Off to the Races

Written by: Ken Roussey

This photograph captures the heat of competition, as Rickey Henderson takes the inside lane and looks to gallop away from Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley during the seventh-inning stretch of the game between the Oakland Athletics and Boston Red Sox at O.co Coliseum on May 13, 2015. Each home game in Oakland features the three mascots trotting down the third base line before they round the on-base circle and bolt down the final stretch toward the finish.

Why should the ballplayers have all of the glory?

Mascots of Rickey Henderson, Dennis Eckersley and Rollie Fingers run in the Oakland Athletics’ Hall of Fame race during the game between the Athletics and the Boston Red Sox at O.co Coliseum on May 13, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. (Jean Fruth / National Baseball Hall of Fame)

The three larger-than-life Oakland Hall of Famers are just some of the more recent characters to join the mascot race phenomenon that has taken over Major League Baseball. Fingers, Eckersley, and Henderson joined the company of pierogis, sea creatures, hardware tools, soft drinks, hot sauce packets, U.S. presidents, and, of course, the famous Milwaukee sausages who all race around ballparks for the amusement and entertainment of fans.

While it is all fun and games, for the most part, these casts of characters have truly broken the mold of the traditional mascot. While they still spend plenty of time hovering in the stands and posing for silly photos, mascots across baseball have become more physically active than ever in how they entertain spectators.

Oakland’s inaugural Hall of Fame race was held on August 3, 2013, and was won by none other than the speedy Rickey Henderson. While it may seem like a no-brainer to put your money on the all-time stolen base leader, it turns out that baseball statistics mean very little when it comes to three people sprinting 250 yards in 10-foot-tall, 50-pound costumes. The mascots combat physical exhaustion, lack of visibility, profuse sweating, rowdy hecklers, and most importantly, the fear and embarrassment of toppling over.

Life as a racing mascot may not always be the easiest, but nothing can match the glory of outlasting your fellow mascots and being the one to claim victory.


Ken Roussey is the photo archives assistant at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
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