Tag Archives: Bill Giles

Legal dispute could make Phillie Phanatic a free agent

For more than four decades, the Phillie Phanatic has entertained fans of the Philadelphia Phillies, first at Veteran’s Stadium and now at Citizens Bank Park.

The Phanatic, as he is more simply and frequently referred to, also represents the organization on not only the broader baseball landscape, making appearances at numerous MLB and MiLB events, but also makes numerous non-baseball public and private appearances, including many at charity events.
In recent days, rumors have begun to spread that the Phanatic could soon possibly become a free agent.
As with a player, the Phillie Phanatic’s contract with the organization may be up, and he could conceivably take his services elsewhere. Or so those hyped headlines – including the one accompanying this piece – would have you believe.
What is the truth? What is really going on here? Could the Phillie Phanatic become the ‘Phoenix Phanatic” or the ‘Florida Phanatic’ or the, gulp, Dallas or Atlanta or New York Phanatic? Or just simply a broader free agent known as ‘The Phanatic’ free to go wherever he pleases?
Before we get into the current legal situation, a quick background on the history of the Phillie Phanatic.

BIRTH OF A FURRY, GREEN LEGEND

CLEARWATER, FL – MARCH 02: Managing Partner John Middleton high fives the Phillie Phanatic as he walks out moments before the press conference to introduce Bryce Harper to the media and the fans of the Philadelphia Phillies on March 02, 2019 at the Spectrum Field in Clearwater, Florida. (Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)
While his “official” biography says that the Phanatic suddenly appeared in South Philly from his native home in the Galapagos Islands, in reality he was the brainchild of former Phillies Director of Marketing Dennis Lehman and Promotions Director Frank Sullivan.
From the opening of Veteran’s Stadium in 1971 through the remainder of the decade of the 1970’s, a pair of characters named Phil and Phyllis, dressed in colonial garb, had taken on a sort of unofficial mascot role with the Phillies. Lehman and Sullivan wanted to come up with a unique character, similar to the controversial but popular “San Diego Chicken” character that had developed with the San Diego Padres organization.
Lehman and Sullivan approached Jim Henson, creator of the famous Muppets for Sesame Street, to help develop the original Phillie Phanatic costume. Henson directed them to  Bonnie Erickson of the New York firm known then as Harrison/Erickson, now Acme Mascots. Erickson had worked with Henson previously, creating the iconic Miss Piggy character among others. She would take on the assignment of creating the basic idea for the now iconic costume.
I wasn’t aware of the game as much as I was aware of the fact that they must be coming to us for entertainment,” Erickson told Mike Rubin for the Victory Journal. “When they told me mascots, I went ‘Oh, really? I don’t know that I want that. That’s not what I want to do.’ But then I realized what kinds of crowds would be seeing this.”
An intern with the Phillies in those days, David Raymond, was chosen to take on the role of making the costume come to life. Raymond was athletic, a former football player at the University of Delaware. That athleticism was a necessity to carry and carry-on in the heavy costume on hot summer days at the ballpark. But also, Raymond’s mother was deaf. His experience communicating with his mother helped him to project personality without speaking.
“We wanted to try to suspend disbelief that there was a human being in there,” Wayde Harrison, Erickson’s husband and business partner, told Rubin. “We want the Phillie Phanatic to be the Phillie Phanatic. We don’t you to think, ‘Hey, there’s a guy running around in a big green costume.’
In April of 1978, the Phillie Phanatic was introduced to the local fan base on the morning children’s television program “Captain Noah’s Magical Ark”, in an appearance with Phillies veteran catcher Tim McCarver. And on April 25, 1978 the fans at The Vet got their first look at the comical character.
The rest, as they say, is Philadelphia show business history.
An executive with the club at the time, Bill Giles approved the whole venture, hoping that the Phanatic would help lure more families to Veteran’s Stadium, even beyond the average baseball fan. Giles then made a fateful decision involving the character. As told by Daniel Craig at The Philly Voice in January 2016:
“They had offered Phillies executive Bill Giles the choice between paying $5,200 for both the Phanatic costume and the character’s copyright, or purchasing just the costume alone for $3,900. Giles opted for only the costume, a move he would describe in his auto-biography as “the worst decision of my career.” Five years later he paid $250,000 for the Phanatic’s copyright.
Dave Raymond would portray the Phanatic until 1993, when Tom Burgoyne took over the role. Burgoyne, who calls himself the Phanatic’s “best friend” in order to maintain the character’s personal as separate from himself, has filled the role ever since.

