This past June, the Tacoma Rainiers brought reindeer mascot Rhubarb and local icon “Epic Sax Gorilla” up onto the roof of Cheney Stadium, where the Triple-A club plays, for a routine crowd-pleasing stunt. Also up on the roof was Tacoma News Tribune columnist Matt Driscoll, who recently explained how roof dancing earned both his employer and the ball club thousands of dollars in fines from Washington’s Department of Labor and Industries.
The gag is pretty simple, by the standards of minor league baseball. A person in a gorilla suit stands on the roof and plays a saxophone. Sometimes there are other people dancing around the gorilla. For these reasons, it is epic. Here’s an instance from last July:
Weeks after the incident in question, authorities showed up and expressed concern that the entertainers had not used a safety measure, like a harness or tether. L&I didn’t have much trouble proving that the roof stunt actually occurred, since the newspaper published the evidence. State investigators interviewed the columnist and other implicated parties/great apes. Then the News Tribune, which sent both Driscoll and its photographer Joshua Bessex to document the festivities, was hit with $2,100 in fines. The numbers were much scarier for the Mariners’ affiliate:
The agency came down much harder on the Rainiers, citing a total of three violations, with the most costly being the $56,000 it levied against the team for failing to “ensure that safety devices and means reasonable to prevent fall hazards were used in that at least three employees were exposed to falls measuring up to approximately 75 feet while performing on the roof of Cheney Stadium.”
For the foreseeable future, Epic Sax Gorilla will keep its feet on the ground, per the team. To Driscoll, the most interesting question was: Who snitched? Who would have gone out of their way to punish a minor league baseball for their in-game entertainment? Thanks to public records, he found a partial answer:
But buried somewhere in the pile of public documents I eventually obtained, a single email — from a single individual — helped provide a fuller answer.
“The Tacoma Rainiers baseball team in Tacoma WA performs the stunt below,” it reads in part. “Perhaps it is OK. It seems horribly unsafe. … They have done this skit for years.”
According to team Rainiers President Aaron Artman, the team believes the complaint originated from “a disgruntled season ticket holder that dislikes our creative director.” The team has appealed the citation.
That’s definitely one way to advance a grudge.
H/t to OldBeigeGuy