How Each Major League Baseball Franchise Got Their Team Name Pt. 3

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 are now nearly halfway through and begin part three.

Houston Astros (AL-W)

From 1888 until 1961, Houston’s professional baseball club was the minor league Houston Buffaloes. However, in 1962, the National League added the Houston Colt .45s and the New York Mets as expansion franchises. The Colt .45s were named after Samuel Colt’s famous revolver. According to TeamNameOrigin.com: “They started out as the Houston Colt .45s. A few years later in 1965 team president Judge Roy Hofheinz made the decision to change the name in order to keep with the times, but most likely to no longer infringe on the Colt Firearms Company famous trademark.” The Astros name comes from Houston’s connection to space exploration through NASA and the Astrodome, where they once played (1965-1999), followed the the same theme. The Houston franchise played in the National League from 1962-2012 until Major League Baseball moved the team to the American League West to give each of the six divisions for both the American and National Leagues five teams.

Amazing fact: The Astros played in the West Division (1969-1993) with the Dodgers for years, but the connection does not end there. Former Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager (1943-1950) and Hall of Fame Inductee Branch Rickey attempted to challenge Major League Baseball and its antitrust exemption by helping to start the Continental League. The league would have included revenue sharing and a national television market, much like the National Football League today. The Continental League would have included eight teams and the wonderful book “Bottom of the Ninth: Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel, and the Daring Scheme to Save Baseball from Itself” by Michael Shapiro is a great place to learn more about the never-to-be-league, but what started expansion of four teams into Major League Baseball (i.e., the Colt .45s, New York Mets, Los Angeles Angels, and Washington Senators). The Astros have also had some of the most colorful and interesting uniforms in baseball history.

Kansas City Royals (AL-C)

Major League Baseball expansion in 1969 added four teams: the Montreal Expos, San Diego Padres (National League), Seattle Pilots, and Kansas City Royals (American League). Kansas City leaders and fans demanded a new baseball team after the 1968 season when the Kansas City Athletics (formerly the Philadelphia Athletics) left for Oakland. The franchise was founded by Kansas City businessman Ewing Kauffman, which still bears his name as Kauffman Stadium where the Royals play their home games. The Royals most recently won the 2015 World Series through drafting great players and signing some key free agents.

Amazing facts: Two things you may not realize. First, the Kansas City Royals play in Kansas City, Missouri, not in the state of Kansas. Second, the Royals, a 1969 expansion team in the American League, are named after cattle, not royalty. Per Sanford Porte, who submitted the winning entry to name the team, wrote: “Kansas City’s new baseball team should be called the Royals because of Missouri’s billion-dollar livestock income, Kansas City’s position as the nation’s leading stocker and feeder market and the nationally known American Royal parade and pageant.” Pretty amazing that the amazing facts for this team are its team location and name!

Los Angeles Angels (AL-W)

In 1961, the American League added the Los Angeles Angels and the Washington Senators. The Angels team name refers to the English translation of the Spanish name for Los Angeles (“the Angels”) and the long-storied history of minor league baseball being played in Los Angeles since 1892, even before the Dodgers move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958. The formerly Gene Autry-owned Angels have been called the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (2005–present), Anaheim Angels (1997–2004), California Angels (1965–1996), and the Los Angeles Angels (1961–1965). The various team names to precede “Angels” reflects the teams’ ownership changes and vision. The Angels have played at Angel Stadium since 1966, making it the fourth oldest stadium in Major League Baseball.

Amazing facts: Former Dodgers Owner Walter O’Malley still owned the rights to the “Angels” name even after moving the minor league Angels to Spokane, Washington upon the Dodgers arrival to Los Angeles. Therefore, Angel’s owner Gene Autry paid O’Malley $300,000 for the rights to the name. Current Angel’s owner Arturo Moreno (2003–present) is the first Mexican American and Latin American to own a major sports team in the United States. The St. Louis Browns (Baltimore Orioles franchise) were slated to move to Los Angeles in 1940, before the Dodgers and the Angels, but Pearl Harbor and World War II happened and delayed the eventual moving of a major league team to the Los Angeles area.

