A sports mascot is a character (usually wearing a costume, though sometimes a live animal or person in minimal costume) who is designed to interact with and entertain fans at games and other team events. In earlier days of baseball, teams often used small children as their mascots.
The era of cartoon-like mascots took off at the end of the 1970s, when the San Diego Chicken became a national star, and a number of now iconic mascots were introduced in short order, notably the Phillie Phanatic, the Pirate Parrot and Youppi! Others have followed, not all so successful. However, there are older mascots still around, such as Mr. Met, who has been around as long as the team he encourages. Mascots are also highly popular in Japan and in the minor leagues.
A popular attraction at many ballparks is a mascot race. This takes the form of a race between characters, normally four, dressed in silly costumes reflecting local culture. The race usually takes place between innings, and fans can make friendly wagers on the winner - although they should know that not everything is on the up-and-up. These races are usually closer to what happens in a cartoon race, with participants tripping each other, running in the wrong direction, and so on. The first of these was the sausage race at Milwaukee Brewers games at Miller Park, soon followed by the "Great Pierogi Race" at Pittsburgh Pirates games at PNC Park (a pierogi being a dumpling of Eastern European origin that is popular in Western Pennsylvania and other places). The Washington Nationals have the Racing Presidents and the San Diego Padres feature four characters from the cult comedy "Anchorman" racing one other at Petco Park. The Nationals even stage the race in spring training games, where "second-tier" presidents, not quite ready for prime time, get to race.
This typical American tradition was brought to Europe for the first time during the two-game series between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees at London Olympic Stadium on June 29-30, 2019. As neither team regularly features such a race at its games, four mascots were specially designed for the occasion, supposedly reflecting British history and culture: they were King Henry VIII, Winston Churchill, rock singer Freddie Mercury, and in a piece of brilliant absurdity, the Loch Ness Monster. Freddie won the initial race.
In the minor leagues, mascots often race around the bases against little kids selected from the attendance. Somehow, the mascots always seem to lose those races, no matter how young and slow their opponents are. Tripping on one's own shoelaces or being distracted by shiny objects seem to be common problems that hamper these mascots' sporting performance.
One of the unforeseen results of the coronavirus pandemic was that, according to the health and safety protocols, even though mascots were still allowed "under no circumstances are mascots permitted on the field of play or in any other Restricted Area on game days." Given most of the characters' routines involved being on the field or interacting with now absent fans, it sort of cramped their style, although some of them unleashed their creavity despite the circumstances. The Phillie Phanatic made it a point to perform outlandish physical comedy routines while interacting with some of the cardboard fans in the stands, just within camera rage, while the Atlanta Braves mascot, Blooper, put on lavish costumes to perform slow-burn gags out in the deserted stands of his home ballpark.
For a partial list of mascots, see this list