How did a mascot get ejected from a game?

Back in 1989, for the first and only time, it happened

February 2nd, 2022

Mascots are Claude Hubert's life.

For 20 years, he's been involved in the industry -- making costumes, directing acts, training newcomers and putting on the suit for Canadian sports teams like the Montreal Dragons and Montreal Machine. His face visibly lit up during a recent Zoom call when I asked what he enjoyed most about the silly, centuries-old craft.

"When you have a bad day and the team is losing and a kid hugs you and says, 'I love you, Youppi,' that's it," Hubert told me. "That's it for me."

Youppi! (French for Yippee!), the Montreal Expos mascot, is the one Hubert is most famous for portraying. The character was around for most of the Expos' existence spanning the years 1979-04. Hubert was inside the suit from 1984-91.

And one night in 1989, during a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Youppi! and Claude cemented their place in baseball's history books: The furry, big-nosed orange creature became the first, and only, mascot to ever be thrown out of a Major League game.

"Yeah, I was making maybe a little more noise than usual," Hubert remembered, laughing.

Youppi! had two things going against him that night.

First, the game was incredibly close and intense.

It was a 1-0, 22-inning affair -- a pitchers' duel originally started by Pascual Perez and Orel Hershiser and kept intact by a parade of nine other relievers. That's more than two games. That's three seventh-inning stretches. To have a nail-gnawing, stressful game like that going on, any team or manager might take offense to some giant monster pounding on top of the dugout.

Secondly, the Dodgers manager was Tommy Lasorda.

Lasorda was known to have kind of a short temper during his long and successful managerial career. In fact, one of his most famous moments was when he full-out attacked the Phillie Phanatic. The Phillies mascot had made a dummy version of L.A.'s manager and Lasorda did not think it was funny. At all.

"Well, I knew he didn't love mascots," Hubert said. "Because he did something with the Phillie Phanatic."

This isn't to say that Youppi! didn't have a part in what happened.

The Expos mascot was known for his stunts. He was an original troublemaker. He rode around on an ATV, he messed with players and he had one night where he stood still as the Statue of Liberty for 20 minutes on Montreal's "New York, New York Night."

So in the 11th inning, Youppi! set his sights on the top of the Dodgers' dugout to get in the away team's heads. It was the perfect place for him to get maximum attention -- spotted by the crowd and TV cameras. And then he started making problems.

"I made myself fall down wearing the pajamas, so maybe I was a little bit heavier that usual," Hubert said. "It made a lot of noise, but that was my job. I was cheering for the Expos, you know?"

Yes, pajamas. Whenever an Expos game went into extra innings, Youppi! would have a change of wardrobe into some custom-made PJs (a skit copied by mascots today).

"To tell people, 'OK, Youppi! is tired and he wants to go to bed,'" Hubert said.

Although Hubert definitely told me he was making loud sounds, he also said there were a group of Expos fans behind him yelling at Lasorda and the players. And that's who L.A.'s manager was more angry at. But if you check the tape, it seems that much of Lasorda's ire was directed at the Expos' mascot.

Maybe it was the length and closeness of the game or the rage of Lasorda or both, but umpire Bob Davidson felt he needed to do something. Something ridiculous. Something never done before.

"The umpire Bob Davidson saw Lasorda arguing with me and took the decision to say, 'OK, Youppi!, you're out of the game,'" Hubert recalled.

Hubert took a long, slow walk off the dugout and into the concourse.

Still, he wasn't totally sure if this was real and he was actually ejected from the game or just not allowed back up on the dugout. His colleague asked the umps and found out he was indeed gone from the game.

"Yeah, I took off my pajamas and threw them. Threw my pillow," Hubert told me.

"I got booed everywhere," Davidson later said. "But they booed me pretty good."

Then, after an inning straight of Youppi! chants from the Olympic Stadium crowd, Davidson -- perhaps realizing how absurd the move had been -- reversed his decision and allowed the Montreal mascot back inside the stadium. He just had to promise to stay on the home team side of the field. Youppi! obeyed the new restriction and watched his team eventually fall, 1-0, in the marathon contest. Backup catcher Rick Dempsey, who ended up getting five at-bats, hit a game-winning homer off Expos pitcher Dennis Martinez in the top of the 22nd.

There was talk about the length of the game afterwards, but there was also lots of talk about the Youppi! fiasco.

"Yeah, there was talk in the press and every year since then some radio station calls me or a TV [station]," Hubert said. "People are always talking about this event."

One Montreal Gazette columnist even decided to bash Youppi! after the game in question.

But Youppi's performance that night solidified his spot in mascot lore: The Expos mascot was inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame in Indiana in 2019 and, along with the Phanatic and San Diego Chicken, he's one of three mascots with a display in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

"Yeah, it's really fun," Hubert told me. "I was the third Youppi!, but people were talking the most about my seasons. I did a lot of sketch items, made a lot of costumes, so yeah, I'm very proud. Youppi! in Montreal -- in Quebec -- is the mascot."

Youppi! is still around, serving as mascot for the Montreal Canadiens. But, like many mascots these days, there's not a lot of creativity or sketch-comedy or effort that goes into the nightly performances. As Hubert notes, maybe it's because the team disallows it -- rather having the attention on its players -- or maybe it's because the performers inside the suit are just fine with the status quo. His favorite MLB mascot going right now? The Phillie Phanatic, of course (although he does mention the San Diego Chicken as an early trailblazer).

"I met him. I went to Philadelphia and we talked mascot," Hubert said. "I look at videos that he's making and he makes a lot of moves that I made. A lot of his sketches look like mine. He's one of the best."

One other amazing tidbit from Hubert's groundbreaking night as Youppi!? He ended up meeting his future wife.

Hubert told me it wasn't because of his ejection -- it was more of a coincidence that it happened the same day. She was a friend of a friend who thought the two (probably Hubert the human being and not the orange monster Youppi!), would be a good fit.

"During the game, a friend of mine brought me to see her," Hubert recalled. "He said, 'Youppi!, I present you with Sylvia, Sylvia, I present you with Youppi!' And he got me her phone number and after that, I saw her the next day, and we were 32 years together after that."

That doesn't mean she wasn't impressed by her future husband's legendary moment.

"She really liked the way I reacted getting ejected," Hubert told me. "And she couldn't believe the spectators shouting, 'Youppi!, Youppi!, Youppi! ...'"