The war between Raymond, the blue doggish mascot for the Tampa Bay Rays, and Boston Red Sox fans began in earnest during the Kelly Frank years.
Frank is known in the mascot industry for being antagonistic, and during the years she played Raymond, it was the prime of Red Sox Nation, when the fans treated Tropicana Field like a home game.
“It was 60 percent Boston fans,” she said, adding they would treat Tampa like the minor leagues and get vacation drunk. “So I would do anything I could to annoy the hell out of them.”
Raymond — now played by a successor to Frank — has defended the Rays’ turf by annoying the hell out of Red Sox fans ever since.
On Tuesday night, a man from Needham named Trevor James Martin added the latest chapter to this bloodless feud when he was arrested for allegedly grabbing Raymond twice by the throat from a railing during a Sox-Rays game.
It’s unclear what led to the wrestling move.
Martin, 27, told police he had consumed two beers. The police report described him as staggering and swaying, with slurred speech and blood-shot eyes. Each time the fan grabbed him, Raymond had to push him off to break loose. Martin was charged with disorderly intoxication in a public place, but the Rays did not press charges for battery.
Frank played Raymond from 2004 to 2008, during the Sox glory years, and antagonizing Boston fans was the most thrilling thing to do behind the fur, and also the most dangerous. After the Sox won the World Series in 2004, she said, Boston fans invading the Trop became “less knowledgeable, more obnoxious,” and some of the drunkest she’s ever seen. Raymond went at them, she said, but approached it like scaring someone in a haunted house -- quickly, before they threw a punch, because many people think it’s OK to punch a mascot.
Frank is known for “an acerbic, smart-butt attitude to her characters,” said David Raymond, who played the original Phillie Phanatic for 17 years and now designs mascot brands and trains performers. “She’s not working there anymore in part because of the in-your-face personality she developed.”
After leaving the Rays, Frank was fired from her role as ThunderBug for the Tampa Bay Lightning after she blasted a guy in a Bruins jersey with Silly String. A clip of the incident went viral after the man got up and got in ThunderBug’s face while being thrown out. Frank says the video starts too late, and misses the man being drunk and obnoxious.
“He just targeted me,” she said. “Stereotype of a Boston fan. And that’s why I Silly Stringed him. I knew I shouldn’t do it, but I couldn’t help myself.’’
Frank said she goes at Boston fans hardest because her family is from the area, and she loves the fans, but what she loves most is that they are the most dangerous to poke. “There should really be a mascot guidebook called ‘How to deal with Red Sox fans,’ ” she said.
The man currently playing Raymond was not available for comment. It’s mascot code not to speak. Wally, the Sox mascot — who has engaged in a long squabble with Raymond himself — also declined comment. Martin, forever Googleable as the guy who grabbed the Tampa Bay mascot, did not return a Facebook query. His mother answered the phone at his Needham home and said he was unavailable.
Raymond, the original Phanatic, said he’s seen these situations enough to know both sides are probably to blame for it ending in a wrestling move. People treat mascots like cartoons and think you can throw them off the cliff, he said. But a mascot should know that and always find a way to walk away.
Billy Baker can be reached at email@example.com.