An iconic Philadelphia Phillies symbol will be calling it quits following the upcoming 2016 season.
After nearly four decades of entertaining Phillies fans of all ages, it was announced during an appearance this morning on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that the beloved team mascot, the Phillie Phanatic, is now entering his final season with the club. It was just last fall that the folks at GMA named him the best mascot in the sport.
The Phanatic was joined in the appearance by nearly all of the mascots from each Major League Baseball organization.
When the announcement was made, the Phanatic simply nodded his head in acknowledgment as his mascot buddies reacted with shock and sadness.
However, after some hugs all around, the Phanatic managed to turn the tables and have everyone laughing and shaking his hand by the end, congratulating him on a wonderful career.
It was way back in the off-season following the 1977 campaign that Dennis Lehman, a LaSalle University graduate who was then working with the Phillies marketing department, approached the club’s promotional director, Frank Sullivan, with the idea of a mascot to rival the famous ‘San Diego Chicken’, who had become popular nationwide.
To that point in Phillies history, at least since Veteran’s Stadium had opened six years earlier, the twin Revolutionary War-era characters of ‘Phil and Phillis’ had served in the mascot capacity.
It was on April 28th, 1978 that the ‘Phillie Phanatic’ made his first appearance during a game at The Vet against the Chicago Cubs.
Helped along by his ‘best friend’, former University of Delaware football player David Raymond, the Phanatic became a staple at both The Vet and now at Citizens Bank Park.
Raymond gave way in 1993 to a new ‘best friend’ of the Phanatic, Tom Burgoyne. Neither Raymond nor Burgoyne was available for comment in the immediate aftermath of this morning’s surprise announcement.
Early rumors have it that the Phanatic will make a grand tour of MLB ballparks, something that he has never done before in his history.
He will accompany the team on most road trips this year, and each opposing team is lining up some type of ceremony in his honor.
At the end of the season, not only will there be a number of big appearances and events at Citizens Bank Park and around the Philly area by the Phanatic, but there will also be a major public relations campaign to either select a replacement, or to move forward without a mascot into the future.
It is believed that the Phanatic will be portrayed as riding off into the sunset, to retire in comfort back in the Galapagos Islands from which he came.
It is not known whether the club will bring the character back on any special events or occasions at some future point.
Everyone loves the Phillie Phanatic, and now as we prepare to say goodbye to this beloved character, while we might have heavy hearts, we also have many wonderful memories. He is sure to provide many, many more in this goodbye season.
For those who have bothered to read this far, this is, of course, an April’s Fools Day joke article. If you bought into it at all, shame on you.
The Phanatic isn’t going anywhere. Philly would literally burn down the town.
We love you, Phillie Phanatic! Keep doing what you do, big guy!