THE LAWSUIT

Flash-forward a few decades. The Phillie Phanatic is cemented as both an integral part of the Philadelphia community and an indelible part of the fabric of the Philadelphia Phillies organization.

Like millions of other kids of all ages over the last four decades, Elysia Bellina grew up loving the Phillie Phanatic. (Matt Veasey/Phillies Nation)
But last June, Harrison/Erickson sent a letter to the Phillies claiming that under a section of the Copyright Act, they were free to terminate their 1984 agreement and negotiate a new one.
Smelling a rat, or at least a money grab, the Phillies filed a lawsuit against Harrison/Erickson in which the club claimed that they were actually co-creators of the costume. The suit claims that Harrison/Erickson thus cannot make a claim to the origination of either the Phanatic character or the costume.
In the legal action between the Phillies and Harrison/Erickson, there is a claim which basically states that if a new agreement is not reached, then the Phillies would not be able to continue use of the Phillie Phanatic in any way after June 15, 2020.
So, there you have it. That’s what is happening in reality. The Phillies claim to be co-creators of the Phillie Phanatic, and to have purchased the copyright to the character “forever” back in 1984. Harrison/Erickson says that it has the right to cancel that agreement and negotiate a new one.
Now, lawyers for the two parties will fight it out, and a court will decide the matter. That is, unless the two sides actually do find a way to hammer out a new agreement and reach some mutually acceptable out-of-court settlement. That is the most likely resolution.
Don’t expect the Phillie Phanatic to ever become a true free agent. It is, after all, the “Phillie” Phanatic. Beloved by millions in our area, the Phanatic has entertained generations of Philly sports fans as a uniquely identifiable symbol of the Phillies and the overall Philadelphia landscape. That is not going to change, in June of 2020, or any time that any of us will see in our lifetimes.

RIP David Montgomery, Phillies minority owner and club chairman

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David Montgomery was a Phillies driving force for nearly five decades

The Philadelphia Phillies announced this morning that club chairman and minority owner David Montgomery has passed away at the age of 72 years. Montgomery had battled cancer for more than five years.

In an official release from the team (see below Twitter link), majority owner John Middleton stated the following:
David was one of Philadelphia’s most influential business and civic leaders in his generation. For 25 years, he has been an invaluable business partner and, more importantly, an invaluable friend. He was beloved by everyone at the Phillies. Leigh and I are saddened beyond words at David’s passing and extend our love and sympathy to Lyn, his children and grandchildren.
Born and raised on Pembrook Road in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia, Montgomery graduated from both William Penn Charter High School and the University of Pennsylvania. He then continued his education at The Wharton School, where he graduated in 1970.
While at Penn, Montgomery was a classmate and friend of future Philadelphia Mayor and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. The two would attend Phillies games together at old Connie Mack Stadium, and per a 2008 piece by Tyler Kepner in the New York Times, they were typical Philly fans. Kepner wrote:
“They would try to eat all the food that $5 could buy — back when hot dogs cost 50 cents — as they shared their thoughts with the players. “I remember one time riding Turk Farrell,” Rendell said, referring to a Phillies reliever of the 1960s. “He got so mad he looked like he was going to throw a ball at us, and Turk could really hum the ball. We were scared to death.””
After they graduated, Rendell tried to get Montgomery to apply for a job with basketball’s Philadelphia 76ers franchise. Instead, in 1971 Montgomery got a job in the sales office of baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies through a connection with the club’s former pitching great, Robin Roberts, as well as through his connections made while coaching with the Germantown Academy football team.

