Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Thursday, June 01, 2023

The Athletic: After 50 years, is this the San Diego Chicken’s last stand? [$]

There have been high-profile highlights since Y2K — a tee-ball game on the White House lawn early in 2001, West’s record-breaking game — but the Chicken has largely faded from the public consciousness.

For Giannoulas, it’s been a slower time by design. In recent years, he’s found himself anonymously walking the concourse out of costume and noticing all the things he’s missed. “You reflect wistfully,” he says. What would it be like to watch a ballgame instead of performing at one? “I was working these things. I was enjoying it,” he says, but there are also joys to be found outside of work. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that he and Jane got to sit on the grass and watch the fireworks on the Fourth of July. “I remember saying, ‘Have you ever done this before?’” she says, “and he said, ‘I never have. Not like this.’”

His thoughts have turned toward his legacy. At times, that has been a subject of tension. His independence was so hard-won, and his livelihood so hard-earned, that Giannoulas felt the need to fiercely protect the character he’d pioneered. Raymond has prodded Giannoulas to share the wealth, to pass along some bits and not be so offended when other mascots use them. Giannoulas feels like he’s the one that put in the sweat equity. “I took the risk to see how they might play with an audience,” he says. Many of his routines are copyrighted, and he hasn’t been shy about enforcing his ownership.

But in another way, Giannoulas has evolved. As a younger man, he’d always insisted the Chicken would die with him. Now he’s become receptive to the idea of passing on the mantle. “Somebody pointed out to me: Do Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy still exist even though Jim Henson is gone?” he says. “That makes sense. I see the point.” He can envision great things for the Chicken — animation, films, merchandise — under the right stewardship. “In broader hands,” he says, “it can grow exponentially.”

That raises the same question the courts seemed to settle back in 1980: Is it really the Chicken without Giannoulas in the suit? His admirers aren’t so sure. Longtime broadcaster Bob Costas wonders if a newer Chicken could work. The bits are old standards at this point — tired in the hands of anyone else, but vibrant when done by their originator. “When people know it’s the original Chicken,” he says, “that might make a difference to them.” West agrees. “You’re never going to be as good as he was,” the umpire says.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 01, 2023 at 04:25 PM | 14 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: mascots

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: June 01, 2023 at 11:55 PM (#6131197)
I always did like the Chicken.

What a strange life story.
   2. cardsfanboy Posted: June 02, 2023 at 12:04 AM (#6131199)
Definitely a time to remind everyone to read the article.
   3. Moeball Posted: June 02, 2023 at 02:11 AM (#6131212)
They needed someone to work the San Diego Zoo at Easter, 1974, for radio station KGB. Never figured this would be the journey Ted would find himself on. But at his peak he was so irreverent and so damn funny!
   4. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: June 02, 2023 at 07:48 AM (#6131218)
Re 2: Sorry, paywall.
   5. pthomas Posted: June 02, 2023 at 08:51 AM (#6131225)
For me, he will always be the "KGB Chicken", the radio station he worked for back in the 70's when I lived in San Diego. Back when their hockey team (the WHA Mariners) had very small crowds, we would move to the seats behind the goals and watch the Chicken at work. He would collapse in seats next to us and shoot the breeze, and you could tell by how hot and sweaty he was how much physical work he was putting in with his stunts and act.
   6. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: June 02, 2023 at 12:57 PM (#6131253)
As a GenX'er who fell in love with baseball in the early 80s, the San Diego Chicken was a sneaky-important part of my life. Getting his Donruss card in the 1982 and 1983 wax packs was an exciting moment for me as a little kid: I prioritized any card that was a Red Sox player; one of a handful of superstars (Reggie, Rose, Dale Murphy, Rickey, etc.); or the San Diego Chicken.

Then, you add in The Baseball Bunch, which was on from about 1980 to 1985. Besides trying to simulate Ozzie Smith's highlight reel on our nearby baseball field (to the soundtrack of America's "You Can Do Magic" in my head), laughing at the antics of The Chicken were some of the best memories of baseball as a little kid that I have 40 years later.

I'm not sure he would work today, though, if he was just starting out; at least, it would probably have to be a meme-based social media thing. The closest thing from today is probably Gritty, the Philadelphia Flyers' mascot, who is very funny, pretty edgy and contemporary in his humor, and has used Twitter to great effect. I'm not sure anybody else has a mascot today that transcends the local media market and has a national profile.
   7. Itchy Row Posted: June 02, 2023 at 01:54 PM (#6131264)
I remember him from The Baseball Bunch too, and the Chicken was already a legend by then. Learning that the Chicken is "fast friends" with Joe West is the worst thing I've ever heard about him (or it, I guess.)
   8. Karl from NY Posted: June 02, 2023 at 02:12 PM (#6131268)
Yeah, read the article, it's fun. There's the paywall but Firefox's Reader View showed the plain text.

