Tessie Joins An Historic Mascot Tradition

The Boston Red Sox acquired a frontline starter, one of the best closers in baseball, an excellent middle reliever, and a solid fourth outfield option this offseason. There was one area, however, that lacked some serious depth. Dan Ennis goes back through the history of a storied position in the organization in preparation for the newest addition.

The Boston Red Sox recently announced that Wally, the kid-friendly Red Sox mascot, will be joined in 2016 by a second mascot, Tessie. Tessie, we are told, is Wally’s “prank-loving little sister.” Named after the 1902 Broadway song and the 2004 Dropkick Murphys update, she is likely to delight the very young and annoy everyone else.The Sox have never been much of a mascot team the Padres had the San Diego Chicken, who transcended baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies had the Phanatic, who now belongs to popular culture, and the New York Yankees had Dandy, now locked in a Tampa bank vault for the rest of time. The Red Sox were late to the mascot game (Wally appeared in 1997 to much booing), but not for lack of trying:

The Original Tessie (1902): A syphilitic woman of easy virtue, South Boston resident Theresa O’Doul was a common sight at “Nuf Ced” McGreevy’s 3rd Base Saloon in the early days of the twentieth century. Serenaded ironically by drunks familiar with the 1902 Broadway song “Tessie (You Are the Only, Only, Only),” she became a good luck charm for the Royal Rooters, a well-organized band of Red Sox fans prone to drink, violence, and the kind of gambling that would make Pete Rose blush. The updated Tessie, now a muppet-like sidekick to Wally, bears facial scars modeled on Theresa O’Doul’s pox-scarred face.     

Editors’ best guess at what this looked like

Duffy’s Fifth (1916): Inspired by famed Red Sox outfielder Duffy Lewis, this bottle-shaped mascot was sponsored by the Boston Distillery Company. The raucous Fenway crowds of that era quickly learned that when Duffy’s Fifth was knocked to the ground he could not recover his feet, and soon the heavy, opaque bottle, a man’s legs hanging helplessly below, was a familiar sight rolling along the concourses and bouncing down the grandstand stairs. Tris Speaker, who had long feuded with Lewis, took to firing balls at Duffy’s Fifth during warmups. When Lewis left the Red Sox after the 1917 Season, the cracked and battered costume was retired.

Loose Lips (1943): The wartime Red Sox were ravaged by the draft, with stars Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, and Dom DiMaggio all in military service. To support the war effort, Sox brass introduced “Loose Lips,” essentially a large fiberglass mouth operated by two concession workers. Derived from the admonition “Loose Lips Sink Ships,” which was popularized by propaganda posters, Loose Lips would run onto the field between innings while the public address announcer would remind fans to avoid sharing information about troop movements and sailing schedules. Good intentions were thwarted, however, when many of the Loose Lips announcements were revealed to be double entendres, as in “Jerry loves Loose Lips” and “Loose Lips make the Emperor happy.” The mascot later inspired the famous Rolling Stones logo.

Pesky the Pole (1953): In the aftermath of World War II, thousands of Polish refugees made their way to the United States, eventually swelling the number of Polish Americans from six million in 1944 to over ten million in the post-war years. The Red Sox, unaware of this demographic shift, traded popular infielder Johnny Pesky to Detroit during the 1952 season. Pesky, born John Michael Paveskovich, had been a hero to Polish Americans living in New England, and when attendance at Fenway dropped the following season management reacted. Unable to re-acquire Pesky from the Tigers (for whom Pesky hit .292 ) the franchise created “Pesky the Pole.” With a cabbage head, peasant clothing, and a length of kielbasa for a belt, Pesky the Pole instigated a riot when introduced at an offseason promotion hosted by the New England Kosciuszko Society. John Michael Paveskovich returned to the Red Sox as manager in 1962 and fans started calling the right field foul pole, Pesky’s Pole.          

Pumpsie and Pinkie (1965): The Red Sox were slow to integrate, and it was only in 1959 that they added a black player, backup infielder Pumpsie Green. Long vulnerable to charges they were running a racist organization, Sox management responded to the growing momentum of the Civil Rights movement by creating “Pumpsie and Pinkie,” a furry, two-headed, anthropomorphic monster that was a clumsy attempt to promote race relations. Introduced on the local Boston children’s television show “The Bay State Youngster Jamboree,” Pumpsie and Pinkie’s heads, each representing a race, would discuss how “the Negro” and “the Cracker” could coexist. Pinkie’s head was modeled after notoriously bigoted Red Sox manager Pinkie Higgins. Pumpsie Green was not consulted about the project. Angry letters to “The Bay State Youngster Jamboree” led to the mascot being dropped, thus “Pumpsie and Pinkie”, like Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, never appeared at Fenway Park.

In Memoriam

The Red Seat (1981): A disaster for the Red Sox, the 1981 season ended with the team out of contention and playing before home crowds of a few thousand fans. As the empty seats became an embarrassment to the franchise, an intern, nicknamed The Orthodontist for some reason, suggested that by conducting clandestine market research among the few remaining attendees, he could develop a list of suggestions to increase attendance. Noting that the thousands of empty seats in the ballpark would mean an extra empty seat would not be noticed, the intern dressed in a red foam rubber seat-shaped costume. In September “The Red Seat” installed himself in the grandstand, listening to fans complaining about the team. One afternoon, disoriented, The Red Seat wandered into the right field bleachers, where his red color contrasted with the green seats of that section. Punched repeatedly by angry fans (with each punch accompanied by statements such as “That’s for Fiskie!” and “Tanana sucks!”), The Red Seat expired at section 42, row 37, seat 21. A few years later Red Sox management installed an actual red seat at that location, a silent tribute to the nameless intern.

Wally, by default, is the most successful of the ill-begotten Red Sox mascots. It is not surprising, then, that the team would double down on the concept and introduce a similar character. To give Wally’s little sister some extra appeal, Tessie, much like her namesake, will be made available to be rented out at parties.

Dan Ennis has written about prospect hype, an epic cage match, why the Red Sox win, sports media, and the original superfan.

Follow Dan on Twitter @DeanDanEnnis.

About Dan Ennis 17 Articles
Dan Ennis was born in Boston, grew up believing Jim Rice could hit a ball 600 feet, and now lives in South Carolina.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.