I was watching a baseball game on television during the 2009 baseball season, and I started to wonder about the teams that were playing and how they got their names. I started to do a little research into some team names and found the history interesting. This is the last of six postings, giving a little history about the team names and how they were developed.
National League West
Arizona Diamondbacks – In 1993, an organization known as “Arizona Baseball, Inc.” was formed by Jerry Colangelo who also owned the Phoenix Suns basketball team. This group applied for a major league baseball expansion team. On February 13, 1995 this group took out a full-page ad in the Arizona Republic for a “Name the team” contest. The contest was held before the organization was actually awarded an expansion team. The winning choice was Diamondbacks, after the Western diamondback snake. Very simple, no story. Name the team contest chose the name.
Colorado Rockies – So far, this division is boring. The Colorado baseball team has its name from the mountain chain in Colorado, the Rockies. There was an NHL team in Denver from 1976 to 1982 with the same name. This team is now the New Jersey Devils. Two teams, two easy paragraphs. These newer teams have no imagination.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Although only having the name “Dodgers” since migrating west in 1958, this is not the original team name for the team that now plays in Los Angeles. In fact, Dodgers has no meaning for the city of Los Angeles at all. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Brooklyn was well known for the trolley cars throughout the borough. The name, “The Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers” was first used for the baseball organization during the years 1911 and 1912. A trolley dodger was a nickname given to anyone from Brooklyn, a separate city until 1898. After a year as the Dodgers in 1913, he name was finally and officially adopted in 1932 and has stuck ever since. There were many other names for this organization. In 1883, the organization was formed as the Brooklyn Atlantics. This was a name from an amateur team that was in Brooklyn before 1883 and had become defunct. In 1884, the organization joined the American Association and joined the National League in 1890. The team also had had nicknames such as Grays, Bridgegrooms (four players on the team were married during one year), Grooms, Superbas and Robins (named for the manager Wilbert Robinson). They were all names used by fans and sportswriters. However, when adopted officially, the nickname stayed Dodgers.
San Diego Padres – The original San Diego Padres were a minor league baseball team that played in San Diego from 1936 to 1968. That minor league team was formed in 1903 as the Sacramento Solons. The name “Solon” had three potential origins. Solon was a Greek lawmaker and was a synonym for senator. However, Solon Huntington was a prominent businessman in Sacramento during the 19th Century. Any of the names can be considered as the origin of the name. The team moved to Tacoma for one season and then back to Sacramento in 1905. In 1914, the organization moved to San Francisco as the San Francisco Missions, named for San Francisco’s Mission District. The team moved in 1915 to Salt Lake City after being sold and was called the Salt Lake Bees. The bee is a symbol of the Mormon Church, which is headquartered in Utah. The team became the Hollywood Stars in 1926 after moving to Los Angeles. The team stayed in Los Angeles until 1936, when it became the San Diego Padres. The word Padres means priest/father. Mission San Diego was the first Spanish mission in the United States. Why the history lesson? You just found out how the San Diego Padres got their name while learning about the history of a minor league franchise.
San Francisco Giants – In 1883, the New York Gothams joined the National League. Gotham was a nickname for New York City. By the way, at the same time there was another baseball team in New York that played in the American Association called the Metropolitans, also called the Mets. The nickname of the organization became Giants in 1885. The story of the name is a shot one. After a victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, owner/manager Jim Mutrie went into his locker room and was proud of “My big fellows! My giants!” There you go, the name Giants was born.