The Class-A Staten Island Yankees have one of the cleverest and most well-regarded promotions this season, as they occasionally rebrand themselves as the Staten Island Pizza Rats. It celebrates the 2015 viral video of a subway rat who likes pizza, and acknowledges a 2016 fan vote to change the team’s name. The name change isn’t permanent, but the Yankees will wear Pizza Rats gear for five games this season, and some of the logos are pretty great:
The fourth of five Pizza Rat games is scheduled for July 21. That was also supposed to be Italian Heritage Night at the ballpark, until the Italian-American fraternal organization involved with the promotion pulled out, citing the apparent incompatibility of Pizza Rats with baseball fans of Italian descent.
The Staten Island Advance has obtained a letter from a member of Order Sons of Italy in America, Fr. Vincent R. Capodanno Lodge #212, explaining to other members why the group is upset. Here’s the relevant part:
“S.I (Yankees) Management has decided to promote the Staten Island Yankees Team by temporarily renaming it “The Staten Island Pizza Rats”. Yes! I would not kid you about such a thing. If you are slapping your forehead and asking, “What are they thinking? You are not alone. In their infinite wisdom, they have decided to add “Rats” to “Pizza” ( Yes! Pizza.. One of the few positive things people automatically associate with Italians and Italy). To say the least, that’s a pizza topping that gives me a bad case of (agita). To add salt to the wound, July 21 falls on one of the five home game nights in which the Staten Island Yankees are renamed and called “The Staten Island Pizza Rats”. In addition, S.I. (Yankees) Management also intends to distribute a lot of “Pizza Rats” logos and memorabilia that same night. Yes! The night we would have been there to celebrate Italian heritage and culture. Furthermore, just think about what that does to the already unjustified tarnished image of Staten Island. As a proud, long standing resident of Staten Island, I am appalled.”
The letter also takes issue with that night also being Star Wars Night, but this is the reality of minor-league ball: just about every game is crammed with multiple promotions, and everyone has to learn how to share. (For example, this past Saturday was Pizza Rat night plus Space and Science Night plus a drawstring bag giveaway plus a Special Olympics/law enforcement torch run plus post-game fireworks plus a sleepover for Scouts.)
Minor-league teams load up on these promotions to sell as many tickets as possible, and any single organization simply isn’t big enough for that. Staten Island Yankees president Will Smith told the Advance that the Order Sons Of Italy in America had purchased a block of only about 50 tickets for Italian Heritage Night.
“I’m upset that they are upset,” said Smith. “It was never done to be offensive to anyone or group. I understand, but I don’t agree.
“With respect to the (Italian Heritage Night) promotion, I would love it if it was big enough to hold on its own but it’s not.”
Smith said he’d be happy to reschedule Italian Heritage Night for a non–Pizza Rat game, so hopefully this ends as happily and satisfying for Staten Islanders as things did for Pizza Rat.