Bimm Ridder: The Man, The Mascot, The Inspiration.
Born in the shadow of Veterans Memorial Stadium in the heart of Iowa, Bimm Ridder never experienced the joy of athletic achievement. He was, however, filling with an overwhelming and uncontrollable love of sports. First to show up and last to be chosen for any pick-up game within a mile of home, he grew up to become the ultimate super-fan – and the company’s inspiration.
Chester and Gladys Ridder noticed that there was something different about little Benjamin (Bimm) from the very beginning. While they quickly came to think of him as “colorful,” others whispered about the “funny looking” baby who began cheering whenever he heard the final notes of the National Anthem and preferred a hockey puck to a bottle.
Life was good for the Ridders in the summer of ’53. Chester was settling in at the meat-packing plant and a regular paycheck left a little each week to take in a ball game. If the weather and schedule cooperated, he and Gladys would pop little Bimm in his Taylor Tot buggy for a Saturday afternoon home game.
Those first few summers cheering on the Cedar Rapids Indians made a lasting impression on young Benjamin. The fan that he was born to be gradually came to life during his early years. The Indians became the Raiders, the Raiders became the Braves, and by the time the Midwest League came to town in 1962, Bimm’s cheerleading antics transformed him into what some have recognized as professional sports’ first mascot.
Bimm became an unofficial member of the staff one year later, at the age of 10. He’d start every game stationed at the end of the home team’s bench. By the end of the first inning, all bets were off. One minute Bimm would be up in the stands working the crowd. The next he’d be pretending to drive the groundskeeper’s old Farmall tractor down the right field line.
To be sure, anyone else would seem obnoxious and out of place. But Bimm’s comic appearance, natural lack of coordination and sincere exuberance endeared him to the crowd.
Bimm would try his hand at sports on and off through college. Each attempt would be cut short by two things: his total lack of ability and his uncontrollable urge to be a fan.
Bimm headed west after college with an eye on show business. After a short stint waiting tables he caught a break when he was spotted by William Hanna. The famed cartoon producer was struck by his uncanny resemblance to George Jetson. Bimm signed as Jetson’s stunt double on the spot.
During a visit home for his birthday in the spring of 1988, Bimm had a chance encounter that would prove to change his life. While treating his mother to a Cedar Rapids Reds ball game, his antics caught the eye of the leader of a band of itinerant needle-workers enjoying a day at the park.
The group had fallen on hard times. After years of fame and glory as the nation’s premier stitchers of service station attendant shirts (oval name badges AND logos), the trend toward self serve hit hard. Forced to travel from town to town to survive, they were becoming desperate for a solution that would use their finely honed skills to regain good fortune.
As he watched Bimm work the crowd dressed in snappy team attire from head to toe, it occurred to him that teamwear and sports apparel might just be the answer! Still, it would be quite a leap from the simple shirt sporting the name “Don” to this artful fanatic’s finery. It would take a constant source of inspiration – someone like Bimm himself to keep the crew on track and enthused.
It was a hard decision for Bimm. He enjoyed life in the fast lane and, according to his manager; he was up for a role in a new Matt Groening feature. Yet, this new offer would allow him to be involved in the sports he loved so much.
In the end, he decided to come back home to serve as the inspiration for the company that bears his name. He’s out there every day, cheering on the workers and touring the parks, stadiums and arenas of the teams we serve.
So, don’t be surprised if, the next time you’re out to cheer on the old home team, you look up and see a big, cartoony, well-dressed fan leading the cheers. It’s just Bimm Ridder, doing what he loves best!