SAN DIEGO (AP) — Remember the San Diego Chicken? Well, the long-ago iconic mascot of the Padres has some competition.
There’s a new bird in town. The Rally Goose.
The goose appeared on the giant videoboard in the eighth inning of the NL Championship Series opener Tuesday night, but he couldn’t revive the Padres. They lost 2-0.
Fans waved blow-up photos of the goose in the stands. The Padres already sold Goose Island IPA at Petco Park, but the stand in left field now features a photo of the Rally Goose with a Padres hat superimposed on its head.
A city that hasn’t been in the NLCS since 1998 is clearly goosed by the Padres’ surprising success. Upsets of the New York Mets in the wild card series and the big-money Dodgers have fans digging out T-shirts and jerseys dating to the club’s founding in 1969.
And then there’s the Rally Goose.
The Pad Squad cheering group held up a hand-lettered Rally Goose sign before the game. A man dressed as a bird in brown felt with a red beak mugged on the video board. The bird has its own mural in which it’s tagged as the “San Diegoose” on a building in nearby Chula Vista.
The goose’s landing has stirred memories of another goose — Hall of Fame reliever Rich “Goose” Gossage. He pitched for the Padres from 1984-87, helping the franchise beat the Chicago Cubs in the 1984 NLCS to reach its first World Series. The Padres then lost to the Detroit Tigers in five games.
“It was fun in San Diego. Turning the city on for the first time, it was very special,” Gossage said by phone from Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he lives. “I know the electricity that’s there. I felt it firsthand. They got a new stadium, but it’s no different now. Those fans are what the game is all about.”
William Deal, a 22-year-old from nearby Carlsbad, plopped a duck hat with black felt feathers on top of his Western-style hat. Standing 6-foot-8, he towered above the throngs of fans sipping beers and munching on everything from tri-tip nachos to short rib tacos to acai bowls and smoked beef brisket before Game 1.
“When the goose landed on the field, I thought it was going to be a Dodger omen because they always beat us. We’ve always been terrible,” said Deal, a Padres fan since age 5. “I feel like more championship teams that come from adversity, they have something that gets the fans going.”
Even a couple of red-clad Phillies fans endorsed the goose.
“It’s cute,” said George Beebe, a Philadelphia native who moved to nearby Solana Beach a few years ago.
His wife, Maureen, added conspiratorially, “We’re Padres fans when the Phillies aren’t in town.”
Johnny Florentino, a 26-year-old Philadelphia native now living in Las Vegas, was eager to dive into a pile of cheesesteak fries before Tuesday’s game. He chose the gooey snack over the $15 cheesesteak sandwiches that featured American cheese or Cheez Whiz.
“They got the Whiz,” he said. “If you got the Whiz, you’re all about Philly.”
Florentino and his 28-year-old girlfriend, Shawna Salamanopoulos, were among the small number of Phillies fans in the crowd of 44,826.
“We’re diehard, but I’m not going to talk (crap) to these people,” he said.
A smiling Salamanopoulos added, “But they’re talking (crap) to us.”
Nearby, Mike Morrell strolled the Petco Park concourse wearing a dog toy duck with real pheasant feathers attached to a baseball cap. The 64-year-old from San Diego has followed his hometown team since he was 5.
“It’s bringing good luck to all the San Diego sports teams,” he said, mentioning how fans also brought goose paraphernalia to a recent San Diego Wave FC women’s soccer game. “It’s a little bit different.”