Phillies chairman and minority owner David Montgomery passed away earlier today after a six-year battle with cancer. (Centpacrr)
In that first job with the team he sold season and group ticket packages. Montgomery was also briefly the scoreboard operator at Veteran’s Stadium in the early years of that facility.
Within a few years he became the Phillies director of sales and marketing, and then in 1980 became the head of the Phillies business department. That same year, the franchise celebrated the first World Series victory in its then 97-year history.
In 1981, Montgomery joined a group headed by Bill Giles to organize the purchase of the Phillies from the Carpenter family. Montgomery was named as the executive vice-president following that purchase, and then was elevated to the role of chief operating officer in 1992.
In 1994, Montgomery acquired an even greater ownership interest in the team. Then in 1997 he was named to replace Giles as the 14th team president in franchise history. He was the first Philly native to run the club in six decades.
In the club’s official release (below Twitter link), Giles stated the following:
David was truly a great man. I have never known a person with more integrity or who truly cared so much about everyone who worked for the Phillies. He and I worked hand-in-hand for over 30 years. During that time, I saw his unparalleled love for his family, the Phillies and the team’s fans, and of course, the City of Philadelphia…He will be tremendously missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.
Cancer first affected Montgomery in the operation of the team when he left on an interim basis for treatment of jaw cancer in August 2014. After returning in January 2015, Montgomery took on the title of chairman, which he held until his passing, with Pat Gillick replacing him as the club president.
During his long career in baseball, Montgomery also served as the vice chair of the Board of Directors of Major League Baseball Enterprises (formerly MLB Properties) and was a member of the MLB Executive Council. He was a member of the MLB Schedule Committee, the Labor Policy Committee, and the Commissioner’s Special Committee for On-Field Matters.
Last March, the Phillies named their new indoor facility at the Carpenter Complex, their spring training home in Clearwater, Florida, as the “David P. Montgomery Baseball Performance Center” in his honor. On the occasion of that honor, Montgomery was quoted as follows in a piece by Matt Breen for Philly.com:
The word is overwhelmed but the reality is that it was special that the whole organization was here because, as you know, that’s what I believe in. I believe that in whatever capacity you work for us, you determine the Phillies family. I believe that.”
This past November, the former ‘Daisy Field’ ball fields on which Montgomery played during his Little League days with the Andorra A’s out in Wissahickon were re-named in his honor as well.

Montgomery is survived by his wife Lyn; their three children, and three grandchildren. Memorial services are pending, and we will pass those along at our social media sites when available. Our entire staff joins with all of Phillies Nation in mourning the passing of not just a great baseball man, but an outstanding Philadelphian.

In Hall of Fame acceptance speech, Thome thanks Manuel, recalls time with Phillies

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Thome (R) recognized contributions of his mentor Manuel (L) at the Hall of Fame

When the time came this afternoon for Jim Thome‘s turn to be formally inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, it was no surprise to learn that it would his mentor, friend, and former manager Charlie Manuel who would be doing the introductions.

By way of a pre-recorded video, the now 74-year-old former skipper heaped praise on the man whom he managed with both the Cleveland Indians and the Phillies.
Every time he walked up to the plate he was dangerous,” began Manuel. The two are both Phillies Wall of Famers. Now the pupil has surpassed the teacher and reached the pinnacle of individual achievement in his profession.
Manuel went on to recall the circumstances when they first met, and the characteristics that attracted him to the young power hitter.

“As far as meeting him the first time, I wanta say it was in spring of ’89. Jimmy was young. He was shy. He was really tentative about what he did, ya know. He wanted to do the right thing. Jimmy was one of the most dedicated guys as far as listenin’. And coachable? I tell people all the time, with Jimmy Thome, he really thinks that you helped him. But Jimmy Thome helped me too. You know, just bein’ who he was, and bein’ dedicated like he was.”


“He hit so much, I don’t think I can explain to you how much he hit.”

Manager Charlie Manuel reflects on the career of ‘s own Jim Thome, ahead of his speech.

