- A's: A moronic team name, because what the hell is an A if not the
first letter of the alphabet? Sometimes it's the initial part
of the call, "A! U!" But what's an A got to do with a baseball
team? Now sure, obviously, A's is short for Athletics , a name
taken from, I believe, the Philadelphia Athletics Club, whose
ballplayers represented it, during baseball's infancy. But the
name Athletics is hopelessly outdated and simply doesn't ring
true. To call a major league team the Oakland Athletics Club would
be ludicrous here in the '90s. And even if Athletics had nothing to do with an athletics club in Philadelphia, the
question "What the hell is an 'athletic'?" springs to mind. Athletic isn't a noun, and Athletics is therefore a silly team name, as is A's.
- Angels: The Los Angeles team in the old Pacific Coast League was called
the Angels, and so was the American League's LA expansion team
in 1961. Calling an LA team the "Angels" is not too much of a
stretch; in fact, it's an obvious leap from the Spanish word for
angels to the English word for angels: "angels." But there's not
much association between angels and California, so the team name
doesn't make sense. Also, an angel isn't likely to strike fear
into anyone's heart (conjuring up, as it does, an image of goodness
and holiness) unless it refers to the Angel of Death or a Hells
Angel. The name will work better in 1997, if for no reason other
than alliteration: Anaheim Angels.
- Astros: Gee, I guess it has to do with space missions, the moon landings,etc.
The word Astro isn't a noun -- well, it's been used to mean astronaut. Still, Astros is better than Colt.45s, for what it's worth. Then again, there are those who believe
that the team was named after Astroturf.
- Blue Jays: By and large, bird names are fine, although jays are extremely
annoying. I like to brag that I predicted that the Toronto team
would indeed be called the Blue Jays, having read around 1975
that the National League Philadelphia team was, in 1944 and 1945
only, known as the Blue Jays (or possibly "Bluejays," depending
on the source. Even so, they still had "Phils" on their uniforms.)
- Braves: An occasional, huge source of controversy in the last few years.
I guess the controversy has long existed, but since the Braves
had been so bad for so long, no one paid attention. A pro-Braves argument goes like this: "Braves are fierce, strong, tough, and
warlike, not to mention brave. Therefore it's a positive thing
to be called a brave." The main anti-Braves sentiment is that the name conjures up cliches such as "wampum"
and "Ugh!" The team itself is culpable, too: remember Chief Noc-A-Homa?
Anyone who tells you that the name Braves is meant to honor someone is full of it.
- Brewers: Oh, boy! People who make beer! Roll out the role models! And
look, there's Bernie Brewer, all done up in his lederhosen, ready
to take his slide into the enormous beer vat. Boy, I hope my kid
grows up to be Bernie Brewer. Don't you hope your kid does? Still, the Brewers have history on their side in that
Milwaukee's first major league club, which helped kick off the
American League's inaugural season in 1901, was called the Brewers.
Something must have gone wrong, though, because by 1902 they had
moved to St. Louis, another beer town, and became the Browns instead
of retaining the original name.
- Cardinals: Another name that's okay by virtue of being a bird; however,
the origin of the name had more to do with the uniform color than
the bird itself (although later Cardinal team uniforms were mostly
- Cubs: Bear cubs are cute and cuddly, right? Their moms aren't, but
that's neither here nor there. Still, it's a name that has a certain
charm and evokes endearingness. However, it also evokes a certain
helplessness and sticking-your-face-into-beehives quality. And
who's afraid of a "cubbie"?
- Devil Rays: Ker-barf. The obvious problem is that lots of people who don't
much like Satan will object to the name. But beyond that, it simply
has a contrived sound, and Tampa Bay Devil Rays, being a four-word team name, is kind of silly.
- Diamondbacks: I had hoped the Phoenix team would come up with something like
Rattlers -- and they did; but Rattlers, to me, anyway, evokes more of a Westward Expansion feel, a kind
of rustic quality that I feel goes better with Arizona than Diamondbacks. Not only that, but Diamondbacks might be the longest team name in history; it's truly a mouthful.
I also wonder why the team chose to be the Arizona Diamondbacks
rather than the Phoenix Diamondbacks; this comes almost on the
heels of the Phoenix (well, Chicago-cum-St. Louis-cum-Phoenix)
Cardinals changing their name to the Arizona Cardinals -- despite
not actually moving out of Phoenix. Doesn't Phoenix rate independent
- Dodgers: A stupid name, and not just because I hate the team. The name
is objectively stupid -- no opinions involved here. Has nothing
to do with Los Angeles. Comes from the fact that early Brooklyn
fans had to "dodge trolleys" to see their boys play, so the team
was unofficially called the Trolley Dodgers at some point. Even
though it sort of made sense, it was still stupid, and this tradition
continues for no apparent reason. People with no sense of the
history of the team name might suspect that it is meant to conjure
up an image of players who are fast and can, well, dodge things.
