Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What's in a name?

                                   Since the dawn of baseball time, many a team has packed up and moved to another city.  Sometimes they keep the team name, like the Dodgers, Giants, Athletics, Braves and such, while other franchises chose to change the name altogether, like The Nationals (formerly The Montreal Expos) , The Rangers (Formerly The Washington Senators), and The Brewers (Formerly The Seattle Pilots, who only had one year, 1969 before moving to Milwaukee...look it up!) .  
However, what I'd like to talk about today are the teams who, for one reason or another, chose to slightly alter their team name.  Most of these changes were temporary, although the most recent example will probably last a good long while.  I'm of course talking about The Tampa Bay Rays.

                     Starting life as The Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 1998, The Rays, along with The Arizona Diamondbacks, became the latest expansion franchises in the MLB.  Their early years were fairly nondescript, mainly serving as a final stop for aging All Stars such as Wade Boggs, Fred McGriff,  and Jose Canseco.  In fact, the only interesting event during these  seasons was when a 36 year old rookie pitcher named Jim Morris made his debut in the late '90s.  His story was the basis for the 2002 movie "The Rookie" starring Dennis Quaid (a pretty good flick, actually) .  Every season from their inception in 1998 to 2007 (a full ten years) were all losing ones, usually as cellar dwellers.  That all changed in 2008, when the team shortened their name to just "The Rays", dropping the fish symbol and adopting a sunshine logo.  The team went on to capture the AL pennant that year.  Some religious folk say it's because of them losing the "devil" part of their name.  I don't know about that, but you can't argue with results, as they have been a good team ever since.

               As I have said  though, most of the name changes have been temporary.  In the early part of the 20th century, The Cleveland Indians became the Cleveland Naps, named after their best player, Napoleon Lajoie (still one of the greatest names ever).  Ditto for The Brooklyn Dodgers in the teens and '20s, changing their name to the "Robins" after their field manager Wilbert Robinson.  In the '30s, The manager of the Boston Braves, Casey Stengel suggested they change the team name to "The Bees" and called the Huntington grounds "The Beehive" to attract more fans.  It didn't work...The Braves/Bees were a second division club for years to come.

         By far the most reactionary name change had to be The Cincinnati Reds changing their name to the "Cincinnati Redlegs" for a brief time during the "Red scare" of the 50's.  I found out about this in a weird way.  I have a brother who's 15 years older than me, and he owned a baseball cap with all the team names on it.  It was from the late '50s, and had all 16 teams in the ML.  One of them was the Redlegs.  I asked my dad about it, but  he quickly changed the subject, figuring I was too young to learn about commie conspiracies.  Actually, my dad hated the whole McCarthyism deal, as did most level headed people.  To tell you the truth, I'm surprised the current Tea Partiers haven't tried to change the name of some of the teams to fit their own agenda.  Some examples:...

1)The Cincinnati Red States
2)The Seattle Marines
3)The Washington National Review
4)The Chicago White Supremist Sox
5)The Houston Colt 45's (oh, wait, they became The Astros...they do love their guns though...)

               If there's any team that I would like to change the name of, it would be The Angels...well, to be more specific, the whole "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim" nonsense.  Pick a city, for chrissakes...Also irritating: The Texas Rangers calling their stadium "The Ball Park  at Arlington".  That's a little too Yoda-ish for me.  All they need is the whole "it is" at the end to make it complete.
Seriously, I don't want to make any unnecessary changes to the game...that's Bud Selig's job...or at least he thinks it is...



  1. Name changes. Don't get me started.

    I think the Tea Party team is whatever team Luke Scott is on. Boom!

  2. Oh geez thanks for DJ Kitty btw...