|No one is quite sure how or where the rumor started. But eventually, it
swept through spring training like a Polk County brush fire.
It was the end of an era. Youppi! was gone.
OK, we know what many of you are thinking right now. You're thinking:
"What the heck is a Youppi!?"
But for those of us in baseball, those of us who have taken in the
splendor of baseball at the inimitable Stade Olympique, no one needed to
explain what this meant. To some people, maybe Vladimir Guerrerro is baseball
in Montreal. To others, maybe Felipe Alou is baseball in Montreal.
To the true insiders, though, Youppi! and only Youppi! was baseball in
For 21 years, Youppi's beloved, mostly inexplicable antics were the light
that shined on the darkness of Expos baseball. To watch Youppi! motor across
the dugout roof and slide into his own home plate was like watching Olivier
perform Shakespeare. This, friends, was mascot artistry at its apex.
The Expos media guide described the Youpster as "a youthful prankster
possessing good humour, an impish grin and an abundance of energy." Some
would say he was to mascots what Ed McMahon was to broadcasting, what Dan
Quayle was to politics, what Linda Tripp was to espionage.
But to the true Youppi! aficionado, he was so much more.
"It's a dying breed of mascots," said Phillies outfield-quotesmith Doug
Glanville, "that just basically stand there, and a dying breed of mascots
where nobody knows how to pronounce its name."
Ah, oui, oui. So when the word spread this spring that the Expos had told
Youppi! to Youp on own of town, the sadness that swept the game was a rare
combination of overpowering grief and sheer bewilderment.
"What -- are they trying to unAmericanize the game up there?" asked
Pirates pitcher Terry Mulholland. "How can you play in that environment
without Youppi? Now they have nobody to break up the excitement of the game.
Who's going to settle that crowd down now? Who's going to confuse them?"
"It's a big loss to baseball," said Braves reliever Mike Remlinger. "But
the biggest loss has to be to the fans up there. Those people really looked
forward to seeing him -- all 5,000 of them."
We asked some of the Youppi! lovers we met in our travels if they could
even imagine baseball in Montreal without the Youpman.
|Youppi! has been the Expos' mascot since 1979.|
"That," said Astros broadcast-witticist Jim Deshaies, "is like football
in America without Jesse Ventura."
"It's like the Yankees without pinstripes," Mulholland suggested.
"Like Kentucky Fried Chicken without bagels," Glanville philosophized.
Yes, there was a special magic in the air when Youppi! was around. So
without him, a trip to Montreal promised never to be the same.
"When he used to bring his big 50-gallon barrel out and pretend he was
playing the drums," Deshaies reminisced, "I mean, I could see that 100 times
and still double over."
Oh, not everyone in the ballplaying public seemed to get Youppi's special
brand of hilarity. But that was just because they looked at Youppi! all
"I always took kind of the car-wreck mentality towards Youppi," said
Deshaies, whose daughter once danced atop the dugout with Youppi. "It was
like, 'It was so bad, it was great.' Know what I mean? So everyone else would
be saying, 'Here comes that bleeping guy.' And I was, 'Great. Here comes
There was always some confusion about his name, of course. Youpping is,
after all, a foreign concept to most players. But being the Ivy Leaguer he
is, Glanville was pretty sure he'd figured it out.
"Let's see: You-pee," he said. "It's like U of P. I think it's a Penn
thing. He had a quiet wisdom, so you think of the University of Pennsylvania.
I think he might have been on some sort of spy mission in Canada. His grant
probably ran out. They had to call him back. I wish him well."
Wild, wild, wild
Click here for Jayson Stark's Wild Pitches from the past week.
"If I only knew how to Youp, I'd Youp in protest," Remlinger said. "Maybe
we could hire him to teach us how. Or at least we should all wear orange in
protest. Do they make any clothes in orange?"
Well, we were just getting ready to head off on an investigative shopping
mission to find that out when word of a stunning new development on the
Youppi! front reached us.
"The rumors of Youppi's demise have been greatly exaggerated," Expos
media-relations director P.J. Loyello told Week in Review. "He's still
Yes, it's true. This was all a big (gasp) hoax.
As great hoaxes in modern history go, it may not rank up there with a
"dead" Paul McCartney wearing no shoes to cross Abbey Road.
And it isn't quite Orson Welles staging his invasion of the Martians.
