The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Tuesday, July 22, 2003


Now that the Oakland Bumfucks -- I mean the Athletics -- have won two games in Kansas City, I can write about baseball without risk of injury to myself. Last week I did some Googling to learn more about the early history of major league baseball. I found this fascinating web page that lists 19th century teams.

There were a lot of teams listed, because there were several competing leagues of which the National League was the most successful. What I find interesting is the team names. Some professional sports teams have very bad names, the worst offenders in my opinion being women's basketball and the defunct USFL. And it's tempting to think that newcomer leagues like soccer and the WNBA can't help it, because all the good names have been taken. A quick perusal of century-old team games teaches us that there are more possible ways to nickname teams that are dreamt of in our philosophy.

Naming a team after a fierce animal is a safe bet, right? Apparently not to the denizens of the year 1880. There are very few animal nicknames, which is just as well considering the animals that were selected:

  • Baltimore Canaries (I tawt I taw a twiple!)
  • Cleveland Spiders
  • Chicago Whales (did Cecil Fielder play for them?)


(By the way, I definitely remember seeing the Whales but must have been on another web page.)

There were no teams named after Indians, or after any ethnic group for that matter. Given 19th century prejudices, that was probably fortunate. I can see it now: The Charleston Darkies vs. the Bronx Papists.

Colors were popular. We see the Cincinnati Reds -- and also the Boston Reds. Brown was a popular color, appearing in Chicago, St. Louis (not the American League team), and Worcester. What color could be more drab than brown? Maybe Gray, which appeared in both Milwaukee and Louisville. Even stranger were the St. Louis Maroons and the Hartford Dark Blues, which could have been named after Monopoly property groups except that Monopoly had not been invented yet.

If a team wasn't named after a color, it probably had a really weird name. Here are the strangest of all the monikers calculated to appeal to the 19th century soul:


  • Baltimore Monumentals
  • Brooklyn Bridegrooms
  • Brooklyn Eckfords
  • Cincinnati Porkers (I'm glad the 19th century had no cheerleaders)
  • Cleveland Forest Citys (Does this make any sense at all? Why not the Cleveland Cincinnatis?)
  • Cleveland Infants (My favorite)
  • Philadelphia Pearls
  • Philadelphia Quakers ("My beliefs do not permit me to hurt thee, but thou are standing where I am about to pitch")
  • Pittsburgh Stogies
  • Pittsburgh Burghers
  • Rochester Hop Bitters
  • Rockford Forest Citys(!) (Now I'm getting paranoid about these damn "forest citys")
  • Troy Unions (Causing brawls and brushback pitches throughout the South)


Are there any good names that wouldn't occur to a modern owner? I liked the Gladiators, from Brooklyn, but nothing else interested me.


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