As Dan Steinberg discovered while flipping through an old Washington Bullets media guide on Monday, Washington’s NBA franchise used to have a live dog mascot. Mascots, to be exact.
While some longtime Bullets/Wizards fans remember the days of Alex the Bullet, Tiny B-B and Tiny Too, here’s a brief history of the dachshunds for the fans who grew up with the far less interesting and far more terrifying Hoops and G-Wiz.
It all started in 1963, when Navy veteran John Edwin “Chief” Gentry got a call from the general manager of Baltimore’s new NBA franchise, which had just moved from Chicago and renamed itself the Bullets.
“‘I understand you’ve got a dog that looks like a bullet,’ the man [probably Paul Hoffman] said to me,” Gentry told The Post’s Bob Levey in 1979. “He had seen me with my dog at football games in Annapolis. I’ve been at it with the Bullets ever since.”
Gentry’s dachshund, Alex, teamed with another dog named Buckshot as the Bullets’ live mascots for their first five years in Baltimore.
When Abe Pollin broke ground for the Capital Centre, one of the first full-time employees he hired was Gentry. With Gentry taking on added responsibilities as the arena’s operations manager, The Post’s George Solomon lamented what he figured was the end of Alex and Tiny-B-B’s careers in a 1973 column.
Once and for all, Abe Pollin proved his intent to make everything connected with his Capital Centre first class by announcing the purchase of a $1,125,000 scoreboard-entertainment center for the new arena in Largo.
But lost amid the bright lights and speeches at Thursday’s press conference was the revelation that the coming of the four Super Scoreboards will end the distinguished careers of Alex the Bullet and Tiny B-B.
For those who have not kept up with the former Baltimore Bullets (now the Capital Bullets) these past 10 NBA seasons, it should be noted that Alex the Bullet and Tiny B-B are dachshunds that performed cute tricks during time-outs at Bullet home games.
Alex, whose real last name is Von Brauhof and not The Bullet, is owned and trained by John E. (Chief) Gentry. During his first five years in Baltimore, Alex teamed with a dog named Buckshot. When Buckshot died from eating too many acorns, Tiny B-B joined Alex’s act.
For years, the dogs sloughed off taunts from nasty kids and the degradation of sharing the time-out/halftime spotlight with a human exhibitionist named Dancing Harry. Two years ago, Baltimore fans were spared Dancing Harry’s endless and shameless attempts at hexing opponents when he followed Earl Monroe to New York.
Alex the Bullet and Tiny B-B, although regaining their full status upon Dancing Harry’s defection, now appear doomed because of Pollin’s new Conrac giant, with its four Swiss-made Eidophor projectors flashing full-color replays on four large screens.
“It’s quite said, but it looks like Alex the Bullet and Tiny B-B are through,” said Gentry, who has assumed the role of operations manager of the Capital Centre. Gentry says he no longer has the time to handle any canine capers.
Although Gentry and other Bullet officials agree the dogs were fine in their day, it’s apparent the Capital Centre has passed them by.
But Gentry apparently found the time to juggle both jobs, and the show went on. The Post reported that Alex the Bullet died in 1974 at age 19 and was buried in a cinder block crypt behind the Gentry home in Odenton, Md. Pollin paid for the plot and the burial.
Tiny B-B became the star. In 1975, he traveled with the team to San Francisco for the NBA Finals and met Brent Musburger and Oscar Robertson. (Fast forward to 2:58).
In 1976, Tiny B-B was profiled in ‘The Mini Page’ and barked about all the fan mail he received. “My special spot during the games is at the end of the Bullets’ bench. During timeouts I swing into action. I chase balls across the court. Sometimes I wear my game suit. Other times, I wear a costume.”
He was featured in the Bullets’ media guide, sometimes next to his owner.
He even helped Gentry score a “sleek, red-white-and-blue Econoline van” that he used for work and pleasure.
“We had a recreation vehicle show [at the Capital Centre] a few years ago,” Gentry told The Post’s David Maraniss in 1977. “The dog just kept jumping up to sit in this van. The people from the van company liked it so much they decided to officially register the van in the dog’s name. A $9,300 van we’re talking about. That’s one of the benefits of knowing your way around in this sort of life.”
Tiny B-B traveled with the Bullets to Seattle for the 1978 NBA Finals and accompanied Washington’s championship team to the White House, where he was the first to greet the president. He made dozens of appearances on national television, usually dragging his miniature cannon-on-wheels.
Last August, a collection of Bullets mascot memorabilia, including Tiny B-B’s hi-top sneaker stand, carrying case and cannon sold for $1,900 at auction.
Tiny B-B retired before the 1982-83 season and was replaced by Tiny Too. The switch may or may not have been made due to a harrowing experience detailed by The Post’s Jane Leavy:
Tiny B.B., Chief’s dachshund (heir to Alex the Bullet), retired after 800 games, 15 seasons and one traumatic run-in with a Chicken. One night the Chicken wrapped Tiny in a hot-dog roll, squirted him with mustard, and stuck him in his beak. Tiny Too now pulls the cannon and sits in the sneaker. Tiny B.B. sits in the stands.
“The chief is just an unbelievable, fantastic, super guy,” Pollin told The Post before Gentry retired as operations manager in 1988. “I don’t think there is any building, any arena in the world, that is blessed with a guy like the chief.”
The 1988-89 Bullets media guide was the last one to include a photo of a live dog mascot.
Gentry died after suffering a heart attack in 1991. His obituary in The Post featured a brief mention of his dogs:
As production chief at Capital Centre, his work ran the gamut from assigning members of his crew to sort through hundreds of M&M candies to select only the brown ones, at the request of the rock group Van Halen, to containing a bull that once got loose backstage during a rodeo. He set up a basketball hoop backstage once for the drummer of the rock group Chicago, who wanted it to impress his girlfriends. He made his dachshunds the mascots of the Bullets basketball team.