There has clearly always been a special bond between the two men. In Cleveland, Manuel was the hitting coach as the Indians won the AL Central Division crown in each of Thome’s first five full seasons from 1995-99.
Manuel would become the manager of the Indians in 2000 but was fired in July of 2002 over a contract dispute. Thome would leave as a free agent that following off-season, signing with the Phillies.
In 2005, the two men would experience an all-too-short reunion when Manuel was hired as the Phillies new skipper. However, Thome would suffer through an injury-marred first half. By June 30, his season was over. Into the breach would stop a new slugger, Ryan Howard, who would win the NL Rookie of the Year Award that season. Thome’s days in Philly were numbered.
Following that 2005 campaign, Thome was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Aaron Rowand and two pitchers, one of whom would be Gio Gonzalez.
Manuel would go on to guide the Phillies to five consecutive NL East crowns, back-to-back National League pennants, and the 2008 World Series championship.

In his acceptance speech, Thome remembered

“When I was writing my speech, I was overwhelmed as I reflected on the number of people who have helped shape my career. The first person will come as no surprise. From the moment I met Charlie Manuel as a wide-eyed kid in the Gulf Coast League, I knew this was someone I could connect with instantly. Charlie took a scrappy young kid who was anxious to hit a million home runs, and actually encouraged those dreams. He told me that I could hit as many home runs as I wanted to. From day one in that dugout in Kissimmee, he always believed in me. Chuck, I’ll never forget the day you called me into your office in Scranton. You had this idea that I could benefit from what Roy Hobbs was doing. Little did I know, that day in Pennsylvania would change everything for me. From that day on, all we did was work, work, and work some more.”

Thome’s voice then began to crack and tremble perceptibly as he finished his thanks to his mentor. “You know that I wouldn’t be standing here today without you. Thank you for everything.
Thome then pointed a finger at Manuel adding “But most of all, thank you for your loyalty.” The skipper returned the gesture with a nod, clearly emotional behind dark black sunglasses.
After Thome had recounted his days in Cleveland, he quickly moved to his time in Philadelphia.

“Cleveland is where my career was born, but Philadelphia is where I had to grow up fast. I needed every single tool in my toolbox in Philly. The city welcomed me with open arms from the moment the electricians met us, wearing our hard hats. The fans couldn’t have been better. Larry Bowa was the manager and he was tough as nails. He pushed me and our team to a whole new level. Thanks Bo, and the front office in Philly, first class all the way. David Montgomery, Bill Giles, alongside of Ed Wade and Ruben Amaro Jr. They made my time there so meaningful.”

Thome also gave a special shout out to former Phillies trainer Jeff Cooper for a program that helped Thome manage a recurring back problem.
There was a large contingent of Phillies fans on hand in the crowd, an acknowledgment that his affection for the City of Brotherly Love is fully reciprocated.
Jim Thome is a class act, and he demonstrated that again today at Cooperstown. His special relationship with both Manuel and the Phillies organization was on full display as he joined the pantheon of the game’s greats.

Phillies Are Billion Dollar Losers

Forbes magazine has released it’s annual appraisal of Major League Baseball, and they have valued the Philadelphia Phillies franchise at more than $1 billion for the first time ever.
The Phils are the 10th-most valuable franchise in MLB this year, down from their 6th place ranking a year ago. A lot of that drop in value comes due to the loss of star players, the repeated losses on the field, and the loss of fan support as a result.
Still, the Phillies as a whole rose from a valuation in the Forbes 2014 evaluations at $975 million to their current $1.25 billion ranking. 
Major League Baseball overall is now a $36 billion entity, one of the largest and strongest sporting groups on the planet.
Back in December, I looked at the current situation in which the team has found itself, dumping high-salaried and aging veterans for young prospects as the on-field losses mount, and the team plummets in both the standings and the eyes and wallets of the wider fan base beyond the most hardcore.
The problem with the Philadelphia Phillies clearly is not a financial one. They are not restricted in any way by finances in improving their organization. 
They have the money to put together an industry-leading analytics department, scouting and development department, and to make whatever outlays are needed in salary, bonuses, and inducements to acquire both amateur and big league talent.
What Forbes does not address is key to the club’s ability to bounce-back, not only to respectability, but to regularly winning. 
That key is not the increased money coming in 2016 from a massive new Comcast broadcasting rights contract. The key remains a change in the decision-makers themselves.
Also back in December, I gave fans a look into a possible brighter future, with a possible future change in the Phillies power structure under John Middleton, a longtime member of the team’s ownership group.
The youngest of those with an ownership stake in the Phillies, Middleton may be positioning himself to take over a majority share of that ownership in the coming months. That would have to be considered an improvement in the on-field and organization-wide competitive outlook for the franchise.
Phillies Gillick
Gillick had an “interim” tag removed, and is now the officially the team President of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports)
As long as Bill Giles and David Montgomery continue to make decisions at the top of the organization, Pat Gillick and Ruben Amaro will remain in charge of personnel. 
As long as Gillick and Amaro remain in charge of personnel, the team will flounder.
That is a difficult truth for some to swallow, but there is no other conclusion that any logical person who actually examines the organization over the last 10-12 years can draw. 
The vast majority of the 2008 championship pieces, and the decade-long 2001-11 great run, were put together by people other than Gillick and Amaro.
It has been pointed out here numerous times, but is worth stating once more. The Phillies bottom line since Amaro took over as GM is as follows: lost 2009 World Series, lost 2010 NLCS, lost 2011 NLDS, finished .500 in 2012, losing record in 2013, last place finish in 2014. There is no escaping that steady downward progression.
Click into the link provided in the middle of this article, and read the December piece again. The monetary value of the Philadelphia Phillies is strong, and is likely to only get stronger, more valuable, in the coming years. 
But unless there is change in ownership and decision-making, a billion or two in value is not going to matter on the field.

