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How the teams got their names

Apr 4, 2011, 3:33 PM EDT

Old baseball team

There’s not a heck of a lot happening this afternoon — that is, unless you (a) have MLB.TV; and (b) are a masochist. If so, you can listen to Chip Caray call the Braves-Brewers game.  At least until you realize that you can just switch to the audio feed and listen to Bob Uecker, which is what I just did.

Anywhoo: if you can’t do either of those things you can at least read this article from the Delco Times in which Jeff Edelstein gives the quick and dirty story of how each of the 30 teams got their names.  For example, you may be surprised at the complicated and colorful story behind the naming of the Colorado Rockies.

Well, fine. But I found it interesting.

One does get a sense, though, that we’ve lost something in naming conventions over the years. No more “Superbas,” no more “Perfectos.”  No more teams named after obscure little gentleman’s clubs in which drinks were taken and tales of the sea were told.  Alas.

  1. cur68 - Apr 4, 2011 at 3:46 PM

    Saw this; “Philadelphia Phillies: Originally the “Quakers,” name changed to “Philadelphias,” shortened to “Phillies.” Name actually officially changed to “Blue Jays” in 1943, but never caught on and disappeared.”
    As a Jays fan, this explains why I’ve always liked the Phillies, even when Dykstra was on that team (and it is HARD to like anything that Lenny has something to do with). There was something about them, I could never quite decide what, that seemed so…Canadian. Now I know…

    • Utley's Hair - Apr 4, 2011 at 4:03 PM

      So you were rooting for the Phightins prior to Josephine prancing around the bases? Interesting, eh?

      • Chris Fiorentino - Apr 4, 2011 at 4:05 PM


      • fuggles7 - Apr 4, 2011 at 4:26 PM

        “Touch ’em all Joe, you’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life!” – The late Tom Cheek

    • Jonny 5 - Apr 4, 2011 at 4:08 PM

      I think you just fell in love with Mitch Williams a little bit Cur68.

      • cur68 - Apr 4, 2011 at 4:12 PM

        You guys just mad cause I found out ’bout your beaver affiliations. And I do so love me some Wild Thing; he serves them sliders right into Josephine’s wheelhouse; BOOM over the wall, into the cheap seats…

    • cur68 - Apr 4, 2011 at 4:10 PM

      Craig; I just found the Cubs and Diamondbacks in a 2 – 1 tilt deep into the 6th. Both teams look good; Soriano hit a homer off Suanders, Geo Soto looks he’s trying to prove that catchers can steal bases, and Justin Upton is even money for going postal any minute now. Try that for entertainment; I think it’s Len Kasper, Bob Brenly, Pat Hughes & Keith Moreland broadcasting. Whoever they are; they’re pretty good.

      • cur68 - Apr 4, 2011 at 5:25 PM

        Cubs win 4 -1. Upton got through the whole game without flipping out and Starling Castro needs and assistant over there at short. His nickname is gonna be “double clutch”; he spends so much time with the ball in his hands tapping his glove while the runner is tooling down to 1st, across the bag and is adjusting his jock by the time Castro decides to to lob it over.

    • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Apr 4, 2011 at 5:48 PM

      “…and it is HARD to like anything that Lenny has something to do with”

      Agreed, with one exception. Lenny has something to do with hookers, and personally, I have no problem with hookers.

    • jwbiii - Apr 4, 2011 at 6:00 PM

      “Name actually officially changed to “Blue Jays” in 1943, but never caught on”

      and was never on a uniform, which may have contributed to it not catching on.

  2. yankeesfanlen - Apr 4, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    There is a school of thought that says the Yankees, officially known as this after 1913, were called this nicknames by fans as far back as 1904 when they sang “Yankee Doodle” at Hilltop Park.
    Another convention believe it was in response to the multitude of newspapers in New York needing a shorter and more universally-accepted nickname, and through the urging of Adolph Ochs of the NYT, came with an agreement with the club and press to use that name circa 1913.
    I just call them The Universe.

    • cur68 - Apr 4, 2011 at 4:19 PM

      “The Universe”? Really Len, really? Now you’re just ASKING for the ruckus. Just a matter of time before those uncouth Phillthy Phans see this and then you are toast. Are you trying to set a record for thumbs down? Actually, maybe you are. Gotta respect a man with a mission.

      • yankeesfanlen - Apr 4, 2011 at 4:23 PM

        Phillies fans know my appelation already and it draws no notice. Thought I’d get you-know-who’s bowels in an uproar in a new post.
        Just trying to speed your day along podner.

      • Utley's Hair - Apr 4, 2011 at 4:29 PM

        Meh…Len’s team affiliation speaks volumes about his delusional mental capacity. 😛

      • cur68 - Apr 4, 2011 at 4:33 PM

        I’m always up for a mission from god, so why the hell not. There’s probably a betting line somewhere on that guy going postal over trivia. I got the under.

        As for the Universe; more like the Singularity. A black hole into which talent sinks. The mass causing the sink? Hal.

  3. Jonny 5 - Apr 4, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    “The Doves” ? Scary stuff….

  4. mercyflush - Apr 4, 2011 at 4:04 PM

    “I just call them The Universe”

    because you’re a douche.

    • yankeesfanlen - Apr 4, 2011 at 4:25 PM

      Hey, this is catching on. I’ve created a new “jump the shark”. Kinda.

