When I’m not writing for this website, I’m writing about nightlife for the Arizona Daily Star. This week, the Star bosses gave me the chance to write a story about baseball. Kinda, sorta.
The Sidewinders were formerly known as the Tucson Toros, who played at Hi Corbett Field from 1969 to 1997 and won two Pacific Coast League Championships (Hi Corbett Field is where they filmed the spring training portion of the movie “Major League”).
In honor of the Tucson baseball’s end days, I talked to a bunch of guys who were there for every game – the mascots. And let me tell you, Tucson mascots have stories to tell. One of these guys got in a fight with a fan at home plate and later became Orbit, the Houston Astros’ mascot. Another went on to become Slyly, the wannabe-Phanatic mascot of the Hiroshima Carp.
You can read the story here.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention this one interesting aside that didn’t make it into my article. Hal Katzman, who was the first Tuffy the Toro, says his story is the basis for the classic Simpsons episode, “Dancin’ Homer.” Here’s how Simpsons Wiki describes that episode:
One night at Moe’s Tavern, Homer tells the story of how he got (and then lost) his big break…it is Nuclear Plant Employee, Spouses and No More than Three Children Night at the Springfield Isotopes baseball game at Springfield Stadium. At the game, Mr. Burns sits with Homer, taunting the Isotopes, which are expected to lose their 27th consecutive game, reportedly the longest losing streak in professional baseball. But when Homer fires up the crowd to the tune of “Baby Elephant Walk“, the Isotopes win a game.
Because of this, Homer is made the Springfield Isotopes mascot, “Dancin’ Homer”. Thanks to his spirit, the Isotopes win more games until Homer is promoted by Antoine “Tex” O’Hara to the team in Capital City.
The Simpsons pack up their things, say goodbye to their friends and move to the big city. Homer is nervous about performing for a larger crowd and sharing the stage with the legendary Capital City Goofball. His first performance is a disaster. He is booed off the stage and promptly fired. Homer sadly finishes his story, only to find that the barflies are still pretty impressed.
Katzman went on to become the mascot for the Houston Astros, and Capital City’s owner is nicknamed Tex. Moreover, Simpsons creator Matt Groening is from Houston. So it’s not crazy to think that Katzman really was the basis for this episode.
I don’t know about you, but if there’s anything cooler than being the basis of a Simpsons episode, especially an episode that aired during the first 10 seasons, before the show jumped the shark, then I don’t know what it is.