Jan 25, 2008

From the archives: Morganna the Kissing Bandit retires

Here's an article from 2001 that appeared on seattlepi.com:
"Morganna the Kissing Bandit," who for more than two decades became baseball's unofficial mascot by jumping onto fields and bussing unsuspecting players -- including George Brett at the 1979 All-Star Game in the Kingdome -- has kissed the game goodbye.

"Three or four months ago, she called me up and said, 'I'm retiring,'" her Tulsa-based agent Jon Terry said. "I have no information on why it was so abrupt, as she was someone who obviously loved attention.

"I don't if she thought she was too old or if it was a health problem. But she was as vivacious as ever. She's the grand dame of baseball."


An overly buxom woman who used to dress in hot pants and a tight shirt for her madcap dashes, Morganna is 47 now. She's no spring -- or San Diego -- chicken.

And, face it, she's been doing her player smooching in the minors for much of the past decade.

"She was greeted with a polite response from the 1,300 in the stands," a Charleston, W.Va., columnist wrote recently of a Morganna visit.

A Kentucky native, Morganna was 17 when she attended a 1971 Cincinnati Reds game and a friend dared her to run out on the field at Riverfront Stadium and give Pete Rose a kiss. Rose swore at her for the intrusion, then called her and apologized the next day.

It was the first of nearly two dozen big-league baseball kisses and one of hundreds involving entertainers and other athletes for Morganna, who realized the value of publicity. A Cincinnati sportswriter dubbed her the Kissing Bandit. It was a life of crime she could handle.

Either invited or uninvited, Morganna tried to plant a kiss on someone in each ballpark nationwide. Among her victims were Cal Ripken, Johnny Bench, Steve Garvey, Don Mattingly and Nolan Ryan. Brett got kissed twice. Her Mariners choice for a wet one was former catcher Steve Yeager.

At the '79 All-Star game, Morganna waited seven batters before bounding onto the Kingdome field in the first inning and sprinting for Brett. He got a hug and a kiss. The Mariners were said to have paid for this moment, according to one source.

"Definitely not for the All-Star Game," said Randy Adamack, Mariners vice president with the club since 1978. "We might have done it a few years later, maybe air fare."

In 1986, Morganna showed up in Seattle during the first week of the season and targeted Yeager. A notorious tobacco-chewer, the catcher received only a peck on the cheek. The visit was strategic.

"I told my fans I was going to New York after Mattingly, but their security was ready for me, so I thought I'd surprise everybody," Morganna told the P-I's Art Thiel in a Kingdome security office that night. "I had been planning to kiss Yeager for quite a while. Fans kept suggesting him. I had a break in my schedule and this looked like a good time."

Along the way, Morganna became an exotic dancer, working regularly in Las Vegas, Houston and Oklahoma City. It was good money, sometimes $7,000 to $10,000 per week. In 1985, Morganna was even brought to Tacoma to highlight the grand opening of a local club, Night Moves. She danced topless, signed T-shirts and drew a huge crowd.


She often signed her autographs "With breast wishes, Morganna."

Her kissing vocation was not all laughs and giggles. She was arrested and charged with trespassing nearly 20 times, often spending 12 to 14 hours in jail and paying a $100 fine.

You can read more about Morganna on SRO Productions' "Hall of Fame" page, including a little more background onto why she retired. In short -- the world changed, and teams became more concerned with security.

Jan 24, 2008

Do promotions increase ticket sales?

The GameOps.com Editor Blog published a chart today showing how effective various promotions are at increasing minor league baseball attendance.

Be sure to check out Jon Cudo's thoughts & analysis on the data.

Jan 20, 2008

Boston Celtics fans love Gino Vanelli

Macleans.ca has a very entertaining story about how Gino Vannelli, a Canadian pop icon from the 70's and 80's, has become a huge hit at Boston Celtics games.

Earlier this season, the team started showing a very cheesy disco video on their scoreboard. Here's a look:

The video has become a staple at Celtics home games, a hit with fans and players, and has even spawned a line of merchandise. Other than the t-shirt, this all has nothing to do with Gino Vannelli -- although he has jokingly suggested he'd like to sing the anthem.

Here's how Macleans describes it:
"As the clock runs down on another Boston Celtics home victory, a disco anthem blares over the arena sound system and the scoreboard begins flashing clips from a 1970s episode of American Bandstand. One on-screen dancer in particular gets the crowd on its feet, cheering during every game: a bearded man whom Celtics faithful call “Gino” because of his tight T-shirt, which bears the name and image of Montreal-born singer, composer and one-time disco heartthrob Gino Vannelli.

The Celtics arena staff waits until a stoppage in play late in the game, when the result is beyond any doubt, before cuing up the music and getting Gino Time underway. Every time Gino appears in the montage of dancers, the crowd hoots and screams his name."

Jan 16, 2008

Minnesota Wild: "Retro style" game entertainment

Check out this great mini-review of the Minnesota Wild's game entertainment, by Jon Cudo over at GameOps.com.

Jon visited the Wild nearly eight years ago and loved their "retro style" game entertainment. He went back this season, and it sounds like he enjoyed it even more:
At the time the Wild we new and building their game entertainment in a somewhat retro-style. Their show was light on the current theatrics, mascots, and wacky contests and heavy on a focus on the traditions of Minnesota hockey.

Now eight years later it was a real treat to watch their game presentation which has stayed true to that traditional focus and had built and trained an amazing fan base. The show is as unique as you will see in its style and as effective as I have seen.
The team has kept many traditions, like having a celebrity introduce the game by leading all fans in a “Let’s Play Hockey!” battle cry. On this night it was Minnesota ball base legend Paul Molitor. The have also augmented their show with a nice variety of more standard fan prompt videos, which kept the show fresh without making it seem like everyone else’s show. Read more...

