How Each Major League Baseball Franchise Got Their Team Name Pt. 1

In alphabetical order and as part of a six-part series (five teams per week for six weeks), we are going to list all thirty current Major League Baseball franchises and explain how they got their team name.

Arizona Diamondbacks (NL-W)

An expansion team that began in 1998, in 1995, former team owner Jerry Colangelo held a team-naming contest via the Arizona Republic newspaper where first prize was a pair of lifetime season tickets awarded to the person who submitted the winning entry. The winning selection was “Diamondbacks,” named after the Western diamondback, a rattlesnake native to the region known for injecting a large amount of venom when it strikes.

Amazing fact: The Diamondbacks, Dbacks for short, were the fastest expansion franchise to win a World Series (2001).

Atlanta Braves (NL-E)

Per Wikipedia: From *Cincinnati, to Boston, to Milwaukee, to Atlanta, the “Braves” name was first used in 1912 when team owner James Gaffney, a member of New York City’s political machine Tammany Hall, used an Indian chief as their symbol and as a term for a Native American warrior. They are nicknamed “the Bravos,” and often referred to as “America’s Team” in reference to the team’s games being broadcast on the nationally available Turner Broadcasting System (“TBS”) from the 1970s until 2007, giving the team a nationwide fan base.

Amazing facts from the Atlanta Braves website:

“This is the story of the oldest continuously operating professional sports franchise in America. It’s a story not only of great teams (the 1914 ‘Miracle’ Braves, the 1995 World Champs), great ballplayers (Aaron, Spahn, Niekro and Murphy), memorable managers and pleasant stadiums, but also a story of heartbreaking losses and long pennant droughts. It’s the story of the Braves and their ancestors — the Red Stockings, Beaneaters, Doves, Rustlers, and Bees — and their wanderings from Boston to Milwaukee and Atlanta. In a way, it’s also the story of professional baseball in America.”

*Note: The Chicago Cubs are the longest lasting professional baseball franchise to be in one city continuously, but they did not play for two seasons after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, while the “Braves” franchise played continuously in different cities.

Baltimore Orioles (AL-E)

The Baltimore Orioles were once the Milwaukee Brewers (1884-1901) of the minor Western League, the St. Louis Browns (1902-1953) of the National League, then the Baltimore Orioles (1954-Present) of the American League. However, prior to the Orioles arrival as an affiliated franchise in 1954, the Orioles name was used by local teams and one potential franchise that was eventually awarded to New York, the Yankees in 1901. Babe Ruth actually pitched for the equivalent of the Triple-A Orioles before being sold to the Boston Red Sox in 1914. The Orioles are named after the Maryland state bird, with its black, orange, and white colored feathers like the team’s uniforms.

Amazing facts: 1. The Baltimore Orioles were contracted out of existence in 1899 with National League contraction by going from twelve to eight teams, but its best players regrouped with the Brooklyn Dodgers. 2. The St. Louis Cardinals faced the St. Louis Browns in the 1944 World Series, the last World Series played entirely in one ballpark, Sportsman’s Park, and only the third time that had occurred in baseball history. 3. Bill Veeck: the owner of the Browns, in 1951 sent Eddie Gaedel, a 3-foot 7 inch, 65-pound man, to bat as a pinch hitter and he was walked on four straight pitches. In 1948, one-year after Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, signed Satchel Paige at age 42, who ended the season with a respectable 3-4 record and a 4.79 ERA. Lastly, between 1941-1942, after Anheuser-Busch brewery purchased the St. Louis Cardinals and Veeck realized that his Browns franchise could no longer compete in the smaller market with a second baseball franchise, Veeck sought and the Browns were a candidate to move to Los Angeles two decades before Major League Baseball eventually arrived in California via the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers. According to Wikipedia, the “American League even drew up a schedule including Los Angeles and had a meeting scheduled to vote on the relocation of the Browns. However, on December 7, the day the vote was scheduled, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.”

Boston Red Sox (AL-E)

The Boston Red Sox were part of the original eight teams of the new up and coming American League in 1901. Around 1907-1908, owner John I. Taylor (son of General Charles H. Taylor, Civil War and Siege/Battle of Port Hudson veteran and former publisher of the Boston Globe newspaper) named the team after the Boston Red Stockings, which had been the original Cincinnati Red Stockings, then the Boston Braves, then the Milwaukee Braves, and finally the Atlanta Braves of the National League. Before the Red Stockings name became available, the Red Sox were originally the Boston Americans (1901-1907). The Red Sox name has reference to the red hose, “red socks,” of the team logo and it was a Chicago-based newspaper trick used when printers could not fit “White Stockings” in a headline when the team won, lost, or did something special, therefore “Sox” was used for shorthand.

Amazing facts: The franchise’s storied history includes a top ten list of player nicknames. The Red Sox have played at Fenway Park since 1912, making it Major League Baseball’s oldest ballpark.

Chicago Cubs (NL-C)

Speaking of historic ballparks, the Cubs have played at Wrigley Field since 1914, making it Major League Baseball’s second oldest ballpark next to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Dodger Stadium (1962). Per Wikipedia: “The Chicago National League Ball Club [is a charter member of the National League who started play in the National Association in 1870 as the Chicago White Stockings] and is the only franchise to play continuously in the same city since the formation of the National League in 1876. They are the earliest formed active professional sports club in North America. In their history, they have also been known as the White Stockings, Orphans, Colts, Panamas, Rainmakers, Spuds, Trojans, Microbes, and Zephyrs.”

The now Chicago White Stockings/Sox took the White Sox name in 1901 when the former White Stockings (now the Cubs) changed their name to the Cubs and the new White Stockings/Sox became a charter member of the new American League. The Cubs name originates from around 1901-1902, when after a losing season (53-86), the franchise began rebuilding the team and the younger players in the day were commonly referred to as “cubs” by newspapers and the name stuck.

Amazing fact: The Cubs played spring training on Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California for a period of time.

We will be back next week with part two of this six-part series.

ICYMI: To Be or Not to Be in the National Baseball Hall of Fame

Jeremy Evans

Jeremy M. Evans is the Founder & Managing Attorney at California Sports Lawyer®, representing entertainment, media, and sports clientele. Evans is an award-winning attorney and industry leader based in Los Angeles.


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