Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What's In A Name?

Ever heard of the Cleveland Broncos, the Boston Doves, the St. Louis Perfectos, or the Pittsburgh Alleghenys?

Well, they are all former names of current Major League franchises. A lot of teams have played in more than one city. Several have been in two places. The Giants have been in New York and San Francisco. The Twins have been in Washington (as the Senators) and Minnesota. The Brewers started as the Seattle pilots. The Rangers were the Washington Senators. The Capitals were in Montreal as the Expos before Washington.

Some teams have been in three cities. There are the Athletics - Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Oakland, and the Braves - in Boston, Milwaukee, and Atlanta. And the Orioles have been all over. In earlier forms they were the Brooklyn Dodgers, the New York Highlanders/Yankees, the Milwaukee Brewers, and finally the St. Louis Browns, before staying put in Baltimore the past several years.

Sports franchises often relocate due to poor attendance or stadium or ownership problems. Some moves have been very interesting, such as the case of the Cleveland Spiders. Four years after an 1895 championship the Robison brothers, the Spiders' owners, bought the St. Louis Browns out of bankruptcy and changed their name to the Perfectos.

Believing the Perfectos would draw greater attendance in St. Louis, the Robisons transferred most of the Cleveland stars, including future Hall of Famers Cy Young and Jesse Burkett, to St. Louis. In 1900, the St. Louis Perfectos changed their name to the Cardinals, the name they have used ever since.

With a decimated roster, the Spiders made a wretched showing. Due to terrible attendance, other NL teams refused to travel to League Park. The team was forced to play almost all of its home games on the road. The Spiders finished 20-134, the worst record in baseball history. They finished 84 games behind the pennant-winning Brooklyn Superbas and 35 games behind the next-to-last Washington Senators! The 1962 New York Mets, 40-120, and the 2003 Detroit Tigers, 43-119, own the modern records for the most losses, and thus draw frequent comparisons to the 1899 Spiders for futility.

After the season the Spiders were one of four teams the National League disbanded, leaving Cleveland without a Big League ball club. In 1900 Ban Johnson, president of the Western Baseball League decided to make his league a major league and changed the name to the American League. Feeling strongly that a team in Cleveland would help boost the league's reputation as a major league, he moved the Grand Rapids franchise to the shores of Lake Erie. However, their first season would not be a success, the Blues finished in seventh place with a 55-82 record.

After moving, a sports franchise often changes the team's nickname because the old name wouldn't suit the new location. An example is hockey's Kansas City Scouts, who moved to Denver in 1976 and became the Colorado Rockies. The Ottawa Senators moved to St. Louis in 1934 and became the St. Louis Eagles. There is no senate in St. Louis.

Some move but don't change their name and the old name doesn't fit the new location. The most well-known example is the NBA's Minneapolis Lakers. Minnesota is known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” It would make sense that they would have a basketball team named the Minneapolis Lakers. And it did make sense - up until 1960 when the team moved to Los Angeles.

Likewise, the New Orleans NBA team was called the New Orleans Jazz for obvious reasons. But the name doesn't suit so well now that they are the Utah Jazz, though I'm sure there are a few jazz fans in Utah. What about the Utah Mormons? In 1980 the NHL's Atlanta Flames (named for the fire General Grant inflicted on the city during the Civil War) moved to Calgary, which kept the name even though they have had no famous fire.

In baseball, team nicknames were rather fluid in the early days of the National League and its forerunner, the American Association. Reporters often called the local team different names to spice up their columns, such as the (Brooklyn) 'Bums'. Eventually though, names stuck and became the official franchise names.

How many baseball teams that have been around for more than 40 years - so the San Diego Padres and the Kansas City Royals, who started up in 1969, and the Seattle Mariners and the Toronto Blue Jays who've been around since 1977, wouldn't count - have had the same name throughout their history? You will be surprised by the answer.

Think about it... what about the Cubs, the Phillies, the Giants, the Yankees? Nope … they have all had different names and of course the Giants were in New York before 1958. I was amazed to discover how few teams have never moved or changed their name. It's just two! Can you name them?

Well, the only two teams whose names have never changed are: the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago White Sox. Mind you there are a couple of others who are pretty darn close, like the Phillies who have had their name since 1890 - they were the Quakers before that, and the Pirates who were the Alleghenys of the American Association before 1890.

