One of the things that I love about the Dodgers is that they've never had a mascot. I was a very jaded little boy, so seeing someone in a giant cartoon animal head never appealed to me. Sure, there was a shaky time in the Fox era when a guy in a big Louie Anderson costume ambled around the field before the game, but if I had to pick a mascot for the Dodgers, giant Louie Anderson would be near the top.
However, Tradition almost managed to fall on September 27th, 1998. A sold out crowd came to watch an exciting contest between the Dodgers and the Milwaukee Brewers. Since this was game at the end of the season in the late 90s, the Dodgers hadn't played a meaningful game over the last couple of weeks, and people were only in attendance in hopes of winning themselves a T.V. In honor of fan appreciation day, the Dodgers decided to shake things up a little by putting the P.A. announcer out on the field, and odd move, but it was seemingly harmless. Little did I know of the true intentions of the Dodgers that day.
After the Brewers lineup was announced, the announcer introduced "The World's Biggest Dodger Fan: Little Mac", in the split second before Little Mac trotted out onto the field, I expected a small child with some kind of cripple and/or hideous deformity. The actual result was far worse. Something that could only be described as a CGI marionette with a voice that could shatter glass wandered onto Diamond Vision. Following a few seconds of awkward dialog between the announcer and the marionette, where Little Mac begged the P.A. guy to let him read the Dodgers lineup. P.A. guy capitulated, and attempted to hand Little Mac his lineup card, but the puppet refused since, in his own words, "I know the Dodger's lineup by heart. They're my favorite team". While ordinarily there wouldn't be much wrong with this (aside from the obvious), the Dodgers were simply playing out the string, so Little Mac somehow managed to remember a lineup that featured Trinidad Hubbard batting third in center. The first sign of the terrible planning that surrounded this whole endeavor.
Strangely, the initial reaction to Little Mac was something of stunned silence. Maybe people felt it was inappropriate to boo the Dodgers starting lineup, or maybe they weren't drunk enough to hurl insults at an inanimate object. Either way, someone decided that Little Mac was successful enough that they would trot him out there again. During the middle of the fourth or fifth, Little Mac made his return appearance to tell us that Damon Hollins was due up next inning. In a rare showing of Dodger fan unity, the entire stadium expressed their displeasure towards Fox's creation. And with that, Little Mac was never seen again, until Fox would use the technology to create a talking baseball voiced by Kedzie Matthews.
One thing that I've always wondered when I see a debacle of this order is what people were thinking. For something like this to come into existence, a lot of people have to say, "that's a good idea". There's no connection between people who attend baseball games, and people who enjoy precocious little children with annoying voices, i.e. the Welches Grape Juice Girl, as demonstrated by the diagram below.
If they were trying to bring more kids to the stadium they missed a few things. First, marionettes are possibly the scariest things in existence, so Little Mac was far more likely to frighten than entertain. Second, most fans would end up swearing at the puppet, defeating the purpose of a family friendly atmosphere. Even if these weren't true, I can't imagine kids would come to the stadium in hopes of seeing some of Little Macs wacky antics. Then again, people love the scoreboard car race, so maybe Little Mac could have found his niche distracting us from the actual game and awakened the inner child in all of us.
I guess the best thing that has come from the Little Mac experiment is that nothing even vaguely resembling a mascot, save Tommy Lasorda, has wandered into Dodger Stadium. And really, that's the biggest reward of them all. Thank you, Little Mac.