B. J. BIRDY
Creator Kevin Shanahan. Toronto Star, 30 March 1985: C3. Photo: David Cooper.
The “B.J. Birdy” cartoon character emerged out the “B.J. Birdy” character that appeared at Toronto Blue Jays baseball games. Both were created by twenty-six-year-old Kevin Shanahan. The strip began on the Toronto Star sports page 1 April 1985, appearing six days a week. The bird was characterized as “… lovable, irascible, curious, impudent, mischievous and often the victim of his own impulsiveness.”
Kevin early on discovered he had an aptitude for drawing and design. He did cartoons for the school newspaper at Michael Power High School in Toronto. While a student at the University of Toronto, he worked during the summers at Ontario Place. Here, he designed a moose costume in which he entertained the visitors. Then he designed a bird costume.
Kevin was not a baseball fan and did not follow the Blue Jays. He Had simply created a bird costume. It was suggested to him that the Blue Jays might be interested in it as a mascot. The management liked it and in 1979, Kevin appeared on the playing field in his costume. Initially the Blue Jays hired him at $25 dollars a game. He remarked the usherettes got $5 more. He eventually got single year contracts. In 1985 he was paid approximately $13,000 for about 50 games. He was the only person to ever perform as “B.J. Birdy”.
He was the sole owner of the character. He organized Kevin Shanahan Enterprises and did animal-like fluffy costumes for other organizations like the previously mentioned Ontario Place, Hamilton Tiger Cats, Winnipeg blue Bombers, Cleveland Indians (now Guardians), and Ontario Lotteries. His character “Carlesbird” appeared at Argonaut football games. Perhaps partly because he owned the copywrite his association with the Toronto Blue Jays ended in 1999 and the “B.J. Birdy” character was shelved. When the strip ended is not known.
Toronto Star, 30 March 1985: “B.J. Birdy feathers his nest in a new career with The Star.” Writ., Rex MacLeod: C3.
Toronto Star, 30 March 1985.
Toronto Star, 2 April 1985: F3.
Toronto Star, 10 June 1988.