Forbes magazine on America's top sports mascots

Check out this article from Forbes about mascots and sports marketing. Some highlights:
  • "What started out as a gimmick to entertain fans during breaks in the action has become an ultra-important component for major- and minor-league sports teams looking to market at the grass roots by nabbing new fans at increasingly earlier ages."
  • "According to market researcher The Marketing Arm, original, modern mascots like the Chicken and the Philadelphia Phillies' Phillie Phanatic score the most recognition and resonance with fans ... Other mascots that scored highly on The Marketing Arm's Davie-Brown Index are Mr. Met (New York Mets), the Racing Sausages (Milwaukee Brewers) and Sourdough Sam (San Francisco 49ers). A common theme among the most popular: All are kid-friendly."

  • "Rare nowadays is the vicious-looking tiger, or the fierce, non-politically-correct "Indian" wielding a tomahawk. Mean and scary is out, warm and fuzzy is in--all the better to warm youngsters' hearts. Bring a second-grader to a football or baseball game, and there's little chance he'll understand what's going on down on the field. But that muppet-like dinosaur or blue horse roaming the stands will draw his attention immediately. It's what will stay in his memory long after the game is over, all but ensuring an upbeat first impression. Presto: a fan for life."

  • In addition to helping secure kids' allegiances, clubs utilize mascots to keep their images up in the local community. The Dallas Cowboys' Rowdy (a cowboy guy) and Chicago Bulls' Benny, both of whom made the Davie-Brown most-recognized list, are just two of the many mascots who represent teams at local hospitals, store openings and other assorted events."

(via GameOps.com)

Jan 7, 2008

Hot and cold in San Jose

Interesting blog post about HP Pavilion in San Jose re: finding the optimum temperature for happy fans and great ice. How do you balance fan comfort, while at the same time making it cold enough for optimal ice conditions? Some excerpts from the post:

The HP Pavilion ice is less than ideal under normal conditions and does indeed get slushier when the rains arrive. It’s a sensitive issue among Sharks management, in part because no one wants to reflect badly — me included — on the crew in charge of maintaining the ice. There are architectural design issues that contribute to the problem (the docking area behind the building lets in the outside air right where the Zambonis enter the rink so there’s an unfortunate natural flow) . And, like most NHL buildings these days, it doesn’t help that there are so many non-hockey events scheduled.

Anyway, I wrote about all that about four years ago and since then the Sharks have done things to improve the situation, primarily the installation of a variable speed dehumidifying system that adjusts the air flow to weather conditions.

But one particularly touchy issue remains: The temperature inside the building.

Many players and some fans believe that the ice conditions would improve if the Sharks were willing to turn the thermostat down. Management is concerned about the complaints from other fans that it was too cold inside and they were no longer comfortable.

I talked with Rich Sotello, the vice-president for building operations, about that. Here’s what he had to say.

“We like to run a constant temperature because guests that come into the building are used to a certain thing and obviously the president (Greg Jamison) is very much in tune with what fans want,” Sotello said.

He added that “the colder it is, the better it is, is not necessarily true” when it comes to ambient air and ice. At some point, he said, “there is a point of diminishing returns.”

Read the entire post (and check out all the comments from fans too)...

How minor league baseball teams attract a crowd

Here's an article from quite a while ago from the Deseret Morning News, about how minor league baseball teams are attracting fans to the games with game entertainment. Highlights:

Perhaps new lyrics should be crafted for the seventh-inning stretch at professional baseball games.

"Take me out to the ball game" just doesn't cut it anymore. In Utah, where three minor league franchises operate, "Take me out for some fun," might be more appropriate.

"We're not in the business of wins and losses," says Ogden Raptors president Dave Baggott. "We're in the business of entertainment."

Whether its postgame fireworks, Fat Elvis Night or Christmas in July, Baggott is a believer in the concept of putting on a show. IOC Bribery Night was a big hit last year and hopes are high that this summer's proposed French Judge's Night (where fans get up and switch sides of the stadium midway through the game) will be as well.

"It's just about having fun," says Baggott. "When people come and leave with a smile on their faces that makes me happy even if we lose 10-1."

In other words, he explains, it's entertainment and then, "by the way, we're playing a baseball game as well."

Putting the fans first, says Baggott, is why the Raptors are bucking a recent trend of declining attendance at the major and minor league levels. Ogden drew 109,360 people to home games last season — tops in the eight-team Pioneer League. Over 36 openings, the Raptors drew an average of 3,037 per game.

Read the entire article...

Jan 1, 2008

All about Doug Allen, Buffalo's anthem singer

There's a nice article on NHL.com about Doug Allen, the anthem singer for the Buffalo Sabres. He'll be singing the Canadian national anthem at today's Winter Classic outdoor hockey game. An excerpt:
Doug Allen hits all the right notes when he sings the national anthems at Buffalo Sabres home games.

He does even more good at his day job, as the maintenance supervisor at Cornerstone Manor, a facility that gives shelter to Buffalo’s homeless women and children. It’s affiliated with Buffalo City Manor, which shelters homeless men.

“I take care of the building,” said Allen. “I fix things when they break, I take care of service calls. I do some work on the floor, some of the heavier work that the ladies might not be able to do.


Allen has been a wonderful sight for Sabres fans, who have enjoyed Allen’s work over the last 15 years. Allen does most Sabres home games, with the exception of Wednesday and Sunday nights, when commitments to his other love, his church, force him to be elsewhere. He’s the worship leader and music director at Big Tree Wesleyan in nearby Blasdell, N.Y.

Allen is looking forward to singing the Canadian anthem prior to The AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. It’s a little less work than he’s used to, but Allen said he has no problem ceding some of his duties to famed Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, who will sing God Bless America.

Read the entire article...