Professional sports teams walk a very thin line when it comes to mascots. The good ones are a breath of fresh air (San Diego Chicken, Phoenix Suns Gorilla), while the bad ones can be a two-hour migraine. At right we present possibly the creepiest mascot photo we've run across in a long while. We don't know why. We just know that by posting it here, perhaps we will be able to transfer the night terrors on to you. The story of Wally the Green Monster is one of our least-told mascot legends, for some reason. Here is how the Red Sox explain his existence:
According to legend, Wally, an avid Red Sox fan since Fenway Park's opening in 1912, had secretly lived inside the left-field wall since 1947. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Fenway's famed "Green Monster," Wally decided to make his official appearance in 1997 to Red Sox fans.
So Wally "came out" after a dramatic announcement. If the Red Sox are trying to imply that he's gay, why not come right out and say that? There's certainly nothing wrong with it. But no; after only a couple of appearances at Fenway, Wally was banished to off-site functions, such as supermarket openings. Too bad. Well, we do have one hunch on Wally's secret identity. There is only one person we know of who could be inside of that costume, considering the shape of the head. After the jump, learn the horrifying truth about Wally.
Wally The Green Monster [Boston Red Sox Official Site]
(UPDATE: Not that the new mascots are so hot either.)
(SECOND UPDATE: Reader Dave Ryan tells the hysterical story of Wally's unveiling, also after the jump.)
From Dave Ryan:
Anyhow... I had to write in to comment on your Wally the Green Monster story. There's oh so much more to that tale than you realize.... I'm a Red Sox season ticket holder. Among the countless number of ridiculously expensive games I've attended was the 1997 debut of Wally. It is one of my most memorable Fenway experiences, right up there with the time the crowd got so up into Randy Choate's head that he was throwing pitches onto the screen by his second batter. But I digress
Anyhow, let me set the stage. It's 1997, of course. It's the first-ever "Kids' Opening Day" — I'm not sure if other clubs had done similar promotions at that point, but I know the Sox hadn't, and I had never heard of it before, so they may have actually invented it. I'm not quite sure whether it was late April or early May, nor do I remember who the opponent was. It doesn't really matter. All that matters was this: Dan Duquette was still in charge. Remember, this was 1997 — Morgan Magic was long gone, it had been two whole years since the 1995 team had won the first ever wildcard berth, only to be Knoblauched out of the ALDS by the Yankees, and our starting pitching was anchored by Steve Avery. The team was abysmal by Sox standards, and everyone knew it. And who was the focus of the fans' ire? Mr. Personality, Dan Duquette.
So at Kids' Opening Day, we're treated to pre-game ceremonies. Rumors had been flying that a mascot was in the works. (Actually, the news had broken already in the papers, so we knew what was coming. But let's pretend everyone didn't.) After some perfunctory player intros, Duke steps up to a microphone along the first base line. Alone. In that wooden, monotonal Western MA drawl of his, he reads — basically verbatim — the blurb that you posted from the Sox "official history" of Wally. It took him about 5 minutes to get through it. The adult members of the crowd were in hysterics by this point. There was open hooting, and relatively creative catcalls. Finally, with a monotonal flourish, Dan "encourages" Wally to come out of the Green Monster to make his debut.
From out of the door in the scoreboard — the one that Manny occasionally wanders into in the middle of innings — a green head pokes out momentarily. The head looks out again. Finally, Wally the Green Monster takes the field.....
... to a solid wall of boos. And I'm talking Philadephia-level booing. Actually, the boos were somewhat lessened by the open, mocking laughter. Even the kids were booing. Was it Wally they were booing? Of course not. How can you not like shag carpeting? It was the whole Dan Duquette-trying-to-pull-this-off experience. Imagine the comedy of Steven Seagal hosting a childrens' show — that's the kind of unintentional humor we're dealing with. It was one of the few moments of truly transcendent comedy that can be had at the ballpark.
Wally lasted a couple of weeks, but was so abused by the crowds that they pulled him out of Fenway for games, as you note. I think they legitimately feared for the safety of the poor guy in the suit. He was exiled to the grocery store openings and car dealership promotions of the world, where the majority of his audience would be kids, and not drunken, angry Sox fans dealing with their overpaid, sub-.500 team.
Duke redeemed himself in August, swindling the Mariners out of Varitek and Lowe for poor Heathcliff Slocumb (a wonderful human being, but an absolutely terrible closer). Then, of course, he landed Pedro. As with Kruschchev, though, it took a bit longer for Wally to be rehabilitated.
When the New Regime purchased the team from Jean Yawkey's estate, a strange thing happened. In the middle of that summer, we started seeing Wally again. First, he would appear under the stands before games, quietly signing autographs for the kids. Then, he started showing up on the field, and eventually made his way into the stands. At long last, Wally was getting to be a mascot. What really put Wally back in the game, though, was the stuffed Wally toy that Jerry Remy adopted as his travel buddy. That Wally has his own little chair, and sits between Remy and Don Orsillo in the NESN booth during telecasts. Remy has created an entire secret life for Wally, which he comments on during the slower moments of blowouts and such. It's highly entertaning stuff. (At one point, he even did a small photo montage of Wally "working out" at the hotel gym, which was priceless.)
So far from being exiled today, Wally's become somewhat of a cult figure around Fenway. Now the adults are high-fiving him, not openly mocking him. But nothing will ever dilute the memory of the day Wally came out of the clos..er, the wall and was booed to within an inch of his life. High comedy.