Frizzi: A boy named Alice

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Alice? Alice? Who the (Bleep) is Alice?

(I used "Bleep" because this is a family publication and I care about our youth!)

You'll probably hear this several times at an Oktoberfest near you. It gets screamed by crowds whipped up by a combination of a German ooom-pah band and beer. The song played is called "Tür an Tür mit Alice", a German version of the song, "Living Next Door to Alice." The German version was a hit song for one Howard Carpendale in 1977.

You probably won't hear it played during high school games. Why the (bleep) would you, you may ask? Because in that little rustic corner of the earth known as Southwestern Indiana, there is a high school whose sports teams have the nickname of "The Alices".

I ain't joking. If you don't believe me, look at Paul Gordon's (The Peorian's editor) website bio. Paul and I are alumni of good ol' Lincoln High.

The sports clubs of Vincennes Lincoln High School, in Vincennes, Indiana, be they football, basketball, baseball, tennis and track, are known as the Alices.

The Vincennes Lincoln Alices.

And the name of their womens' sport teams?

The Lady Alices.

It works for the lady athletes. But why in the world would you name a men's sports team "The Alices"?

Their local opponents have the standard nicknames such as Braves, Warriors, Wildcats, and Bulldogs. The local Catholic school, Rivet High School's nickname is the Patriots.

Were all the good nicknames taken?

In Peoria and Peoria Heights, you have nicknames like the Lions, Knights, Rams and Patriots. There used to be the Warriors when there used to be a Woodruff High School. There's even a Notre Dame High School with the nickname "The Fighting Irish", just like the big kids near South Bend, Ind. (the land of which was donated by the Bishop of Vincennes, Celestine de la Hailandiere in 1842).

In the surrounding towns of Central Illinois, you have nicknames like the Panthers, Little Giants, Trojans, Wildcats, Commandos and the Farmers.

Pekin High School wisely changed their name to the Dragons. Their former nickname was the Asian equivalent to "Redskins".

Illinois has its fair share of offbeat high school nicknames, as well. Liz Rudolph has a blog on ESPN1380.com called, "Pretzels, Sobos and Bunnies, Oh My! A Look Into Illinois High School Mascots and Nicknames". In it are listed names like the Freeport Pretzels, the Cobden High School Appleknockers, the Hoopeston Area High School Cornjerkers and the Teutopolis High School Wooden Shoes.

Also listed is DeKalb High School's nickname, "The Barbs". But it's not short for "Barbara". Instead, the team is named for barbed wire, which was invented in DeKalb. And their mascot is a crow named "Barbie".

The Alices' mascot is a giant furry tick-looking creature known as the "Big A". In Jersey, he would be known as "Big (Bleeping) Aaaaay!"

All this "bleeping" makes me feel like I'm Jon (bleeping) Stewart!

Still, WHY in the wide, wide world of sports would you give a high school team, which can and does consist of male athletes, a female name? It not very macho, especially on a crisp autumn Friday night, when a male football player runs out of the locker room and onto the field of battle, pass the cheering cheerleaders and hearing the PA announcer urging the crowd to welcome "your Vincennes Lincoln FIGHTING Alices!" It could've been pretty emasculating unless your mascot was a big tough gal named Alice. Back in Paul's and my day, such a gal would've been welcome on the men's squads, which were sadly substandard.

When my family would go back to Pittsburgh, my Dad and my Uncle would laugh their collective heads off over "The Alices". They were alumni of Central Catholic, whose nickname was "The Vikings" and was just a Dan Marino (Class of 1979) "Hail Mary" away from the University of Pittsburgh.

Yet, the locals in Vincennes think nothing about it. They seem to be proud of it. After all, they've been known as "The Alices" since 1923.

That was the first time that Vincennes Lincoln won a basketball championship.

For my money, the 1986 movie "Hoosiers", starring Gene Hackman, Barbara Hershey and Dennis Hopper, is the best sports movie ever. This is because the movie describes the insanity of Indiana high school basketball, or "Hoosier Hysteria" to a proverbial "T".

The movie was about the 1952 Hickory Huskers, a fictional basketball squad of fresh faced farm boys who went on to win the state championship against the larger and more talented team from South Bend. The story was loosely based on the story of the 1954 Milan High School team ("The Indians"). But it could've been based on the 1923 Lincoln team that won the high school championship.

Up until 1997, Indiana's high school playoff formats did not include "Class A" or "Class B" teams. Small town teams like Dugger and Linton could end up facing (and occasionally defeating) teams from bigger cities like Gary, Hammond and Indianapolis (or "Downtown Indiana"). Lincoln teams would twice win state championships in 1923 and 1981. Even with the name, "The Alices".

Not even Larry Bird's Spring Valley High School teams in French Lick won state basketball trophies. And his team was called "The Blackhawks".

