Gimme an S!: A History of the Block Letter S

Eventually, the Block "S" would become the Varsity letter given to any athlete competing for SU at the intercollegiate level. When this change occurred is not certain from the evidence available in the Archives; but, it may be deduced from the lists of recipients at the Block "S" Dinner that a change occurred around 1922, when members of the Basketball and Lacrosse teams joined those from the Football, Baseball, Crew and Track teams. By 1955, sports like Boxing, Sailing, Rifle, and Tennis, among others, were honored at the Dinner.

While the list of athletes who were awarded a Block "S" grew during this time period, the use of the Block "S" on uniforms lessened. We see many different logos for various teams, sometimes incorporating an element to distinguish the sport, like the oar often used in the crew team insignia. Though an "S" was often used, it was not always done in block-type like the original. Certain versions of the "S" predominated for a time only to be replaced by another later on. For instance, the 1970s-1980s was the time of the softer, rounded "S" while in the 1990s a more angular, geometric "S" was favored. None of these versions fostered enough solidarity to stick.

This era of metamorphosis would provide plenty of fodder for those who would eventually argue that the Block "S" was not only more traditional, but ultimately the most suited as the symbol for the entire athletics program.

This pillow, a gift of Mildred C. McGregor '23, would have been used to cushion the wooden seats in Archbold Stadium. Felt Pillow, c. 1923. [Memorabilia Collection] This cheerleading sweater belonged to Cornelius Rademaker '24. Cheerleaders in this era were all men and while they could not earn a Block 'S' award they still used the Block 'S' as their logo. Blue Cheerleading Sweater, c. 1924. [Memorabilia Collection] The SU Marching Band used the Block 'S' as its logo more often than many sports teams. The Marching Band from the 1928 football season played at the team's away game against Columbia University. Marching Band, 1928. [ARM Image 09-0510] The program from the 1926 Block S Dinner featured a 'Block S Prayer', which asks for the strength to face the 'contests, beyond these college halls'. Block S Dinner Program, 1926. [Archives DOC 53AA0014] This photo depicts track team members wearing the Block 'S', the 'aSa', and class numerals. These were the three levels of athletic achievement established by the Athletic Governing Board by-laws published in 1902 (see Origins Slideshow). Varsity Track Team, Onondagan, 1930. [ARM Image 13-0029] Cross country runners, like 'Bucky' Fairbrother, were part of the track team and eligible for the Block 'S' in 1929. 'Bucky' Fairbrother, Onondagan, 1930. [ARM Image 13-0030] Football coach Lew Andreas sports a Block 'S' sweater in this photo from the late 1920s. Lew Andreas, Football Coach, c. 1927-1930. [ARM Image 13-0024] The football team helmets in 1935 had a Block 'S' on the front. The Block 'S' would not be seen on the football helmet again until the 2000s. Football Player, 1935. [ARM Image 13-0031] The crew team logo has traditionally incorporated the Block 'S' and a single oar or, like in this photo from 1937, a pair of crossed oars. Varsity Crew Team, 1937. [ARM Image 13-0027] Here two cheerleaders stand next to an entry in the Colgate Weekend Poster Contest wearing their Block 'S' sweaters with megaphones. Cheerleaders and Colgate Poster, 1939. [ARM 13-0025] These athletes received special honors at the Block S Dinner in 1940. 'Outstanding Athletes of the Year, As Honored by Orange', <em>Syracuse Herald American</em>, 1940. [Archives DOC 53AA0018] A member of the Varsity crew receives the first annual Clifford 'Tip' Goes award at the Block S Dinner c. 1940. On the wall in the back are plaques listing past recipients of the Block 'S'. Clifford 'Tip' Goes Award Bestowed, c. 1940. [ARM Image 13-0026] This fraternity poster from the Colgate Weekend Poster Contest shows an SU lumberjack, identified by the Block 'S' he's wearing, 'bringing home the bacon'.  