Most people know that the Union University mascot is the bulldog, but a surprising number of people don’t know his name, Buster, or his history. In searching for past photos of Buster, we came across a March 1999 Cardinal & Cream article with some great information about our beloved Buster. The article was written by staff writer Polly Pierce and can be found in Vol. 83 No. 10 of the student newspaper.
“Buster Bulldog. Have you ever thought about where the name “Buster” came from, or even when Union became the home of the Bulldogs?
Union sports and bulldogs were united in 1920. However, from 1922 to 1925, women’s sports were named the Terriers. During this same time, the name Bullpups was given to the school’s freshman football team.
In 1970, Bill Rozich started his Union career as the Bulldog baseball team’s head coach. Rozich, a former member of the Chicago White Sox, set about to improve the school’s baseball program. The Jackson Sun, the city’s local newspaper, began running a cartoon called ‘Buster Says’ in the sports section to keep fans informed of the results of games and to make special announcements about Union sports.
Buster [the cartoon featured in the paper] was created by Joe McCormick of Malesus, Tenn.. This commercial cartoonist, illustrator and free-lance artist drew Buster from March 1970 until the end of baseball season in 1971.” This indicates that Buster as we know him originated as a sports cartoon in the local newspaper. The idea came from Rozich and was brought to life by McCormick.
The article also mentions that the graduating class of 1998 gifted Union with a live bulldog to serve as the official mascot, and Todd Brady, campus minister, became his caretaker. While there were other bulldogs owned by students and Union friends, this was the first dog officially owned by the school, according to records. Buster continued to come to games and charm everyone he met through the mid-2000s. Since the original Buster’s passing, Union hasn’t had a live bulldog.
One thing this article doesn’t mention is the Buster suit that many students have donned at sporting events since the early 1980s. The first photo of a Buster suit can be found in the 1981 Lest We Forget yearbook, and you can see it change significantly over the years. The original version had a basketball uniform, furry arms and legs and a gigantic head, while the next version featured an open mouth and cute little tongue. We also had a darker brown version in late 80s and early 90s, and later a grey dog.
1981 and 1982
1984 and 1987
1990, Steve Steiner
1991 and 1995
The current suit has a distinctly “fierce” look, presumably to intimidate our opponents. Buster is much more than a cheerleader at games. You can find him mingling with the Union family at big events such as move-in day and Union Night, and he is always willing to goof around with anyone.
2009 and 2011
If you have photos of Buster during your years at Union, we would love to see them! Share them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and tag Union University.