October 23, 2014

They Were Once Known As…

March 19, 2010 by · 5 Comments 

Over the course of baseball history, many teams have made changes to their nicknames and plenty have stuck. The New York Highlanders officially switched over to the Yankees in 1913 and haven’t looked back. Neither have the Chicago Cubs, who were known as the Colts (1890-97) and Orphans (1898-1902) before changing to their current moniker. However, a couple of teams have changed their nicknames and within a few years, changed back. Here are a few of those teams:

The Philadelphia Phillies as the Philadelphia Blue Jays (1944 to 1949)

The Phillies in the early half of the 1940s were a struggling ball club, both on and off the field. In February 1943, owner Gerald Nugent was forced to sell the team when he could no longer pay off his debts. New owner William B. Cox owned the Phillies during the 1943 season but was suspended indefinitely by Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis at the end of the season for betting on baseball, effectively ending his ownership.

On the field, the Phillies were just as abysmal. Starting in 1938, the club went five consecutive seasons with 100-plus losses. They had not finished higher then 7th place in the National League since 1932 and the woes had continued in 1943, when they went 62-90, finishing in seventh. So when new owner Bob Carpenter bought the team during the off-season, he went looking to refresh the club’s identity.

The new owner announced that the club would look for a new nickname. Over 5,000 letters and 600 other suggestions were sent to Carpenter and on March 4th, 1944, he announced that the name ‘Blue Jays’ would serve as the team’s new moniker. Mrs. Elizabeth Crooks was the person who came up with the nickname and she received $100 and a pair of season tickets for her efforts. “The Phils have acquired no new redolence by changing their nickname to Blue Jays, although it must be admitted that the new label has infinitely more flare, color and appeal than the old cigar-like sound of Phillies.” said Arthur Daley in the New York Times.

The new name never really got off the ground. Philadelphia made blue much more prominent in their uniforms but decided to keep the ‘Phillies’ script on both their jerseys (click here for a timeline of Philly’s uniforms from that era) and logo. Game summaries would list the Philadelphia squad as both the Phillies and the Blue Jays and by the end of the 1949 season, the Blue Jays name had been fazed out. In 1950, the Phillies went to a red-based uniform, much like we see today. That year, the team ended its drought and captured their first National League pennant since 1915.

Neither the Phillies nor Major League Baseball officially recognize the ‘Blue Jays’ nickname and often are given the distinction of having the longest-running nickname in professional sports history.

The Boston Braves as the Doves (1907 to 1910), Rustlers (1911), and Bees (1936 to 1940)
When the Atlanta Braves franchise was located in Boston (1876 to 1952), the team had two prominent nicknames. In 1883, the team started to go by the name ‘Beaneaters’, a moniker that stuck around until long-time owner Arthur Soden sold the team to George and John Dovey. To reflect their new owners, the media began to dub the team the ‘Doves.‘

George Dovey died in June of 1909, leaving full control of the team to his brother John. By the end of the 1910 season, John decided to sell full interest of the club to William Hepburn Russell. No longer any reason to be called the ‘Doves,’ the media again re-branded the team, this time as the ‘Rustlers.’ Sadly, Russell passed away after the 1911 season and the team went to James Gaffney. It was in 1912 when the club first began to use the ‘Braves’ moniker, a name suggested by long-time ballplayer John Montgomery Ward, who served as a part-owner and team president under Gaffney. (Here is a look at the team’s uniforms from 1906 to 1912.)

The team continued to use the Braves nickname until the mid-30s, when former Red Sox owner Bob Quinn purchased the team. In an attempt to change the team’s fortunes around (no pennant since 1914), Quinn asked fans to send in suggestions for a name change. Quinn then appointed 25 local sportswriters and one cartoonist to choose the new nickname from over 1,300 fan letters. On January 30th, 1936, the panel decided to change the name to the ‘Bees.’ As well, they decided that Braves Field would now be referred to as ‘The Hive.’

By 1941, the team readopted the Braves nickname and that nickname has stuck with them through trips to Boston, Milwaukee, and finally Atlanta. (Here is a look at Boston’s uniforms from 1936 to 1942.)

The Cincinnati Reds as the Cincinnati Redlegs (1953 to 1959)

The same year the Braves moved from Boston to Milwaukee, the Cincinnati Reds decided to tinker with their moniker. With the Cold War beginning to start, American resentment towards Communism began to grow. With the color and the name ‘Reds’ being associated with the Communist Soviet Union, the Cincinnati baseball team decided to distance themselves from any potential prejudice they might face before the start of the 1953 season.

During this period, the ‘Reds’ logo was removed from their uniforms and were replaced with the simple Cincinnati ‘C.’ However, the club decided to transition themselves back into the Reds following the 1959 season.

Comments

5 Responses to “They Were Once Known As…”
  1. Cliff Blau says:

    You overlooked the Washington AL team, which was known as the Senators from 1901-1904, the Nationals from 1905-1956, and the Senators again from 1957-1960. See http://exhibits.baseballhalloffame.org/dressed_to_the_nines/uniforms.asp?league=AL&city=Washington&lowYear=1905&highYear=1906&sort=year&increment=9

  2. Mike Lynch says:

    Of course, there was also the Brooklyn team known as the Superbas, Dodgers, Superbas again, Robins, then Dodgers again during the 20th century.

  3. David says:

    My recollection is that the Cubs actually started as the White Stockings, and that the American League team assumed that name because it was well-known, but no longer used by the National League team.

  4. Larry H. says says:

    Brendan,
    You are correct with the Phillies Blue Jay information, EXCEPT:
    The Script Phillies, Number on back, Hat and Socks are BLACK.
    There is a lot of incorrect info out there about being BLUE including
    “Dressed To The Nines”, and Re-creations #4. I know I am correct as I own a home #24 jersey (Seminick). The “bird” is blue and white WITH a yellow BEAK.
    I hope this helps.
    Larry

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