John Paul Weiler
Died: September 10, 2014 (Hamilton, Ontario)
For 31 seasons, Paul Weiler supported the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as Pigskin Pete, an indefatigable cheerleader known for wearing a black-and-gold Ticats jersey, a bowler hat, and reciting a cheer that has been heard at weddings, funerals, and in the House of Commons.
Oskie wee wee!
Oskie wa wa!
Tigers! Eat ’em raw!
The cheer originated in the 1920s as a celebration of the Hamilton Tigers, a team which would later merge with the Hamilton Wildcats to produce the hyphenated Tiger-Cats. The original Pigskin Pete was Vince Wirtz, who retired in 1966. He was replaced by his son, Bill Wirtz, who led cheers until retiring after the 1975 season. In 1976, the bowler was picked up by Weiler, a remote-control locomotive operator for Dofasco.
Weiler’s 31 seasons at Ivor Wynne Stadium made him more familiar than even the most celebrated players. He got to celebrate Grey Cup championships with the club in 1986 and 1999, though he suffered with other fans through some dismal campaigns, notably 2003 when the storied club endured a 1-17 season.
He estimated he had performed cheers at about 330 CFL games.
A Montreal bus driver, Weiler moved to Hamilton in the early 1960s, where he and his wife became regulars at meeting of the team’s rooters, known as the Quarterback Club. Team president Ralph Sazio asked Weiler to replace Bill Wirtz. That fall, Weiler marched in the Grey Cup parade through downtown Toronto along with singer Ginette Reno, the wrestler Whipper Billy Watson, and rival cheerleader Pemmican Pete of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Weiler earned as much as $40 per game for his cheerleading, but later only received a ticket to the game. In 1993, the club refused to give him a ticket and he boycotted the game, outraging fans. His protest lasted a single game.
In 1999, a special plaque on the Walk of Fame was unveiled by the Cats’ Claws fan club to honour the three men who had performed as Pigskin Pete.
The original Pigskin Pete was a stogie-chomping, coonskin-coat wearing character who worked the grandstand. His call was slightly different than today’s version, as the second line was: “Whiskey wa wa!” “Whiskey” became “oskee” over the years.
Weiler became a familiar national character on television for his No. 6 jersey and his roly-poly physique.
The club did without a cheerleader in 2007. Dan Black became the fourth Pigskin Pete the following season.
Vince Wirtz, who had been born in 1892, died in 1966. His son died in 1999, aged 77.
Bill Wirtz became Pigskin Pete after his father’s death.