Maybe a mascot will finally, finally, make this year the Cubs’ year.
The Chicago Cubs released a cartoon bear mascot named “Clark” on Monday, one of the first mascots in modern Cubs history. The Chicago Tribune reported that surveys and fan interviews displayed the need for more family-friendly entertainment. The outcome was Clark, and he’s already scheduled for several visits and charitable events.
While Clark is bound to make an impact on fans, especially younger ones, this is not the first mascot the Chicago Cubs have had. In fact, the team opted for a less cartoony cubbie bear in the early 1900s with “Joa.”
Joa was a living, breathing juvenile black bear donated to the Cubs by a meatpacking mogul in 1916 (throw in a hot dog with no ketchup and a couple corrupt politicians, and it doesn’t get more Chicagoan than that). The cub was named after J. Ogden Armour, its donor, who was also a club shareholder. Joa even had a den built at the corner of Addison and Sheffield, so he could “greet fans.”
Unfortunately, Joa wasn’t much luck to the Cubs that season, as his June 20, 1916 debut resulted in a rainout, and the season continued to slump.
“Joa was on exhibition in a cage just south of the grandstand yesterday and produced no change in the luck that has attended North Side exhibitions most of the season,” one Chicago Tribune sports writer stated.
The bear was eventually sent to Lincoln Park Zoo at the end of the season for cash considerations, where legend hints at a $20 payout for the cub. Yikes. Even though that equals about $450 today, you’d think the 1916 Cubs would treat their dear old mascot better.
Clark, the new mascot, pays tribute to “his great-grandbear” Joa in his online biography. “When Joa retired to the Lincoln Park Zoo, he delighted the young bears with hundreds of amazing Cubs stories.” (The Cubs finished the 1916 season in fifth place with a 67-86 record. Despite the Cubbies’ unfortunate trend of coming up short, Joa was probably still a wonderful inspiration to Clark)
Aside from these two bears, the Cubs have had unofficial mascots throughout the years, including infamous fan Ronnie “Woo Woo” Wickers, whom Harry Caray called “Leather Lungs.” And although it’s considered more a curse than a mascot, Wrigley Field played home to another furry friend in 1945. Billy Sianis’ original goat has never set hoof back in the ballpark, but others have taken on Wrigley in several occasions to try and lift the curse.
But black bears, goats, and Ronnie “Woo Woo”s aside, the Cubs have still not won the World Series while these mascots were around. Perhaps Clark has a better crack of producing more Cubbie W’s, but if not, he’s guaranteed to produce some happier young fans.
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