CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs’ current mascot, Clark, has a background that seems innocent enough, until you realize the historical context of the story.
Clark was first introduced to the public on Jan. 13, 2014, as the first official mascot in the modern history of Cubs baseball. According to the official Cubs website, he heard of his great-grandfather’s “enjoyment” at the field in 1916 and decided to go to Wrigley Field himself to get a piece of the action. However, Clark’s parents must not have gone into detail about the “fun” his great-grandfather had back in 1916.
The last Cubs mascot that was “successful” at being the moral-boosting good luck charm was in 1908, with a man who looked like he was wearing a skinned polar bear. Then they started losing games, so they thought that live bear cubs would bring them luck because other teams had live dogs, according to the Chicago Reader. Though the bears had mean streaks in them, given that they’re wild bears. These cubs were prone to prodding and roughhousing by trainers and players, one was even shot on sight after scratching someone, according to the Examiner on Jan. 27, 1916.
Dr. Michael Kelly, a local veterinarian who has done everything from check-ups on kittens to healing gunshot wounds on hawks, said that “Bears are loners and their first defense is usually to run, but they will attack if provoked.” When asked about having bears as pets, Dr. Kelly said “Bear’s are a little too strong and destructive to consider that.”
The destructiveness of these bears came to a head when one invaded a woman’s picnic. No person was hurt, but the bear was unceremoniously shot as a result. That’s when Joa, “Clark’s Great-grandfather” came into the picture. He was named after the Cubs co-owners initials, who also owned a meat-packing company Upton Sinclair based “The Jungle” on. Joa was more than likely taken after his mother was killed in a hunting expedition by Cubs co-owner Charley Weeghman. Joa confined to a concrete slab with bars around it, a barren tree in the middle, and a concrete hut. It was said that Joa scratched a few players, so he was issued “meatless days” to make him less surely so they didn’t have a repeat of the last mascot.
This seems cruel however, Dr. Kelly said “Bears actually eat more plants than animals, especially when their bulking up for hibernation”, so the Cubs owners get a pass on that one.
The Cubs finished in fifth place that season, so the owners gave up on Joa and sold him to the Lincoln Park Zoo for $20.
So Clark’s great-grandfather was an innocent wild creature that was kidnapped after his mother was killed, poked and prodded at by handlers, denied meat to make him less surely, and dumped into a zoo when he didn’t give the team any luck. What a legacy.