More weird and wonderful Illinois school team names


Several weeks back, we delved into funny (and weird) school mascot and team names.  It is now time for a continuation into this wacky end of the world of sports.  There are numerous names for teams here in Illinois that fall into this category.  

The series began with the Fisher “Bunnies,” New Berlin “Pretzels,” and the Hoopeston “Cornjerkers.”  So, thusly, we continue from there.  

To start this edition we will tackle another workers group honored by their teams.  In Southern Illinois, there are many orchards, especially apple orchards.  Cobden, Illinois is one of those towns where the orchards are numerous and the fruit needed to be harvested.  

In the early days of apple harvesting there were no machines to shake the trees as there are today, and hand picking with ladders was tedious.  So, the laborers in the orchards would use long wooden sticks to “knock” the apples from the trees.  The community, to honor these workers, thusly named their sports teams the Appleknockers” - a fitting moniker.

Another city that thought much of its town’s heritage was Teutopolis, Illinois.  In 1932, the high school basketball coach wished to honor the towns only cobbler (shoemaker), one George Deyman and the areas German heritage.  The unnamed coach was able to get the community to name the athletes of the schools the “Wooden Shoes” (not the “Clogs) which they remain through today.

Staying in the Southern Illinois area, we come upon another city of the unique school name category.  This would be Centralia and their “Orphans.”  Many attributed the moniker to the number of orphans left in the area after the explosion and loss of 111 lives at the Centralia #5 coal mine in 1947.  

However the teams were named prior to this event.  Basketball (the beginning of the “Orphan” legend) was started in 1906 with the nickname(s) of “Cardinals” or “Redbirds” after the state bird.  

In 1914, Arthur Trout was hired as head basketball coach and built on a good thing (Centralia’s basketball team was the winningest high school basketball team in the known world with approximately 2,000 wins from 1909-2008, including appearances in 24 state tournaments).  For several years the coach named the team the “Troutmen.” Then after seeing the 1922 silent film “orphans of the Storm”, he changed the name to the “Orphans”.  It was also reported by freelance writer Robert Bittner of the Chicago Tribune, sent to Centralia to write about the winning team, that the frugal coach (trying to save money for the school district) had the players pick their game-day uniforms from a stack of uniforms from previous years.  Thus, the team arrived on the hardwood in mismatched uniforms and the fans said they looked like “a band of sad orphans”.  Later, to continue the naming, the girls basketball team took on the “Annie’s” name for the comic strip heroine Little Orphan Annie.

To conclude this edition of the crazy, weird, and unique team names and mascots, we head to Northern Illinois to the Lake Forest Academy boarding school.  The school is known for promoting character, citizenship, scholarship, responsibility, history, and school spirit in its students.  

Along these lines is where the school nickname and mascot were born.  It seems that some time in the schools history or literature studies the students became enamored with the Greek playwrite Aristophanes’ work “The Frogs.”  Not satisfied to be called “Frogs” (how humiliating), the school decided to be nicknamed after the sound a frog makes.  Again, pride took hold and instead of using ribbit the school chose the Greek word for ribbit, caxy.  So, our final entry to this edition is the Lake Forest Academy “Caxy.”

Until next time - greedeep, ribbit, ribbit!