Happy opening day, major-league baseball fans! Our own Haverford team’s season has been in full swing for a few weeks now (though the unusually cold, long winter has required a few postponements and make-up games).
This time of year, when the weather starts to thaw and it seems like the best way to spend a sunny afternoon is sitting in the stands rooting for the home team, we often start to wonder, who, exactly, are we cheering for? Many of our teams, like baseball, are officially known as the Fords, but with black squirrels on every t-shirt and mug on campus many think that our athletics teams are the Black Squirrels. So, which is it? Ford or Squirrel?
The expert best equipped to answer such a question was the late Greg Kannerstein ’63. The man known as “Mr. Haverford” held many roles at the College during his 41 years in service, including student, teacher, baseball coach, director of athletics, and dean, and was basically considered its unofficial historian.
In 1999 Kannerstein wrote the following explanation of our team “nickname” in an email:
“Black Squirrels has been an unofficial Haverford team nickname since the late 1980s when the baseball team noted a profusion of the mutant species around the Class of 1916 Field. The diamondmen thought the squirrels exemplified the feisty, idiosyncratic, never-say-die esprit de corps they sought for themselves, and the rest (shirts, jackets, trophies, etc.) is history. The 1990 Fords passed out Black Squirrel shirts on their summer tour of Czechoslovakia and Poland, and one of the leading pro-baseball squads in the Czech Republic is now the Chorny Wewerka, Czech for, you guessed it….
On campus and among the alums, an ideological battle has been waged for a decade. Traditionalists would rather be Fords than Squirrels, even though no one ever claimed Fords was anything but boring, banal,and unoriginal ([see also] Haverford High School, Haverford Junior High School, The Haverford School, etc.)
Basketball partisans of old prefer the Red Wave and the cult of the Honor Goats still pervades the brilliant track program at Haverford. A few aged alumni reportedly sank into eternal rest murmuring, ‘Hornets, they have to remember, it’s Hornets.’
Last year, an armistice was declared after a brilliant parliamentary maneuver by Sports Information Director John Douglas. Douglas declared that while Haverford teams’ nickname would remain Fords, the mascot would become the Black Squirrel.”
So, now you know!