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Saturday, December 26, 2020

Willie P. Bananas served as West Palm Beach's mascot

Willie P. Bananas 1990 West Palm Beach Expos mascot card

The umpire in this July 1989 game appeared to make a bad call and home team mascot Willie P. Bananas let the ump know with an offer of a pair of glasses.

The umpire soon let Willie know his displeasure by throwing the mascot out of the game, a moment The Palm Beach Post revisited with the mascot performer, Marianne Carlisle, years later.

"I went running out with a big pair of glasses and one of those eye charts," Carlisle recalled to The Post in 2003. "Now that I look back on it, he was talking to me like I was a person: 'Willie, you better get out of here,' Like he was trying to reason with a gorilla.'"

After Carlisle/Willie returned to the sideline, a West Palm Beach staffer had to inform her she and the mascot had been tossed, she recalled to The Post. (Also ejected in the game: West Palm Beach manager Felipe Alou.)

Willie P. Bananas, a big orange gorilla in an Expos uniform, entertained West Palm Beach Expos fans starting in 1989. The mascot, played by different performers, continued on through 1997, through nine Florida State League seasons.

Willie P. Bananas first took the field to start 1989. A 4-year-old girl - with help from her father - helped come up with the mascot's new name, The Miami Herald wrote.

The Herald didn't include further on how the father and daughter came up with the name, but Willie P. Bananas' initials - WPB - happened to coincide with those of the club's home city, West Palm Beach.

Bananas' first card provides some character back story: Willie enjoyed climbing, eating, sleeping and, of course, baseball.

"Wild, wacky, wonderful / Pleasant, princely, precious / Better than the average gorilla," the card back reads.

The card also gives a clue to the person behind the mask - "A.K.A - M. Carlisle."

Through Willie's existence, the mascot made many appearances off the field, including a child care center in 1989, an "Alternative to Drugs Rally and Walk" in 1990 and a children's shelter in 1996. 

On the field, Willie performed at at least two league All-Star games, 1989 and 1990.

Carlisle performed Willie for four seasons, through 1992. Then others picked up the suit. In 1994, 14-year-old Brad Sclater had the job. He picked it up when his friend, who had the job, didn't show up for work, The Post wrote.

"They gave me a chance and the crowd loved me," Sclater told The Post that August.

The character then continued on through 1997, when the West Palm Beach Expos left for nearby Jupiter and a new stadium. The club became the Jupiter Hammerheads, with a mascot of its own, Hamilton R. Head.

Willie P. Bananas 1990 West Palm Beach Expos mascot card

1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,539
Made the Majors:1,227-34.7%
Never Made Majors:2,312-65.3%
5+ Seasons in the Majors:509
10+ Seasons in the Minors:304

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