January 16, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 59  

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SPORTS

Western mascot praises San Diego Chicken

By David Lee

Gazette Staff

Niru Somayajula/Gazette
ONE 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 career high.”

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 yet.”

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 baseball elite.

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.”

 

 

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