Fish are terribly underrepresented in sports franchise branding. In terms of team names, we are astronomically outnumbered by other taxa. Mammals (cougars, tigers, bears, and the biologically vague “wildcat”) are probably the most common, followed by birds (blue jays, orioles, sea hawks, and eagles). Even plain old water (white caps, rapids, tide, cyclones, hurricanes) has lapped us many times over. With the power to raise awareness about conservation issues, why would a sports franchise pick a cliché name or generic mascot when there are plenty of awesome native species that could break the mold? I scoured the internet looking for fish mascots, and created a ballot of finalists for the 2019 Fisheries Blog Mascot Hall of Fame Inductions. At the end of the article, vote for your favorite mascot, and we’ll induct the top 3! Keep scrolling to see who made the cut, and who flopped.
Hall of Fame Finalists
Introducing the first ever ballot of inductees into the Fisheries Blog Mascot Hall of Fame! In order to make the cut, mascots had to represent a professional sports team in North America, and they had to represent some kind of fish. As you might expect, the most overrated group of fishes ever (elasmobranchs) dominates the ballot, but some teams are pushing the envelope with teleost champions. Let me first introduce you to the mascot at the top of my list: Spike of the Toledo Walleye:
- The Toledo Walleye minor league hockey team has not one but two official walleye mascots, making this franchise the shining star of the inaugural class. One mascot is a large yellow walleye with arms and legs named Spike, and the other is an actual walleye named Wally who lives in a tank at the Toledo Zoo. This franchise should be the model for all others, because not only does the team claim a native fish species as its champion, but they actually have facts about walleye ecology on their website! Somebody buy me a jersey.
- The Carolina Mudcats minor league baseball team has Muddy, who is probably one of over 3000 different species of catfish. Even though his identity is uncertain, he is one of only three freshwater species represented in all of pro sports. That’s pretty cool if you ask me, a river ecologist.
- The Miami Marlins major league baseball team adopted Billy the Marlin as their mascot in 1993, and apart from a close call during a minor sky diving accident, Billy has been their mascot ever since. Billy could be any of 10 members of the marlin family: Istiophoridae. They are some of the most athletic fishes in the ocean, and as such make just about a perfect mascot for a sports team.
- The Jupiter Hammerheads minor league baseball mascot, Hamilton R. Head (Ham R. Head for short) probably has the best name of all the fish mascots, but if you ever saw him, you might think he looks more like Sid the sloth from the Ice Age movies than a hammerhead shark. Nevertheless Hammy makes the ballot, and might be able to help raise awareness about the critically endangered scalloped hammerhead.
- The Clearwater Threshers minor league baseball mascot is named Phinley, and he is one of my favorite mascots in the list because he dresses like a stereotypical fisheries biologist. Can we please stop wearing Tommy Bahama shirts to conferences? Nobody knows which species of thresher shark Phinley is (bigeye, common, or pelagic), but his origin story on facebook is weird and hilarious.
- S.J. Sharkie of the San Jose Sharks national hockey league team is just a shark, and his name is super unoriginal, but he is a finalist for the National Mascot Hall of Fame, so we have to give him props. Once called “The Hardest Working Fish in Sports”, SJ Sharkie is a veteran among mascots, and is very involved with the Sharks Foundation which has given over 15 million dollars back to under-served families in the San Jose community. I think he’s a Mako shark, but it’s anyone’s guess. Maybe he’s a sixgill!
- The South Carolina Stingrays minor league hockey team has had Cool Ray since 1993, which is pretty impressive (just a year younger than SJ Sharkie). There are several species of stingray found in coastal South Carolina including the Atlantic, bluntnose, southern, cownose, smooth butterfly, and eagle rays, which makes Cool Ray a little more ambiguous than some of the other fish mascots. Even though he looks like a mutilated elephant, Cool Ray is one of only 7 actual fish mascots out there, so we have to give him a spot on the Hall of Fame ballot.
HOF Honorable Mentions
- The Baton Rouge Kingfish was the first pro sports team with a Scombrid mascot (see the Pensacola Blue Wahoos below) but their franchise became the Victoria Salmon Kings in 2004, and then closed up shop in 2011. There is no record online of either team having an official mascot, but I still think they’re cool enough for a mention.
- The Tallahassee Tiger Sharks had Frenzy the Shark, one of the least generic shark mascots in the list, but their franchise moved in 2001 to Macon, Georgia where they were known as the “Macon Whoopee”. Honestly, this team should probably be in the Hall of Shame just for that.
Hall of Shame
Now for the Hall of Shame. These teams have some work to do if they want to make the ballot next year! Some are closer than others…
- EDIT: I didn’t know until after publishing this article that Winnipeg, Manitoba has an unaffiliated minor league baseball team called The Goldeyes (named after the goldeye, Hiodon alosoides, a highly underrated fish species native to N. America). Unfortunately, their mascot, Goldie, is super lame, and not a fish, but the team logo is too cool not to mention in this article. Also, they have an official beer. I’ll probably still buy a hat.
- The Gwinnett Stripers minor league baseball team has a striped bass in their logo, and their mascot is named Chopper. You’d think with a team name and logo like that the mascot would be a shoo-in for the HOF, but guess what! Chopper is a woodchuck… This mismatch is about as dumb as stocking snakehead in your private pond, which is why I axed Chopper and the Stripers from the HOF list.
- The Pensacola Blue Wahoos (MiLB) are the second Scombrid team in sports history, but this minor league baseball club decided a fish mascot wasn’t necessary. Instead, the Blue Wahoos are represented by Kazoo, a miscellaneous “aquatic creature with webbed feet, fins for ears and always sports his stylish Blue Wahoos cap”. Although fins are used for a lot of things besides swimming, I’ve never heard of fins for ears before, which is why Kazoo got canned.
- The Tampa Tarpons (MiLB) joined the cool kids table when they changed their name from the Tampa Yankees (blech) in 2017 as a nod to the historical Tampa Tarpons team who played from 1957 to 1987. The reason the Tarpons didn’t make the cut is because again, their mascot is really, really dumb. The only thing I can find out about “Blue” online is that he might be an alien from Area 51. Tarpon are way too awesome to not have a mascot.
- The Tampa Bay Rays (MLB) make me sad. Until they changed their name and logo in 2008, the Rays were close to the top of my list of cool fish teams. They had an endangered fish –Mobula mobular, the devil ray– as their namesake species, and the logo was just about as cool as it gets. Unfortunately, their mascot has always been Raymond who is some kind of bearded “sea dog”, but their saving grace is that they still have a touch tank at Tropicana Field.
- The Corpus Christi Hooks (MiLB) are on here mainly because of how ironic it is that the team name is the hooks, and one of the mascots is Sammy the Seagull. To illustrate my point, imagine a team called the San Diego Six Pack Rings with a Sea Turtle mascot. I think the Hooks would do much better with a fish mascot. Maybe Red the Drum?
Do you support a local team with an interesting fish mascot that I missed in my search? Tell us about it! Maybe they’ll make it onto next year’s Hall of Fame ballot.
Does your local sports team have a terrible name or mascot? Start a petition to change it to a fish! Tell us about your ideas in the comments. I’ve always thought the Cleveland Indians should change their name to the Lake Erie Emerald Shiners.