Wrigley the Iguana

Andy Howell, right, poses with Wrigley, an iguana mascot for the Winking Lizard restaurant near Cleveland.

What do Justin Hayward, Brian Urlacher, James A. Garfield, Vincent van Gogh, Wrigley and Ted have in common?

They are all individuals I was introduced to on a recent vacation to the Cleveland area.

Justin Hayward is a member of the Moody Blues rock group, which will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next month. The Hall is located in Cleveland.

Brian Urlacher was a former linebacker for the Chicago Bears who will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month in Canton, Ohio, which I toured.

James A. Garfield, a former Union general in the Civil War who was elected president in 1880, died from an assassin’s bullet 200 days after taking office. His home and farm is a national historic site just outside Cleveland.

Vincent van Gogh, the artist, has a number of paintings on permanent display at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Wrigley is a 3-foot iguana on display at the Winking Lizard restaurant in the heart of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. He was named after a server at the restaurant who was a loyal Cubs fan in a sea of Cleveland Indians fans. I never saw him wink, but he sure spat at me a lot. Thankfully he was in a glass case.

And Ted is a longtime Indians fan I sat next to at a game between the Indians and the New York Yankees.

This eclectic group is a reflection of how diverse Cleveland is when it comes to vacation opportunities. There is literally something for everyone. I saw plenty of disinterested women and girls at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, dragged there by the men and boys in their family, while just the opposite was true at the museum of art.

But the force that has kept the city unified has been disrupted this year with a new controversial ripple.

And it is not the decision by Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James to sign with the Lakers.

This year the Indians announced that mascot Chief Wahoo would be retired and replaced by a bizarre caricature that looks like a cross between a friendly childhood monster under the bed and a roll of shag carpet. The new mascot, called “Slider,” is treated with derision by Indians fans like Ted.

Ted gave me a long dissertation as to why politically correct liberals were to blame for the team losing his beloved mascot. I got him to admit that some Native American nicknames and mascots should be eliminated because they have demeaning origins, such as Redskins. But “Indians” should be viewed as meant to honor, rather than offend, Native Americans, and Chief Wahoo was never intended to be insulting.

Before the Indians, the first professional baseball team in Cleveland was called the Spiders. I suggested to Ted that going back to that nickname would be a welcome alternative since most liberals hate spiders. They are the only creatures, along with scorpions, that my wife demands that I kill on site.

But Ted said the Spiders were a separate team and shouldn’t be considered part of the Indians’ lore.

The use of Chief Wahoo’s image has been de-emphasized on merchandise in favor of alternate logos, but Ted says that has just made the original logo more popular. I saw plenty of caps and shirts with his logo at the game. Even Slider wears a Chief Wahoo cap. which kind of defeats the purpose of changing your mascot.

Talk about trying to have it both ways.

If the Indians ever decide to change their nickname, then they do have plenty of attractions and historical references associated with the city to choose from.

The Cleveland Rockers has a nice sound.

But I personally like the Cleveland Lizards. Wrigley is already the spittin’ image of Slider.


You can contact Andy Howell at ahowell@pinalcentral.com.