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Why is the Pirate the high school mascot?


And, what's the story behind the Lady Pirate logo?


View team photos at the bottom of this story - Why is the Bluffton High School mascot a pirate? And, what’s the story behind the Lady Pirate logo?

In the dawn of Bluffton High School athletics the school played an independent schedule in all sports. Its team colors were red and white, but those teams were not called the Pirates. They had no mascot.

When and why Bluffton embraced red and white is, itself a mystery. We know it took place was prior to the 1913-14 school year, but that’s all we know. How do we know that? Because the Del Gratz family has the girls’ basketball uniform that Del’s grandmother Fannie (Lauby) Gratz wore. Guess the colors of that uniform: red and white.

To further confirm this, the late Jack Berry, who played on the great 1923 BHS football team, related this football cheer from 1923: “Red and White, fight, fight!”

Ron Geiser, BHS sport historian has scoured every Bluffton News backward from the mid-1910 and never found the smoking gun news item that stated the year or reason why Bluffton took the red and white colors.

We may never know the origins of the colors.

How Bluffton became the Pirates However, we do know how, why and when Bluffton High School’s mascot became the Pirate. It’s thanks to a student named John Hartzler.

The following account is from the last-ever reunion of the Bluffton High School class of 1929. The remaining class members met at the Vernice Davis’s residence on Main Street in the early 1990s. I attended that reunion to take a class photo.

Wallace Miller, a member of the class of 1929, came up with the Pirate idea. He approached Norman Triplett, president of the school council that school year. Triplett suggested that Miller present the Pirate idea to the council. The student council liked and voted in favor of the Pirate.

Why did he suggest Pirate? John Hartzler, a member of the class of 1929 who stood 6-6 was the center of the boys’ basketball team during the 1928-29 season. His high school nickname was “Long John Silver.”

You may see what’s coming.

The 1928-29 team, led by Hartzler was undefeated at the end of its regular season. This unbeaten record was largely a part of Hartzler’s role. In 1929 after every basket, the ball went back to the center court for a jump ball. With a 6-6 guy in the center ring, you might imagine why Bluffton won all the tips and games.

The great team of 1928-29 advanced to the Class B state high school basketball finals, only to lose by two points in the state championship to Akron St. Mary’s.

With a team of that caliber, led by a guy nicknamed Long John Silver and his Pirate crew, you draw your own conclusion to this story.

Later, in a conversation with Hartzler, he told me, “It seems to me that naming the mascot wasn’t a big deal.”

That may be the understatement of the century, for Bluffton High School sports fans, but that’s what John said.

I met John again on his last-ever visit to Bluffton, when he was 95. He was an impressive figure, full of interesting stories and yet the loss of that game to Akron St. Mary’s still lingered in his mind.

John did explain why Bluffton lost the game to the Akron team. You may want to hear his explanation. It's pretty interesting.

He claims the Bluffton boys were goofing off too much at some frat houses at Ohio State University the day before the game. They became tired late in the state finals contest – John blamed the frat boys. I accept his answer.

That’s the story about the Pirates and John Hartzler, as I know it. I can't think of a better way to come up with the name of a school mascot than the way Bluffton High School did. Nor, can I think of a more interesting athlete to name the mascot after.

Some say it takes a village to make a child. For us, it took a John Hartzler to make us Pirates.

The story behind the Lady Pirate mascot The Bluffton Lady Pirate logo is not clip art. It’s one of a kind. Here’s the story behind it.

As girls’ athletic teams developed in the early 1970s many high schools adopted “Lady” or a variation of the word for their girls’ teams.

Prior to 1994 the Bluffton Lady Pirates lacked their own logo. Instead the teams simply used the familiar Pirate logo also used by boys.

In the fall of 1994 Crystal Bennett, a senior on the girls’ team, approached Matt Richards (brother of BHS football coach Jeff Richards), also a senior that year, to draw a picture of a Lady Pirate.

The intention was to use the logo on shirts for the girls’ basketball team for the 1994-95 season.

Richards returned a drawing of his Lady Pirate to Bennett. Her mother, Cheryl McFadden, took the drawing to the House of Awards to have the drawing placed on shirts for the girls.

The rest is forgotten Bluffton.

The first Bluffton girls' team to use the Lady Pirate mascot - 1994-95 NWC champs and regional finalists. Standing from left, Cindy Lee, assistant coach, Ann Stechschulte, Stacey Hicks, Sara Weihrauch, Jessica Buroker, Angie Craig, Dennis Lee, coach. Front from left, Kim Everett, Leigh Ann Everett, Sara Burkholder, Sarah Holt, Crystal Bennett, Missy Bogart, Trisha Patton.

Team members are, front from left, Manley Thompson and Gerald "Spike" Berry. Second row from left, Robert Schaeublin, Norman Triplett, John Hartzler, Howard Triplehorn and Garfield Griffith. Third row from left, Sidney Stettler, Ross Irwin, Odell Alspach, Wade Basinger, Dwain Murray.

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