Western mascot praises
San Diego Chicken
By David Lee
20-YEAR-OLD PICKS UP ANOTHER. JW, Western’s lovable
mascot, is pictured here hoisting Gazette news editor Marshall
Bellamy at Homecoming. Bellamy lists the moment as “a
Years ago, when robot battle competitions swore never to induct
a human competitor into their Hall of Fame, it’s likely that
human equivalents swore they’d never elect robots, and maybe
even animals, to their respective Halls of Fame. Those days seem
to be numbered.
It seems that baseball’s best-known mascot, the San Diego
Chicken, has been nominated for induction into the Canadian Baseball
Hall of Fame. The story would be unremarkable but for two things:
1) a mascot could potentially be elected to a group that includes
Fergie Jenkins and 2) the Chicken’s nomination has been endorsed
by none other than Western’s own mascot, JW.
London native Ted Giannoulas, the man behind — and, when
necessary, inside — the original San Diego Chicken, created
the mascot and worked within him for 30 years. In the process,
the Giannoulas/Chicken hybrid became the highest paid mascot ever.
The story took a turn for the purple when JW was quoted in a Western
press release backing the Chicken’s efforts. “After
30 years, the Chicken is still out there performing 100 games a
year,” JW said. “What can I say — he is a real
workhorse.” Or, as this case may have it, work-chicken.
For the last 20 years, JW has been the official mascot of the
Western Mustangs. The huggable pseudo-centaur was named after Col.
J.W. Little, a former mayor of London and a member of Western’s
original Board of Governors.
The purple and white horse admits trying to model himself after
the Chicken from an early age. “As a young Mustang growing
up on the range, I used to gallop around the countryside pretending
I was the Chicken,” JW claims.
Some may wonder how a usually silent mascot was suddenly able
to speak. However, an even more important question begs to be asked:
what right does a purple and white horse have to judge another
mascot, especially one much more established? JW himself responded
to our queries by e-mail: “I would hope that he would see
it as praise more than judgment,” JW stated. “But to
be honest, I have never met him and haven’t heard from him
The 2004 inductees to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame will
not be announced until Feb. 27. Until then, it’s likely that
both Giannoulas and his supporters — human and otherwise — will
be left to wonder if a mascot merits inclusion among Canada’s
Surprisingly, there seems to be little animosity between the competing
animal mascots. Where college mascots in the United States often
tussle between quarters, there seems to be nothing but love between
the two London-born mascots. “The San Diego Chicken is a
legend. I knew that I was speaking for all the mascots when I decided
to go public with my endorsement,” JW added.
Scott Crawford, director of operations for the Canadian Baseball
Hall of Fame, stands behind Giannoulas’ nomination. “I
think it’s definitely a unique nomination,” Crawford
says, who points out that no mascot has ever been nominated before. “He
was basically the first mascot that started appearing at parks...
though it’ll be a tough decision whether he gets elected.” There
are currently 50 nominees eligible for induction in 2004.
Nevertheless, the Chicken still holds a special place in many
fans’ hearts. “Baseball mascots have become a staple
of major league ballparks,” says fourth-year Western history
student Mark VanderGriendt. “[Giannoulas] is a pioneer in
this area and his ideas have made the overall ballpark experience
better for many baseball fans.”