We left off last week talking with Ted about the city that was too conservative to invite him to perform. Now, let’s find out if Ted would ever sell the rights to the Chicken. Let’s see what he says as he talks about that and the evolution of the character … and now for some more conversation over wine — perhaps a nice Cabernet …
Padres360 – Would you ever sell the right to be The Chicken?
Ted – Oh, good question.
Padres360 – We’re not making an offer. LOL.
Ted – No, I understand. Back in the day, back earlier in the day, I would have said no and I would say no. But now, I think if there was an entity that could take it to the next level, and I believe that there is life for that. Say, a big media company could transform it into a cartoon, could transform it into an amusement park character, and could transfer it into a higher call of merchandise. I say if there was somebody that would be able to and enable that like I see big media companies do, Time Warner, what have you. Yeah, there’s the possibility of that perhaps for the future. I’m not actively shopping it or whatever. But it comes to a point where a person can’t carry on. I don’t see myself handing it over to another person. But yeah, that day might come. But like I say, I haven’t really applied myself to a lot of thought towards that.
Padres360 – You might entertain offers.
Ted – Right, right.
>>> Note: Ted is getting close to this now with his featured Pocket Avatar! Check this out!
Padres360 – How have you evolved the character over the years?
Ted – Oh, it’s gotten a little more bolder, a little more zanier. When I first started out, I was just in the grandstands for the first two years walking around the grandstands. It wasn’t until the Padres’ Ballard Smith suggested and invited me to go on the field and try some shtick, try some chicken shtick, so to speak. And that was unheard of, unprecedented, like we were talking about yesterday.
Padres360 – Yes.
Ted – The first time I remember, he calls me up and he says, “Ted, we want you to go on the field the fifth inning.” I said, “On the field? On the grass itself in the middle of the game?” “Yes. When they’re changing over, go on the field. We’ll be dragging the field that time, but I want you to go on the field and do something. We’re shooting a TV commercial and we want to show you in action in our commercial.” I said, “Great. I’ll think about it.” So, I think of something to do. I don’t know. The moment I hang up the phone, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I have no idea. “Go on the field.” I’m scouring my mind, what can I do on a field in 90 seconds? I asked my friend at the time. He’s got no clue. That guy was running with me at the KGB. This was 1976? ’75. 1975. I think July ’75. It was jacket night. 40,000 people there for kids. They were giving away these jackets.
Padres360 – I remember the vinyl jacket and I was at that game.
Ted – Oh, yeah. The vinyl thing.
Padres360 – Yes.
Ted – Yeah, jacket night. So, it got 40,000, mostly predominantly kids. Come the fifth inning, I still don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m there in the left field railing on the front row by the Padre bullpen in old Jack Murphy Stadium. Comes the fifth inning, I turn to my friend. “You got anything?” He says, “I got nothing.” I say, “I got nothing too.” Alright, here goes, just run on the field. So, I run on field. Now, the fans are going crazy. “Ah! The Chicken’s on the field! Ah! This is nuts!” And I’m running down left field foul line, in the outfield, and I see Art Williams, third base umpire, black umpire. He’s now passed away. And he’s got the widest grin, the widest smile, and I figure I’m running down. And I’m thinking, “Oh, a friendly face. I’ll go to him. I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I’ll just go to him.” So, I detour and I walk. And as I’m approaching him, I figure I’ll extend my hand to shake his and he extends his hand to shake mine. And the moment we shake hands, the moment we touch, it just dawns on me right there. Aha! This is what I’ll do. I’ll make believe like he doesn’t let go of my grip as I walk away and he pulls me down as a prank. I’ll pantomime all this. So then, he’s letting go of my hand. I’m not letting go of his as I’m walking away and I pantomime like he’s jerking me back, dropping me to the ground. And then I pick myself up and I figure I’m going to start arguing with him like a baseball manager would.
Padres360 – Lol. What happened next?
Ted – I start like, “What’s the idea of a prank? I come out here to shake your hand, you pull me down. That’s dirty pool.” And I’m ranting and raving, just like Billy Martin would.
Padres360 – Oh, yeah. Billy was a classic.
Ted – And I’m gesticulating like crazy and I’m telling him under my breath, “Sir, I’m only joking. Don’t worry.” He’s looking around and he’s bewildered. Yeah, we still remember him looking around to his umpire mates like, “Is this a prank you put me up to?” And they’re putting their hands up like, “Don’t look at us. We have nothing to do with this.”
Padres360 – LOL!!!
Ted – Art Williams then looks at the players. “Don’t look at us, man.” The players are watching, “Well, what the heck is going on here?” This was unprecedented. This was unheard of. A fan has come out of the field dressed up in a chicken suit, right? And he’s now accosted the third base umpire.
Padres360 – LOL! And security hadn’t done anything.
Ted – Security’s doing nothing. Of course, they’ve been alerted Chicken’s going on the field. Smith alerted them. “Chicken’s going on the field. Hands off.” And I’m doing this sketch unbeknownst to the umpire improvisationally and I’m telling him, “It’s all a joke, don’t worry. I’ll be out of your way in a minute, sir. It’s all good. Don’t worry.” And he’s bewildered and he’s got a good attitude about it. And the crescendo, the audience’s reaction is enormous. They’re going crazy. And I figure, “How am I going to end this? How am I going to end this?” And then, it dawns on me right there. Boom! I’ll raise my leg like dog would on a fire hydrant. I give him the raised leg salute and the audience explodes like a volcano. And I run off the field. I figure, oh my, gosh. I’ve never heard such laughter like that. 40,000 people laughing so heartily from their gut. And I run up the stairs at the Murph, completely run all the way through the concourse, out into the parking lot with my friend. And out there, there’s just the two of us. Again, it’s the fifth inning and it’s all quiet out there. And we’re jumping around like two kids who had just won the big bear at the Del Mar Fair. “Can you believe what you were…” You know, I rip off my head and I said, “Can you believe? Have you ever heard laughter like that in your life?” “Oh my god, I couldn’t believe it.” He was shaking. He said, “I had nothing to do with that and I’m shaking.” And I’m breaking out into a cold sweat. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard, the response. We were just on cloud nine. I said, “Aw man, we made that many people laugh at once.”
Padres360 – That’s a comedian’s dream. They never get an audience that big.
Ted – No. And I put the head back on. We walk back in there proud as can be. Next morning, Ballard Smith calls me up on the phone. He says, “Ted, what you did last night was amazing. That was tremendous. We had one problem, though. Our camera jammed. Can you do it again tonight?”
Padres360 – Oh my, gosh. No!
Ted – Yeah. He says, “Can you do it again tonight?” I said, “Ballard, I can’t do it again. A comedian doesn’t repeat the joke again, especially the next night. You give it some time.” But from that point on after, Ballard gave me a green light to go on the field and do stuff.
>>>Through the years, Ted got more and more comfortable with his Shtick on the Field – check out this mashup video for some great examples!
New Feature … A question from “The Famous Chicken Baseball Quiz Book”
What player went in to run for Ted Williams and hit a home run in the same inning?
- Caroll Hardy
- Jimmy Piersall
- Gene Stephens
- Marthy Keogh
Answer next week!
Next week, Ted talks about the difficulty with the role and how baseball has changed over the years.