What is a Billiken?

Gamecocks and Tigers and Flames. . .and Billikens. Oh my!

Three of the teams meeting in Columbia this weekend for the NCAA regional baseball tournament have well-known mascot names.

But what is a Billiken?

St. Louis University says its Billiken mascot has a debatable origin, but it appears to be based on a good-luck figure who "represents things as they ought to be."

The mascot, which might be confused with a cartoon Martian, is based on a doll-like figure that was manufctured in the early 1900s as a bank and statuette. It was the "pet rock" of its time and was depicted in dolls, marshmallow candies, mental banks, belt buckles, salt and pepper shakers, automobile hood ornaments and other things, the university says on its website.

From there, the story of how the Billiken was adopted as the offical macot sometime around 1910-1911 gets murky.

One story says univerity football coach John Bender had a remarkable resemblance to the figure and a cartoon of him posted in a drugstore window led to the team's nickname of "Bender's Billikens." Other versions vary, but all seem to be connected to coach Bender.

According to legend, buying a Billiken gives a purchaser luck but having one given to you is better luck, the website says.

St. Louis University explains the Billiken