Thursday, March 5, 2015

How Do Baseball Mascots Parallel 'Simpsons' Characters?

On Wednesday night, I was reading Jonah Keri's preseason edition of The 30, his weekly baseball power rankings. In the Oakland A's section, Keri began with this:

"Leave it to Billy Beane to see 93 wins a year and three straight trips to the playoffs only to conclude that everyone short of Stomper should be blasted into space."

When I visited Stomper's section of the A's site, I couldn't help but think of Bart Simpson's pet elephant, Stampy. The name, the appearance, and the elephants' underdog situations all pointed toward the possibility that Oakland appropriated Stampy from Matt Groening and Co. to create Stomper. Since Keri is a Simpsons aficionado as well as a baseball writer, I asked him what he thought. Here's the resulting Twitter exchange:

The Stampy/Stomper juxtaposition got me thinking about other Simpsons characters that we can compare to baseball mascots. Then I got ambitious; I examined every mascot in baseball to see if I could come up with a not-too-forced Simpsons parallel for each. (Note: The Yankees, Dodgers, and Angels don't have mascots, but I made some sort of connection to each of those teams, too.)

To the horror of every college professor in the country, most of my mascot research was done using this Wikipedia page. Meanwhile, most Simpsons information was based on the thousands of hours I've spent watching the show.

Feel free to find the section for your favorite team or read them all. Either way, enjoy!

Arizona Diamondbacks
Mascots:
Baxter the Bobcat, D-Backs Luchador
Simpsons Parallels: The cougar Homer hears, Radioactive Man

Baxter the Bobcat is a tough comparison to start with, but it's still a good opportunity for an obscure Simpsons reference. In the "Homer the Moe" episode of Season 13, Homer goes hunting for a Thanksgiving turkey and Moe tries to scare it off using an imitation cougar call. Here's what follows:

Homer: "A cougar! Die cougar!" (Shoots gun.)
Moe: "Ow! My leg! Ow... geez!"
Homer: "Got that cat right in the leg."

While cougars and bobcats are very distinct species, I'm sure 99% of Americans can't tell them apart. Baxter the Bobcat, you've been successfully connected to The Simpsons.

The caped D-Backs Luchador, meanwhile, calls to mind Bart's favorite comic book hero, Radioactive Man. Because of the Luchador's Hispanic heritage, I was tempted to go with Bumblebee Man, but Arizona's mascot looks much more svelte than that moronic TV character.

Atlanta Braves

Mascot: Homer
Simpsons Parallel: Homer

The name is the obvious connection here, even though the Simpson patriarch's past as a slugger lies in opposition to Atlanta's woeful offense last season. (And the Braves definitely shouldn't expect too many homers this year, either.) 

Baltimore Orioles

Mascot: The Oriole Bird
Simpsons Parallel: Comic Book Guy

The most uncreative nickname in MLB parallels the recurring character with the most uncreative name on The Simpsons. (Apparently, Comic Book Guy has a real-person name, but I've never heard anyone use it.) 

Boston Red Sox
Mascots:
Wally the Green Monster, Lefty & Righty
Simpsons Parallels: Krusty the Klown, Lenny and Carl

Both Krusty and Wally have green hair and Sandler-sounding names. Lefty and Righty parallel Lenny and Carl because you rarely see one without the other. (Homer once even forgets which one is the "black one.") 

Chicago Cubs

Mascot: Clark the Cub
Simpsons Parallel: Bobo

Clark is one of the newest mascots in the game, whereas Mr. Burns' childhood teddy bear is decidedly not new. But the connection definitely works due to the cuddly bear aspect of each character. (I tried to construct a comparison of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to Mr. Burns and Smithers, but it felt like too much of a reach.) 

Chicago White Sox

Mascot: Southpaw
Simpsons Parallel: Ned Flanders

Via leftorium.com
Flanders' mustache is much more well-groomed than Southpaw's mangy hair, but we're not comparing appearances here. And even though Southpaw and Flanders are both friendly dudes, we're not comparing personalities either. This parallel is based solely on Flanders' left-handedness. Homer's next-door neighbor embraces his sinistral nature so enthusiastically that he opened a store called The Leftorium. I can just imagine Southpaw shopping there with Chris Sale and John Danks. (Newly-signed Sox righties Jeff Samardzija and David Robertson aren't welcome.)

Cincinnati Reds

Mascots: Gapper, Mr. Red, Mr. Redlegs, Rosie Red
Simpsons Parallel: Jasper Beardly

Like Mr. Red, Mr. Redlegs, and Rosie Red, Jasper Beardly's name paints a pretty good picture of his appearance. He's bearded. They're red. Get it? (Minor sidenote: You're a small-market team giving Joey Votto $225 million? That's a paddlin'.)

