The Brewers’ Hank the Dog . . . is an imposter

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Baseball fandom’s inherently local qualities make it hard to go too deeply into any one team’s world if you’re not already rooting for that team. There are conversations, jokes, controversies and memes that, say, Giants fans have that non-Giants fans will never likely know about. There are nicknames Tigers fans may give to a utility player that non-Tigers fans will never hear. It’s one of the cooler things about baseball fandom, actually, and whenever I stumble upon some new, well, thing that a given fan base has discussed and considered for some time, out of the view of most other fans, I smile. It’s such a rich world out there.

But it can be a bit disturbing at times to realize that you didn’t know about something important. Such as the rumor — which has now gone fully into accepted wisdom, it seems — that Hank the Dog, the Brewers’ unofficial mascot, is an impostor.

The theory, which dates back at least to December but was being discussed even before that, is that the original Hank has been replaced with a fluffier, more photogenic dog. It’s all laid out here at Brew Crew Ball, and it’s fairly undeniable based on the photographic evidence.

Is it a scandal? I’d say no. There are any number of live animal mascots which have been replaced as time has gone on. In most cases they get numeric designations like “Bevo XIV” or “Uga 10.” There’s no reason the Brewers can’t have a “Hank II” if the first Hank either died or was otherwise deemed not to be good for public appearances for some reason.

The Brewers have been more cagey about it, however. All of which makes me wonder if the Phillie Phanatic has been secretly replaced or if the original Mr. Met died in a smelting accident or something. How deep does the mascot deception go?

MLB crowds jump from ’21, still below pre-pandemic levels

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PHOENIX — Even with the homer heroics of sluggers like Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols, Major League Baseball wasn’t able to coax fans to ballparks at pre-pandemic levels this season, though attendance did jump substantially from the COVID-19 affected campaign in 2021.

The 30 MLB teams drew nearly 64.6 million fans for the regular season that ended Wednesday, which is up from the 45.3 million who attended games in 2021, according to baseball-reference.com. This year’s numbers are still down from the 68.5 million who attended games in 2019, which was the last season that wasn’t affected by the pandemic.

The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers led baseball with 3.86 million fans flocking to Dodger Stadium for an average of 47,672 per contest. The Oakland Athletics – who lost 102 games, play in an aging stadium and are the constant subject of relocation rumors – finished last, drawing just 787,902 fans for an average of less than 10,000 per game.

The St. Louis Cardinals finished second, drawing 3.32 million fans. They were followed by the Yankees (3.14 million), defending World Series champion Braves (3.13 million) and Padres (2.99 million).

The Toronto Blue Jays saw the biggest jump in attendance, rising from 805,901 fans to about 2.65 million. They were followed by the Cardinals, Yankees, Mariners, Dodgers, and Mets, which all drew more than a million fans more than in 2021.

The Rangers and Reds were the only teams to draw fewer fans than in 2021.

Only the Rangers started the 2021 season at full capacity and all 30 teams weren’t at 100% until July. No fans were allowed to attend regular season games in 2020.

MLB attendance had been declining slowly for years – even before the pandemic – after hitting its high mark of 79.4 million in 2007. This year’s 64.6 million fans is the fewest in a non-COVID-19 season since the sport expanded to 30 teams in 1998.

The lost attendance has been balanced in some ways by higher viewership on the sport’s MLB.TV streaming service. Viewers watched 11.5 billion minutes of content in 2022, which was a record high and up nearly 10% from 2021.