Where Do Team Names Come From – Part 1

A little while ago, I as watching a baseball game on television, 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 first of six postings, giving a little history about the team names and how they were developed.

American League East

Baltimore Orioles – There is a bird, the Baltimore Oriole. See where this is going? The bird was named because the colors of the male resemble the colors that are on the coat-of-arms of Lord Baltimore. Lord Baltimore was a founder of the Maryland region. The oriole is the state bird of Maryland. The name “Orioles” was used by teams back into the 1900s, but was adopted in 1901 for an expansion American League team that was founded but moved to New York for the 1903 season. From 1903 through 1953, an International League team (AAA) was using the Orioles name. There was no American League baseball until 1954, when the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore and shed the Browns name and once again American League baseball was in Baltimore, as the Orioles.

Boston Red Sox – The franchise in Boston was founded in 1901. However, the National Association team that started in 1870 was known as the Boston Red Stockings. The Red Stockings name was also used in Cincinnati at the time (there were no trademarks for team names back then). However, when the National League formed in 1876, the Boston team deferred the name to Cincinnati and became the “Red Caps” among other names, before adopting the name “Braves”, the same name still used in Atlanta today. In 1901, the American League franchise in Boston was formed to compete with the Braves. For the first seven years of existence, the Boston team wore blue stockings and had no nickname. In December of 1907, the owner of the Boston team announced that his team had adopted red as the new team color and would have a red stocking on the front of the jersey. The name, Red Stockings, was actually shortened by newspapers writers because “Stockings Win” could not fit on the headline. “Sox Win” would fit. Based upon the owner’s decision of December 18, 1907, he name Red Sox was born.

New York Yankees – As noted above, the franchise in Baltimore moved to New York in 1903. Back then, the team in New York was nicknamed the Highlanders until 1912 because of their home, Hilltop Park. There are also stories that the name was due to the British military unit, The Gordon Highlanders (the team president’s name was Joseph Gordon). The team was also known as the Americans during that time. The first time the name “Yankees” was used was in 1904, where the New York Press used the name because it fit in headlines, whereas Highlanders did not. In 1913, when the Highlanders moved to the Polo Grounds, the name Highlanders was no longer appropriate for the organization. In that year, the press adopted the name “Yankees” and the name stuck and became the official nickname of the organization.

Tampa Bay Rays – I wish there was a good story for this. There is a fish called the Devil Ray (also the Manta Ray) that lives in the Florida waters. The “Devil” was dropped from the team name in November 2007.

Toronto Blue Jays – Back in 1977, the Blue Jays’ ownership group was headed by Labatts. Their most popular brand in Ontario was the Blue Pilsner and all professional teams in Ontario (where Toronto is located) have blue in their uniform. So, Blue has a big history in the Toronto area. The Blue Jay is a bird that is native to North America and is part of the “blue” Canadian or American jays. You would think that it is a natural combination of these two facts that would give the team its name. It may have, but the name was officially picked by the Directors of the organization after a “Name the Team” contest.

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