Cleveland Indians

Mascot: Slider
Simpsons Parallel: Hans Moleman

Slider looks similar to the Phillie Phanatic, who we'll discuss in a little bit. The connection here is that Slider once fell off the dugout, severely injuring his knee, and Moleman can't stop injuring himself either. (Man Getting Hit by Football, anyone?)

Colorado Rockies

Mascot: Dinger
Simpsons Parallel: Abe Simpson

Dinger is a triceratops so we could have compared him to Bart's DinoSponges, Barney the Dinosaur, or Kent Brockman's limitations. But we're going with Grampa Simpson because he seems like he's been around forever. As Abe once said, "Grover Cleveland spanked me on two non-consecutive occasions."

Detroit Tigers

Mascot: Paws
Simpsons Parallel: Anastasia

Anastasia belongs to Gunter and Ernst, The Simpsons' answer to Siegfried and Roy. Anastasia once attempted to attack Maggie, but the baby was probably still safer than if she'd traveled to Detroit.

Houston Astros

Mascot: Orbit
Simpsons Parallel: Kang and Kodos


Aliens.

Kansas City Royals

Mascot: Sluggerrr
Simpsons Parallel: Fat Tony

There's a nice crime connection here. According to Wikipedia, Sluggerrr was once sued for allegedly firing a hot dog at a fan's eye while the mascot was shooting hot dogs into the stands. The Royals later fired the man behind Sluggerrr and replaced him. I can only wonder if Slugerrr would have kept his job if he had a loyal friend like Johnny Tightlips to back him up.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Mascot: None
Simpsons Parallel: Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers Babysitting Service

Both businesses have alliterative, but needlessly long, names.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Mascot: None
Simpsons Parallel: Gabbo

In Gabbo's theme song, the evil dummy brags that he can imitate Vin Scully.

Miami Marlins

Mascot: Billy the Marlin
Simpsons Parallel: The Sea Captain

The nautical connection is strong enough for me on this one. Bonus: After every Giancarlo Stanton bomb, fans can yell, "Yarr!"

Milwaukee Brewers
Mascots: Hank the Dog, The Sausages, Bernie Brewer
Simpsons Parallels: Santa's Little Helper, Heat-lamp hot dogs, Duffman

Bernie Brewer -- a mustachioed man who slides into a mug of beer after each home run -- is the Brewers' official mascot. But Hank stole Milwaukeeans' hearts en route to capturing last year's Dog of the Year award. Just like Santa's Little Helper, Hank was homeless before finding a family that loved him. Let's hope Hank will never be overshadowed by a Laddie-like rival.

Meanwhile, the Sausages parallel the heat-lamp hot dogs at the Kwik-E-Mart.

Lastly, let's go back to Bernie Brewer. The obvious parallel is the beer-shilling, gyrating, can't-breathing Duffman. The beer-marketing parallels, as well as the concept of a human mascot, bring the Brewers-Simpsons parallels full-circle.

Minnesota Twins

Mascot: T.C. Bear
Simpsons Parallel: Brown bear

In the episode "Much Apu About Nothing," a brown bear prowls through Springfield before being tranquilized and causing the formation of the Bear Patrol. T.C. Bear is also a mostly harmless brown bear.

New York Mets
Mascots: Mr. Met, Mrs. Met
Simpsons Parallel: The Nahasapeemapetilons

The Mets have stuck together through thick and thin. Since Mrs. Met's inception in 1975, their relationship has withstood the turmoil of the Midnight Massacre, Generation K, and the team's '07 collapse.That makes them easily comparable to the Apu and Manjula, Springfield's model married couple. 

New York Yankees

Mascot: None
Simpsons Parallel: Mr. Burns

Ol' Monty channels his inner Steinbrenner in the "Homer at the Bat" episode, forcing Don Mattingly to trim his sideburns until he looks like a Braveheart character.

Oakland Athletics

Mascot: Stomper
Simpsons Parallel: Stampy

Stampy debuted right before the damn players' strike in 1994, and Stomper followed in '97. I'm just saying.

Philadelphia Phillies

Mascot: The Phillie Phanatic
Simpsons Parallel: The Capital City Goofball


This one's easy. In contrast to the A's (probably) stealing the idea for Stomper from The Simpsons, the show's writers undoubtedly based the Goofball on the Phanatic. The long trunk, the tight jersey, and the carefree pantslessness all support the idea that the Goofball is just a bush-league version of the Phanatic.  

