In the early years of intercollegiate competition, St. John's teams were known as the "Johnnies."
It wasn't until the 1920's that "Redmen" was first used and that came about when a reporter used the term after the football team took the field clad in totally red uniforms.
The cheerleaders of 1928 began a "war whoop" at games and a search went on for a suitable mascot.
According to several written sources and many an old tale, a group of St. John's students led by Walter Bruce, class of 1939, and Michael McNichols, class of 1931, went out and found that mascot standing in front of a cigar store.
"Chief Blackjack" made his first public appearance in his new position at the St. John's-Catholic University football game at Ebbets Field. When the underdog Redmen went on to a 22-0 victory, there was no turning back.
"The Chief was here to stay," Bruce wrote. "He had become a fixture at St. John's, having been granted a lifetime lease on the St. John's Reservation."
Bruce also later admitted that he and others returned and paid for the pilfered mascot.
Colleges across the country were becoming more sensitive to the concerns of Native Americans and nicknames that may have been seen as demeaning to those cultures were being changed. Even though St. John's teams were named after the color, the nickname did evolve into one that referenced Native American symbols.
In 1994, St. John's changed its nickname to "Red Storm," combining the school's traditional color with a sense of a group movement.