Slider could join prestigious company
Tribe icon a finalist for Mascot Hall of Fame induction class
CLEVELAND -- Dan Kilday laughs about it now.And why shouldn't he? Sure, it hurt -- a lot. But, the short-term pain has certainly resulted in some long-term infamy, which is key in Kilday's line of work. It was Game 4 of the 1995 American League Championship Series -- the upstart Indians vs. the veteran-led Mariners. Rain soaked the top of the right-field fence at the park now known as Progressive Field. With the Tribe trailing early, an idea popped into the head of Kilday, who has perspired profusely for 18 years as the man behind Slider -- the Indians big, pink and fuzzy mascot. "Sure seems like a perfect time for a somersault." No, it wasn't. The slick Teflon surface served as a slip-and-slide. Kilday shot off the wall and tumbled on to the field in a heap. He tried to get up, but couldn't. He had to crawl. Kilday pointed toward the Mariners' bullpen and shimmied as fast as he could -- dragging his stubby mascot leg behind him -- as a few of the relievers bent over with laughter, unaware that this was no stunt. Kilday's knee cap was completely dislocated. But Kilday can laugh now. Heck, that's what most fans did when Slider reappeared for Game 5 on crutches with a fake cast and bandages wrapped around its leg. (Little did they know, Kilday was underneath the suit with a real cast on his real leg.) "That really kind of put me on the map," Kilday said. "If you're going to take a fall, take it during the playoffs." Disastrous tumble or no disastrous tumble, one thing is certain. Slider has become an icon, and it's almost entirely Kilday's doing. Voting for the Mascot Hall of Fame (http://www.mascothalloffame.com) started Monday, and for the second consecutive year, Slider -- the Indians' mascot since Kilday won the open tryout before the 1990 season -- is on a very short list of prestigious candidates for induction. Billy the Marlin and eight other collegiate and professional mascots are also on the ballot this year. The Mascot Hall of Fame has been around since 2005, and there are currently only three MLB mascots enshrined -- the Phillie Phanatic, the San Diego Chicken and Mr. Met. Voting for the Hall of Fame will run until Sept. 12, and a percentage of the fan vote will be counted. For a mascot to be enshrined, it must receive 75 percent of the vote, which includes several different committees within the Hall of Fame. "It's an honor just to be on the ballot and be recognized," Kilday said. "Cleveland's a small market." Small, yes. But Kilday has made the most of it. An art major in college, Kilday worked part-time as a Hannah-Barbara character at Kings Island Resort in Cincinnati. Kilday had a lot of fun with it so, when he heard of the open casting call for the new Cleveland Indians mascot before the 1990 season, he figured, "Why not?" Kilday got the part, of course, and he hasn't given it up since. That is unlike most mascots, who have had a number of humans fill their big sweaty suits throughout the years. Kilday has been the only full-time Slider in Indians history -- an accomplishment he hopes will be recognized by online voters and the 18-member Mascot Hall of Fame executive committee. "For me to even stay in it at this point and [having worked this long], it doesn't happen," Kilday said. "If I retired tomorrow, whoever we would get likely would be there no more than five years, tops. It's one of those unique opportunities that I've had." One of Kilday's close friends, John Routh, dressed up as Billy the Marlin for the first 10 seasons in franchise history, but has since retired and now works as a mascot instructor at the college level. Kilday, though, has kept going. He's sashayed his big, pink mascot belly and danced as much as his all-too-small mascot legs have been able to handle in his 18 years of working Slider to the top of the mascot food chain. Kilday has put the Slider suit on for cameos in "Major League 2" and an episode of "The Drew Carey Show." He's been to 13 All-Star Games and, in 2000, took his act to Japan for a week of charity work. According to the judging criteria, Kilday should have an advantage over the competition. It's about much more than the suit. "Part of it is the character, the other part is the performer," said Chris Bruce, vice chairman for the Mascot Hall of Fame. Kilday, who has put his own body at risk for the sake of enlightening a crowd, couldn't agree more. "We're not the moose in the mall getting into a costume and waving," Kilday said. "You're creating a persona of a character. It's entertainment and it's performed."
Andrew Gribble is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.