The San Diego Chicken has a nice autograph

The cursive, the loops. Each letter clearly written. It’s like his act of signing the card is one of his comedy acts on the field.

The name Ted Giannoulas signed on the card is indeed the man inside the chicken costume. He is the only person to perform as the chicken in its 50-year existence. He started as a 20-year-old promoting the radio station, 101.5 KGB in San Diego.

Five decades ago, a 20-year-old Giannoulas was plucked from a group of San Diego State students to squeeze into a papier mâché chicken costume for a local radio station promotion. The costume has changed over the years — better materials, different colors — but he never took it off. He wore it even when a judge demanded that he stop. He wore it at ballparks and stadiums across the country, and he wore it in court. Even now, except for one photograph published in one small town newspaper, the public has never seen his face.

The Athletic has a nice long article explaining all his antics and how nobody still has seen his face except his wife, umpire Joe West, Bob Costas, and Tony Gwynn, Jr.

Perhaps, after 50 years of hiding his face, a Grand Reveal would be in order. He is recognized by few. Gwynn Jr. identified him at the induction of Ted Leitner into the Padres Hall of Fame last summer. West dines with Giannoulas whenever he’s in San Diego. Costas first met him in the ’70s. “I still don’t think if he walked in this room right now,” Costas says, “that I would know who he was.” That’s dedication to the bit.

Giannoulas is considering passing on the chicken costume to someone else to perform.

But in another way, Giannoulas has evolved. As a younger man, he’d always insisted the Chicken would die with him. Now he’s become receptive to the idea of passing on the mantle. “Somebody pointed out to me: Do Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy still exist even though Jim Henson is gone?” he says. “That makes sense. I see the point.”

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