What’s the most unusual sports mascot you’ve ever seen? For me, it’s hands down the pierogi.
Oh? You’re not familiar with this mighty mascot? Allow me to introduce you.
A pierogi is a tasty Polish dumpling with a sweet or savory filling. A pierogi mascot is a poor soul in a stifling plush costume who works summer days at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. During every home game, the Pirates Pierogis – and yes, there are several – take the field at the bottom of the fifth inning.
Around the same time many kids start losing interest in the game.
Jalapeno Hannah, Oliver Onion, and the rest of the gang race around the bases in comical fashion, while fans cheer for their favorite filling. (Mine is Sauerkraut Saul – in case you’re wondering.) Throughout the race, the crowd stays surprisingly engaged and invested in the outcome.
Here’s what’s so great about the pierogis. Not only do they provide lighthearted entertainment during America’s favorite pastime, but they’re distinctly Pittsburgh. Historically, the city’s steel industry attracted large numbers of Polish immigrants, and their culture and descendants have shaped the region for generations. To this day, Polish Hill in Pittsburgh remains a well-established neighborhood.
Sure, the pierogi has become a bit of a caricature, but it’s still the most well-known and beloved dish in Western Pennsylvania. That makes it an ideal symbol for Pirates’ baseball. After all, the purpose of a mascot is to express the identity and spirit of a school, team, or organization through a living character – one that’s unique and memorable.
The pierogi easily qualifies as both.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that the pierogis are unofficial mascots. Technically, they’re known as “in-game entertainment.” The official mascot of the Pirates is a parrot. Aye, matey, ‘tis logical. But also, predictably boring. Because, while a parrot may be cute, it’s rarely memorable.
Giant slaphappy dumplings that race around a baseball diamond, tripping all over each other, on the other hand, are impossible to forget.