But by baseball standards, it doesn't get any bigger than this:
No one has been able to determine where these reports came from. But they
apparently were just another example of wild, unsubstantiated rumors that
spread across the uncharted internet landscape, bowling over truth like
Anthony Mason careening down the lane.
"Boy," Deshaies said, when the news reached him. "That's kind of ugly.
Isn't it? How do we know that this wasn't something maybe the Expos floated,
to see how it would fly. You know, they got in trouble for losing Randy
Johnson, for losing Pedro Martinez, for losing Larry Walker. I think they
just thought, 'If we get rid of Youppi! and bring in some no-name mascot
prospects, we'll get hammered.' "
Here at Week in Review, we don't have minds that suspicious. All we know
is that whoever was responsible for this dastardly act needs to pay -- and pay
"To perpetrate this kind of fraud with an entity of the stature of
Youppi is appalling," Glanville said. "It would almost equal spreading a
rumor that Big Bird is, in fact, 'not that tall in real life.' Or that
Smurfette 'is not a natural blond.' Totally unethical and uncalled for."
Exactly. But as the search goes on for the perpetrators, that's not
important now. What's important is the knowledge that Youppi! lives. And the
world is a far happier place because he does.
Bobblehead of the week
great hoaxes in modern history go, it may not
rank up there with a 'dead' Paul McCartney
wearing no shoes to cross Abbey Road. And it isn't
quite Orson Welles staging his invasion of the
Martians. But by baseball standards, it doesn't get
any bigger than this: Youppi!
Certain phenomena in life are impossible to explain. And now we have a
The Power of the Bobblehead.
Don't believe in it? Well, consider this:
Until Jim Thome Bobblehead Day came along last Saturday in Cleveland,
the man whose bobbling head was being celebrated had exactly six more hits
this season than his bobblehead doll.
He was 6 for 47 for the year (.128). He had more than three times as many
strikeouts (19) as hits (6). And he was only hitting .139 against right-handed
The bobblehead, on the other hand, hadn't made an out all season.
So that explains why, on Jim Thome Bobblehead Day, the Indians' lineup
was missing a certain guest of honor himself -- i.e., Mr. Jim Thome.
Ah, but funny things happen when the force of the bobblehead is with you.
And even his teammates sensed it.
"We were sitting in the lunch room before the game," reliever Paul Shuey
told Week in Review. "And Eddie Taubensee was getting all over Thome. He
said, 'This is Jim Thome Bobblehead Day, and you're not in there. What's up
"And I just said, 'Eddie, Jim's going to come in there in the ninth
inning and hit the game-winning home run. And all the bobbleheads in the
stands will be bobbing up and down.' "
They all chuckled at the time. But then an amazing thing happened.
It was the ninth inning. No outs. Tigers 3, Indians 3. And who should
come stalking up to home plate to pinch hit? None other than Jim Thome.
He promptly took a mighty swing ... and ... hit a ground ball to
"I'm not sure what happened there," Shuey said. "I fully expected him to
hit one right then, because I was throwing at the time. I figure because I
was in the game, I must have put the mojo on him."
But what do you know -- this game went to overtime. And Thome stayed in
the game after pinch-hitting. And two innings later, here he came again.
Except this time the situation was even bigger. One out in the 11th. Tigers
now leading, 4-3. One runner on. Ace closer Todd Jones on the mound.
Of course, The Bobblehead Man launched a two-run game-winning bomb into a
right-field bleacher section full of bobbing Jim Thome heads.
So tell us you don't believe in the Power of the Bobblehead now.
"He was just laying low," Shuey said, "until they had his bobblehead day."
Afterward, Thome never did compliment Shuey on so brilliantly
anticipating the bobblehead forces in the air that day. But the next
afternoon, as the Indians were stretching before the game, they made eye
"I looked over," Shuey reported, "and just started bobbing my head up and
After that performance, we predict many bobblehead days in the future at
"I'm looking for Juan Gonzalez Bobblehead Day next," Shuey said. "But
let's hold him off till later, when we really need it."
Historians of the week
Babe Ruth. Rickey Henderson.
Who ever thought you'd see those two names linked by one historic column
on the all-time stat sheet?
Let's face it. Except for the fact that they both walked a couple
thousand times and both played for the Yankees, they had less in common than
Rulon Gardner and Pee Wee Herman.