      • cur68 - Apr 4, 2011 at 4:47 PM

        Perhaps we should set a definition for ‘douche’? It’s an excellent term but it gets thrown around for absolutely nothing and it’s becoming diluted. I say you gotta at least stoop to random insults, overreacting, failing to get sarcasm, jokes, and/or being a PIA. At any rate I’m failing to see what’s ‘douchy’ about “the universe”. Deeply misguided, hilariously overstated, comically optimistic, and a ludicrous hyperbole (all of which are terms that could be used to describe ARod’s taste in wimmin; that and ‘ the over the hill gang’).

      • yankeesfanlen - Apr 4, 2011 at 5:03 PM

        “Deeply misguided, hilariously overstated, comically optimistic, and a ludicrous hyperbole”.
        YES! I’ve achieved my mission for today!
        P.S. Leave ARod alone, unless you can exceed notches on his centaur.

      • cur68 - Apr 4, 2011 at 5:20 PM

        Do I “exceed notches on his centaur”? God, no. I like women closer to my own age, thus my centaur don’t get notched from all that brittle impact. And, in order for me to leave ARod alone, I would require a heart of stone, a soul of steel, and the self control of a Buddha. I got none a that. ARod will continue to be my bitch all season long.

  5. pathajovsky - Apr 4, 2011 at 4:25 PM

    I’m sure you’re going to get nailed on this by some SABR members, but this article is woefully lacking.

    Cleveland Indians – Did NOT come as a nod to the Boston Braves. It was made in honor of Chief Sockalexis, an early member of the Naps.

    Kansas City Royals – Was NOT named as an allusion to a horse show. It was an honorific to the long history of the Kansas City Monarchs.

    Florida Marlins – The name is an honorific not only to a maritime sport fishing pasttime, but also to the longtime minor league team, Miami Marlins.

    Washington Nationals – The original name of the old Washington Senators was actually the Nationals. Also, the city administration did not want “Senators” as a protest against their lack of direct representation in Congress.

    These omissions are examples of the shoddy writing of so-called “professionals”.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Apr 4, 2011 at 4:30 PM

      The Sockalexis story is not true. They truly did take their name as a result of the popularity of the 1914 Braves. I learned this at the SABR convention in Cleveland, actually.

      The Royals likewise refer to the horse show. The Monarchs thing was a secondary honor.

      Good point on the Marlins.

    • Utley's Hair - Apr 4, 2011 at 4:32 PM

      Nobody ever said the Delco Times staff were professionals. The paper’s a rag that sometimes gets its headlines from the day’s Inquirer.

    • heynerdlinger - Apr 4, 2011 at 7:48 PM

      Not to mention that the Red Sox never played in the 19th century.

  6. dasher521 - Apr 4, 2011 at 4:35 PM

    Regarding the Indians, I read about Louis Sockalexis on Wikipedia. In the article there is a refence that said the “The Cleveland Plain Dealer” ran an editorial stating that the popularity of Sockalexis was the basis for the name “Indians”.

    I also recall a story that the because the original Houston Colt 45’s were so bad, the Colt Firearms Co. initiated a lawsuit to prevent the team from using that name. I don’t know whether it is true or not.

    • pathajovsky - Apr 4, 2011 at 4:47 PM

      The Colt .45s suing because the team was bad is not true. It was a pure copyright issue, and a good one. The team was called the Colts in the last of the 3 years to avoid the copyright over a particular brand of gun.

      Craig, I never heard the Sockalexis story wasn’t true. I read the Wikipedia item (but I don’t give much credence to that source) and I know I’ve read the Plain Dealer mention that dasher mentions. What I read (and of course I can’t find the original source now years later) is that the Sockalexis attribution was likely but it was still a bit murky. I {thought} that was a SABR Digest mention at some point, but I’m probably wrong on that.

      My humble apologies to the honor of the Delco writer.

  7. simon94022 - Apr 4, 2011 at 5:02 PM

    One reason team name articles are always packed with errors is that up till about 1920 team nicknames were informal and changed as a club’s roster turned over or uniform style changed, like Minnesota’s “Purple People Eaters” of the 1970s. Or the way the Willie Stargell era Pirates were sometimes called the Lumber Company. There was no formal branding, and teams did not put nicknames on uniforms or tickets (Washington put “Nationals” on its home unis in 1905, but it was a short-lived experiment).

    Most people referred to teams by the city and league name (“Boston Americans”) or just the city name (the “Clevelands”), until gradually the newspaper nicknames became etched in stone and evolved into the team names we’re all familiar with. Of course we still have one survivor of the old city-name tradition, which never developed a brand nickname, and that is the Phillies.

  8. Dan in Katonah - Apr 4, 2011 at 5:21 PM

    I thought Padres was German for a whale’s vagina.

  9. sayheykidwschamp - Apr 4, 2011 at 6:51 PM

    The Rockies explanation was the best.

  10. okr1st - Apr 5, 2011 at 4:37 AM

    I think I read somewhere that Detroit got the nickname Tigers because of their original black and yellow socks.

  11. umrguy42 - Apr 5, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    Well, if Wikipedia can be believed, my Cardinals actually start out as the Brown Stockings (I’m guessing they switched to red ones at some point)… no mention of that, either.

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