Shirt Launchers are ubiquitous at sporting events and concerts now, giving performers a way to reach out to nearly any fan in the building with a long-distance giveaway. This resource page looks at the history of the launchers, safety guidelines, how to roll a shirt, fill a tank and lubricate your launcher for long life.
Launchers Burst on the Sports Scene
Mental Floss traced the History of Shirt Launchers back to World War II and the advent of what is commonly called the Spud Launcher. This military origins are easy to see in the look-and-feel of most shirt launchers, which despite their altruistic motives often look like high-tech weapons.
Former Coyote performer Tim Derk is often credited with the first-use and they quick spread across sports peppering sports fans in the most remote seats in a way never seen before.
The launchers are now used at nearly every level of sports and have spawned multiple-barrel, gatling gun, self-loading and remote control ROBOT variations.
Eve Peyser explains how fan’s delight in the experience in her NYMag.com story:
“Maybe it’s a little squished, maybe it’s a little lukewarm — but there’s nothing us 44,000 fans want more than a dog fired by our beloved Phanatic,” Frank Katona, a 40-year-old communications consultant and diehard Phillies fan, told me. He added that if he ever did catch one, “it would be the pinnacle of my lifelong Phillies fandom.”
“It’s so kitschy and fun,” said Diane Rotondo, a season-ticket holder who lives in Paoli, Pennsylvania. She particularly enjoys “the piped-in PYEEEEW sound that’s never in sync with the actual hot-dog launching.” Rotondo, too, has never actually caught a hot dog, but “I’m pretty sure I would not eat it if I did.” (NYMag.com)
Read more media coverage on the shirt launcher
- An Explosive History of the T-Shirt Cannon – As the mascot for the San Antonio Spurs from 1983 to 2004, Tim Derk—also known as the Coyote—was constantly looking for ways to make the live game experience better for fans. In addition to dancing, antagonizing players, and engaging with attendees, Derk did what many mascots do to raise morale: He gave the crowd free stuff.
- How the T-Shirt Cannon Became the Ultimate In-Game Promotion – The power of the giveaway t-shirt is difficult to explain. Nobody actually needs, or quite frankly even wants, these shirts. They’re usually remarkably ugly, they often contain a large sponsor logo on the back, and they’re almost always sized an adult extra large.
- We Need To Talk About Adele And Her Obsession With T-Shirt Cannons – It’s actually become somewhat of a tradition for Adele to bust a cannon out and launch some merch into the crowd.
- Who Made that T-Shirt Cannon?
- Read our interview on Creating a Celebrity with Tim Derk
- The Hot-Dog Cannon Is Better Than Any Baseball Game – NYmag.com
— Charles Reid (@FosterReid_) June 29, 2017
As Uncle Ben wisely told a young Peter Parker, “”With great power comes great responsibility.”
Having the ability to launch a t-shirt 250 feet away is inherently dangerous. Numerous incidents have occurred at sports events since the launchers have burst onto the scene.
From Mental Floss:
“…A mascot named Chip at the University of Colorado-Boulder suffered an injury when a T-shirt cannon malfunctioned, shooting him in the groin. (The video, of course, went viral.) That same year, a fan named Jennifer Harughty claimed that Orbit, the mascot for the Houston Astros, shot her with a T-shirt and shattered her finger, necessitating surgery. In 2019, Alex Swanson was at Citi Field for a New York Mets game and alleged that a shirt struck him in the eye and knocked him unconscious. Both sued the respective teams.”
Launchers can be used safety as long as the launcher is safe and well maintained and the user is careful and trained. We have an article on Launcher Safety here, with some key safety points including to never point your launcher (loaded or unloaded) directly at someone and always shoot with an arc so the t-shirt doesn’t hit someone directly.
Professionals note the optimum launch angle is 32 degrees. You should experiment with your launcher to obtain the optimum distance and air usage for your individual setting and venue.
Click to read the full story:
Early launchers were crafted in production houses and often were heavy and cumbersome to carry, so weighing over 75 pounds and tethered to heavy tanks. Now launcher are available with safety features and engineered for performance.
Many people still make (or try to make) their own launchers, however materials like PVC are not created to contain the high pressure of these contraptions, so they often have a short life-span or worse…they are dangerous for the operator and fans. Many resources are available in print and on the web to make your own….but in any public sports setting this is not recommended.
Gameops.com is proud to offer a selection of professionally engineered launchers in the store.
Micro Mini T-Shirt Launcher$699.00 – $739.00 Select options
Bleacher Reacher PRO$1,599.00 – $1,639.00 Select options
Bleacher Reacher MEGA$1,999.00 – $2,039.00 Select options
AIRGO 250 – Handheld Air Cannon$699.00 Add to cart
Slingshot – The Mega$40.00 Add to cart
CO2 Tank – 20 ounce$40.00 Add to cart
On Page 2 we have tips and instruction on Rolling Shirts for use in Launchers, Filling CO2 tanks and maintaining your Launcher.