Traditions die hard with the New York Yankees. They haven’t changed their uniforms in decades. The team used the same PA announcer, Bob Sheppard, for almost sixty years. They’re the only team to never put names on the back of their uniforms. This is a franchise that doesn’t like to change things.
But for a brief period starting in 1979, the Yankees employed a mascot at Yankee Stadium. Until his uncanny resemblance to a team hero led to his exile.
Mascots were the rage in the 1970s. The Pirates had someone in a large parrot costume roaming the ballpark. The Phillies had a green, fuzzy creature called The Phanatic. San Diego was home to the most famous mascot, The Chicken, who was so popular he was invited to other cities when the Padres were on the road.
Everyone wanted in on the mascot craze, even George Steinbrenner, the maverick owner of the Yankees. By the late 1970s, Steinbrenner was revolutionizing baseball economics by bidding on and buying ballplayers like they were paintings. In 1979, Steinbrenner commissioned a company to design a mascot for Yankee Stadium.
What did they come up with? They called it “Dandy”, an anthropomorphic bird wearing a Yankees uniform and sporting a bushy mustache. In July, the mascot made his debut in New York, but the Yankees only stuck their toes in the water, they weren’t sure if the mascot would peeve their fans. At first, “Dandy” performed only in the upper deck. The Yankees even provided a security guard for the mascot, in case unruly fans got the idea to pick a fight.
On August 2, 1979, on an off-day, Yankees’ catcher Thurman Munson was killed while piloting his plane. It was a tragedy for the Yankees and all of baseball. It also helped hasten the demise of “Dandy” the mascot.
With his bushy mustache and pear shape, the Yankee mascot bore a striking resemblance to Munson. After the death of the star player, the Yankees decided to shelve “Dandy” for a while. He returned in 1980 for a few dates at the stadium, but he was never prominent at the games. In 1981 he was let loose, and the era of the Yankees’ mascot was over.