1012 Dr. Andy Sokol
Veterinarian Dr. Andy Sokol reminisces about times he spent as Auburn’s mascot, Aubie, while holding his dog, Popeye. Photo by Katey Courtney.
Years ago, while wearing his Aubie costume, Andy Sokol held a baseball and bat in front of the Alabama Crimson Tide dugout. Tide fans began to heckle the Auburn University mascot as “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” swelled over the loudspeakers.
“Go home!” they screamed at him. It was one option. But from across the field his own dugout began to urge him on as well. “Do something!” members of the Auburn baseball team said.
Aubie, of course, sided with the Tigers.
He tossed the ball in the air and swung towards the dugout, scattering Bama players in the process. And for that, Auburn players saved Sokol a seat on the bus next to their star player.
“The guy I sat next to was Frank Thomas, Major League Baseball Hall of Famer,” Sokol said. “That was the beginning of my Aubie career and one of the best moments of my life.”
Sokol, a veterinarian at Caldwell Mill Animal Clinic since 1998, served as Auburn’s most treasured symbol from 1987 to 1988. And although his days of being Aubie are over, his love for Auburn spills over into his veterinary practice. For starters, pictures of every memorable Iron Bowl game line his office.
“The 2010 Iron Bowl picture is a picture of Bryant-Denny Stadium. It took a lot for me to be able to hang that in my office, but the sky in the picture is orange and blue and because of that, I can handle it,” Sokol said.
Many of Sokol’s patients wear Bama colors and collars or have Alabama-themed names, but he refuses to compromise his Auburn loyalty, sometimes resorting to renaming the Alabama pups. When Julio – named after former Crimson Tide receiver Julio Jones – comes by, Sokol calls him Cam instead.
But Sokol didn’t always look the part of a Tiger. The current Greystone Village resident grew up dressed in Alabama gear. When he was 4, his grandfather took him to breakfast the day after the Iron Bowl in his best Alabama outfit. A family friend approached him and said, “You must be really proud of your team.”
Without hesitation, Sokol replied, “No, my mom makes me wear these,” and Sokol’s mother never dressed him in Alabama clothing again.
His conversion to an Auburn fan became complete years after, when Sokol’s father told him Auburn had a highly respected veterinary program. The young boy recently adorned in crimson was then well on his way to representing Auburn from the inside of a costume and several of his most treasured memories.
On one elementary school visit during his tenure as the mascot, the crowd chanted for Aubie to dunk a basketball.
“I’m 5-foot, 7 inches, and dunking was going to be nearly impossible, so I decided to pick a member from the audience for some help,” said Sokol.
Sokol chose a boy who was not cheering and begging to dunk the ball, placed him on his shoulders and let him dunk the ball. The crowd went wild. Sokol was later told the boy he chose was suffering from brain cancer at the time. The disease kept him out of school and made it difficult to make friends. Not long after meeting Aubie, the boy passed away.
“I know the simple act of being acknowledged and chosen changed that little boy’s life,” Sokol said. “After that day, I knew that Aubie truly had an impact on people and that he could change things.”
Sokol is a life member of the Auburn Alumni Association and a member of the Greater Birmingham Auburn Club. He goes to all the home games and plans to go to Atlanta for the Clemson game, Nashville for the Vanderbilt game and to Tuscaloosa for the Iron Bowl this year.
Sokol once shaved his head after an undefeated season and hopes he can do it again someday.
“I hope the Tigers come away with an undefeated season this year, and I’m looking forward to seeing it happen.”