Slider tabbed for Mascot Hall of Fame
Kilday, contemplating retirement, enjoys impacting kids
It seems like it's all worth it now.
All those cold Ohio nights dancing on the field; those midweek day games entertaining smaller crowds; the time, the energy, the sweat, and even the injuries.
For Slider -- the Indians' mascot since 1990 -- it all culminated on Sept. 29, when he was inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame.
But if you ask Dan Kilday, who has been playing the character for the entire 18 years of its history, all the time he's put in dancing, pointing, waving, jumping, cheering and -- most famously -- falling, pays off in smaller ways.
"You know what I really enjoy doing now?" the 42-year-old Kilday asked. "Going to the elementary schools, because I get a chance to take a look at the impact the character has on kids. Sometimes, when I have my backup there, I get a chance to be out of costume a little bit and step back, see the expressions on [the kids'] faces, and see what I miss.
"It's a meaningful, fulfilling feeling."
That type of impact is what made the tall, slightly overweight, pink, fuzzy creature just the fourth Major League mascot to be inducted into the Hall.
The Phillie Phanatic, Mr. Met and the San Diego Chicken, the other big league inductees, have all been around since at least the 1970s and, when Kilday was fresh out of college and decided to try out for the part of the Tribe mascot, they were already icons in the profession.
Now, Slider is in the same class.
"Unbelievable," said Kilday, an art major in college who worked part-time as a Hannah-Barbara character at Kings Island Resort in Cincinnati. "Rarely is it the same guy doing it for that long. To do this for seven, eight years is a long time -- let alone 18."
You can say Kilday has seen a lot in his near-two decades with the Indians' franchise.
He was there for the tough losing years of the early 90s, witnessed glory with a couple of World Series appearances in 1995 and 1997, saw it all get refurbished for the new millennium and lived through playoff disappointment in 2007.
He partied with Carlos Baerga.
Had fastballs fired at him by All-Star catcher Sandy Alomar Jr.
Witnessed Charles Nagy wear the costume on the road, without the head, but get recognized only as Slider - not as an ace right-hander.
Dealt with a wide range of personalities -- from the volatile Albert Belle to the gentle Omar Vizquel.
And even had cameo appearances in "Major League 2."
"It's been a wild ride," Kilday said. "It's weird to see it all come full circle."
One of his more famous scenes in "Major League 2" -- the 1994 sequel to a movie depicting the Indians as a malcontent team filled with a bunch of nobodies that puts it together to have a winning season -- is a dugout melee when Slider and all of the other Cleveland players tussle.
In the movie, Slider is wearing bandages and walking on crutches the day after the incident.
Little did Kilday know that would foreshadow what would happen the very next year.
Perhaps what the Indians' mascot is most known for is what happened during Game 4 of the 1995 American League Championship Series between the Mariners and Tribe. With rain soaking the stadium now known as Progressive Field, Kilday tried to do a summersault along the right-field wall but fell onto the field, suffered a dislocated knee cap and dragged himself off the grass with the entire Mariners' bullpen in a heap of laughter.
The very next day, Kilday went out and accessorized his costume with bandages and crutches -- despite sporting a real cast on his right leg underneath.
"That really gave the character a lot of popularity," Kilday said. "After that, we sold a bunch of Slider dolls, and people would put tape all over him to depict that.
"I got a lot of homemade get-well cards, and like 2,000 fans called to see how I was doing."
Voting for the Hall of Fame began on Sept. 12, and Slider -- who was on the ballot last year, but wasn't chosen to get in -- joined Rocky from the Denver Nuggets and Smokey from the University of Tennessee as inductees. The only other MLB mascot nominated, Billy The Marlin, won the online poll but was not voted in by the committee.
In order to be chosen, a mascot must have been in existence for at least 10 years, prove to have "a major impact on their sport and/or community" and get votes on 75 percent of the ballots cast by an executive selection committee.
The Mascot Hall of Fame has been around since 2005 and was the brainchild of David Raymond, who played the role of the Phillie Phanatic for its first 15 years. Currently, there is no physical home for the Hall of Fame, but vice chairman Chris Bruce said there is a possibility it could have one in Wilmington, Del., soon.
"Slider is a great character, and it's a great testament to the performer for being able to do that for so long," said Bruce, who has yet to decide how the Hall will celebrate Slider's induction. "This is a physical job. You put your body on the line, and you're not always in the best environment.
"You just keep going at it and do your job."
But for a few years now, Kilday has toyed with retirement at the end of each baseball season.
And, after the 2007 campaign, he came awfully close.
Kilday said he was pretty much out the door, and the Indians had tryouts to find a rightful replacement. The only problem was that they couldn't find one, so Kilday came back on board for his 18th season.
Let's just say he's glad he did.
"It's such a tremendous honor [to be inducted into the Hall of Fame], and I'm glad I'm here for it," said Kilday, still not completely sure if he'll be back for next season. "I can look back now and say, 'Wow, I started this.'"
Alden Gonzalez is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.