Last week Ted discussed how baseball has changed over the years and also what led him to branch out on his own. This week we will learn a bit more about the Chicken Suit … things such as history, malfunctions, and did the Chicken ever get “lucky” in the suit? Hmmm …
Padres360: Now besides the character, do you have any plans to pass the suit on to somebody?
Ted: Rebecca, if I thought I could, I would hire 50 and send one to every state and just collect royalties. But I don’t think it’s teachable. I don’t think it’s learnable.
Ted: It’s like people who think they can hit a curveball watching it from the grandstand. Okay? Until you step in there and go, “Oh, no. I did not know it was this way.” Curveball looks really easy to hit when you’re sitting in section 36. Well when you’re standing in the batter’s box, your knees buckle real fast.
And so if I thought I could teach somebody, I would. That would be out of my hands. So I decided, a long time ago I decided I’m not going to make this a department store Santa Clause and hurt the credibility. So I decided when they see the chicken, it will be the one single guy. When they talk about him or see a photo, they’ll say, “Hey, I shook that guy’s hand,” “I got his autograph,” “I got his picture,” “The guy made me laugh one night in Des Moines,” whatever.
Padres360: The Chicken.
Ted: Yeah, it is the single guy.
Padres360: The ONE.
Ted: Right, and not a department store Santa Clause. But it’s interesting to note, I would keep such a hectic schedule even when I was back in my San Diego KGB days or across the country. People thought there really were three or four of me. It wasn’t uncommon for me to do a game Saturday night and then appear in Kansas City on Sunday for the Royals. And they say, “You can’t be that same guy I saw last night on TV in Cleveland.” I’m going, “Yeah, yeah.”
Padres360: We can’t wait. We missed you guys. Well this is actually something Wayne’s dying to know here, so I’ll ask it for him. But you know, Padres do a few retro games every year where they have the retro uniforms. They feature a few different ones.
Padres360: So in that theme, is it possible you could come back retro as The KGB Chicken?
Ted: Oh, oh, oh I did that in 1984 for my 10th anniversary game. I wore my very first outfit, which was a paper mâché outfit. It was ugly.
Ted: And it scared babies. Yeah. It was a rental from a costume shop out on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard that no longer exists. And then I wore my second outfit. That was the very first outfit. That was a rental. It was supposed to be a one-week promotional gimmick and then the suit was supposed to go back.
Ted: But I just kept at it and the station let me stay on. But the second suit I got about a year after that and that’s where it opened up for me, because I could be very animated in a lightweight outfit. And so I did that in 1984 at the Chicken Birthday game that we did and sold out the Murph that night. But yeah, I don’t think that first suit is even around anymore. It was probably destroyed.
Padres360: We think that’d be pretty cool on retro night, because they usually do four in a year.
Padres360: You can go back with a retro chicken. If you came out like that, the crowd would go crazy. The retro nights are one of the most popular nights the Padres have. Even when we’re not doing well, people like the retro nights. My son, who gets all whiney about the Padres, loves retro night.
Ted: Oh, is that right?
Padres360: Well typically, how long does one of your suits last? Do you have to replace them fairly often?
Ted: Oh, yeah, yeah. I’ll go through maybe on the average, when I’m out there every day performing, I’ll go through about two or three a year just from wear and tear. A lot of slapstick that I do, a lot of physical comedy, and of course diving into third and all that sort of thing, rolling around in the dirt wrestling ball players, that sort of thing. It has a wear and tear on the outfit.
Padres360: Oh, I bet.
Ted: That I would go through about two or three. But nowadays as I’ve pulled back my schedule, I can go through about one a year. In fact, I’ve got a new suit today.
Padres360: And do you have a special place that cleans your feathers?
Ted: Oh, it’s just a wash and wear suit.
Ted: Yes, absolutely.
Padres360: That’s amazing.
Ted: Dave has done it many, many times on the road, believe me. Throws it in the wash.
Padres360: Per your job description?
Dave: (Dave is the Managing Director) Yeah.
Ted: Cold water wash.
Dave: Really, you couldn’t ask for anything better than that.
Padres360: Well, I worked for a drycleaners for years and we all got all kinds of stuff in there. So I was just thinking about, you know, you maybe have a special drycleaner that handles that for you.
Ted: It’s a special type of fur that I don’t think is conducive to dry-cleaning.
Padres360: Oh, yeah, because some of it would just dissolve.
Ted: Yeah. And you can’t wash it with hot water because it shrinks. It shrinks like that. So yeah, just a cold water wash.
Ted: Throw it in there, a little Tide, and we’re on our way.
Dave: I’ve gotten some goofy looks in the hallway of hotels when I’m washing it. The suit is in the laundry bag, what? They go, “What?” And people like [clears throat], “Is that the chicken suit?” I’m like…
Padres360: They probably think that you’re kinky or something. [Laughs] I can imagine them thinking … “he’s too tall”
Padres360: Well you know, ever since the Janet Jackson days, we have to ask the question. Have you ever had a costume malfunction?