Rickey may have passed the Babe to become the all-time walking champ this
week. But as we compare the rest of their careers -- with the help of Week in
Review favorite Brian (Last of the 20-Game Losers) Kingman, a former Rickey
teammate -- we can see they're not exactly identical walking twins:
Babe, of course, ate hot dogs. Rickey, said Kingman, "was a hot dog."
Rickey was known for setting the table. Babe, on the other hand, ate
everything that was on the table.
Babe was the biggest name in sports. Rickey can't remember the names of his
Babe cast a curse on the Red Sox after they sold him to the Yankees. When
Rickey leaves a team, Kingman said, "his curse is lifted."
Rickey made history for stealing bases. Babe was sent to reform school for
Babe was famed for playing cards on trains. Rickey was roasted for playing
cards during a playoff game.
Babe was known for his famous called shot. Rickey, on the other hand,
predicted he would steal 100 bases, Kingman reminisced, "then called
everybody he knew and told them about it."
Babe once missed several games because of a "bellyache." Rickey was
released by the Mets because of "belly-aching."
Babe walked 2,000 times "because the pitchers were scared bleepless of
him," Kingman said. Rickey walked 2,000 times because by the time he got
through crouching, his strike zone was smaller than Babe's gut.
Babe invented the home-run trot. Rickey was cut loose by the Mets after
showing off his home-run trot -- on a single.
Babe hit his 60th homer in the House that Ruth Built. Rickey drew his
2,063rd walk in the Stadium Roseanne Barr Sang In.
And mostly, Babe was larger than life. Whereas "Rickey's head," said
Kingman, "is larger than life."
Naked truth of the week
It was last Friday night in Cincinnati. Mets ace Al Leiter was reviewing
the worst start of his big-league career (three innings, eight runs).
Talk turned to the second inning -- an inning in which Leiter gave up six
"I was scrambling, just trying to get an out," Leiter was saying. "Hit a
guy. Base hit. Hit a guy. Base hit. Base hit. Naked guy. Strikeout. Grand
Uh, wait a second. Roll back that tape. Did he just say, "Naked guy?"
Well, yeah. Seems that midway through the inning, with the bases loaded
with Reds, a guy known as the "Naked Cowboy" sprinted onto the field, stopped
in center field and waited to be handcuffed and carted off. Fortunately for
all concerned, he was wearing pink underwear, red boots, a hat and an
American flag cape.
But that was about it.
Two batters later, Barry Larkin thumped one over the fence for the first
grand slam of his 6,734-at-bat career. Hmmm. Does he owe it all to the naked
"It was different," Leiter told Week in Review. "Normally, you get
Morganna or somebody like that running out there. You don't usually get a guy
doing a chippendale routine."
Asked which would be better at a moment like that, Leiter thought a
"Personally," he said, "I think I'd go with Heather Locklear."
O-fer achievers of the week
They've been outhomered by Luis Gonzalez. They've been out-trotted by
Larry Walker. They've had so much trouble with their spelling, they
apparently think there's no "O" in "home run."
So what's up with the Baltimore Orioles, anyway? A mere five years ago,
they hit more home runs in one season (257) than any team in history. Now,
almost four weeks into the season, they've got three fewer home runs than
Luis Gonzalez (13-10).
Albert Belle is only two off the team lead -- and he's retired.
So why can't the Orioles hit home runs anymore? For the answers, we've
turned once again to David Hill and Jim Sundra, our favorite Orioles
observers from the tremendous Baltimore baseball magazine, Outside Pitch.
They now present, from the home office inside Babe Ruth's outhouse ...
The top 10 reasons the Orioles aren't hitting home runs
10) Opponents won't allow O's batting practice pitcher to start for them.
9) Civil disobedience: protesting new strike zone by not swinging.
8) Glare off empty Camden Yards seats proving quite distracting.
7) Angling for HBO movie: 16*.
6) Don't want to take unfair lead while McGwire is on DL.
5) Feel bad about hitting Bud Selig's balls with a bat.
4) New rule allowing zone defense having disastrous effect.
3) Fearful that hitting home runs will hurt your asbestos class action suit.
2) Albert Belle is getting paid $12 million for not hitting homers. Enough
And 1) Fans spend $12 for Boog's Bar-B-Q, you don't want them dropping it
trying to catch a ball.
Jayson Stark is a Senior Writer at ESPN.com. Week in Review appears each Friday.