The Philly Phanatic
During the late 1970s a new character made its debut in major league baseball parks: the active, involved team mascot. More than just a bird on a jersey or a dancing Indian who appears when the home team hits a home run, this modern mascot is a character with an identity and personality of its own. No longer is the mascot confined to being an emblem or an occasional participant in the game's pageantry. The mascot's role has been expanded to the point where it has made the character an extension of both the fan's and the team's identity.
Tom Burgoyne, The Philly Phanatic
First seen in the park of California's San Diego Padres, in the guise of a local radio station's large red chicken, the idea of a mascot caught on and, in 1978, led to the birth of the Phillies Phanatic. Designed by Bonnie Erickson and Wayde Harrison (Bonnie had once done design work for Jim Henson's Muppets), working with members of the Philadelphia Philliess front office, the Phillies Phanatic was the first character created from scratch to be used as a mascot for a major league baseball team.Following its successful introduction, the idea became so popular that today about three-quarters of the major league teams have mascots, as do a similar number of minor league teams.

Being a mascot involves more than merely being at games and sitting on the bench. Today's mascots fill the role of alter ego for the fans. They encourage cheers, they poke fun at umpires, they fill the game's many silent gaps with humor and silliness. Nothing is beyond the reach of their teasing, and no one is immune to their pranks. Performing with generally unnoticed athleticism and grace, mascots have managed to bring a new and exciting wrinkle to a game whose symmetry and exactness scream out for humorous teasing and play.
Tom Burgoyne
If Clark Kent had a sense of humor, he'd come out of that phone booth dressed as the Phillies Phanatic, not Superman. Forget the power of locomotives, the speed of bullets, and the ability to jump tall buildings. The Phanatic has a shiny red all-terrain vehicle, a power blaster squirt gun that'll send a drenching stream of water for 20 feet, and a taste for mischief that makes Dennis the Menace and the little rascals seem autistic in comparison. As if that's not enough, in Philadelphia, a city whose sports fans will boo an elderly nun if she drops her rosary beads, people firmly believe the Phillies Phanatic can do no wrong.
And like Superman, behind the Phanatic is a person whose mild mannered, soft spoken, "everything in perspective" approach to life and his success, belie the excitement and breathless anticipation that accompany the arrival of his costumed persona. Just as Clark Kent stays safely behind his glasses, Tom Burgoyne never for a moment loses track of who it is the public adores:
I really feel privileged to be able to give life to this character. He's developed a style and a personality that people like. It amazes me how much popularity the Phillies Phanatic has. It amazes me almost every day, and I try not to take it for granted because there really is a love affair between the Philadelphia sports fans and the Phillies Phanatic, a love affair that's shown in the enthusiasm you get when he enters the room.
It's very moving, but they don't come to see me; they come to see the Phanatic, and I always try to remember that.
Rules & Traditions.
It is an unwritten rule that Tom can never be photographed partially in costume and that the costume cannot be photographed without a person in it. As close as I got was this photo where Tom was repairing the Phanatic's tail.
In 1993 Tom was given the job as the full time Phanatic. It was the beginning of what he describes as a "whirlwind two years," a time during which his beloved Philliess were in the World Series and he married and saw the birth of a son. Prior to that he had spent five years working as the understudy to the primary Phanatic--there are usually three people who do the job, one primary and two understudies who see limited service. As the backup to the main performer he had been relegated to serving as the butt of the Phanatic's antics: he'd sit in the stands playing the role of an unwitting spectator on whom the Phanatic would play pranks.

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n addition, he had the job of handling appearances at parties, car dealership promotions, and store openings. Leaving behind a job selling business forms and computer supplies, he made a full time career out of what had started out to be a part time job, a source of extra money. While it might sound like an unusual career move for a guy with a prep school background and a bachelors degree in marketing, his was an eagerly sought after job, a job he won by coming out on top in a series of rigorous tryouts:
I auditioned with 13 other guys. First I had to dance without the costume in front of a group of five people. Then they sent me into a room to put the costume on and said, 'Okay, when we open these doors, you're the Phillies Phanatic.' So I went in, put the costume on, and they videotaped me as they did all of the applicants. Then they reviewed all of the tapes without knowing who was who. They chose me out of the 13.