Phillie Phanatic Lives On

In what has already been an off-season of change for the Philadelphia Phillies organization, one that seems to progress weekly with a new rumor involving another player leaving, there remains one constant. 
The Phillie Phanatic will return in 2015 to entertain fans, and there is likely no more beloved mascot in all of sports today.
The mascot game for American pro sports teams wasn’t a big thing when Veteran’s Stadium opened in 1971. 
In those early years of the team’s new South Philly home, a pair of revolutionary war-dressed characters nicknamed “Phil” and “Phillis” served that purpose.
During the off-season following 1977, Phillies Vice-President Bill Giles, who had helped formulate many of the team’s off-the-wall promotional acts in those early-Vet years, was looking for yet another attraction to bring even more fans to the ballpark, especially kids.
The man who was the team’s Director of Marketing at the time, Dennis Lehman, thought it would be a great idea to come up with a character as a counter to “The Chicken“, a rambunctious mascot working for the San Diego Padres.
Lehman got together with a group that had affiliations to Jim Henson’s famed Muppets, known then as Acme Mascots, and came up with the big, boisterous, furry, green character who would become known and loved as the Phillie Phanatic.
When the final design was complete, Giles and the Phillies were offered a choice. They could purchase just the Phanatic costume for a $3,900 price tag, or pay $5,200 and own both the costume and the copyright to the character.

“…the worst decision of my career” ~ Bill Giles, on not buying the original Phanatic copyright

In what he called “the worst decision of my career” in his book “Pouring Six Beers at a Time“, Giles chose to save a little money and just buy the costume. He had no idea how fast the character would catch on, or how popular it would become.
Five years later, when his group purchased the team from the Carpenter family, Giles would pay a quarter-million dollars for the Phillie Phanatic copyright.
The Phanatic has been brought to life mainly by two men. David Raymond wore the costume from 1978-93, and Tom Burgoyne, who has worn the costume ever since.
A background story was invented for the character, with the Phanatic having been born in the Galapagos Islands where he was raised by his mother, Phoebe Phanatic, who has also made numerous appearances at the ballpark, usually on special occasions such as Mother’s Day and the Phanatic’s birthday. 
In 2015, while much else will change in the Phillies roster and on the field, the Phanatic will still be there for his 38th season of entertaining fans. 
He’ll be found riding his ATV onto the field before games. He’ll be found shooting hotdogs into the stands. He’ll be found taunting players and umpires between innings. He’ll be found atop the Phillies dugout in the 7th inning, dancing with fans and placing hexes on opposition pitchers.
Whether it’s at the ballpark, or in various public and private appearances all around the Philadelphia area at any time of the year, there remains that one constant. Players and managers will come and go. Even ownership of the team will change. 
But the Phillie Phanatic goes on, a timeless, treasured symbol of fun, now entertaining his 4th generation of fans.