There is a common theme when discussing the San Diego Padres.
Sadly, they have continually failed to embrace the history of the club.
The constant change in ownership and philosophy is surely to blame, but the fan base is who’s suffering from this neglect.
From Nate Colbert to Khalil Greene, the team just does not educate the fan base on the history of the team. If it were not for the facelift before the 2016 MLB All-Star Game, Petco Park would remain virtually free of any Padres history at all. The Padres Hall of Fame was built, and certain areas of Petco were revamped with images of baseball in the San Diego area. They are very nice additions to the park, but why did it take 13 years, and why was it rushed?
The simple truth is, in hosting the annual all-star game, a team is in the national spotlight. Everyone who is anyone in the baseball community will be at the mid-summer classic. The team knew they had done nothing to commemorate their heritage, so they rushed it. Fine. The point is, it was done. That is a positive thing. However, again…why did it take so long? Do you honestly believe the fans do not want to celebrate the history of this club?
It goes back a long way, and several ownership groups. One of the first examples of this neglect goes all the way back to the demise of the teams’ precious mascot, the San Diego Chicken, who, at the time, was easily considered the best mascot in all of professional sports. He is widely known as the godfather of all mascots and he was solely a product of San Diego and the Padres, but they let him slip away. The sad thing is, despite the fact he continues to work and put on shows, he is rarely, if ever, invited to perform at Petco Park.
The first time San Diegans saw the Chicken was in March of 1974. Ted Giannoulas was hired by KGB-FM in San Diego to wear the costume and help create a brand for the AM Radio station. He did many KGB promotions for the stations where he interacted with fans and people while giving prizes away. In fact, the Chicken would wander around Padre games and give fans an egg filled with prizes if the said “Lay One On Me” to the mascot. He attended more than 520 consecutive home games in the 1970’s for the Friars, and was a star.
Many fans came out to Padre games just to watch the Chicken in the stands. As a child, I can distinctly remember my father telling me to stop watching the mascot and pay attention to the game. The bird was mesmerizing to me. His antics are priceless, and a joy to watch by anyone of any age.
It’s a sad thing that he is no longer affiliated with the team. Somewhere down the line, things went bad. The Chicken deserved to be paid for his services, and in true Padres fashion, they refused to pay fair market value for him. He became a free agent and has since made his world tour. As of 2015, he is reported to have made 5,100 appearances in 917 different facilities, 50 states, and eight countries, wearing out more than 100 chicken suits.
The man has had no trouble finding work as his antics are gold on a baseball field for the fans.
There are many rumors swirling around the Chicken’s relationship with the Padres. Obviously the two sides had issues. I reached out to Ted for this piece, in order to get his story. He has yet to respond, but I am hoping to add to this in the near future. The Padres’ ownership group has changed recently, and they seem to be progressing in the right way. Perhaps, in time, the two sides can once again unite a relationship that was special. A permanent home at Petco may be too much to ask (especially for an aging Ted), but at the very least, he should be a frequent guest and should be recognized by the club.
In revitalizing this team, its history must be embraced. A San Diego Chicken sighting at Petco Park every home stand would go a long way towards cultivating this dormant fan base and preparing them for major league relevance that is coming fairly soon. Do the right thing, Padres’ front office. Do the right thing.