How Each Major League Baseball Franchise Got Their Team Name Pt. 2

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. We now visit part two.

Chicago White Sox (AL-C)

As mentioned last week, 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. “Sox” 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. The Boston Red Sox copied the newspaper trick.

Per Wikipedia:

“The White Sox originated as the Sioux City Cornhuskers of the Western League, a minor league under the parameters of the National Agreement with the National League. In 1894, Charles Comiskey bought the Cornhuskers and moved them to St. Paul, Minnesota, where they became the St. Paul Saints. In 1900, with the approval of Western League president Ban Johnson, Charles Comiskey moved the Saints into his hometown neighborhood of Armour Square, Chicago, where they became known as the White Stockings, the former name of Chicago’s National League team, the Orphans (now the Chicago Cubs).”

Amazing fact: Before winning the 2005 World Series against the Houston Astros (when the Astros played in the National League), the White Sox had not won a Championship since 1917. Their World Series drought was tied for second longest with the Boston Red Sox, 1918-2004, but shorter than cross-town rivals, Chicago Cubs (1908-2016).

Cincinnati Reds (NL-C)

The Reds name refers to the “Red Stockings” (socks) that the players wore. During the 1950s and 60s, the team temporarily referred to themselves as the “Redlegs” and avoided the use of the word “Reds” in broadcasts and on their uniforms because the word “Red” had ties to Communism and the Cold War with Russia.

Per Wikipedia:

“Originally named the Cincinnati Red Stockings, the name was shortened to the Cincinnati Reds in the 1890s . . . The original Cincinnati Red Stockings, baseball’s first openly all-professional team, was founded in 1866, and became fully professional in 1869. The Red Stockings won 130 straight games throughout 1869 and 1870, before being defeated by the Brooklyn Atlantics [not the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers franchise]. The Red Stockings lost many players and their namesake in 1870, when the team decided to dissolve. The name went to Boston where, in 1871, a new team featuring some of Cincinnati’s former stars began play as the Boston Red Stockings. This franchise would eventually become the Atlanta Braves [after a trip through Milwaukee] . . .

A new Cincinnati Red Stockings team became a charter member of the National League in 1876, five years after the first Red Stockings team. The second Red Stockings team was expelled from the league after the 1880 season. A third Cincinnati team of the same name was founded in 1881, becoming a founding member of the American Association, a rival league that began play in 1882. That team (which is the same franchise of today) played for nine seasons in the American Association and won the Association pennant in 1882. [A fourth Cincinnati team, the Cincinnati Outlaw Reds of 1884, also called the Cincinnati Unions, were a member of the short-lived Union Association.] The [Red Stockings] pennant-winning club still holds the record for the highest winning percentage of any Reds club to date (.688). In November 1889, the Cincinnati Red Stockings and the Brooklyn Dodgers both left the Association for the National League. In the move, the Red Stockings dropped “Stockings” from their name.”

Amazing fact: Why was the second Red Stockings team was expelled from the league after the 1880 season? Former National League President William Hulbert and seven of eight team owners instituted two new rules, no selling of beer at baseball games and no baseball games played on Sunday. However, Red Stockings President W. H. Kennett refused to sign the pledge and the team was expelled from the league prior to the rules ever going into effect. Interestingly, beer and Sunday are now an essential part of many in the baseball fan experience.

Cleveland Indians (AL-C)

Baseball team names in Cleveland have included the following: “Forest Citys,” “Bluebirds,” “Blues,” “Broncos,” “Spiders,” “Infants,” “Babes,” “Napoleans,” “Naps,” “Lake Shores,” “Grand Rapids Rustlers,” and “Indians,” in addition to other nicknames.

Per Wikipedia:

“The Grand Rapids Rustlers were founded in Michigan in 1894 and were part of the Western League. In 1900, the team moved to Cleveland and was named the Cleveland Lake Shores. Around the same time Ban Johnson changed the name of his minor league (Western League) to the American League. In 1900, the American League was still considered a minor league. In 1901, the team was renamed the Cleveland Bluebirds when the American League broke with the National Agreement and declared itself a competing Major League. The Cleveland franchise was among its eight charter members . . .