Pittsburgh Pirates

Mascots: The Pierogis, Pirate Parrot
Simpsons Parallels: Bart's sausage, The talking parrot

The Pirates' mascots presented a tough challenge. I'll blame it on the fact that sausages and a parrot are some of the crappiest mascots out there. Let's take a whack it, anyways.

The Pierogis call to mind this exchange, from Season 13:


Homer (to Bart): "So, you think you know better than this family, huh? Well, as long as you're in my house, you'll do what I do and believe what I believe! So butter your bacon!"
Bart: "Yes, father." (butters his bacon)
Lisa: (walking in) "Mom, Dad, my spiritual quest is over!"
Homer: "Hold that thought... (to Bart) Bacon up that sausage, boy!"

As for the talking parrot, I'll admit to never having seen the episode in which it appeared. Still, a parrot's a parrot.

Let's just move on...

San Diego Padres

Mascot: Swinging Friar
Simpsons Parallel: Luigi



The Friar is Spanish and Luigi is Italian, but they're both fat, bald, and jovial.

San Francisco Giants
Mascot:
Lou Seal
Simpsons Parallel: Lucille Bostcowski

A closer parallel could probably be drawn to those weird robot seals, but I remember that episode being horrible. Therefore, I'm going with the similarly-named Lucille, for no other reason than the fact that she's similarly-named.

Seattle Mariners

Mascot: Mariner Moose
Simpsons Parallel: Dancin' Homer

Moose made his debut dancing on field, in 1990. Dancin' Homer appears in same episode as the Goofball, busting Baby Elephant Walks all the way to Capital City. Alas, Homer could never pull off the duties of a big-time mascot like the Moose or the Goofball. At the end of that episode, Homer laments the fact that he was booed off the field.

St. Louis Cardinals

Mascot: Fredbird, Rally Squirrel
Simpsons Parallels: Raymond Bird, Northern reticulated chipmunk

Raymond Bird and Fredbird sound like they could be brothers even though one is a cardinal and the other is a pigeon. As for the Rally Squirrel, Lisa points to one of his cousins in the Hank Scorpio episode:

"You're a northern reticulated chipmunk. Yes, you are. You are so reticulated." (Via simpsonsgifs.tumblr.com)
Tampa Bay Rays
Mascots: DJ Kitty, Raymond
Simpsons Parallels: Disco Stu, Poochie

I could have compared DJ Kitty to Snowball II, but the cat's love of music makes Disco Stu a better choice. Raymond, who dons a backwards cap, correlates nicely with Poochie.


I hope that every time Raymond leaves the field, everyone asks, "Where's Raymond???"

Texas Rangers

Mascot: Rangers Captain
Simpsons Parallel: Lisa's pony Princess

In order to make up for one of his many screw-ups, Homer buys Lisa a pony. In order to make up for their screw-up last season, Texas needs more help than Captain can provide. (Although I don't think Dr. Hibbert or even Dr. Nick could have helped the Rangers overcome last season's injury woes.)

Toronto Blue Jays

Mascots: Ace, Junior
Simpsons Parallel: The Van Houten Family

There's a bit of dysfunction in the Blue Jays' bird mascot family. Ace and his wife Diamond were introduced as the team's mascots in 2002, but Diamond was removed in '04, possibly following a messy divorce from Ace. In '11, Ace's brother Junior joined him in the stands, probably to provide moral support.

Considering the topsy-turvy nature of Ace's family life, a strong parallel can be made to Kirk Van Houten and his family.


Kirk: "I sleep in a racing car. Do you?"
Homer: "I sleep in a big bed, with my wife."
Kirk: "Oh."

Washington Nationals

Mascot: Teddy Roosevelt, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, William Howard Taft, Thomas Jefferson
Simpsons Parallel: Sideshow Bob

Just like Roosevelt hardly ever wins a race, Sideshow Bob never realizes his goal of killing Bart. While Sideshow Bob has those damn rakes, Teddy deals with a variety of obstacles in his Sisyphean quest for victory.


Honorable Mention:
Montreal Expos
Mascot: Youppi!
Simpsons Parallel: Hockey Lisa

Since the idea for this post started with that Twitter conversation with Jonah Keri, I'd be remiss to omit his now-defunct team's mascot. I chose Hockey Lisa as this Simpsons connection because Youppi! is now the Canadiens' mascot. Youppi!'s main duty now is to make sure that Montreal fans chant "Kill, Habs" and not "Kill Habs."

So there it is, 30 connections between TV's greatest show and the greatest game in the world. Would you have somehow connected Mayor Quimby, Chief Wiggum, or Reverend Lovejoy to one of MLB's mascots? Please let me know. Until then, outta my way, jerkass!



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