Mr . Met is credited by the Mascot Hall of Fame with being the first Major League costumed mascot.
WRONG! Ten years before Mr. Met or any other Major League mascot appeared there was MR. ORIOLE! The New York Mets mascot was conceived in 1963 and made his debut in 1964. Mr. Oriole was hatched in 1954!
An early priority was to develop a stylized Oriole for use on our baseball caps, stationery, and various concessions items. We announced a contest, inviting local artists to submit their versions, the winner to receive a cash prize. I was looking for a jaunty but likable bird, one with plenty of personality. Several excellent entries were received, but one set stood out above all the rest. They were submitted by Jim Hartzell, a cartoonist for the Baltimore Sun.
We named our new mascot "Mr. Oriole," and his perky bird face was quickly popularized. About the same time I wondered if would be possible to create a costume that would replicate the expression and appearance of Mr. Oriole, so that a three-dimension version of the bird could cavort on the field and in the stands during the games. My high school friend and teammate Johnny Myers knew a costume designer whose name was Tinker, a relative of the famous Chicago Cubs shortstop Joe Tinker. After examining the sketches of Jim Hartzell, Mr. Tinker excitedly accepted the challenge, and within a few weeks had produced a handsomely made costume. I prevailed upon Johnny to be the first "Mr. Oriole," because, as I jokingly put it, "he had the legs for the part!"
|Mr. Oriole as he appeared in the |
1955 Baltimore Orioles Sketchbook
I don't know what ever happened to the original Mr. Oriole. I left the Orioles at the end of the 1955 season in order to enter Princeton Theological Seminary to study for the ministry. Apparently the costume disappeared along with many other invaluable materials, including front office files and records, when the Birds moved to Camden Yards. It is hard to imagine how an object that large could vanish. I don't know how long it has been missing. It might be in someone's garage or basement. I'm the last surviving member of the first front office executive staff of the Orioles, so there's no one I know who can shed any light on the mystery, including Johnny Myers, who died prematurely.
The irony is that when I called the Orioles Public Relations Office to see if they could help, the person I talked with had never heard of Mr. Oriole. "Our mascot is The Bird," he declared almost belligerently. "He was hatched in 1979!"
"I've got news for you," I replied as pleasantly as I could. "The Bird had a predecessor named Mr. Oriole, who was hatched in 1954!"