Somehow this doesn't elevate the name at all. Still, it's better
than Bridegrooms and Superbas (What the hell is a superba?), but
not much. Perhaps the best franchise name was Robins, after Wilbert
Robinson. (One day I hope to ask a young Los Angeles basketball
fan what a "Laker" is.)
- Expos: "Ah thank Ah'll gawn down the schoolyard and Expos mahself."
I guess the name comes from Expo '68, but why? (Plus, the Expos'
inaugural season was 1969.) An expo is, I guess, a convention
of some kind. Strange thing to name a team after. The name Royals, with its existing tradition in Montreal, would have been better,
but it was already taken.
- Giants: By miles and piles, the best team name on Planet Earth, and
not just because I love the team. It's a nice, fear-evoking name,
and it also carries the implication of someone who is outstanding.
Of course, it also lends itself to "Giant-killer" references,
but that's something we can live with.
- Indians: As I understand it, the Indians were named in honor of the first
Native American ballplayer, Louis Sockalexis. Sockalexis was evidently
an outstanding athlete and a great player whose career -- and
life -- were trashed by alcoholism. I am told that this is not
uncommon among Native Americans for the kinds of reasons that
members of other ethnic groups might become alcoholic, but also
because Native Americans have been treated so badly. This is what
I hear, anyway.
So it was noble, in a way, to honor Sockalexis by naming a team
after him, but it is also a sad reminder of his fate, and indeed
of the bigger picture. I guess the logic goes like this: A player
is honored; he dies from alcoholism and depression due in large
part to how his people are treated; we commemorate that depression
and thus remind others of the treatment that led to it. Something's
screwy here. So while I perhaps consider the Cleveland team's
name somewhat offensive to Native Americans, the original motivation,
if the legend is true, is admirable.
But due in large part to the national exposure of the Braves fans'
Tomahawk Chop, Indian headdresses, and annoying pseudo-Indian
chant, a whole lot of Native Americans are voicing their mostly
negative feelings about team names such as Braves, Indians, and
Redskins, and I can't say I disagree with them. Former San Francisco
Chronicle columnist Lowell Cohn, for perhaps the only time in his life,
made a good point. He said, essentially, that a whole lot of Jews
might not appreciate the way the fans behaved at the games of
a team called the Brooklyn Hassidim -- wearing yarmulkes and tallises,
smacking themselves on the foreheads and going "Oy!" when a Hassidim
player made an error, etc. I know I wouldn't like it.
- Marlins: I think it's a fine team name when used in conjunction with
"Miami" rather than "Florida." The Miami Marlins have represented
the area, on and off, for years. But the Florida Marlins just
don't have a particularly nice ring. A marlin, though, is a big
old deep-sea fish with a nasty temper, the kind of fish you stuff
and mount on a large board and display above the doorway to your
den, where it can fall off suddenly during an earthquake and,
with any luck, smack whoever is standing in the doorway.
- Mariners: Not a bad name, but kind of a weenie name. I just know that
whoever thought it up was hoping that some older ballplayer (such
as, say, Gaylord Perry) would join the team so that he could be
called "The Ancient Mariner." Seattle never seems to get it right.
Pilots is a boring team name (and I say this despite my appreciation
of that team's mystique) and Supersonics is silly (What's a supersonic?). I should give some credit, however:
Seahawks is a fine name. But Mariners? Pretty weak.
- Mets: There is no such thing as a met, but Mets is short for Metropolitans. The noun metropolitan is defined
by Webster's as the head of an ecclesiastical province or one
who lives in or has manners, customs, or ideas characteristic
of a metropolis. Pretty dull, and not very terror-inducing, especially
if you consider the Nash Metropolitan, one of the silliest cars
ever built. But I believe that the original New York team was
called the Metropolitans.
- Orioles: Well, a Baltimore oriole is a bird -- there's no getting around
that -- so the name is a natural. But could you imagine any other
city giving a team that name? The Chicago Orioles? The Indianapolis
Orioles? I don't think so.
- Padres: The San Diego Parents. The San Diego Friars. The San Diego Monks.
In addition to being wimpy, the name Padres also evokes some cultural unpleasantness. Padre Junipero Serra,
for instance, treated the Native Americans (here we go again)
like dirt, they say. Also, consider the San Diego Priests, the
San Diego Altar Boys, the San Diego Celibates.
- Phillies: A philly is a cheese-steak sandwich. I like mine without peppers,
but that's just me. Phillies shows a lack of imagination, as far as I'm concerned.
- Pirates: There are two archetypal images of pirates: bold, ruthless adventurers
sailing o'er the bounding main, laughing and singing and sinking
Spanish galleons; and raping, looting, pillaging imbeciles who
usually have no one but each other for company for months on end.
Obviously the Pittsburgh team is trying to identify with the former
image. The truth is that this team was called the Pirates (rather
than the existing name, the Alleghenies, or Innocents, or whatever
it was) because in the early years, they lured (and thus "pirated")
players from other teams. Kind of like the major leagues now.
