Shrine of the Eternals 2011 inductee Ted Giannoulas (aka the San Diego Chicken) will return to Pasadena, California on Sunday, July 22, 2018 to take part in the 20th anniversary festivities of the Baseball Reliquary’s Shrine of the Eternals. Giannoulas will be one of the afternoon’s guest speakers, and will join the Reliquary in honoring the Shrine’s Class of 2018 (Tommy John, Rusty Staub, and Nancy Faust), and the 2018 recipients of the Hilda Award (Bart Wilhelm) and the Tony Salin Memorial Award (Ross Altman). Author and historian Dan Epstein will deliver the Keynote Address.
The most popular and iconic of the mascots that became staples of Major League Baseball teams in the 1970s, the San Diego Chicken was the brainchild of Ted Giannoulas. In 1974, while a student at San Diego State University, Giannoulas took a $2-an-hour job during spring break, wearing a rented chicken suit for local radio station KGB-FM and passing out promotional eggs at the San Diego Zoo. That gig was so successful that he decided to give the act a try at home games of the San Diego Padres. The woeful Padres were willing to consider just about anything to boost attendance. In his book Big Hair and Plastic Grass: A Funky Ride Through Baseball and America in the Swinging ’70s, Dan Epstein writes, “It was love at first cluck between the KGB Chicken and Padres fans, who loudly cheered the Chicken’s every pratfall and prank — especially when the latter came at the expense of the umpires and visiting players. By the end of the 1974 season, the Chicken’s acrobatic clowning at Padres games had turned him into a local celebrity, while the team had drawn nearly half a million more fans than the previous season, despite finishing with an identically awful 60-102 record as in 1973.”
The San Diego Chicken would soon become far more than a San Diego icon; by the late ‘70s, in fact, he would become an entertainment revolution, with people coming to the ballpark to see him as much as to see the game, maybe more. The Chicken’s immense popularity had inspired several other teams to introduce mascots, including Fredbird (St. Louis Cardinals), BJ Birdie (Toronto Blue Jays), the Pirate Parrot (Pittsburgh Pirates), the Phillie Phanatic (Philadelphia Phillies), and Youppi! (Montreal Expos).
In 2011, the Baseball Reliquary inducted Ted Giannoulas into its Shrine of the Eternals, honoring a man that author Don Malcolm described as “criminally underappreciated for the invention of an alter-ego that literally transcends the milieu in which it was created.” Also inducted in the Class of 2011 were Pete Gray and Maury Wills.
We look forward to the San Diego Chicken’s appearance at the Shrine of the Eternals 2018 Induction Day.