Watching Tom perform, it's difficult to believe that there could ever have been any doubt regarding who would have the job. Once he slips into the shaggy green costume, dons the oversized sneakers, and begins to roam the field and stands, the quiet, self-effacing person who is Tom Burgoyne disappears and a supersized imp takes over. With the energy of a puppy, the curiosity of a kitten, and the audacity of a super hero, nothing is held sacred, nothing is considered safe. Wandering from place to place before the game, every person within reach is fair game. Grounds crew members prepping the field, millionaire players warming up, seasoned coaches milling around, all are potential victims of his mayhem. And no one seems to mind. As Tom, showing typical awe and humility, will admit:
The Phanatic has the luxury of being liked by everybody, so I rarely have problems. It's amazing, but I can count on one hand the number of times that someone has told the Phanatic to 'get lost.' The players love it too. It's amazing.
It is also probably the reason why his non-scripted stunts are such a popular element of Philliess' home games and the minor league games he works when the Philliess are on the road. The way players and umpires are drawn into the act speaks to Tom's ability simultaneously to be playfully annoying, mildly disrespectful, and wildly amusing. Umpires will dance with him, players will engage him in water fights, and coaches will put up with his taunting, because the Phanatic brings to his antics the humor and good spirit of a comic hero: he means no one ill and only wants to play. It's not surprising that Tom's models for the character are found in two famous comic characters:
There's a lot of Charlie Chaplin in the Phanatic. There's a lot of Daffy Duck in the Phanatic. I think they're the two personalities that define him. Especially Daffy Duck: Daffy's in one place and he's one personality, and then he's quickly in another place and he jumps from spot to spot; he's all over, he zings here and he zings there, and the Phanatic has a lot of that. He's always there and he's always on. He can be sad one minute and then he's in another location and he's very happy. He wears his emotions on his sleeve.
Listening to him, one gets the distinct impression that Tom Burgoyne has the best of all possible worlds: he makes people laugh by being a bratty nuisance who harasses highly paid heroes; he brings a touch of humanness to those heroes who will allow themselves to reestablish contact with the child within them; and in his visits to hospitals and rehabilitation centers he brings joy to the disabled and handicapped. And while he demurs and declares that he "tries not to get too deep about it," in his next breath he'll overflow with pride about "the excitement in people's eyes" when the Phanatic enters the room.
Pushed to consider the down side of being an unknown face behind the most known and adored--even including Ben Franklin--character in America's fifth largest city, Tom will lightly touch on the burden of working in a heavy costume in the heat of July and August. As for being inside a celebrity yet not being a celebrity, he enjoys it. For this mild mannered guy, anonymity is not a burden but an advantage. It allows him to perform and then go out and have a beer with the people he was just entertaining. It allows him to be a fan. It gives him the chance to remain close to those he plays for and to continue to learn what they want and what they enjoy.
Two things become clear listening to Tom Burgoyne discuss the Phanatic: to him the Phanatic is a separate being, a creature he speaks of in the third person who has a personality and purpose of his own; the personality of the Phanatic is multi-dimensional and an important part of his charm. Asked to define what he does, Tom will begin with a simple and predictable response, saying that he entertains sports fans. But before you can even react to his answer, he begins to broaden it and eventually rolls into a list of things the Phanatic does, ending with a claim that is remarkable in its simplicity: he tells you that the Phanatic is "just out to entertain, to keep people happy," as if keeping people happy isn't a task for a superhero.
If pressed about the type of audiences the Phanatic has had to entertain, Tom will again drift into an answer that reveals his admiration for the creature that springs from his own athleticism and humor, listing a catalogue of events and ending with the revelation that "Funerals are the one thing the Phanatic hasn't been called to do yet. But the Phanatic can have fun just about anywhere." For the Phanatic, nothing is impossible, it's just that some things haven't been tried yet. Is there a funeral in his future? He'll leap that building when he comes to it.
Elephant Keeping - A Gallery
Getting the lay of the land.
When the Phillies are on the road, Tom also goes away; but his travels lead to 35 or so minor league parks, handling what he refers to as "the world tour." Prior to a performance he has to study the layout of the park. Based on this pre-performance walk-around, he can decide what he wants to do and in what order he wants to do things. Usually, he performs a major bit during the 3rd and 7th innings. Among others, these humorous skits include "Rapping Phanatic" and the "Phanatic's Mom."