The name “Indians” originated from a request by club owner Charles Somers to baseball writers to choose a new name to replace “Cleveland Naps” following the departure of Nap Lajoie after the 1914 season. The name referenced the nickname “Indians” that was applied to the Cleveland Spiders baseball club during the time when Louis Sockalexis, a Native American, played in Cleveland. Common nicknames for the Indians include the “Tribe” and the “Wahoos,” the latter being a reference to their logo, Chief Wahoo [which is in the process of being phased out with the help of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred].”

Amazing facts: The Indians’ current World Series championship drought is the longest active drought, and through 2016 is the fifth-longest in baseball history. “In 1857 baseball games were a daily spectacle in Cleveland’s Public Squares. City authorities tried to find an ordinance forbidding it, to the joy of the crowd, they were unsuccessful.” –Harold Seymour

Colorado Rockies (NL-W)

Nicknamed the “Rox,” the Rockies are an expansion team, which began play in 1993. They are named after the Rocky Mountains because of the team’s close proximity to the mountains, west of the team’s home ballpark, Coors Field. The logo and colors of the uniforms reflect the Rocky Mountains coloring throughout the seasons and time of day: white, purple, silver, and black.

Per Wikipedia:

“Denver had long been a hotbed of Denver Bears/Zephyrs Minor League Baseball and many in the area desired a Major League team. Following the Pittsburgh drug trials, an unsuccessful attempt was made to purchase the Pittsburgh Pirates and relocate them [to Denver.  In 1991, MLB made the Rockies one of its two new expansion teams along with the Florida/Miami Marlins].”

Amazing facts: The Rockies and the Florida/Miami Marlins are the only two teams in Major League Baseball that have never won a division title, both teams making the postseason as Wild Card teams. The Rockies played and lost in the 2007 World Series against the Boston Red Sox. The Rockies first two seasons in the MLB were played at the Denver Broncos’ Mile High Stadium before Coors Field, their current home, was completed. Coors Brewing Company, based in Golden, Colorado outside Denver’s city limits, has held the naming rights for Coors Field since the park’s inception in 1995.

Detroit Tigers (AL-C)

A charter member of the American League (1901), the Detroit Tigers are one of four clubs (i.e., Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, and the Cleveland Indians) still located in its original city. They are the oldest continuous one-name, one-city franchise in the American League.

Per Wikipedia:

“There are various legends about how the Tigers got their nickname. One involves the orange stripes they wore on their black stockings. Tigers manager George Stallings took credit for the name; however, the name appeared in newspapers before Stallings was manager. Another legend concerns a sportswriter equating the 1901 team’s opening day victory with the ferocity of his alma mater, the Princeton Tigers.

Richard Bak, in his 1998 book, A Place for Summer: A Narrative History of Tiger Stadium, pp. 46–49, explains that the name originated from the Detroit Light Guard military unit, who were known as “The Tigers.” They had played significant roles in certain Civil War battles and in the 1898 Spanish–American War. The baseball team was still informally called both “Wolverines” and “Tigers” in the news. The earliest known use of the name “Tigers” in the media was in the Detroit Free Press on April 16, 1895. Upon entry into the majors, the ball club sought and received formal permission from the Light Guard to use its trademark. From that day forth, the team has been officially called the Tigers.”

Amazing fact: When good is good; For all of baseball’s storied history and contradictions, the Tigers have been one of the most consistent franchises in terms of its team name, home ballpark, and history. Per Wikipedia: “The Tigers constructed Bennett Park at the corner of Michigan Avenue and Trumbull Avenue in Corktown (just west of Downtown Detroit) and began playing there in 1901. In 1912, the team moved into Navin Field, which was built on the same location. It was expanded in 1938 and renamed Briggs Stadium. It was renamed Tiger Stadium in 1961 and the Tigers played there until moving to Comerica Park in 2000.”

We will be back next week for part three of this six-part series.

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

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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