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Thursday, July 8, 2021

Old Pioneer & Friend - The Elmira Pioneers put more fun in their mascot, with a baseball cap

The Elmira Pioneers mascot originally looked a little more, like, well a Pioneer, The Elmira Star-Gazette wrote in June 1987. The kind with the long raccoon-tail hat.

Except there were a couple problems with that. It wasn't really baseball-related and kids liked to yank on it, The Star-Gazette wrote.

"We just put some more fun and character and baseball image into it rather than some non-descript character," Pioneers president and GM Clyde Smoll told The Star-Gazette of changing the mascot's hat to an actual baseball cap. "We're trying to make something a little more friendly for the kids."

The Pioneers that year continued a century of baseball tradition, one that saw the Pioneer name date back to at least 1900.

The baseball-capped Pioneer would continue through at least 1990, but would later give way to a decidedly baseball-centric mascot: Stiches the baseball (with a raccoon-tail hat).

The most recent run of Elmira baseball teams taking the moniker of Pioneers started in 1984. By 1985, the team had a Pioneer mascot. 

In an article on opening day 1985, The Star-Gazette noted the pre-game festivities included the mascot, referred to as "The Pioneer," being brought in via a horse-drawn carriage to deliver the ball for the first pitch.

That August, The Star-Gazette identified the person who played the Pioneers mascot, presumably The Pioneer, as a local soccer coach, though he doesn't appear to have continued beyond that season.

In 1990, The Pioneer, with his baseball cap, got his own card. Called "Old Pioneer," he was also billed with "Friend," a woman included on the card. There is no identifying information on who the woman was, though she appeared to have a Pioneers shirt. (The back of the card is the team checklist.)

Though the article didn't mention the team mascot, Smoll, still team president, explained to The Star-Gazette the goal of family-friendly entertainment.

"It's good, clean, wholesome family entertainment at reasonable prices - that's kind of our motto," Smoll told The Star-Gazette.

By 1997, the Pioneer had given way to a new mascot, an anthropomorphic baseball named Stitches. And Stitches appeared couple years later in a U.S. Airways magazine.

1990 Minor League Tally 
Players/Coaches Featured:3,690
Made the Majors:1,256-34.0%
Never Made Majors:2,434-66.0%
5+ Seasons in the Majors:522
10+ Seasons in the Minors:309

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