The Phanatic's wheels.
Whenever practical, Tom uses a van to travel to appearances. The air conditioned van is custom made for his purpose and offers him a cool place to relax during performance breaks. Since baseball is a summer sport and per-forming in the Phanatic costume is akin to performing gymnastics while wearing a fur coat, it's crucial that Tom have a place to cool down between bits
Warming up the crowd.
Many of his pre-game antics are performed to put the crowd in a festive mood. One of his favorite gambits is to harass the grounds crew. Here he puts a crimp in the hose being used to wet down the infield. The ground crew takes it in stride.
Caught on the bottom of the pile.
While the Phanatic costume is large and bulky, Tom's natural athleticism allows him to get the crowd excited by engaging in rough and tumble activities. Here he withstands an attack--all in good fun--by players from the visiting team who were victims of earlier pranks.
Showing some patriotism.
During a Phillies home game, the Phanatic pauses in his antics to participate in the singing of the national anthem. While there is little sacred to the Phanatic, this is one event that always brings him to a halt.
Hamming it up.
Whenever the opportunity presents itself, the Phanatic will sneak up behind a coach or umpire and mimic his actions. In order to avoid any problems, he only plays like this during pressure free parts of the game, and the subject is usually someone Tom has contacted before the game.
Working the crowd.
No bald pate goes unshined if the Phanatic has his way. Usually, this prank is done only with the good natured agreement of the person who is the target. (Draw your cursor over the picture.)
Dancing lessons.
Although the Phanatic is officially asexual, he tends to select women as dancing partners. Fans are generally willing to go along with his antics and there are seldom problems, although Tom is cautious, acknowledging that today's fans are the same people who are prone to litigation in other arenas.
Planning the music.
Since the Phanatic makes no planned sounds of his own, his act is usually accompanied by theme-establishing musical pieces selected from the collection Tom carries with him. Part of the pre-game planning process includes meeting with the person, here it's Mark Clarke of the Harrisburg Senators, who will coordinate the playing of the music. Although the Phanatic has no official voice, he has been known to produce a gruff, "Enough already!" to kids whose exuberance has overcome their good judgment and led them to mistreat the Phanatic. Tom says the reaction is usually pretty dramatic.
Cruising the stadium.
As a means of focusing the crowd's attention on the Phanatic, Tom usually makes a grand entrance on the all terrain vehicle that has become one of his trademark props. On the ATV, he jumps pitching mounds--only bullpen mounds, never the one used in the game--tracks up the infield if it has been freshly raked, and buzzes anyone who gets in his way.
Cooling down the grounds crew.
The Super Soaker squirt gun has become another familiar prop in Tom's bag of tricks. Here he is shown using it to harass the grounds crew, but it's also a popular means of annoying players and fans.
Checking the lineup.
Before the game begins, Tom checks in with the managers and umpires to ensure that there will be no problem if he hams it up with them at certain points in the game. One of his set pieces is to interrupt the exchange of lineup cards and to look over the rosters. His mock disagreement never fails to draw laughter from the crowd.
The Phanatic's costume.
The Muppet influence is obvious in the Phanatic's costume. The tongue, which works like one of those party favors that unreel when you blow into them, gives the normally silent Phanatic a way to communicate. The costume--its mystique is guarded by never allowing Tom to be photographed partially in costume or for the empty costume to be photographed--is cleverly designed with ribs and hoops which ensure that it keeps its shape in spite of considerable jumping, climbing, wrestling, and ATV riding. There are three copies of the costume; part of Tom's job is to take dirty costumes home and wash them in the bathtub.
A popular figure.
The Phanatic is so popular with fans that it's necessary for him to have an escort who makes sure that overly-excited youngsters don't maul him. Here Tom's assistant, standing next to him in the blue shirt and white baseball cap, keeps a watchful eye on a crowd of autograph seekers.
A show of strength.
Until he does something like carry a fan out of the stands, it's easy to lose track of how athletic Tom is. The role of the Phanatic calls for high degrees of strength, agility, and stamina. As a safeguard, however, notice that his assistant, lower right, wearing the blue shirt and white cap, is positioned so that any slip or accident won't lead to the fan being injured.