Archive for Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Chinstraps and Mouthpieces: Nicknames not always Lions, Tigers

July 20, 2005

A friend's souvenir piqued my interest in mascots.

Returning from Hutchinson a couple weeks ago, which happens to be his last name, he brought home a yellow visor with "Hutchinson Salt Hawks" stitched across the front.

That's not your average Tiger, Wildcat or Panther, so I did some digging regarding high school mascots.

In the process, I stumbled across a Web site, The site, established by Marc Sheehan, lists 735 unique mascots -- 225 collegiate teams and 510 high schools.

On the site, Sheehan explains that he started the Web site after playing in the Washington state playoffs in 1995. One of the teams playing that day was the Ridgefield Spudders. The unique nickname sparked Sheehan's interest and he eventually started his own Web site. The Spudders, by the way, were so named because Ridgefield was located in a major potato-producing area of the state, as Sheehan explained. The name was picked over the Pruners, which would have honored the area's other major crop -- prunes. Ridgefield definitely made the right decision.

Of the 735 unique mascots, 16 are from Kansas. Washington state had the most entries with 46, while Illinois was close behind with 40.

For myself, a state tournament piqued my interest in strange mascots. Watching my school play in a state basketball tournament, the Inman Teutons also were playing in the tourney. Curious about what a Teuton was, my father asked an Inman fan. A Teuton, the fan said, was a German warrior.

As for those Hutchinson Salt Hawks, they're named for the city's industrial history of salt mining and processing.

A few other Kansas schools making the list were the Hesston Swathers, the Hill City Ringnecks and the nearby Lawrence High Chesty Lions.

A swather is piece of farm equipment used to cut things such as grass and wheat. The school logo, according to Sheehan, is a large and surly-looking machine. That I'd love to see, but I couldn't find the logo on the Internet. Ringnecks are a type of pheasant with a white-colored ring of feathers around its neck, while the Chesty Lions had a more elaborate origin. LHS graduate and cartoonist Paul Coker brought the mascot to life in 1946. The lion "is chesty because he is proud of LHS and the things for which it stands," as the school describes it.

Other noteworthy mascots

Benson Bunnies (Omaha, Neb.) -- After a loss on Benson's hole-filled football field in the 1920s, a rival coach groused, "We didn't come to play Benson, we came to play the bunnies."

An Omaha Web site has a green-clad "bunny", looking as rough and tough as possible, with the slogan "Beware of Hare."

Coachella Valley Arabs (Thermal, Calif.) -- The school went with "Arabs" because the area has many date trees imported from the Middle East. Now might be a good time to pick a more politically correct mascot.

Colfax-Mingo Tigerhawks (Colfax, Iowa) -- The Colfax Tigers and the Mingo Hawks consolidated schools and then consolidated their mascots. Hmm, the Tonganoxie-McLouth Chiefdogs.

Escanaba Eskymos (Mich.) -- A new take on "Eskimos," Escabana's nickname is Esky, hence Eskymos. The school's mascot is Esky Moe. That's some great creativity.

Fairbury Jeffs (Neb.) -- The school, not far from the Kansas border in southcentral Nebraska, was named the Jeffs because Fairbury is located in Jefferson County.

Frankfort Hot Dogs (Ind.) -- Sheehan explains that the mascot is symbolized by an angry dachshund, which seems to be the temperament of most dachshunds I've encountered. The town also is home to the Hot Dog Festival.

Minden Whippets (Neb.) -- A whippet is a swift dog that resembles a small greyhound.

Mitchell Kernels (S.D.) -- The basketball teams play in the town's Corn Palace, which apparently is a tourist attraction. I likely would make a trip that way.

Muskogee Roughers (Okla.) -- They originally were the Chieftains, but supposedly in the 1940s or 50s, had a tremendous football team that played "rougher" than any other team, so the mascot was changed. That might be the case in Tonganoxie, but I doubt the mascot will be changed anytime soon.

Napoleon Imperials (N.D.) -- The town is named Napoleon and the mascot is named after Napoleon, the Frenchman. Personally, the Napoleon Dynamites sound catchier.

Vineland Fighting Clan (N.J.) -- Another school with a questionable mascot, but it's spelled with a "C" and not a "K." The nickname is derived from a poultry clan, or a group of chickens. Known in the 1940s and 50s as the "Egg Basket of America," local residents once constructed the world's largest frying pan and, subsequently, the world's largest omelet. It's not the world's largest ball of twine, but that might be a neat place to visit.

Williamsport Millionaires (Williamsport, Pa.) -- Williamsport was known as the lumber capital of the world in the mid-1800s, and as Sheehan put it, boasted more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the country. The athletic logo is a pair of white gloves draped over a cane and top hat.

That final mascot might just take the cake.

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