One thing it doesn't say is who makes the suits? Does he do it himself, or commission a professional? How often does he remake a new one - I have enough experience being in such a costume to know that they need maintenance and wear out and don't last forever.
   9. NaOH Posted: June 02, 2023 at 03:21 PM (#6131278)
There's the paywall but Firefox's Reader View showed the plain text.

The more porous paywall is a big perk of the NY Times buying The Athletic. But if anyone needs a link to workaround the paywall, this will do it:
   10. Walt Davis Posted: June 02, 2023 at 03:39 PM (#6131280)
I'm surprised he hasn't sold the rights or "franchised" it by training a new chicken, at least somebody to do 75% of the work. But of course there will only ever be one chicken.
   11. The Yankee Clapper Posted: June 02, 2023 at 03:47 PM (#6131283)
There's the paywall but Firefox's Reader View showed the plain text.
That worked on the iPad (Safari), too. That’s like the Maginot Line of paywalls. How do they make a buck? RTFA!
   12. cardsfanboy Posted: June 02, 2023 at 03:51 PM (#6131285)
That worked on the iPad (Safari), too. That’s like the Maginot Line of paywalls. How do they make a buck? RTFA!

I think I got a year subscription for $3 or something like that when it was on sale.

I'm surprised he hasn't sold the rights or "franchised" it by training a new chicken, at least somebody to do 75% of the work. But of course there will only ever be one chicken.

The article goes into that, originally he said he didn't want to sell it, that the Chicken would die with him, he's soften his viewpoint as he's gotten older and even says that in more capable hands it might end up being a very profitable product.
   13. McCoy Posted: June 02, 2023 at 06:20 PM (#6131311)
I was just thinking about the Chicken and wondering what he was up to. I think my introduction came via TWIB but maybe it was The Baseball Bunch. Don't know, it had Johnny Bench as the narrator
   14. Dag Nabbit: Sockless Psychopath Posted: June 02, 2023 at 08:23 PM (#6131323)
#13 - That's The Baseball Bunch. Bench hosted. Mel Allen was the voice of TWiB.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.



<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Dynasty League Baseball

Support BBTF


Thanks to
for his generous support.

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogMLB commissioner Rob Manfred calls eliminating local blackouts ‘business objective number one’
(13 - 10:03am, Sep 30)
Last: Greg Pope

NewsblogHall of Fame 3B, Orioles legend Brooks Robinson dies at 86
(41 - 9:59am, Sep 30)
Last: ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick

NewsblogEx-Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield and wife have cancer, Curt Schilling reveals ‘without permission’
(63 - 9:54am, Sep 30)
Last: It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out

NewsblogOT Soccer - World Cup Final/European Leagues Start
(123 - 9:48am, Sep 30)
Last: AuntBea odeurs de parfum de distance sociale

NewsblogCurve honor 'worst baseball player of all time'
(19 - 8:41am, Sep 30)
Last: Mefisto

Hall of MeritReranking Shortstops: Results
(7 - 8:15am, Sep 30)
Last: kcgard2

NewsblogOmnichatter for September 2023
(622 - 1:55am, Sep 30)
Last: Snowboy

NewsblogOT - August/September 2023 College Football thread
(108 - 12:12am, Sep 30)
Last: Lance Reddick! Lance him!

NewsblogMajor League Baseball draws highest attendance since 2017
(3 - 12:09am, Sep 30)
Last: ReggieThomasLives

NewsblogGabe Kapler fired: Giants dismiss manager after four years; San Francisco made playoffs just once
(6 - 9:39pm, Sep 29)
Last: Howie Menckel

NewsblogThree Reasons Why MLB Teams Are Quickening Player Progression Timelines
(7 - 9:15pm, Sep 29)
Last: DL from MN

NewsblogThe Athletic: How did Angels squander Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani? It starts with the owner’s frugality
(4 - 5:44pm, Sep 29)
Last: Jesse Barfield's Right Arm

NewsblogBetts sets 'remarkable' record with 105 RBIs as a leadoff hitter
(65 - 4:28pm, Sep 29)
Last: A triple short of the cycle

NewsblogMarlins-Mets ends night with rainout, frustration and a massive question mark in NL wild-card race
(3 - 2:42pm, Sep 29)
Last: The Yankee Clapper

NewsblogKid gets ultimate souvenir after angry Bryce tosses helmet into stands
(4 - 2:21pm, Sep 29)
Last: NaOH

Page rendered in 0.3309 seconds
48 querie(s) executed