It was a slow start for Coach Ira R. Herr and the Elizabethtown College athletic department in the 1920s, but the program continued to grow and started to take shape throughout the 1930s.
In the early years of its existence, Etown’s athletic teams were not represented by a blue jay as their mascot, but were known as the “Gray Ghosts” or the “Phantoms.” Herr was never a fan of either one and eventually made the blue jay Etown’s official mascot because it matched the school’s colors and because the blue jay was known for being an aggressive and “fighting” bird.
The next sport to be added to Etown’s newly established athletic department was baseball in the spring of 1930. The baseball team went 8-2 during their first season with a winning record in 1936.
In 1932, Coach Herr took over the women’s basketball team and led them to their first winning season (6-4). During the 1935-36 season, the women went 11-0-1, setting a record winning percentage (.958) that stood until 1982. Mary Jane Strite played for the women’s basketball team from 1937-1941, during which she averaged 17.1 points per game, the fifth-highest in program history.
The women’s basketball team found great success throughout the 1930s. They played right before the men and often had more spectators. Though generally supportive, the administration did not approve of women in sports getting as much attention as their basketball team did. Because of this, women’s games were moved to a different time so they no longer played back-to-back with the men.
The men’s tennis team returned in the 1930s with great success. Harold Newman ’38 was the team’s star, earning a spot in the Middle Atlantic Tournament in West Virginia in the spring of 1935. He defeated players from Penn State University, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Virginia and eventually advanced to the National Intercollegiate Tennis Tournaments at Northwestern University during which he made it to the third round.
The men’s basketball team, Herr’s first team, finally achieved a winning record (10-8) in the 1937-1938 season. Later that fall, Herr introduced soccer to Etown’s athletic program as a way to get his basketball players ready for their season.
After a decade of flourishing, Coach Herr and Etown’s athletic program hit a bump in the road as wartime hit the country, lowering overall college enrollment and causing some sports to skip seasons in the middle of the decade due to a reduced number of athletes.