The New Orleans Pelicans announced this week that the team's mascot was undergoing "beak surgery," a coy euphemism for making the much-mocked pelican slightly less horror-inducing.
Pierre isn't the first mascot to get a facelift (or total transformation). Here are nine others who underwent an update.
1. The Pirate Parrot
Pittsburgh Pirates/Getty Images
When the Pirates introduced a Parrot as their mascot in 1979, he was designed to resemble the incredibly popular San Diego Chicken. The original Parrot wore the typical tri-corner pirate hat, complete with skull and crossbones. That year, the Parrot led the Pirates to a World Series victory, an impressive feat for a rookie.
The effort went unappreciated though, and the team opened the 1980 season with a revamped Parrot patrolling the stands. The new mascot was rounder and more cartoonish. The beak was curved with a pair of oversized googly eyes perched on top. However, this friendlier-featured Parrot has struggled to find postseason success. The Pirates haven't been in the World Series since.
2. Bernie Brewer
True Brew/Getty Images
The Brewers' mustachioed mascot has undergone a makeover during his 21-year tenure, but both incarnations are true to the adorable origin story. After one year in Seattle, the franchise had moved to Milwaukee in 1970—but the crowds were not quick to follow. One dedicated fan, 69-year-old Milt Mason, took it upon himself to rally the masses. Under the auspices of the team and dressed in lederhosen, Milt set up camp atop the scoreboard and vowed to stay there till the team drew 40,000 spectators. It took 40 days, but when the stadium was finally sufficiently full, Milt slid down a rope to celebrate the Brewers' fans and a well-timed win.
The stunt was so popular that it was immortalized with the creation of Bernie Brewer as the mascot in 1973, and Milt was honored as the original Bernie. The first mascot memorial to Milt was just a man in a costume that resembled Milt's German attire topped off with an oversized head. Bernie was phased out in 1984, but in 1993, Bernie was reborn as a full-body costumed, cartoonish mascot.
3. Giants' Crazy Crab and Lou Seal
San Francisco Giants/Getty Images
When the Giants got into the mascot game, the team chose to forgo fearsome animals and adorable creatures. Instead, they created Crazy Crab in 1984, an "anti-mascot" that looked as much like a slice of sandwich meat as it did a crustacean. Rather than elicit cheers, the hapless crab was designed to draw jeers as a satirical comment on the state of mascot-dom (or something).
It worked a little too well. In a 96-loss season, fans and players alike relished the opportunity to vent their frustration on the blameless mascot. They lobbed not just insults but food, trash, and even resin bags at the crab. The team decided to put Crazy Crab out of his misery after just one season. It would be over a decade before the Giants attempted to get back into the mascot game. Lou Seal, named in a KNBR Sports Radio phone-in contest, debuted in 1996. The sunglasses-wearing sea mammal was an instant hit.
4. Nationals' Screech
When the Expos left Montreal behind to become the Washington Nationals, they didn't bring Youppi!, their Canadian-minded mascot. In need of a new face for the franchise, the team solicited contest entries from D.C. public schools for what the mascot—who students were told would hatch from an egg and fly over the city—should look like. Fourth-grader Glenda Gutierrez's drawing came closest to the stout, fuzzy eagle chick that "hatched" on the field on April 17, 2005.
Most mascots who get an update are made less intimidating and more lovable. But bucking the trend, the Nationals decided that Screech was too cute and needed an edgier look. So just a few years later, a leaner, meaner Screech debuted to start the 2009 season. Nationals PR explained that Screech was just growing up (naturally) and that this was his teenager stage.
5. Expos' and Canadiens' Youppi!
But what about Youppi!? The orange hairy giant joined the Montreal Expos in 1979, but was abandoned when the team moved to Washington prior to the 2005 season. Youppi! was not out of work long, though. He became the first mascot to make the switch from MLB to the NHL when he was picked up by the Montreal Canadiens, making his hockey debut on October 18, 2005. As for an appearance change? Well, all he had to do was switch jerseys.
6. 49ers' Sourdough Sam
In the early days, the 49ers' logo showed a gritty gold miner with a droopy mustache, a fallen hat, and a pair of pistols. When they first debuted their mascot, Sourdough Sam, he was designed to be reminiscent of that early emblem. His ten-gallon hat had a chunk missing and much of his chubby face was hidden behind a wild brown beard. A slimmer Sam showed up for the 2006 season. Brown eyes had become blue and in place of a beard he now sported a clean shaven—and incredibly chiseled—chin. His hat was flawless and his smile was wide and toothy. Sam has stayed trim ever since, but he brought back the facial hair a few seasons ago.
7. Padres' Swinging Friar
No one knows when the clergyman with a violent streak first became associated with the Padres. In fact, the emblem predates the Padres joining the ranks of Major League Baseball in 1969. Originally, the lovable logo came to life at the games in the form of an actual man dressed in appropriate garb. However, following a World Series appearance (and loss) in 1984, then-owner Joan Kroc thought the Friar wasn't professional enough and replaced him with a pared-down baseball-based logo. Fans missed the Friar, however, and he was reborn in the late-1990s, this time with a proper mascot costume to bring the beloved logo to life.
8. Seahawks' Blitz
Blitz burst onto the scene in 1998. An unnaturally muscular bird, Blitz's feathers have changed slightly during his career to suit the shade of teal the Seahawks are sporting in any given year. However, he underwent a major update in 2004 to make his snarling facial features less snarl-y. [The first person to find a 1998 photo of Blitz and link to it in the comments gets a mental_floss t-shirt.]
9. Braves' Chief Noc-A-Homa and Homer
Long before the debate raged about the Washington Redskins, the Braves retired their Native American "mascot." Chief Noc-A-Homa was the name given to the "screaming Indian" sleeve patch worn on Braves jerseys. A teepee was set up in the bleachers where the Chief "lived" and after every home team homer or victory he would send up a smoke signal and perform a celebratory dance.
There were three Chief Noc-A-Homa's during the mascot's Atlanta existence. The longest lasting and final incarnation was played by Levi Walker, an Odawa Native American. But after 17 years in costume, the Braves declined to bring Walker back for the 1986 season. At the time, the team claimed it was a mutual decision stemming from a disagreement about pay and scheduling. However, no one was brought in to fill the role. Years later, Walker said criticism over the character was to blame: “They were overly sensitive about being politically correct.”
The team later debuted the undeniably inoffensive Homer the Brave, a Mr. Met-inspired baseball-headed humanoid. Homer's race-less perma-smile has graced the games ever since.