Robo Niner Returns to OKC
Oklahoma City 89ers mascot from the 1990s is back after being unveiled to a new crowd of fans at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in July
A thick nitrogen fog engulfed the retro DeLorean Time Machine as it made a dramatic entrance onto the outfield at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in July. The early 1980s-era car slowly circled the dirt warning track before it rolled to a stop near the Oklahoma City Dodgers dugout.
The car’s passenger door then lifted skyward and out stepped a familiar figure from Oklahoma City baseball past.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s Robo Niner!” game host Tom Hoblin announced to the crowd.
Robo Niner, a plush robot mascot with a large baseball for a head, served as an Oklahoma City 89ers mascot throughout the 1990s. He made his return to the baseball field in July during the first Oklahoma City 89ers Night of the 2021 season.
After stepping out of the DeLorean, Robo Niner waved to the crowd and hugged current OKC Dodgers mascots Brooklyn and Brix before taking in his first baseball game since the franchise relocated to Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in 1998.
“I believe what makes 89ers Night one of the best nights of the whole season is the perfect combination of nostalgia, pop culture and America’s favorite pastime,” A.J. Navarro, OKC Dodgers Director of Video and Game Presentation, said. “When executed correctly with forethought and a little love, you can’t miss. Robo Niner takes us to the next level and opens the door to even more creative ways to surprise and entertain our fans.”
The 89ers played at All Sports Stadium from 1962–97, winning two Pacific Coast League titles in 1963 and 1965, and two American Association titles in 1992 and 1996.
Two additional 89ers Nights are upcoming during the 2021 Oklahoma City Dodgers season, including Friday, Aug. 13 and Saturday, Sept. 4.
During the special evenings, Dodgers players and coaches wear special retro OKC 89ers jerseys and hats in a nod to the franchise’s history. An air of reminiscence fills the ballpark from the uniforms worn on the field, to the music played on the stadium speakers, to the digital images displayed on the videoboard and now with the return of Robo Niner.
“The history and tradition of baseball in Oklahoma City is rich and we were excited to tap into it in a new and unique way,” Ben Beecken, OKC Dodgers Director of Marketing and Communications, said. “While we had been wearing 89ers jerseys for one game in each of the last few seasons, we increased the number to three this year and made the call to Robo Niner to extend the experience even further.”
As Navarro did more research on the franchise’s history, old articles and fan websites helped draw out details about Robo Niner’s past.
But the fabled mascot’s initial development and origins remain mysterious, especially as the original costume was lost to the sands of time.
According to legend, Robo Niner came to Oklahoma from the planet “K” where the half man-half robot attended “K” University and played baseball before originally signing with the 89ers in 1990.
“The only thing that seems to be certain was that he made his first appearance with the team in the summer of 1990,” Navarro said. “What’s important is that he still loves baseball and he still loves Oklahoma. That’s a solid framework we can build off of and let him fill in the gaps as we welcome him back to the team.”
A mascot costume designer from California, Carol Flemming, had reached out to the OKC Dodgers about any future costume needs for the team after she had created costumes worn by contestants in the dot race held during select inning breaks at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark.
Navarro contacted her about recreating Robo Niner starting in late 2019.
“I shared as many old photos of just about every angle I could find of Robo Niner and she did a remarkable job recreating him,” Navarro said. “All in all, it took Carol about five to six months to finish the costume.
“I could not have been more pleased with the final product,” he added.
Now that the return of Robo Niner has raised the bar, Navarro expects the wistful touches for future throwback nights at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark to continue ramping up. He aims to embrace the feeling of attending games during the original 89ers era at the former All Sports Stadium, which boasted a large hill along the third base line where fans could sit or roll down the incline during games.
“It’s honestly been a lot of fun discovering the etymology of Robo Niner and the history of our team,” Navarro said. “Rekindling the old feelings and emotions baseball fans in OKC felt during that time in their life is what makes this job fun and worthwhile. Now if we can only figure out how to install a giant hill for people to casually roll down throughout the game my job will be complete.”