly sexual as a team called the "Nuts." I mean, I guess EVERY mascot starts off as a nut, but we shouldn't be drawing attention to it. Before they were the Nuts, Modesto was the A's, which is about three letters away from giving me the funniest and most contextual Deez Nuts joke ever written.
Is this picture as funny to you as it is to me? I think I laughed for about ten minutes when I found it. It reminds me of those kids screaming about the sketchy Santa in our old Christmas article at Progressive Boink.
Anyway, the culturally insensitive "Quakes" (not a lot of Japanese players on the Quakes ... at least not anymore) play in Rancho Cucamonga, which sounds like a fake place Bugs Bunny would end up by taking a wrong turn at Albuquerque. I guess the Quakes should enjoy this season, because you know next year they're getting retconned into the RanchCats.
The mascot of the Quakes is "Tremor," a giant worm with teeth that lives under the surface and tries to eat Reba McEntire. No, I'm sorry, Tremor is a "Rallysaurus," which is actually less zoologically possible than a dirt worm trying to eat Fancy in her basement. It turns out what scientists had been classifying as a "Rallysaurus" all these years doesn't exist, and Tremor is actually a VelociORPter. They lived in the Peripheral Era.
This is Gigante, the 7-foot-7-inch Argentinian mascot of the San Jose Giants. He's supposed to be an apeish caveman of sorts, but I can't provide any more accurate definition of what he is, as I never thoroughly studied the genus that includes modern humans and the species closely related to them. No homo.
According to his bio on the Giants website, Gigante was born "in a banana tree" (you'd think they would include the city, state or country... I was born in Danville, Virginia, but I'm not write in "in a hospital bed" where it says "birthplace") and weighs "5,000 bananas." Doing the math, and assuming that your average banana weighs 120 grams (or 0.2646 pounds), that puts Gigante in at a weight of roughly 1,323 pounds, over twice the weight of obese gorillas in captivity. None of this is good. San Jose Giants trainers might be able to notice these severe health concerns if they weren't trying to be so cute with the results.
Fun fact: In 2001, Barry Bonds weighed almost 862 bananas.
This is Splash, the mascot of the Stockton Ports (a team that began with "NBA Jam" being brought to the Sega Genesis in 1993), and he is cheering for one of the worst things you can do: propose to your girlfriend at a Minor League Baseball game. It's maybe okay if you play for that team and want to do something nice in public for your girlfriend, but no, proposing to your girlfriend at a MAJOR League Baseball game is bad enough. You're basically downgrading the romance as much as possible, and might as well be proposing to her in the stadium bathroom. Put the ring in the toilet, tell her it's in there somewhere and that if she wants to marry you she'll get in there and find it. There, you're exactly the same amount of romantic.
The Ports website says Splash is a "big-boned, big-bellied, bundle of fun" but doesn't mention what he's supposed to actually be, so I'm going to say he's some sort of thing I'm supposed to squeeze at Spencer Gifts, or one of those bouncy balls with the tentacles they keep trying to sell me at Walgreens. I tried to find out some more information on Splash's Facebook page, but he has everything set to private. You know, so nobody can find out where lives.
And finally, the mascot of the Visalia Rawhide (a team named after the untanned skin of a dead animal), Tipper T. Bull. Notice that Tipper is a bull and not a cow, which leads me to believe that his Chick-fil-A looking ass goes around knocking over the females of his species while they try to sleep. So, basically he's every guy I went to college with.
While most minor league pages seem desperate to be done with their mascot bios (Splash likes hot dogs! He has fun at baseball BYE), Tipper's page includes a lengthy history, detailing his heritage and familiar history, connecting him biologically to every other cow mascot they could think of (including Bevo, the University of Texas mascot who I'm pretty sure is a real animal, meaning at some point somebody in Tipper's family was a furry who got knocked up by a farm animal). There's also a sad story about winter rolling in and his family being auctioned off, and Tipper developing this destiny to get out of the cold and make it to California, leaving his poor mother in the bitter snows of Wisconsin. It's hilarious, and includes basically everything except Galactus showing up to make him a herald to the Devourer of Worlds.
Also, his middle name is "The." so you know he's the definite article.