Stories behind every MLB team name
Any baseball fan who has wondered how his or her favorite Major League Baseball team got its name are in for a treat. Stacker took a look at the origin story behind every MLB team name. Some teams can trace their roots back more than 130 years with names like the Cornhuskers, (White Sox), Rustlers (Indians), and Blues (Twins).
Many teams got their nicknames thanks to a name-that-team contest that called on fans to participate. The New York Mets, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Kansas City Royals are three such teams, paying a nod to a symbol of the region.
The Colorado Rockies went against fans' wishes of naming them the Bears. The Rockies were Colorado's failed NHL franchise from 1976–81, and fans didn't want to be reminded of that failure. Financial drives pushed the Marlins to change their surname from Florida to Miami in hopes of securing funding for a new ballpark.
The Yankees actually started out as the Baltimore Orioles. And the Red Sox were once the Americans—the team took the name Red Sox after another franchise in Boston changed its name to the Doves. Speaking of Sox, the White Sox, Red Sox, and Reds (Red Stockings) all shortened their names in order to appease local newspapers, who couldn't fit the word Stockings easily into headlines.
Speaking of newspapers, a reporter in St. Louis overheard a fan say the team wore a lovely shade of cardinal, used it in his column, and the Cardinals were no longer the Perfectos. The Reds even had to change their name back to the Redlegs in the late 1950s to avoid being associated with communism. MLB feared they could defeat the Yankees in the World Series, and the headline “Reds defeat Yankees” could mean a political and cultural snafu.
Read on for the stories behind every MLB team name.
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The Diamondbacks, or D-Backs as they're known by fans, were part of a Major League Baseball expansion in 1995, and their name was the result of a "name-the-team" contest. The team's victory over the Yankees in the 2001 World Series was one of the more memorable moments in baseball history, as franchise icon Luis Gonzalez looped a Mariano Rivera pitch into left field for a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7.
The Atlanta Braves were founded in Boston in 1871 as the Boston Red Stockings, before becoming the Red Caps, Beaneaters, Rustlers, and Doves. James Gaffney purchased the team in 1912 and changed the team's mascot to the Braves, after a Tammany Hall political group he was closely affiliated with. The Braves name has come under some criticism for its use of Native American symbols, leading the team to change its mascot from Homer the Brave to Blooper, and the franchise has discouraged fans from doing the Tomahawk Chop during games.
Following nearly five decades in St. Louis as the Browns, the franchise relocated to Baltimore in 1954. The Oriole nickname comes from the state bird of Maryland and was used by a number of Baltimore's professional sports teams in the late 1800s and early 1900s, including the New York Yankees before they moved to New York City.
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox franchise was founded in 1901 as the Boston Americans and won the first World Series in Major League Baseball in 1903. The team adopted the Red Sox moniker in 1908 after the team that would become the Braves changed its name from the Red Stockings to the Doves. The franchise has played at Fenway Park since 1912, capturing nine World Series titles despite an 86-year championship drought from 1918 to 2004.
The Cubs' nickname officially came into existence in 1903, stemming from a prevalence of young players on the roster. The franchise began playing in 1870 as the Chicago White Stockings, before becoming the Colts under the leadership of Cap Anson. When Anson was fired in 1897 after 22 years with the franchise, local newspapers began calling them the Orphans. The first reference to the team as the Cubs came in a 1902 Chicago Daily News headline, in which the typesetter mistakenly capitalized the C in Cubs.
Chicago White Sox
The team that would become the Chicago White Sox started in Iowa as the Sioux City Cornhuskers in 1888. Team owner Charles Comiskey moved the club to St. Paul, Minn. and changed the name to the Saints in 1894. After the team moved to Chicago in 1900, they were known as the White Stockings until 1904 when the name was shortened to White Sox. The change was precipitated by newspapers being unable to fit Stockings easily in a headline.
The Reds were founded in 1882 as the Cincinnati Red Stockings, and are one of only four franchises with both 10,000 wins and losses. The team became known as the Redlegs, which was shortened to Reds in 1890 upon joining the National League. The team returned to the Redlegs moniker from 1954 through 1958. The team did so to avoid being associated with communism during the Red Scare and McCarthyism, removing the word Reds from their uniform altogether.
The Cleveland Indians began as the Grand Rapid Rustlers in 1894, moving to Cleveland in 1900 and playing as the Lake Shores, Bluebirds, and Broncos during the century's first three years. The team became the Cleveland Naps in 1903 in homage to their best player, Napoleon Lajoie. Lajoie's exit from Cleveland led to the name Indians being adopted by local sportswriters. The team has come under fire for its usage of the name Indians, as well as its mascot, Chief Wahoo, a caricature of a Native American in a baseball uniform, which MLB removed from the team's uniform and merchandise in 2018.
The Colorado Rockies began playing as an expansion team, along with the Florida Marlins, in 1993. The team's name was both a reference to the nearby Rocky Mountains and a failed NHL franchise of the same name that played in Denver from 1976–1982. The Denver Post ran a name-the-team contest, and a large majority of the respondents voted for the team's nickname to be the Bears.
The Detroit Tigers joined Major League Baseball in 1901 as one of the eight original American League teams. They began as a minor league team in 1894, known as the Detroit Wolverines, but were often called the Tigers in reference to the 425th National Guard infantry regiment, one of the oldest military units in Michigan at the time. The team asked for and received permission from the unit to formally adopt the logo and Tiger nickname before the 1901 season.2018 All rights reserved.