Ted: I’ve had a costume malfunction on occasion.
Ted: Which one are you thinking of, Dave?
Dave: The one in Frisco where you lost your eye?
Ted: Oh, oh, oh, yeah.
Dave: Frisco, Texas. Not San Francisco.
Padres360: Oh, okay.
Ted: Frisco for a Rangers farm club there. You’re right. But funny thing, I’m acting like a corner man for the umpire between innings. And I’ve got him sitting on a quasi-stool. And I’m like a corner man in boxing. I’m feeding him water and he’s spitting it out in the pail. And then I hold up my palms and tell him to give me some jabs in my palms. And then after he jabs my palms, I tell him to go ahead and bolo punch my beak. And as he bolo punches my rubber beak, the vibration of the beak is going up and down like a cartoon that it pops out one of the heads onto the grass! The audience is aghast. Oh!
Padres360: Freak out?
Ted: Yeah. And my eye is rolling around on the field. I go grab my eye and I put it on top of the umpire’s head like he needs a third eye. So I was able to save the moment. I finish the routine and then I run off the field and I was able to pop the eye back in.
Padres360: Oh my goodness. That’s pretty funny.
Dave: I’m waiting there for the next routine or whatever, to give water, whatever you need to do. And Ted, to his credit, he’s immediately concerned about the rest of the show. He’s like, “I lost my eye. Where’s my eye.” I’m like, “I know, I see your eyes.” I’m just trying not to laugh. He’s like, “Where is it? Where is it?” I’m like, “I don’t know.” Batboy luckily comes out. He’s like, “You dropped this.”
Padres360: He was a batboy, right?
Dave: But he’s just so nonchalant. He’s like, “It’s yours.”
Dave: I was like, “Thanks.”
Ted: Yeah, I remember the umpire told me, “Hey, you lost your eye.” I go, “What?” And there it is rolling. I could see it on the ground.
Dave: Because he acted like he can’t see.
Padres360: Talk about shooting your eye out.
Ted: So I put it on his head and then I exit the field so the umpire’s got to get up and give it to the batboy.
Padres360: So, the next question is have you ever had any hanky-panky wearing the suit?
Ted: No hanky-panky. I’ve got a lot of dates wearing the suit back in the day. Oh, back in the ‘70s.
Padres360: No make-out sessions or anything in the suit?
Ted: No, not in the outfit, never in the outfit. But back in the day, at concerts and especially the day games, those businessmen specials.
Padres360: They were chicken specials, too.
Ted: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I got plenty of phone numbers stuffed in my beak.
Padres360: That’s awesome.
Ted: It was a nice surprise, a nice surprise to not know. But you could tell from that picture…
Padres360: Oh, yeah.
Ted: How people were, the attitude of things.
Padres360: That’s so funny.
Padres360: Is the KGB suit still around? Do you still have that?
Ted: No, I don’t. I could make one up very easily though, very easily. I did one for a ‘70s style chicken head for that New York Times political editor, James Naughton. They were having a big ceremony for him, a big observance for him back in Florida at a college. And they wanted to get the head from the Ford Library to present it to him and the Ford library refused to give it up. Said, “Now, this is ours. We’re keeping it.”
Padres360: I love that.
Ted: So they called me up saying, “We’re doing this tribute to Jim Naughton. Can you do anything for us?” And I said, “I tell you what. I will make him a replica head.”
Ted: And I flew in and presented it to him that night, because it was after that Ford rally where he came to me and he said, “I got to have that head. I need it. It’s going to be so funny.” He had a sense of humor about him. To show you again how attitudes were back in the ‘70s, hard to believe that political editors were saying, “I want to play a prank on the president of the United States. Can you give me…”
Padres360: Oh, yeah. Can you imagine even trying it today?
A question from “The Famous Chicken Baseball Quiz Book”
This Hall of Famer pitched a total of three games and totaled five innings while giving up six hits and two walks. He first pitched in 1918 and again in 1925. Name him:
- Ty Cobb
- Ed Roush
- Sam Crawford
- Casey Stengel
Answer next week!
Of course, we can’t leave you hanging from last week – here is the question and answer!
Which of the following players did NOT collect 20 doubles, triples and home runs in the same season during his career?
- Willie Mays
- George Brett
- Jim Rice
- Jim Bottomley
Answer: Boston Red Sox slugger Jim Rice has passed the 20 total in every department except for triples during his career. The following is the list of the other players and the year in which they accomplished the feat. Jim Bottomley 1928; Willie Mays 1957; and George Brett 1979.
In our next edition, some little known facts about the Chicken and The Grand Hatching!