When the Alices won the tourney, people were asking, "Why Alice?" "What's an Alice?" "Who the (bleep) is Alice?"

According to Vincennes Lincoln High School's website:

"The 1923 Vincennes High School basketball team derived the unique nickname of "Alices." That team played one night at Columbus, where they were dubbed the Cinderella team of 1923. Combining the fairytale of Cinderella with Alice in Wonderland and Alice of Old Vincennes, a sports writer started calling the team, Alices, and it has stuck since. Although school officials have never officially adopted the nickname, the unique nickname has followed Vincennes High School athletic teams throughout their history."

"Unique" is putting it mildly.

I thought the name was silly when I was a pimply faced student at Lincoln. I still do. Especially when I found out that the name used to be "Buccanneers". Being a life-long Pittsburgh Pirates' fan, I still couldn't see why you would name your high school team "Alices" instead of "Buccanneers". After all, "Buccanneers" were swashbucklers! "Alices", not so much.

"Alice of Old Vincennes" was a 1900 novel by Maurice Thompson. The heroine, Alice Roussillon was a sympathizer of the American revolutionaries. She helped sew American flags and tended to the needs of the troops. If you let your mind wander about the latter, well, she was probably more popular with the troops than the Marquis de Lafayette. I'm still not sure if I would name a high school team after a Revolutionary War trollop!

I'm still a big fan of Lewis Carroll and his whacked out stories of Alice and her adventures. Yet, I would've preferred the name "Vincennes Lincoln Mad Hatters". Incidentally, there was a minor league baseball team in Madison, Wisconsin called the Madison Hatters, now known as the Great Lake Loons.

Being a member of the Class of 1975, I would love to see Alice Cooper, snake and all, as the team logo. I'm sure Alice's image is copywritten (although that hasn't stopped other high schools from using copywritten sports logos for their own). But I would love to see the football or basketball team run out of the locker room to the song "School's Out".

That idea may be too old school, like having Alice Kramden, the long suffering wife in Jackie Gleason's "The Honeymooners", as a logo.

Perhaps Alice Hyatt, the waitress played by Linda Lavin in the '70s TV show, "Alice" would make a good logo. The cheerleaders could wear vintage polyester uniforms and shout "Kiss my grits!"

What about the Vincennes Lincoln A's, the Vincennes Lincoln Big Al's or the Vincennes Lincoln Al Bundys? What about that poor girl in Elton John's "All The Young Girls Love Alice?" Or the Alice that Howard Carpendale lived next door to?

I'm still curious about the history of Vincennes. So, I'm linked to a Facebook site on the subject. Vincennes used to have a food packing company in the 1930's that used to bottle "Alice of Old Vincennes" ketchup. I jokingly asked if the nickname "Alices" came from a brand of ketchup but nobody took the bait. Instead, I got several very serious responses educating me on the history of the nickname, "Alice".

I think the name is going to stick.

Back in 1969, Johnny Cash recorded a hit song called, "A Boy Named Sue". Based on a poem by Shel Silverstein, the story's about a guy who was given a girl's name. And not a bi-gender name like Leslie, Jody or Tracy. So, Sue was taunted and harassed. As a result, he had to learn to defend himself. Sue finally catches up with his long lost father and fights him. As Sue gets ready to finish Dad off, Dad explains the reason why he named his son Sue. Since Dad wouldn't be around to raise the boy, he wanted to make sure that Sue had a "name to help make (him) strong". As the story goes, Silverstein got the idea for the poem from humorist Jean Shepherd, who wrote and narrated "A Christmas Story."

Maybe it was that mentality that helped Lincoln's 1923 and 1981 state champs. Maybe that name got a few "Alices" into professional sports. Shortstop Clint Barmes is a 10-year veteran who is currently with my Pittsburgh Pirates. Punter Dan Stryzynski had a successful 15 year career in the NFL, two of which were with my Steelers.

I looked to see if the Alices made lists of "Worst Team Names in Sports Today". But the lists were mainly of pro and college nicknames, such as the University of Arkansas at Monticello Boll Weevils and The Scottsdale Community College Fighting Artichokes. The Alices didn't even make RantSports.com's "20 Worst High School Mascots In The Nation", although the Morton Potters made the list at #7.

Don't get me wrong. I still think it's a very silly name for any sports team. I wouldn't even name my fantasy team "The Alices". But, I don't mind if they keep it. Besides, it has won me a few dollars in bets!

About the Author
Donn Frizzi is a well-traveled man, if you consider Pennsylvania to southern Indiana to Texas and finally Peoria to be the definition of well traveled. But in each of his stops he gained certain insights that make him who he is — including a Pirates and Rangers fan who must travel to St. Louis to watch quality baseball without buying a plane ticket. Poetic justice, perhaps? A talented writer, Donn also can make a good point by putting pencil to paper and drawing with satirical splendor. We’re hoping to persuade him to grace our website with an occasional toon, as well.