Ezry The Tiger & The History of "The Tigers"

In 1892, Wittenberg College (as it was known until 1960) took the football field for the first time. However, the players did so without an official mascot through the early 1940s. The teams at the university were instead known as the “Fighting Lutherans” or by their colors, which were then Crimson and Cream.

The first reference to "Tigers" in connection with Wittenberg team occurred on Sept. 29, 1921, when a newspaper issued the headline “Tigers of the West” over a picture of the football teams. College President Rees Edgar Tulloss even insisted that the sports teams be referred to as the “Fighting Lutherans“ and not the  “Tigers of the West“ in an announcement regarding the dedication of the new Wittenberg Stadium found in the sports pages of the Friday, Oct. 19, 1923, edition of the Springfield Daily News.

Through the 1940s, the term “Tigers” was not official but was used interchangeably with "Fighting Lutherans" in reference to the Wittenberg sports teams by the Torch and other news publications.

The Tiger gained new ground on campus and grew closer to becoming an official mascot during the 1945-46 school year, when an art student named John Norris created a cartoon for the Wittenberg Torch, the student newspaper.

His cartoon depicted the life and times of Atom, the "atomic tiger". Atom was created by Norris as a mascot for the athletic teams, but he came to represent Wittenberg school spirit across campus.  Atom later evolved into Ezry the Tiger and enjoyed many more years of popularity in the Torch. Ezry was named for Wittenberg’s founder and first President Ezra Keller.

Eventually, Ezry began appearing on the sidelines during games and popping up at other campus events. Starting in the mid-1950s, a student or community member appeared in a Tiger suit at many major sporting events each year. A different person would be selected as the mascot, and their identity would remain closely guarded until the basketball homecoming game, when they would be unmasked amidst applause.

Ezry's fur coat has gone through countless alterations and repairs. A brand new set of stripes debuted at Homecoming 2011, complete with an in-suit cooling fan. A student continues to wear it proudly, although the student's identity has once again become a closely guarded secret. The privilege of portraying Ezry is earned only after an exhaustive audition process.

In late 2010, Ezry joined the digital revolution and started a Twitter account. Ezry is known to check in on FourSquare, take pictures from around campus and comment on daily life at Wittenberg. Follow Ezry at @EzryTheTiger to see how good life can be in stripes.

Original article by Bryan Metzger '04