Yesterday, I would have answered this question with a quick and confident “no.” But I would have been wrong.
In the early 80s, the Yankees hired the creators of the popular Phillie Phanatic. They were rewarded with “Dandy,” a fuzzy debacle that is apparently supposed to resemble some sort of bird -- though looking at the little photographic evidence available, I can’t confirm that with any certainty. Dandy was an elongated white blob adorned with pinstripes, a Yankees cap, a flesh-colored ball for a nose, and a swath of bright material that is either meant to represent a big red mustache or, perhaps, wattle.
Fans reacted to this misbegotten Frankenstein the way you’d expect: with a potent mixture of fear and hostility. In the end the Yankees never let Dandy onto the field, into the dugout, or even out of the Stadium; instead he was limited to roaming the upper deck, where he was routinely heckled, harassed, and threatened.
How on earth did I not know about this? All the games I’ve watched, books I’ve read, fans I’ve talked to, and I never heard a word about it? I suppose it makes sense, really – I was too young to pay attention at the time, and nobody writes books or articles on the New York Yankees of 1982-1985. Those games never end up on YES as “Yankee Classics”. Besides, a little research reveals that most fans who lived through the Dandy era seem to have tried their best to forget. My father’s reaction was typical:
“Mascot? The Yankees never had a… ohhhhh, yeah, that's right! God, people hated that thing.”
I felt a little better about my ignorance when I discovered that, back in 1998, not even Lonn Trost or George Steinbrenner remembered Dandy. The New York Times had the scoop:
Lonn Trost, the Yankees' general counsel, said there are official Yankee hamburgers, hot dogs and popcorn. But a mascot? No, he didn't think the team ever had one.
From 1982 to 1985, though, the Yankees had Dandy, a pinstriped character designed by Ms. Erickson.
Dandy was a failure. Mr. Harrison said that was because he wasn't allowed out of the nosebleed area in the stands. Nor did he do any outside appearances. According to Mr. Harrison, George Steinbrenner, the Yankees' principal owner, was less than enthusiastic about the mascot after Lou Pinella, the Yankee outfielder, got so angry at the San Diego Chicken's clowning that he threw his glove at the bird (not a Harrison/ Erickson creation). Mr. Steinbrenner, through his spokesman Howard Rubenstein, said he had no recollection of the pinstriped mascot.
One of my neighbors, a fan since the 1960s, told me that in his recollection, Dandy lasted only a few weeks before he was beaten up by a group of angry or, perhaps, simply terrified nosebleed seat natives, after which the traumatized man in the suit resigned and was never replaced. I feel a little bad for finding this story hilarious, but in any case he seems to have exaggerated it a bit over the decades -- by the Times’ account, Dandy hung in there for years, and I haven’t been able to track down any hard evidence that he was ever actually physically assaulted. Even if it isn't strictly true, I like this outsized distillation of events, which seems to capture the popular imagination’s image of the lawless Yankee Stadium of the 80s.
In this summer of endless nostalgia, everyone goes on and on about how the Yankees will be tearing down the field where Ruth and Gehrig played, the site of 26 World Championships, blah blah blah... but do they ever mention that after this year, the home of Dandy will be gone, too? They do not. I say that poor bird(???) deserves better.
Anybody have any memories of Dandy that you'd like to share?