Bring back some good or bad memories


March 5, 2023

Future President George W. Bush Was the Head Cheerleader at His High School in the 1960s

The younger Bush followed his father’s footsteps into both the presidency and the Yale cheerleading squad. George W. actually became a cheerleader in high school at the prestigious Phillips Academy, climbing the ranks all the way to head cheerleader before heading off to Yale, where he cheered for all four years of study.

More than cheerleading, though, George’s claim to fame at Andover was organizing a huge intramural stickball program. Stickball, played with broomsticks and a tennis ball on a field, a variant of the kind played on the streets in New York City, had been an informal pastime at Andover for several years.

But at the weekly assembly in April of his senior year, George stood up and announced the formation of a stickball league. He was wearing a top hat like a circus showman, and instead of a brief announcement, he offered a 20-minute speech that had much of the audience in stitches.

“I was his roommate and I don’t remember him rehearsing or practicing,” said John Kidde. “And he got up, and you can see why he’s doing what he’s doing today. He announced how he was high commissioner of stickball, and he got some chuckles, and he just kept going. He was making it up as he went along. And he started talking about rules, and it was very funny. It was a riot.”

The stickball league was popular among the students in part because it was seen as subversive, spoofing Andover’s somber athletic traditions. Instead of the earnest sports matches that were rigidly controlled by adult coaches, the stickball league was entirely run by the students and was dedicated to fun rather than excellence, just like the high commissioner himself.

George chose team names for their appeal to adolescent tastes. There were the Nads, so that fans could scream “Go, Nads!” And there were various other risque names, or else respectable-sounding ones that cleverly had unprintable acronyms. Team members printed personal nicknames on their white T-shirts, McScuz, Vermin, Zitney and the like.

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