Stories From Saturday Night in Tiger Stadium, Part 4: “Origins”

EPISODE 20 (9:58)

c. 1898 team

The 1898 LSU football team

This is the final episode that correlates to the LSU Libraries Special Collections exhibit “Saturday Night in Tiger Stadium” which showcases the players, the games, the facilities, and the culture of LSU Tigers football.

Part of this exhibition is a listening station that features over sixty oral history clips about LSU football, and from these clips, we’re sharing content with our listeners.  Episode 20, “Origins” features clips chosen by Kyle Tanglao, the Center’s Audio Engineer and Web Developer.  New to Louisiana, and not a huge football fan, Kyle chose clips that might appeal to audiences interested in the lore of university history, or entirely unfamiliar with it.

The oral histories in today’s episode come from the Williams Center’s University History Athletics Collection. While we are grateful to have the current content, this collection is by no means comprehensive.  If anyone out there listening or reading knows someone who ought to be interviewed, or wants to be interviewed themselves, please contact Jennifer A. Cramer at  If you’d like to make a donation to help the Center document University Athletics, please contact Jennifer or visit our donation page.



Jesse Coates:  They didn’t have any colors for the game . . . for the team.  There was a boy that selected blue and white but that didn’t approve . . . appeal to anybody and nobody had even really thought about it.  So, my father [Charles E. Coates] shopped around at various stores on Third Street and they had some ribbon left over from the Mardi Gras celebration.  But all they had were purple and gold, the green was gone.  He selected the purple and gold which we still use.  Then somebody said to him, “Well, what about a name?”  And there was a contingent of Louisiana men who made a very valiant and valuable contribution to the [Civil] War.  They called them the Louisiana Tigers.  And so my father said, “Well, we’ll call our team The Tigers.” 

Coates, Jesse, interview by Scott Purdy, audio recording, 1993, 4700.0288.  Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


Cadets with tiger

LSU cadets load the tiger mascot onto a train

Everett Besch:  Just before we started today I mentioned that the mascot for the university, the tiger, came out of the Civil War brigades, Louisiana brigades, which were called the Louisiana Tigers.  And that the first live mascot was in 1924, but the first tiger, I guess of the series that we have now was what, 1936?

Richard:  [agrees]

Besch:  Did you say the students bought him?

Richard:  Yeah.

Quinn Coco:  Contributed a dime apiece.

Besch:  It did say student contributions purchased a Bengal tiger named Sheik in 1936. The students contributed a dime a piece?

Richard:  [agrees]

Besch:  Nineteen thirty-six, they must have had what, how many students on campus?

Coco:  About five-thousand, I would guess.  Five-thousand students, wasn’t that Oscar?

Richard:  Yeah, about.

Besch: And that tiger was renamed for the football trainer named Mike Chambers.

Richard:  Yeah.

Besch:  What about Mike Chambers?  Both of you apparently knew Mike Chambers.

Richard:  Well, he was a big guy.  He had been . . . I think he was from the University of Illinois.  I think he had played football with [Harold E.] “Red” Grange?  Isn’t that right?

Coco: [agrees]  I think so.

Richard:  And he was a trainer for the U.S. Olympic team in 1932.  I think he came to LSU probably in ‘34.  I think [Coach Lawrence] “Biff” Jones brought him down.  When Biff Jones became head coach, he brought him in as his trainer.  Yeah, he was . . . He was pretty popular.  I think it was his idea to get a live mascot.  Yeah.  He instigated it.

Mike the Tiger and Trainer

Mike the Tiger with his trainer

Coco:  Tulane students stole the tiger one time, too, before a Tulane game.  When was that Oscar?

Richard:  I don’t remember.

Besch:  Stole?

Coco:  They stole it, yeah.

Besch:  A big, a big tiger.

Coco:  Yeah, in his cage.

Richard:  Yeah.

Besch:  Oh, in his cage.  Well, I recall in the late seventies when about two o’clock in the morning Campus Police called and said, “You know that tiger is walking down Nicholson Drive.” And . . . actually, they said . . . no . . . “We got the . . . caught the tiger walking down Nicholson Drive.” And the fellow that . . . the cop is still on campus who did . . . who picked up the tiger.  He gradually got ahead of the tiger and just eased him and the tiger kind of turned and walked back.  Another cop opened the gate to Bernie Moore Stadium and tiger when in there because there was bushes in there.  We called Bivin, Dr. Sheldon Bivin, who was our laboratory animal veterinarian.  He went out there with a capture gun, and he walked into Bernie Moore Stadium with that damn gun and darted that tiger and that’s how he got him back in the cage.  But somebody had cut through the bolts and opened the doors.

Richard, Oscar, interview by Everett Besch and Quinn Coco, audio recording, 1993, 4700.0359. Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


Roy ad final jpegBud Johnson:  There was a man by the name of Alvin Roy.  He had a little health spa down on Oklahoma Street [in Baton Rouge].  It’s no longer there, but I can show you where it was.  In the summer of ’58, he had Bob Petit, Jim Taylor, Billy Cannon, Johnny Robinson, Roy Winston who was still at Istrouma High School, and Norbert Roy who went on to Notre Dame from Istrouma High School.  All those guys played in the pros, you see.  Bob Petit went from a skinny six [foot] nine [inch], 195 pound back to the basket center at LSU to a power forward in the pros who weighed 225 pounds. 

If Alvin Roy’s not here — he’s one of the gurus of that business — I don’t think that LSU, you know, would have been as good because of. . . Taylor, Cannon, all of them were lifting weights when nobody else was doing it.  And he had been an Olympic weight lifting coach, but he saw . . . I guess Cannon started lifting weights at Istrouma High School as a junior, his junior year.  One year, Baton Rouge High kills Istrouma, okay?  Istrouma starts lifting weights and the next year Istrouma kills Baton Rouge High.


Johnson, Bud, interview by Emily Nemens, audio recording, 2013, 4700.2353.  Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.



This podcast was co-authored and produced by Jennifer A. Cramer and was co-authored and audio engineered by Kyle Tanglao.  Special thanks to contributors Erin Hess, Leah Jewett, Wyatt Winnie, William Mitchell, Louise Cheetham, Gabe Harrell, Michelle Melancon, and Germain Beinvenu


1898 LSU football team:  LSU Photograph Collection, RG #A5000, Louisiana State University Archives, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, LA.

LSU cadets loading tiger onto train:  Department of Military Science Records, RG #A0602, Louisiana State University Archives, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, LA.

Tiger and trainer:  Office of Public Relations Records, RG #A0020, Louisiana State University Archives, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, LA.

Ad for Alvin Roy’s gym:  Daily Reveille, September 1958.



King, Freddie, interviewed by Tatiana Clay and Eric Julien, audio recording, 2008, 4700.1921.  Louisiana and Lower Mississippi Valley Collections, LSU Libraries, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


This podcast is copyrighted by LSU Libraries Special Collections.

For a full transcript of the podcast, please contact Jennifer Abraham at



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One comment on “Stories From Saturday Night in Tiger Stadium, Part 4: “Origins”
  1. Jeffrey Michael Lien says:

    Thanks for sharing info on Mike Chambers, my grandfather. Happy to share more about him if you are interested.


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