Leave a trail.
I love this historical game operations trail left by Bill Giles.
Let’s start here with a letter from an Astros’ fan in 1965.
Back in 1965, my mother went to an Astros game at the Astrodome right when it opened. She noticed that the crowd wasn't clapping at the same time.
She wrote the team suggesting that cartoon hands on the scoreboard could help the fans clap together.
The Astros wrote back. pic.twitter.com/NbxbR2Qla0
— Michael Schwab (@michaelschwab13) September 19, 2022
It was answered by then traveling secretary and publicity director Bill Giles. Shortly after Giles became the Astro’s promotions director, who would have had a hand in taking fan feedback like this and enhancing the scoreboard by adding the animated clapping hands to help guide fans.
Here’s more on Giles:
Giles is the son of Baseball Hall of Fame executive Warren C. Giles, who was the general manager and president of the Cincinnati Reds (1937–1951) before becoming president of the National League (1951–1969). Bill Giles was born in Rochester, New York, during his father’s term as president of Rochester Red Wings of the International League.
His baseball career began in the Cincinnati organization during the 1950s, and he was among a group of Reds’ executives (including former Cincinnati general manager Gabe Paul and MLB executive Tal Smith) who helped to found the Houston Astros when they debuted as the Colt .45s in 1962. Sporting News’ 1962 Official Baseball Guide and Record Book, published in the Colt .45s’ maiden season, lists Giles as the club’s traveling secretary and publicity director. Subsequently, he became promotions director, and focused on that role after the renamed team moved into the Astrodome in 1965.
But the trail continues. Later Giles worked for the Philadelphia Phillies during their launch of mascot Icon The Phanatic.
Giles rejected the first design of the Phanatic, insisting the character be fatter and have a bigger nose. The final design, introduced at the start of the 1978 season, was an immediate hit, and quickly generated more than $2 million in merchandise sales.
“In a lot of ways, the Phanatic just changed the whole ballgame,” said Giles’ son, Joe, now the club’s director of ballpark enterprises and business development. “It really helped introduce the whole idea of fan entertainment at the ballpark and it being about more than just the game.”
Here original performer David Raymond shares a story from the launch of the character and how Giles help guide the way.
In the book Raymond looks back at how his time with the Phillies shaped his life, including this simple interaction with the team’s GM shaped the Phanatic and the rest of his life. When prepping David for the character debut Bill Giles, then the general manager of the Phillies, said, “David, I want you to just go out and have fun tonight. Make sure you have fun. If you’re not having fun then the Phanatic will not be funny and the fans won’t like him.”
Great advice to both mascot performers and anyone putting on a show for fans. Make sure you are having fun….others will follow.
It’s an mazing trail Bill Giles has left, from listening to fans and creating scoreboard animations to pumping life into one of the early and most successful characters.