Fan Fuel: How MLB teams got their name

December 29, 2011, 5:39 PM

BY PAUL HOPE – FAN FUEL BLOGGER

Ever wanted to know how your favourite, or least favourite, MLB team got its name?

Well wonder no more as Fan Fuel has all the answers.


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Arizona Diamondbacks
One of the youngest teams in the league, people may remember that back in 1995, the ownership group asked fans to vote on various names. Those names included the Coyotes, Rattlers, Phoenix, Scorpions, and of course, Diamondbacks.

Atlanta Braves
The Braves name dates back to 1912, when the team was still in Boston. A man by the name of John Montgomery Ward suggested the name to the incoming club president James E. Gaffney. Gaffney was a member of Tammany Hall, a political organization named after a Indian Chief, and used that as their symbol as well. The team had previously been named the Doves, because the previous owners last name was Dovey.

Baltimore Orioles
When the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore in 1954, they were renamed the Orioles, after the Maryland state bird. The birds colours, also happen to be the colours of Lord Baltimore’s coat of arms, his family are credited with founding the colony of Maryland in the 17th century. The first Baltimore ball team to be called the Orioles, occurred in 1882, after the short lived “Lord Baltimore” and “Marylands” teams of the 1870’s. That team was contracted in 1900.

Boston Red Sox
Boston had two teams in the early 20th century, with the AL team never really having a name from 1901-07. People called them the Boston Americans because they were in the American League, but they had no official nickname. After the NL team switched from red stockings to all white stocking after the 1906 season, the very next day, the owner of the AL team John Irving Taylor, announced he was claiming the name Red Sox and they would wear red stockings. However, in the 1907 season, the Red Sox never did wear red stockings, and it wasn’t till 1908 after Taylor announced they were officially adopted red as it’s team colour, that the red stockings showed up.

Chicago Cubs
Originally known as the White Stockings, in response to the Cincinnati Red Stockings. When the club started selling all their talent in the late 1880’s, and acquiring young players, fans started calling them the Colts. When long time player-manager Cap Anson left the team in 1897, fans humourously started calling them the Orphans. In 1902, after a managerial change, a local newspaper dubbed them the Cubs and this name stook.

Chicago White Sox
In 1900, Charles Comiskey moved his St. Paul Saints to his hometown Chicago, and brought back the name White Stockings. Shortly after though, the press shortened it to White Sox. In 1912 the team began to wear uniforms with their SOX logo on it.

Cincinnati Reds
The first all professional team, they were originally known as the Red Stockings. That eventually became Redlegs, and then ultimately shortened to Reds. In 1953, they officially changed the name back to Redlegs because of the association the word Reds had with communism. In 1961 the word Reds was back on the uniform.

Cleveland Indians
Originally named the Naps, after star player-manager Nap Lajoie, when he left in 1914, they began looking for a new name. A committee of club officials and sportswriters agreed on the name Indians in early 1915, some believe that the Boston Braves World Series win in 1914, was the inspiration.

Colorado Rockies
Not much of a story here. Named by team officials because of the close proximity to the Rocky Mountains. However, according to local newspapers, a fan survey actually preferred the name Bears. That was the name of the minor league ball club in Denver from 1955-84.

Detroit Tigers
Originally called the Wolverines, but also referred to as the Tigers, they got their name from Michigan’s oldest military unit. When they joined the AL in 1901, they received formal permission from the regiment to use the name and symbol.

Houston Astros
When Houston began play in 1961, they were called the Colt .45s. However in 1965, they decided to change the name to Astros. They were trying for a futuristic feel, and considering Houston is where NASA’s training facilities are, they thought the name fit.

Kansas City Royals
Kansas City was awarded a team in the 1969 AL expansion, and began a contest for the fans to send in suggestions. They received over 15,000 suggestions, and club officials picked the Royals. The reasoning behind the name is said to be because at the time Kansas City was the largest livestock market in the country, and held the American Royal Livestock Show every year.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
One of the weirdest names in sports, the original team in 1961 was actually the Los Angeles Angels, and then changed to California Angels in 1965. When Disney took over the team in 1997, they changed it to the Anaheim Angels, and then in 2005, owner Arte Moreno changed it to the current name, apparently wanting to try to capitalize on the massive media that is Los Angeles. The name Angels itself was the name of the minor league team in L.A. from 1903-57.

Los Angeles Dodgers
The name was kept by the organization after they moved from Brooklyn in 1958. The name originates from New York slang, as anyone from Brooklyn back in the 1890’s were called “trolley dodgers”. The team in 1891 actually was named the Trolley Dodgers, but it was shortened to Dodgers rather quickly.

Miami Marlins
Miami minor league teams had been called the Marlins for years, and when they were awarded a major league team in 1993, they kept the name. They were known as the Florida Marlins up until this past November. The reason behind the change is a contractual obligation due to the city’s funding of their new stadium.

Milwaukee Brewers
Named after the city’s history in the brewing industry. At one time also had a team named the Milwaukee Cream Citys, in reference to their cream brick industry. Various Milwaukee ball clubs have had the Brewers name dating back to the 1870’s.

Minnesota Twins
The cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are separated by the Mississippi River, and have been called the Twin Cities for decades. When applying for an expansion club in 1961, they argued over which of the two cities would get the club. Naming the team the Twins, was a nod to both cities, and the original ball caps had the lettering TC to reference both.