- Rangers: A Texas Ranger is a stock American image, so it's not really
a bad name. Since the team is based in Arlington, which doesn't
have much of a ring to it, it's probably safe that team owners
decided on Texas Rangers.
- Reds: Originally Red Stockings back in 1492 or whenever. Now, think
about that. I guess that the Wrights (that's who it was, right?)
wanted to name the team using some kind of physical identifier,
so they named it after their stockings. Weird, but still better
than the Cincinnati Cream-Colored Shoelaces, The Cincinnati Starch
White Dickies With Little Black Bow-Ties, or the Cincinnati Frilly
Lacy Divine Pink Cup Supporters.
The current franchise doesn't date from the original, which moved
to Boston. I believe Cincinnati first showed up in a professional
league in 1882 or so, was booted out of the league for not completing
its schedule at some point, and resurfaced a bit later -- say,
10 years -- in its current incarnation. I guess it kept the name
Red Stockings, or Reds, out of tradition, but I can't help wondering
if about eight billion better names couldn't have been thought
In the 1940s the team became known as the Redlegs (or Red Legs)
to avoid any connection with communism. Pretty pathetic -- as
if "Redlegs" is better: The Cincinnati Blue-Eyes; The Cincinnati
Pinkbutts; The Cincinnati Redlegs.
- Red Sox: Why "Sox"? What, really, are "sox"? Aside from appearing in
names of various baseball teams in the major, minor, and senior
leagues (and these last two categories include Blue Sox, Silver
Sox (silver?), Sky Sox, (I can't even conjure up a mental image
for what sky sox must be.) and Sun Sox (ditto), and I think there
have even been Brown Sox; probably no Argyles, though, but you
never know), "sox," to the best of my knowledge, isn't a word.
I always spelled the plural of "sock" by adding an s to it, but
maybe that's just pedantic.
What's really silly about this team name is that American League
fans in both Boston and Chicago call their home teams The Sox.
- Rockies: Well, here's an A-number-one weak team name. See the Royals
comment regarding my feelings about adjectives used as team names.
Oh, sure, I realize that the Colorado Rockies are a majestic mountain
range, but criminy, will we eventually have teams like the Mississippi
Rivers, the Yucatan Peninsulas, and the Gulfs of Mexico? Yeccchh.
- Royals: I kind of like it, but then again, I kind of don't. Colors notwithstanding
(as in Reds), I'm not crazy about adjectives used as team names:
The Kansas City Regals, The Kansas City Fragrants, The Kansas
- Tigers: A great team name, and I'm not even a Tigers fan. A ferocious,
exotic beast, beautifully marked and full of sharp, dangerous
things on its body that could make someone miserable in a hurry
and a half. As it happens, the Detroit team was named, several
zillion years ago, for the yellow and black stripes on the players'
stockings. Also, later, with Ty Cobb at the helm, there was a
fairly halfhearted attempt to rename the team the "Tygers," but
even then, apparently, no one appreciated a wretched pun. (Or
maybe it was an attempt to immortalize William Blake's poem, which
begins: "Tyger, tyger, burning bright," which has been an episode
title for probably no less than two dozen television shows.)
Tiger still evokes ferocity, as does the name of the city's football
team, Lions, without evoking the cuteness of, say, Cubs. As stated
in the comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes," "Tigers are mean, tigers
are fierce, tigers have teeth and claws that pierce." Says it
- Twins: This name is meant to acknowledge that the team represents and
belongs to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, the Twin Cities, without
specifically identifying with either city. While the intent is
certainly noble, the name itself is pretty weenie. What other
team in top-level professional sports is "affectionately" called
- White Sox: See the Red Sox comment. Also, the White Sox are one of the
most identifiable teams in baseball, due, if anything, to the
Black Sox scandal of 1919-1920 and Eight Men Out (book or movie, take your pick).
- Yankees: What's a "yankee"? It's a symbol of the American Revolution,
as immortalized in "Yankee Doodle," a really stupid song in which
an unfortunately named soul jaunts into town, riding on an almost
certaily overburdened, tiny horse. With nothing better to do,
Mr. Doodle sticks a feather in his cap and calls it -- either
the feather or the cap, we may never know which -- "macaroni,"
which is a form of pasta almost never mistaken for either a feather
or a cap. He is then exhorted to "keep it up" -- for goodness
knows what purpose, though it may have something to do with being
"handy" with the girls.
It's also a somewhat derogatory term for "American," as used by
English people, usually in the form of "Yank." I'll leave it to
you to derive further meaning, in this context, from the word
Evidently the word yankee comes from Jan Caese, which is dutch
for John Cheese, which was a label first stuck, I think, on the
English, of all people. Coincidentally, comedian John Cleese's
grandfather, also named John, changed his last name from Cheese.