Profiles In Badassery: Larry Brumbaugh

Tomorrow the new Purdue Pete will be unveiled, likely to the world's mockery based on the responses to yesterday's leaked video that has now never happened according to the athletic department. Among the many criticisms of the early version seen yesterday:

  • He has a silver helmet, which makes sense when out colors are BLACK AND GOLD!
  • We pray he has jerseys again instead of that shirt
  • He's missing his real hammer, allegedly because it promoted violence. I say the lack of hammer will promote violence, because we're all pretty pissed off that he may not have the real hammer
  • People universally don't like the shoes.

Clearly, we need a badass in this situation and that badass is Larry Brumbaugh.

I was alerted to Larry's name when readers Donald Ledman, Chris Endress, and Ryne Rayburn each ranked him in their top 25 on their Purdue ICONS ballots (which are still being accepted for another week). Brumbaugh may not be a very recognizable name, and he's likely not going to crack the top 25 on the ICONS list (currently 62nd out of 87 receiving votes), but this badass would never stand for the changes to Purdue Pete. He was the first Purdue Pete.

Brumbaugh's background

The year was 1956. The football teams was coming off of consecutive 5-3-1 seasons, but they lacked an on field mascot. Purdue Pete had been a mascot created as an advertising logo for University Bookstore in 1940. This logo eventually made its way to the front cover of the Debris with the name of Pete in 1944. Four years after that we had the first photograph of Pete, but he didn't become an on-field mascot until 1956.

Athletic director Guy "Red" Mackey (currently 58th in the ICONS voting) is responsible for several innovations that have shaped the current makeup of our athletic department. Mackey Arena is named after him, but he was responsible for the first on field representation of Pete. Purdue was scheduled to open the 1956 football season at home against Missouri, and Mackey commissioned Pete as an on field mascot.

A pep committee selected Brumbaugh as the first mascot, but there was a small problem: He had no official costume. Brumbaugh visited a few Lafayette area costume shops, but didn't find anything that he felt truly represented Pete. So, he took the matter into his own hands. He contacted a woman in his home town that made papier-mâché and had her created the first Pete head on chicken wire. Brumbaugh stated that the first Pete didn't fit very well, but he born. Brumbaugh debuted the costume on September 29, 1956, a 16-7 victory over Missouri at Ross-Ade stadium. Purdue would finish the 1956 season 3-4-2, beating Notre Dame and Indiana for its other two victories.

Almost 55 years later, the Tigers tried to get their revenge by stealing our coach and distracting us with a newly designed Pete that would be poorly received, but the distraction of losing coach Painter and furor that followed would allow their new Pete design to go unnoticed, furthering their elaborate plan of revenge. Their plan failed though, and I alone have sniffed out there evil plot!

Brumbaugh graduated that following spring with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, passing the legacy on to the dozens of men who have played Pete in the past 55 years. Not much is known about him after graduation, but when you are responsible for creating a badassed icon like Pete, what more do you need to accomplish? Honestly, I couldn't find much else about him. Personally, I would love for him to come back tomorrow at the spring game and insist upon the Return of the Hammer (which will be a rallying cry here from now on). Currently, the Pete costumes are actually created as part of a technology class at Purdue, but the new design will rob students of this great educational opportunity.

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