Oct 28, 2022 - Sports

How the World Series' big, green, furry mascots came to be

Photo illustration of Orbit, the Houston Astros' mascot, and the Phillie Phanatic with red, blue and orange lines radiating from them.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios; Photos: Bob Levey and Rich Schultz/Getty Images

For all their differences, you'll notice one big, green and furry similarity when the Philadelphia Phillies and Houston Astros match up Friday night: their mascots look irritatingly related.

Yes, but: One's a bird from the Galapagos. The other's from outer space.

  • We at Axios Philly wanted to know more about our less charming doppelgänger, so we traded mascot origin stories with Axios Houston.
The Phillie Phanatic
Philadelphia Phillies' mascot Philly Phanatic walks across the field during a game at Veterans Stadium circa 1980 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Phanatic at Veterans Stadium circa 1980. Photo: Focus on Sport/ Getty Images

Flashback: In the late 1970s, the Phillies were ready to say goodbye to their revolutionary past and colonial mascots Phil and Phillis. So they reached out to master puppeteer Jim Henson for help.

  • Two of his Muppets designers, including the creator of Miss Piggy, made the laughable, lovable Phanatic, with his bulging eyes and megaphone-shaped snout.

But why the Galapagos backstory?

  • "We figured, who could contest that?" creator Bonnie Erickson said, per Sports Illustrated. "This seemed to be the perfect background for a character that nobody could describe. It's a purely fantasy animal."

Philly's thought bubble: The Phanatic is quite literally the best mascot in America — so good at ruffling feathers, it nearly cost him his snout. See: Tommy Lasorda vs. the Phanatic in 1988. Plus: He's one of just four mascots on display in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Guess who isn't there?

Orbit
A side-by-side of the Astro's old mascot Junction Jack with the team's current one, Orbit.
Junction Jack and Orbit. Photos: MLB via Getty Images; Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Astros, meanwhile, were under the guard of Chester Charge, a Texas cavalry soldier, in the '70s.

The intrigue: Orbit was temporarily ousted by a Texas jackrabbit named Junction Jack when the team left the Astrodome in 2000.

  • Fans petitioned for years to bring their beloved space being back, and the team finally obliged in 2013. Orbit has been the star of the stadium ever since.

Houston's thought bubble: National Baseball Hall of Fame? In Space City, we're reaching for the Intergalactic Hall of Fame for our Orbit. Does anyone pen love letters to Phanatic? Orbit is a bike-loving hero who once pedaled 170 miles for charity. We'll see soon enough who's waving the World Series champion flag.

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