Colgate Weekend 'Bringing Home the Bacon Poster', 1943. [ARM Image 13-0035] This orange cheerleading sweater, worn by Edgar Workman '43, features the Block 'S' inside a megaphone. Orange Cheerleading Sweater, c. 1942. [Memorabilia Collection] This megaphone was also donated by Edgar Workman '43. Cheerleaders used the megaphone to shout 'Gimme an S!' Megaphone of Edgar Workman, c. 1942. [Memorabilia Collection] David G. Palmer, manager of the 1948 cross country team, was awarded this Block 'S' certificate. Block S Award, 1948. [Archives DOC 53AA0019] This stadium blanket, featuring an orange Block 'S', was donated by Joan Sponable '48. Stadium Blanket, c. 1948. [Memorabilia Collection] These four co-eds head to the game with their Block 'S' stadium pillow. Co-eds with Stadium Pillow, c. 1940s. [ARM Image 13-0036] The SU Marching Band forms a human Block 'S' on the field of Archbold Stadium. Marching Band in formation, c. late 1940s. [ARM Image 13-0034] This column titled 'Block S' was featured in the 1950 <em>Daily Orange</em> and highlights some of the athletes receiving special honors at the Block S Dinner. 'Block S' column, <em>Daily Orange</em>, 1950. [Archives DOC 53AA0015-0017] These three female fans wear the Block 'S' on corsages. Three Females with Corsages, 1951. [ARM Image 13-0033] 1952 was a rare time when the crew team's logo did not incorporate an oar. Instead, it is a very traditional Block 'S'.  Varsity Crew Team, 1952. [ARM Image 13-0032] This cheerleading sweater was worn by Donna Fabrick Aloise '60. Though women were still not eligible to earn the Block 'S' award at this time, they were members of the cheerleading squad. White Cheerleading Sweater, c. 1958. [Memorabilia Collection] This blue baseball cap displays the Block 'S'. The cap was found in a thrift shop in Connecticut and its' age is unknown, but is estimated to the mid-1900s; probably around the time the baseball team was taken off the Varsity roster in 1972. Baseball Cap, undated. [Memorabilia Collection] The 1960 baseball team wore very traditional caps with the Block 'S'. Varsity Baseball Team, 1960. [ARM Image 13-0037] A male cheerleader, wearing a Block 'S' sweater from 1968, yells into his megaphone. Male Cheerleader with Megaphone, 1968. [ARM Image 13-0056] Marching Band member Robert Copolla models the rounded 'S' that would become the standard through the 1970s-1980s. Robert Copolla, 1969. [ARM Image 13-0041] This baton girl from the 1960s shows the preference still afforded the traditional Block 'S'; though by the next decade the more rounded 'S' would emerge. Baton Girl, c. 1960s. [ARM Image 13-0044] The members of the Marching Band Flag Corp are wearing the softer, rounded 'S' from this era, but their flags show a more traditional Block 'S'. Marching Band Flag Corp, 1972. [ARM Image 13-0042] The Marching Band uniforms depict the more rounded 'S' used in the 1970s and 1980s. Marching Band in Stands, 1976. [ARM Image 13-0040] This fan wears his 'Superman' shirt and goggles. The 'S' was clearly a symbol that fans associated with athletics at SU. Fan in Goggles, c. 1970s. [ARM Image 11-0514] The crew team logo in the 1970s was a Block 'S' with a single oar behind it. This logo was one of the few that favored the traditional Block 'S' instead of the more common rounded 'S' of this decade. Varsity Men Crew Carries Boat, c. 1970s. [ARM Image 13-0038] These fans painted their touchdown bell with a Block 'S'. Fans with Bell, c. 1970s. [ARM Image 13-0039] The crew teams at SU have consistently used the Block 'S' as a key part of their logo since the early 1900s. The women's team, which became eligible for a Block 'S' in the early 1970s, followed that tradition on their 1982 uniforms. Women's Varsity Crew Team, 1982. [ARM Image 11-0516] This football helmet pin, dated to the 1980s, features the Block 'S' on the side. Oddly, the helmets worn by the football team at this time did not feature the 'S'. Football Helmet Pin, c. 1980s. [Memorabilia Collection]