New York Mets
Awarded a team in 1961, team officials opened up a contest to the fans. They received nearly 10,000 suggestions, but that only resulted in a little more than 600 different names. They named 10 finalists, which included the names Rebels, Bees, Avengers, Jets, Skyliners, Continentals, Burros, Skyscrapers, NYBS, and Mets, which won in a landslide. Strangely enough, the runners up in the contest weren’t even among the named finalists. Empires and Islanders finished second and third. The Mets name is a nod to the New York Metropolitans, who played from 1883-88.

New York Yankees
When the team arrived from Baltimore in 1903, the team was most commonly referred to as the Highlanders, a name that originated from the press, naming them after a military unit. However a different member of the press referred to the team as the Yankees, in response to the Boston Americans. Both names were popular for a short while after, but the press began to use the names Yankees more often because it was easier to fit in the headlines. Eventually by 1913, the name Highlanders was dropped.

Oakland Athletics
This team originated in Philadelphia, and was the best amateur club in Pennsylvania in the 1860’s. Known as the Athletic Base Ball Club of Philadelphia, they were called the Athletic, which later on was pluralized, and 1866 was the first year where they used the stylized A symbol. The team folded in 1876, but in 1901, they brought back the name when they joined the American League. John McGraw who managed the New York Giants in the National League at the time, and was bitter rivals with the American League president Ban Johnson, mockingly called the Philadelphia team the “white elephants”. This symbol is still used by the team in various ways, and would later replace the A symbol on their uniforms from 1920-27. Since 1928 either the symbol A or the word Athletics have been on the uniforms, they remained in Philadelphia till 1954, then moved to Kansas City, before arriving in Oakland in 1968.

Philadelphia Phillies
This National League team has been named the Phillies ever since it entered the league in 1883. It’s short for Philadelphias. The city is often called Philly instead of it’s full name, as are some long time staples of the city such as the Philly Cheesesteak sandwich. In 1943, the Phillies owner Bob Carpenter, who had just acquired the team, had a fan contest for a new name. The winner of the contest was the name Blue Jays. That only lasted a few seasons, the name never really took off. The uniforms sported a Blue Jays symbol arm patch, but still had the word Phillies on the uniform.

Pittsburgh Pirates
In the 1880’s, baseball owners had a player ranking system, to establish different salary categories. The owners made the rankings themselves though, and this eventually led to lower salaries, and eventually more or less a salary freeze. The players revolted and started there own league, and any player that joined the league, there rights could still be retained by the club they had left, in case they ever decided to come back. The Players League only lasted a couple seasons, and in 1890 the Pittsburgh ball club signed two players whose rights had accidentally not been reserved by the state rival Philadelphia Athletics. Philadelphia tried to fight the signing in court, but were unsuccessful. After the ruling, still furious about the decision, they started calling the Pittsburgh team pirates for stealing their players. Pittsburgh fans embraced the name and that was there common name. Pittsburgh officially adopted the name in 1912.

San Diego Padres
San Diego had a minor league team called the Padres from 1936-68, and when San Diego got their big league club in 1969, they took over the name. Padre in Spanish means father, which references Spanish missionaries. San Diego had the first Spanish mission in California.

San Francisco Giants
Originally a New York franchise that dates back to the 1883, they were first known as the New York New Yorks, and then shortly after, the Gothams. After a come from behind victory during the 1885 season, manager Jim Mutrie bragged to local newspapers about his players, calling them “My big fellows! My giants!” The name Giants stuck after that, and sometimes were known as the Gotham Giants. The name Giants first appeared on their uniforms in 1918, and has remained with the team ever since. The team moved to San Francisco in 1957.

Seattle Mariners
The name Mariners was the winner of a fan contest for this expansion franchise in 1976. Over 600 names were entered, and they picked the name because of the city’s association with the sea.

St. Louis Cardinals
Formed in 1882, they were known as the Brown Stockings, which was shortened to Browns. In 1899, looking to rebuild the team, they changed there team uniform colour from brown to red, and overhauled there roster, acquiring many star players and renamed there team the Perfectos. Legend has it that a sports writer over heard a fan saying that the teams new uniform was “a lovely shade of Cardinal” and he included in the next day’s column. The name was an instant hit and the name was made official the next year.

Tampa Bay Rays
Awarded a franchise in 1995, owner Vince Naimoli had over 7,000 suggestions to choose from, and picked the name Devil Rays. Protests came in right away, from self proclaimed Christians who did not like the inclusion of the name Devil. They dropped the word Devil from the name in 2007, and some fans believe the word Devil was a curse on the team, considering the success ever since.

Texas Rangers
This team started in 1961 and originates in Washington D.C. and were known as the Washington Senators. They moved to Arlington in 1972, and were renamed the Rangers, after the state law enforcement agency.

Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto had a minor league baseball team from 1896-1967 named the Maple Leafs, but they couldn’t revive that name for the big league club, for obvious reasons. They held a contest for the fans, and received more than 30,000 entries. 14 judges named a list of 10 finalists, and the name Blue Jays was selected as the winner. Board Chairman R. Howard Webster said at the time “The Blue Jay is a North American bird, bright blue in colour, with white undercovering and a black neck ring. It is strong, aggressive and inquisitive. It dares to take on all comers, yet it is down-to-earth, gutsy and good-looking.” Some believe that owner Labatt’s insisted on the word blue to be included in any name, because of branding reasons relating to their most popular beer at the time.

Washington Nationals
Washington has had two previous franchises, the first was known quite commonly as both the Senators and the Nationals during the entire history of the franchise that ended with a move to Minneapolis in 1960. The second franchise was simply known as the Senators before they moved to Arlington in 1972. Originally why the first team was known as the Nationals was because it was voted the winner by the fans. However the local writers didn’t like it, and kept calling them the Senators regularly. In 2005 when granted a third chance at a team, they picked the name Nationals again.

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