Larry the Bull Terrier Served as Tribe’s First Mascot
Vince Guerrieri | On 05, Aug 2014
Before there was Slider, before there was Chief Wahoo, there was Larry, a bull terrier who served as the unofficial Indians mascot in the 1910s.
Legend has it that Larry came to the Indians in 1912 as payment for a gambling debt. Team trainer Doc White had bet Prince Hunley, superintendent of service at the Hollenden Hotel, in support of Cleveland native, boxer Johnny Kilbane. After Kilbane beat Abe Attel, White was given a bull terrier to settle up. Bull terriers were relatively new breeds, having been bred in England in the 19th century to aid in catching rodents that could carry disease.
Hunley maintained that White took Larry to take pictures and never gave him back, and took White to court in 1913 over the dog. Ultimately, all charges were dropped.
The dog became the team’s mascot, and developed a particularly tight bond with outfielder Jack Graney, whose season was limited to 78 games after he broke his shoulder. Graney adopted Larry as his own and cared for him in Cleveland and in his hometown of St. Thomas, Ontario, where he had a brand of cigar, the “Larry Special,” named for him. In Graney’s absence during the 1913 season, Larry was taken care of by Vean Gregg.
In the middle of a three-game set in Washington in 1913, the Indians were able to meet the new president, Woodrow Wilson. It had become a tradition for the team during a trip to Washington meet with the chief executive. They’d met Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, and William Howard Taft in 1909. Taft had refused to shake hands with players, concerned about men used to physical labor gripping his meaty paws. Wilson had similar misgivings, but had no problems shaking hands with the Indians.
Upon being introduced to the White House grounds, Larry spotted a squirrel and took off to chase it, trying to climb the big oak tree. His handlers broke off his pursuit to make him the first dog officially presented to the President. “So this is Larry, the mascot,” Wilson remarked, according to the Plain Dealer. “My daughters tell me he is a very smart dog.”
Larry would perform at games, leapfrogging over players and retrieving foul balls, and Wilson said he was sorry he had missed Larry’s act, and would try to catch it that day.
In addition to his entertainment value on the field, Larry was also good in the bar afterward. Browns (and former Indians) player George Stovall billed the team after Larry bit a chunk out of his suit during a fight in a bar in St. Louis after a game.
Larry was also briefly banned from baseball. During a dispute between umpire Bill Dineen and Washington manager Clark Griffith about whether a ball came down in play, Larry jumped out of the dugout, where he was watching the game, picked up the ball and returned with it to the dugout. He then growled at Dineen when the man in blue tried to get the ball back. American League president Ban Johnson made a rule keeping dogs from the dugout, but the rule wasn’t really enforced, and Larry went back to being a regular on the Indians’ bench.
The Plain Dealer ran a big drawing of Graney and Larry as the team went through spring training in 1917, saying the Indians season would scarcely be complete without its mascot. But that summer, tragedy struck. Larry and Graney got separated in Cleveland’s Rose building. It wasn’t the first time Larry got lost – the Indians actually went looking for him in Georgia during spring training in 1914 – but this time, when Larry was found two days later, he had rabies. On July 25, 1917, Larry had to be put down.