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Cubs historical sleuthing: The Famous Chicken edition

Remember this crazy mascot?

Raymond Ade

The Famous Chicken, also known as the San Diego Chicken, was a mascot originally created by KGB radio in San Diego for station promotions. Eventually the station and Ted Giannoulas, the man who inhabited the costume, parted in a dispute and Giannoulas had the character “re-hatched” in a 1979 promotion in San Diego.

If you attended MLB games in the 1980s you likely saw him perform. He’d do 250+ appearances a year in those days; later, when teams created their own mascots — in large part because of the Chicken’s popularity — he wound up appearing at a lot of minor-league games. Here’s a New York Times article about an appearance he made at an Iowa Cubs game in 2016.

Also Chicken/Cubs related: There was a $2 million lawsuit filed against him by Cubs prospect Don Schulze, who claimed the Chicken tackled him at a Quad Cities Cubs game in 1981, separating Schulze’s shoulder. A federal appeals court eventually ruled against Schulze.

This is all background to several photos of an appearance by The Chicken at Wrigley Field, sent to me by Raymond Ade. There’s one at the top of this post. Here are four others from the same game:

The last two photos give a clue as to the date. A Cub has obviously just hit a three-run homer, with No. 6 and No. 25 scoring ahead of him. The visiting team, as shown by the uniforms, is the Astros, and there’s a full house at Wrigley. It’s a cloudy day — no shadows evident.

So when was this? Per this article, after the radio station dispute, The Chicken was “re-hatched” in June 1979:

On June 29, 1979, The San Diego Chicken was “re-hatched” before the Padres-Astros game at San Diego Stadium. It was a major event. National television crews were on hand to record the event. The start of the game was pushed back a half-hour for the “re-hatching ceremony.”

So it had to be after that. Looking at Cubs rosters from that pre-Tribune Co. era, No. 25 has to be Scot Thompson. But I couldn’t find the specific game from 1979, or 1980, or 1981... until I found this video:

The video begins with an interview Giannoulas/The Chicken did on WMAQ-Ch. 5 in Chicago with a very young Greg Gumbel. You can also see a very young Carol Marin, anchoring the news that night, laughing. Pretty funny stuff, actually.

But after that, there’s a clip of then-WLS-Ch. 7 weekend sports anchor Jay Berry narrating highlights from a Cubs/Astros game with The Chicken performing. Sure enough, there’s a three-run homer by Ivan De Jesus, hit off Houston’s Ken Forsch in the second inning Sunday, July 8, 1979 — only about 10 days after The Chicken’s “re-hatching” in San Diego.

A full house of 37,614 attended that game, and the Tribune recap of the game says there was a rain delay (thus confirming it was cloudy, at least at some point):

But just after starting pitcher Mike Krukow drove in the game’s final run with a sacrifice fly, it began to pour. The game was delayed 50 minutes.

The Cubs won this game 10-0. Sizemore, who scored on De Jesus’ home run, went 4-for-4 as the Cubs completed a three-game sweep of the Astros. They were in second place in the NL East, five games out of first place with a 43-36 after this win, but faded late and finished 80-82, in fifth place.

The Chicken made several other appearances at Wrigley Field in the 1980s. He was always entertaining, even occasionally popping up in the Wrigley Field scoreboard:

A bit more sleuthing: That game happened Monday, September 2, 1985. Keith Moreland was batting in the bottom of the eighth with one out and two runners on. He hit a comebacker to the pitcher. The score shown, 7-2 Astros, was the final score of that game.