Origins of MLB Team Names (National League East)

Sports teams have some interesting stories behind their team names. In this series, we look at every baseball team name origins.

History of Team Names – National League East

Miami Marlins

On March 7, 1990, Wayne Huizenga bought a share of the Miami Dolphins (15%) and a portion of Joe Robbie Stadium where the team played (30%).  His goal was to pursue an MLB team, which was almost certainly coming to Florida.  The problem for him was there were competing bids from Tampa and Orlando, both suitable destinations.  In 1991, Huizenga won, and he was set to have his team play out of Miami.  Originally he was going with the name Flamingos, but opted for Marlins as a better connection to his interests with the Dolphins.  When the new ball park was built by Miami-Dade County in 2011, the agreement stipulated that the team rename themselves Miami Marlins, rather than Florida Marlins.

Philadelphia Phillies

The Philadelphia Phillies are the oldest one name, one team organization in all of American sports.  The team was founded in 1883 as the Quakers (Pennsylvania had/has a large number of Quakers within the state), but changed to the Philadelphia Philidelphias, and then shortened to Phillies shortly after.  The team was called both Quakers and Phillies interchangeably throughout the 1880’s, before making the name permanent in 1890.

Atlanta Braves

Interestingly, most of Atlanta’s history stems from the city of Boston.  After the Cincinnati Red Stockings disbanded in 1870 after only one season, the team’s manager moved to Boston, keeping the Red Stockings name, and played in the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players. It is this team who can be considered the oldest team in baseball (The Cubs are as old, but missed two years following the Chicago Fire).  By the 1880’s they were more commonly called the Beaneaters because of how the city were known for their staple diet consisting of baked beans.  In 1907, the team’s owner did away with the team’s red stockings entirely, as he felt the red might promote infection on players’ legs (crazy, huh?).  He changed the name to the Doves.  Boston’s American League team owner wasted no time and swooped up the chance to use Red Sox for his team (see: AL East for the Boston Red Sox).  After four years with Doves as their name, the team became the Rustlers; both names were names given to the team from the media.  Just one year later, the team made a change that has stuck ever since.  James Gaffney, a political man from New York and owner of the team was a part of the the Tammany Hall political machine (Democrat).  The group had an aboriginal chief as their logo, and Gaffney wanted it to represent the team as well.  The team left Boston after the 1952 season and played in Milwaukee as the Braves until they found their current home in Atlanta in 1966.

Washington Nationals

The Nationals’ history begins in Montreal in 1969, with the first franchise granted north of the 49th.  The Montreal franchise went with the name Expos to commemorate the World Exhibition held in the city in 1967.  After some successes, and many failures, the team played in the NL for three decades when in 2001, the MLB owners voted 18-2 in favor of contraction, with the Expos and Twins as the likely teams to get squeezed out.  However, what saved both franchises was a deal in place for the Twins to play in the Metrodome in 2002, and MLB was forced to put their plans on hold.  Instead they sought suitors for the franchise, and the line-up was very, very long.  Potential sites included: Oklahoma, Las Vegas, Monterrey (Mexico), San Juan (Puerto Rico), Arlington, Norfolk, Charlotte and Washington.  Team played 22 of its home games over their last two seasons  (2003, 2004) in San Juan.  The league finally announced that it had found a new home for the 2005 season – Washington.  Washington had teams play in the capital before; the Senators/Nationals (names were interchangeable) played there from 1901-1960 (see: Minnesota Twins, AL Central), as well as a second Senators team played from 1961-1971 (see: Texas Rangers, AL West).  Since the Rangers owned the rights to “Senators” since they bought the team, the ownership went with Nationals.

New York Mets

The New York Mets were an expansion team in 1962 after both the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants left for the NL.  Interestingly, the team’s colors are blue and orange as tribute to the departed Dodgers (blue) and Giants (orange), and also are part of the city’s flag.  The New York Metropolitan Baseball Club (or New York Metropolitans) was an active team from 1880-1887, and it was from this team that the current Mets (short for Metropolitans) chose their name.