Origins of MLB Teams’ Names (NL West)

picture of a baseball

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

AL EastAL CentralAL WestNL EastNL Central, and NL West

Origins of MLB Teams’ Names (NL West)

Arizona Diamondbacks

In 1995, Arizona was awarded an expansion franchise.  As the state was already a hotbed for baseball, the decision seemed a natural one.  With teams such as the Cubs, Yankees and Dodgers very popular within the state, and spring baseball garnering a lot of attention, MLB wanted a team for the start of the 1998 season.  There is also the added population boom in the state (Phoenix is now the 6th largest city in the country), which equates to money.  The name Diamondbacks was the result of a name-the-team contest.  Interestingly, Jerry Colangelo (owner) took out a full page ad for the contest before the franchise was even awarded!  The Western Diamondback is a venomous snake native to the area.  After the team was awarded, Colangelo decided to go with Arizona Diamondbacks as opposed to Phoenix because he wanted to appeal to all areas of the state.

San Diego Padres

The Padres franchise dates back to 1969 when four expansion teams were awarded: Seattle Pilots (moved to Milwaukee), Montreal Expos (moved to Washington DC), and Kansas City Royals.  The team name was derived from a much older minor league organization called the San Diego Padres.  “Padres” is “fathers” in Spanish, and the word was used to describe the order of Franciscan monks led by Junipero Serra who founded the city of San Diego in 1769.  Off topic, but the city itself was named after Saint Didacus, who was referred to as San (Saint) Diego.

Colorado Rockies

Colorado was granted an expansion franchise in 1991 to begin play in 1993.  The club chose the name Rockies because of their Rocky Mountain home in Denver.  The name was also used for a previous NHL franchise in the city (see New Jersey Devils).  On a sidenote, before they were granted the expansion team, they almost had a deal in place to relocate the Pittsburgh Pirates to Denver.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The history of the Los Angeles Dodgers is a very interesting one that has its roots in Brooklyn, NY.  Until 1932, the official name of the franchise was the Brooklyn Base Ball Club.  The club was formed in 1883 and was unofficially known as the Brooklyn Atlantics (there was an even older Brooklyn Atlantics, though it was a different club). They began play a year later in the American Association, which lasted until 1890 when they jumped to the National League.  Over the next 49 seasons, the team was referred to by many different nicknames, often by several names in the same conversation or news article.  For much of the 1890’s they were called the Bridegrooms (sometimes just “Grooms”), as many of their players were recently married.  For much of the early 1900’s, the team went by sevearl names; Superbas, Robins and Trolley Dodgers.  The Robins name was derived from HOF manager Wilbert Robinson.  It is the last one, Trolley Dodgers, where we get the current Dodgers name.  In the late 1890’s (and as early as 1891), people from New York called those from Brooklyn “trolley dodgers” because of the incredible number of trolley line tracks that forced people to “dodge” trains.  The team was often referred to as such, and it was shortened to Dodgers before becoming official in 1932.  The team left Brooklyn for Los Angeles for the 1958 season at the same time that the Giants left New York for San Francisco.  

San Francisco Giants

The franchise now called the San Francisco Giants dates way back to the 1880’s (1883 specifically) to a National League team out of NYC called the New York Gothams.  The name Giants stems from a speech delivered by one of the organization’s founders, Jim Mutrie, who exclaimed after one particularly good win, “My big fellows, my Giants”.  The name caught on and started to be used by the media.  Soon after the name was officially changed to the New York Giants.  Due to lagging crowds, poor performance and a dilapidated Polo Grounds (it had been used for home games since the team’s earliest days in the 1880’s), the team was approached by the mayor of San Francisco who was looking to bring baseball to the SF Bay area.  Along with the Brooklyn Dodgers, the team left New York with just one franchise and headed for California (See NL East: New York Mets).  Interesting sidenote: when the New York Gothams joined the NL, the league actually wanted the New York Metropolitans (Mets) instead, but they signed to play with the American Association instead.