Los Angeles Dodgers (NL-W)

An entire lifetime of books could be written about the Dodgers history. We will try to do it justice here within the context of this larger six-part series.

Per Dodgers.com:

“Brooklyn’s debut into the National League in 1890 began on a positive note as the team nicknamed the “Bridegrooms” won the championship with an 86-43 record. It was the first of 21 National League pennants that the Dodgers would win during the next 100 years.

The moniker “Bridegrooms” was attached to Manager William “Gunner” McGunnigle’s 1890 ballclub because seven of the players got married around the same time in 1888. Despite the success of the Bridegrooms, McGunnigle didn’t last past the initial year and the team paraded through six different managers before the end of the decade. The skippers included John Montgomery Ward (1891-92), Dave Foutz (1893-96), William Barnie (1897-98), Mike Griffin (1898), Charles H. Ebbets (1898) and Ned Hanlon (1899-1905).

The term “Trolley Dodgers” was attached to the Brooklyn ballclub due to the complex maze of trolley cars that weaved its way through the borough of Brooklyn. The name was then shortened to just “Dodgers.” During the 1890s, other popular nicknames were Ward’s Wonders, Foutz’s Fillies and Hanlon’s Superbas.

Baseball was not new to Brooklyn, which had fielded a team as early as 1849. Charles Byrne, president of the Brooklyn club which started in the Interstate League and moved into the American Association, built Washington Park on the approximate site where George Washington’s Continental Army had fought the battle of Long Island. The Dodgers of 1890 transferred to the National League from the American Association, where they had won the 1889 pennant.”

Per Wikipedia:

“Other team names used by the franchise that finally came to be called “the Dodgers” were the Atlantics (1884, not directly related to the earlier Brooklyn Atlantics), Bridegrooms or Grooms (1888-1898), Ward’s Wonders, the Superbas (1899-1910), and the Robins (1914-1931). All of these nicknames were used by fans and newspaper sports writers to describe the team, often concurrently, but not in any official capacity. The team’s legal name was the Brooklyn Base Ball Club. However, the “Trolley Dodgers” nickname was used throughout this period, along with other nicknames, by fans and sports writers of the day. The team did not use the name in a formal sense until 1932, when the word “Dodgers” appeared on team jerseys. The “conclusive shift” came in 1933, when both home and road jerseys for the team bore the name “Dodgers.””

Amazing facts: Too many to mention, but here are three. The Dodgers are a charter member of the National League (1890-present), but started in the American Association (1883-1889) a league that challenged the National League. The Dodgers lost to the New York Giants in the 1889 World Series before both teams moved to the National League and a rivalry began.  Two words: Jackie, Robinson.

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Miami Marlins (NL-E)

According to TeamNameOrigin.com:

“Florida was awarded an expansion team in 1993, and they paid homage to various baseball clubs teams that had played in Miami in years past by using the Marlins nickname that minor league teams in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1980s were known as. The team was originally known as the Florida Marlins in hopes of attracting fans throughout the state . . . They changed to the Miami Marlins in 2012 to get financial assistance from the city in order to help pay for their new ballpark.”

Speaking of marlins, marlin fishing is considered a pinnacle of the fishing experience and is referred to as billfishing. It is a huge industry in Florida. Speaking of huge, the Marlins have won two World Series titles (1997, 2003) as a Wild Card team. The Miami Marlins (2012–present) were once the Florida Marlins (1993–2011) in an effort to grow a statewide fan base in the state. The name change occurred when the Marlins moved into their new $515 million Marlins Park near the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami.

Amazing facts: The “Florida Flamingos” were considered a team name before the franchise settled on the Marlins. The first team owner was the Blockbuster CEO, which was started with a $95 million expansion fee. The team is now being sold for $1.3 billion. How about that return on investment?

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

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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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