Cardinal Bird celebrats 50th anniversary?
Cardinal teams. Now you have to be a gymnast (certainly not a Speed student!) to be the Bird. Robert “Sam” Badgett, another Speed grad, followed me as the Cardinal Bird mascot in 1960-1961.
Those first few years were “unofficial,” so traveling too far was a little hard. But the Bird made it to all the home games and many away games, along with the cheerleaders. As the Cardinal Bird, I was there for basketball wins over Kentucky and Michigan State in the 1959 mid-East Regional. I was also on the floor when Jerry West and the West Virginia Mountaineers and then Oscar Robertson and the Cincinnati Bearcats left the Cardinals last of the Final Four. UCLA ended up winning it all at the Final Four on the Cardinals’ home floor at Freedom Hall.
After graduating from Speed School with a degree in electrical engineering, Richard Dyson worked for Navy for 35 years in the Washington D.C. area before moving on to the Pentagon. He retired in 2007 as deputy chief information officer in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He and his wife of 47 years, Carmen (who attended UofL), live in Fairfax, Va.
Robert “Sam” Badgett, the second Cardinal Bird, recalls his time as Kentucky’s most famous bird:
When I became the Cardinal Bird after Dick Dyson, there was already an outfit and a head. Before Christmas of that year, we went to play the University of Dayton Flyers. I was sitting on the sidelines of the court, and as halftime ends, all of a sudden—“whammo”—a group of fraternity guys from Dayton ripped off my head.
So suddenly I was headless. I had to try to figure out how to get a new head by the time the games started again after the break. When I got back to Louisville, I went over to the art department and borrowed modeling clay. I spent the entire Christmas holiday making a new head. I used paper towels from the rest room, flour and water to create a papier mâchê head. I had my new head finished by the end of Christmas break.
I was always trying to think of innovative things to do as Mr. Cardinal Bird. One time, I took a football and papier mâchêd around it to make it look like an egg. It took about a week to do. Between the third and fourth quarters, I had the egg hidden in my Kentucky Colonel hat. I went out to the middle of the field with the hat, and squatted down for a bit. Then I acted surprised and jumped up to discover that I had laid an egg. For Mr. Cardinal Bird to lay an egg, it was quite an event!
During basketball games, I tried to involve the crowd. I thought that Mr. Cardinal Bird should have a feather duster, since he was supposed to be made out of features. I’d “cootchy coo” the women under their chins and dust bald men’s heads with that duster.
Navy Captain Robert “Sam” Badgett was a member of the Navy ROTC at UofL. He received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1961 and master’s in electrical engineering in 1974 from Speed School. After serving as captain of a nuclear submarine, he retired in 1989. He worked at several plants, and retired in 2002 as manager of a nuclear weapons facility. He and his wife, Rosemary, live in Canton, Ga.