The Philadelphia Phanatic mascot is a staple in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. On April 25, 1978, the Phanatic made his debut in front of Phillies fans for the first time. But this appearance at the time to some people seemed to be a short-term experimental skit. So with love, support, and desire for more from the Phillies fan base the Phanatic mascot was born.
A Fathers love and guidance
Hall of Fame football coach Harold R. “Tubby” Raymond is a legend in his own. H. Raymond retired from the University of Deleware with a coaching record of 300-119-3 while winning three National Titles, 14 Lambert Cup trophies, 23 postseason bids, and four consecutive victories in the Boardwalk Bowl in 36 seasons. He was not only a legendary coach but also a father.
H. Raymond’s son, David Raymond grew up wanting to be like his father. From being a football player to also be a coach. D. Raymond entered college for business management as a big step in the right direction to achieve his dreams. During D. Raymond’s college years, his father H. Raymond was able to get his son an internship with the Phillies through business relations. For Phillies fans and mascots across the landscape, this is when a different kind of history would be made in an unimaginable way.
The call that changed it all
In 1978, after two years of being an intern for the Phillies David Raymond got an unexpected phone call. During that call, the Phillies offered Raymond a chance to be on the payroll as a mascot for the Phillies. Without a clear picture of what was all involved, Raymond accepted and was sent to New York to be fitted for a mascot suit.
As Raymond recalled the early years of the Phanatic he said “nobody disliked the Phanatic. They immediately fell in love with him.” Game after game as the Phanatic’s popularity grew and so did his character. In the first night as the Phillies mascot, on the field with the grounds grew the Phanatic “accidentally tripped one of the groundskeepers, not on purpose but people laughed”. Step by step the Phanatic’s character developed.
The Phanatic deep in character
Inspirations for the Phanatic’s character came straight from Raymond. Bill Giles oversaw the mascot operations for the Phillies and gave Raymond the flexibility to create the character. Giles just wanted Raymond to “have fun” while in the suit. Because Raymond grew up as a Philadelphia sports fan he understood the Philadelphia fan’s passion. Raymond “mixed Slapstick, Daffy Duck, and The Three Stooges with that passion and out came the Phanatic.” It takes a Philadelphia fan to know a Philadelphia fan.
The Phanatic’s antics also reached players that created fun interactions. Pittsburgh Pirates catcher Manny Sanguillen was the first athlete to interact with the Phanatic. As this caught on with other athletes the Phanatic routines involved athlete interactions. So Raymond began to have favorite players to interact with including Sanguillen along with Joe Sambito, Dave Parker, Doug Flynn, Steve Sax, and Tommy Lasorda.
The fun grew past the baseball field having the Phanatic at charity events, schools, est… Even with the demand growing for the Phanatic, the Phillies have always kept the Phanatic scheduled one place at a time. And never seen two places at the same time.
Hanging up the Phanatic suit
Raymond’s tenure as the Phanatic was from 1987 till 1993. Raymond got to experience a World Series Championship in 1980 with the Phillies. As a piece to the puzzle, Raymond was awarded a championship ring also. The humble and encouraging man that Raymond is gives lots of credit to his boss Bill Giles, calling him a “genius……. he was just amazing.”
After the Phillies lost to the Blue Jays in the 1993 World Series Raymond put the Phanatic in good hands. Promoting Tom Burgoyne from the marketing department and backup Phanatic role to being the new Philadelphia Phillies Phanatic. Raymond knew the role was “in good hands” with Burgoyne. He also complimented Burgoyne’s work saying “he does an amazing job!”.
Raymond leaves behind a legacy in the sports and mascot world. After the great amount of success, a majority of professional teams seek or maintain a mascot. And it now doesn’t stop at just sports. Business’ of all kinds see the value of being represented by a furry mascot and use that interaction with customers. Like Harold Raymond did for himself, David Raymond accomplished getting the Phanatic into the Hall of Fame in 2005.
The growth of mascots across the country still has a blueprint from David Raymond. As a “give back” and his love for mascots Raymond has been teaching individuals for 21 years and counting with private training. His students’ include team sponsored individuals and inspired individuals who seek a future in a furry suit.
Raymond’s classes are held in the Mascot Hall of Fame building in Whiting, Indiana. The power of fun is a motto for Raymond. And being in the classroom with him is no different while gaining the skills from one of the best that has ever done it. For a student being the last one in the room might not be on your list of goals. That just might earn you a solo performance in front of the class singing and performing “I’m a little teapot”.
Being a mascot is not a simple task. The work is “physical” and gets “incredibly hot” inside the suit. During Raymond’s tenure as the Phanatic, he was a “gym rat”. It made getting into the suit day after day “not difficult” for Raymond. This allowed him to maximize his athleticism during performances and having even more fun. Raymond’s experience and knowledge are all passed along to all his students creating an opportunity of a lifetime.
Hall of Fame
David Raymond has also invested into the mascot world by founding the Mascot Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame started out virtually in 2005. As time went along the city of Whiting, Indiana gave Raymond a call asking about a partnership with the Hall of Fame to get a physical building drawn up and built in the city. Because an agreement was reached, the building process began. The Hall of Fame is now finished and had its soft opening on December 26th, 2018. From the soft opening till the Grand Opening on April 5th-7th, 2019, the Hall of Fame has had over 10,000 people thus far.
So from small kids to even adult kids, the experience has something for everybody. The Mascot Hall of Fame is interactive and educational. Every year mascots get the chance to be elected into the Hall through a voting process.
The Philadelphia Flyers introduced their new mascot on September 24, 2018, named Gritty. But the beginning stages of Grittys introduction to the public caught headlines everywhere. And these headlines were not always positive. Gritty has unique features of googly eyes, long hair, a hockey beard, and always having a hockey helmet on. The wide range of reactions with time turned into a great deal of support. Gritty’s physical appearances caught the eye of fans when his social media account caught the heart of the Flyers fan base.
Gritty didn’t waste any time and famously tweeted to the in-state rival Pittsburgh Penguins “sleep with one eye open tonight, bird”. This tweet was in response to the Penguins tweeting “lol, ok” to Grittys introduction on September 24, 2018. Gritty now has 246,000 Twitter followers and counting.
Gritty fan success
But by no surprise, Raymond was highly involved in the process of Gritty, from the planning to finding the right candidate for the job. Raymond “truly believes that success came from collaboration. Which is really the best form of creativity. When you take the best from everybody in the room and make it bigger than individuals.” Raymond worked with the Flyers Vice President of Marketing Joe Heller and Brian Allen from Flyland Designs. They wanted to create a mascot that “make people laugh and to scare people”.
The Flyers “had a wonderful fearlessness in this” to create Gritty. Raymond put his fingerprint on what looks to be another longlasting mascot with his own fearlessness and ideas. Mascots in sports have created better fan experience, community giveback, and for a team to have more financial success. The growth of mascots in sports is growing. And finally, Raymond’s contribution to the mascot world will live on through his furry friends that he helped give life to.
Featured Image via David Raymond
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