The Cincinnati team name hasn't changed much either - Red Stockings, to Reds, to Redlegs, and to back to Reds. And, the Angels have always been Angels. They've just fiddled with the rest of their name - Anaheim, California, Los Angeles.

Here are all the different names by which the franchises have been known over the years.

The National League (The “Senior Circuit”)

The Giants: New York Gothams NL 1883 - 1884 NY Giants NL 1885 - 1957 San Francisco Giants NL 1958 -

The Dodgers: (they were the Baltimore Orioles until 1889) Brooklyn Atlantics AA 1884 Grays AA 1885 to 1887 Bridegrooms AA/ NL 1888 - 1890 (Seven of the players got married around the same time in 1888.) Brooklyn Grooms NL 1890 - 1895Bridegrooms NL 1896 - 1898 Superbas NL 1899 - 1910 Trolleydodgers NL 1911 - 1912. Superbas NL 1913 Robins NL 1914 - 1931 (named after manager Wilbert Robinson) Dodgers NL 1932 - 1957 Los Angeles Dodgers NL 1958 -

The Phillies: Philadelphia Quakers NL 1883- 1889 Philadelphia Phillies NL 1890 -

The Pirates: Pittsburgh Alleghenys AA/NL 1882 - 1890 Pittsburgh Pirates NL 1891 -

The Cubs: Chicago White Stockings NL 1876 - 1889 Colts NL 1890 - 1897 Orphans NL 1898 - 1902 Cubs NL 1903 -

The Reds: Cincinnati Red Stockings AA 1882 – 1889 Reds NL 1890 - 1953 Redlegs NL 1954 - 1959 Reds NL 1960 -

The Cardinals: St. Louis Brown Stockings AA 1882 Browns AA/NL 1882 - 1898 Perfectos NL 1899 Cardinals NL 1900 -

The Braves: Boston Red Caps NL 1876 - 1882 Beaneaters NL 1883 - 1906 Doves NL 1907 - 1910 Rustlers NL 1911 Braves NL 1912 - 1935 Bees NL 1936 - 1940 Braves 1941 - 1952 Milwaukee Braves 1953 - 1965 Atlanta Braves NL 1966 -

The Astros: Houston Colt .45's NL, 1962 - 1964 Houston Astros NL 1965 -

The Nationals: Montreal Expos NL 1969 - 2004 Washington Nationals NL 2005 -

The American League (The Junior Circuit)

The Tigers: Detroit Tigers AL 1901 -

The White Sox: Chicago White Sox AL 1901 - (nicknamed the 'Black Sox' after eight of them threw the 1919 World Series)

The A's: Philadelphia Athletics AL 1901 - 1954 Kansas City Athletics AL 1954 - 1967 Oakland Athletics AL 1968

The Yankees: Baltimore Orioles AL 1901 - 1902 New York Highlanders AL 1903 - 1912 Yankees AL 1913 -

The Red Sox: Boston Americans AL 1901 - 1907 Boston Red Sox AL 1908 -

The Orioles: Milwaukee Brewers AL 1901 St. Louis Browns AL 1902 - 1953 Baltimore Orioles AL 1954 -

The 'Tribe': Cleveland Spiders 1889 - 1899 Blues AL 1901 Bronchos AL 1902 - 1904 Naps AL 1905 - 1914 (in honor of Napoleon Lajoie, their best player.) Indians AL 1915 -

The Twins: Washington Senators AL 1901 – 1960 Minnesota Twins AL 1961 -

The Rangers: The Senators/Rangers Washington Statesmen AA/NL 1891 - 1899 Senators AL 1961 – 1971 Texas Rangers AL 1971 -

The Angels: Los Angeles Angels AL 1961 – 1964 California Angels AL 1965 - 1996 Anaheim Angels AL 1997 - 2004 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim AL 2005 -

The Brewers: Seattle Pilots AL 1969 Milwaukee Brewers AL 1970 - 1993 Brewers NL 1994 -


Rick Blechta said...

I think the dumbest thing done in baseball recently was moving the Brewers to the National League. There really was no good reason to do it, other than it suited Bud Selig. I'm sure the AL West was thrilled when the divisions were realigned following the shift, but surely it puts the teams (and fans) in the NL Central at a disadvantage.

How the hell did Bud sell this to the owners?

tbqsh said...

That was fun. Boston beaneaters - there's a team that would need to overcompensate for having a wussy name. I'll bet they always slid hard into second.

Rick Blechta said...

Yes. What were those clever owners thinking?