The 23,075 Marlins fans who filed into Little Havana May 17, 2015, had no idea they were about to witness history. The Fish were already six games under .500 that Sunday afternoon, and Miami soon stumbled toward another putrid 6-0 loss to the Braves. But then came the sixth-inning break.
Like every game, four bootleg-looking mascots — Bob the Shark, Julio the Octopus, Angel the Stone Crab, and Spike the Sea Dragon — lined up for a footrace around the outfield. Savvy fans knew exactly what to expect, because the race was always rigged against Julio.
The vaguely nightmarish purple cephalopod had run hundreds of times since Marlins Park opened in 2012, and he'd never won. He'd been hacked down by Darth Vader on Star Wars night. He'd been tripped by bullpen doors. And Billy the Marlin had repeatedly stepped in to block his path to victory.
But something very weird happened at this game. As the mascots neared the finish line, Julio was neck-and-neck with Angel the Crab. Then Billy came wandering by. Everyone assumed he'd hack down the octopus yet again — but instead, he stumbled and fell into the crab.
Julio had won a goddam race!
MLB.com proclaimed it a "miracle." Fans were stunned. But was Julio actually supposed to win? Why would the Marlins finally let him get a W in such an awkward clusterfuck of a finish at a random spring game?
In fact, Julio's win was an accident. Billy had taken out the wrong mascot. And Marlins President David Samson was so furious that his running-octopus gag had been ruined that he stormed into the mascot's changing area and threatened to fire everyone.
Or so says Craig Mish, a veteran of Miami sports radio who now hosts a daily show on Sirius XM. Mish tweeted a brief version of the story Monday after news broke that Derek Jeter's new Marlins regime planned to end the goofy mascot races for good.
FYI, the race was always fixed. Years ago, Julio the Octopus (who never wins) won because Bob the Shark fell. David Samson stormed into mascots room after and threatened to fire them all if Julio ever won again. https://t.co/WyIuCGKFsM— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) February 12, 2018
A story this sordid could not go uninvestigated. Mascot-rigging? Threats against Billy and Julio for a botched result? New Times called Mish to get more details.
The radio host says he heard the story from multiple team sources, who all confirmed Samson's fiery mascot rage after the surprise Julio win.
"David came in and was livid that Julio won," Mish says. "He said, 'That can never happen! He's never supposed to win!' And he said that if it ever happened again, he'd fire everyone."
OK, but why would Samson be so upset at a Julio victory? Does he have deep-seated octopus hatred from a childhood aquarium incident or lose big betting on Paul the Octopus' dodgy World Cup predictions?
Nah, Mish says, he was probably just angry that his mascots couldn't follow the rigged script. New Times asked both the Marlins and Samson to comment on Mish's version of how #JulioGate went down. A spokesman for the former team president — who appears to be running some kind of marathon through Dubai at the moment — said he couldn't be reached for comment.
Update: Samson jumped on Twitter to say, uh, something about the story:
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But the story from Mish, who has a long record of breaking reliable Marlins news, makes a lot of sense. If the Marlins were so committed to Julio gags, wouldn't they have come up with a better way to end the streak than a random game in May where Billy the Marlin went sprawling across the finish line? The Washington Nationals let Teddy Roosevelt lose 500 times before finally giving him a headline-making win the last day of the team's first winning season.
Just watch that GIF again. It looks like Billy definitely fucked up. And it makes sense that Samson would be pissed about it.
Afterward, the team tried to play off #JulioGate as a well-scripted move by letting the Octopus go on a winning streak after that May 15 surprise victory. As with so many decisions under the Samson-Loria regime, absolutely no one cared either way.
And now Julio the Octopus is dead. Long live Julio the Octopus and his first, totally fucked-up win. If there's one thing Miami can get behind, it's ruining David Samson's Sunday afternoon.