Peculiar Side: The Origins of MLB Names (American League East)
Welcome back to Peculiar Side of Sports. Every so often something in sports perplexes me, and I just hate not knowing something. So, I do what any normal, sane sports fan does – I search ad nausea for the answer by any means necessary. The good news is that I take all my hard work and relay the results to you.
Last week I wrote about the origins of every NHL team’s name (Eastern Conference/Western Conference). The articles were very successful and I have appreciated all the positive feedback. It wasn’t easy, but I learned so much writing them that it made it all worthwhile. I had many requests to extend the idea to other sports, so I applied the same idea to the NBA (Eastern Conference/Western Conference).
Today we take a look, albeit a very quick one, at the origins of each MLB team’s nickname, beginning with the American League East. It’s not meant to be exhaustive – just a glimpse into how each team arrived at the names they use today. Of course some of these you will undoubtedly be familiar with, others not. Check back each day for the next five days for the rest of the divisions in MLB.
Without further ado, I give you today’s Peculiar Side of Sports…
American League East
Baltimore Orioles – The history of the Orioles franchise is a long one. In 1894, the city of Milwaukee was granted a team, which it named the Brewers. The team has no connection aside from name to the current team from Milwaukee. With the area being well known for its affinity for beer-making, the name was suitable. The team left Milwaukee for St. Louis where it became the Browns, which was named after the old St. Louis Browns in the 1880’s. When the team moved further east into their current Baltimore home, the team went with Orioles, as a tribute to the National League team of the same name in the 1880’s, as well as an expansion American League team at the turn of the century (see: NY Yankees). Though they’re unrelated, the name is fitting.
Boston Red Sox – The Red Sox literally got their name from their red signature stockings – really, that’s it. In 1907, the team’s owner chose the name and accompanying socks after the already formed White Sox from Chicago. The Boston Red Sox were not the first, however, to use the name. In the late 1880’s, a team of African Americans out of Virginia used the Red Sox name. Even before that, there was the Cinicinnati Red Stockings, who helped to form the National Association of Base Ball Players. The Red Stockings folded, moving to Boston where they kept the Red Stockings until 1882. The name Stockings was shortened to Sox, by journalists of the day, and the team eventually adopted it as their official name.
New York Yankees – The origin of the Yankees is very much tied to the Baltimore Orioles. Back at the turn of the last century, The upstart American League was looking to expand into New York City, but with the powerful National League’s New York Giants already firmly established, they opted for Baltimore, and played as the Orioles. In 1903, a meeting was held between the two leagues to come to an understanding and co-exist. A vote was conducted and all but the owner of the Giants agreed that New York needed a second team – which became the New York Highlanders due to the physical elevation as well as a reference to a British Military group. It was Jim Price, a sports editor for the New York Press, who coined the name Yankees because it was easier to fit on the page.
Toronto Blue Jays – The Toronto Blue Jays entered MLB in 1977, and have played every year in Toronto. However, it wasn’t the first time Toronto had a baseball team; from 1896-1967, the Toronto Maple Leafs played in the International League. To make the story more interesting, the team was almost called the Toronto Giants, as the current Giants were almost sold to a group in Toronto including CIBC (bank) and Labatt’s Breweries. The deal fell apart, but Toronto was soon after awarded an expansion team. After 4000+ suggestions, shareholder Labatt’s (whose top selling brand is called Labatt Blue) made the final choice – Blue Jays – not too subtle, eh?
Tampa Bay Rays – First, some Geography. Tampa Bay is not a city. It’s an area that comprises 4 jurisdictions – Tampa, St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Bradenton. The Rays play out of St. Petersburg. The city of St. Petersburg has been after a team (loosely) since the 60’s, but they weren’t awarded a new team until 1995 to begin play in 1998. The team’s first name was Devil Rays, which was changed in 2008 to just “Rays”. At the time of the 2008 change, there were actually several other options the team was considering: Aces, Bandits, Cannons, Dukes, Stripes and simply “Nine”.
Thanks for reading. Remember, tomorrow I’ll have the next installment, the AL Central, for you posted bright and early at 7am. Want to read my other Sports History articles? Check them out here. As always, feel free to leave comments below. Don’t forget to follow the site on Twitter – @lastwordonsport.
Interested in writing for LastWordOnSports? If so, check out our “Join Our Team” page to find out how.
Photo Credit: Faniq.com