November 19, 2021

Cleveland's Guardians Nickname Is Official, The First Pure MLB Name Change In 57 Years

The Cleveland baseball team is now officially known as the Cleveland Guardians.

A team changing its nickname while remaining in the same city is extremely rare. It has been almost 60 years since the Houston Colt .45s became the Astros. Any other nickname changes since then have been only slight revisions to an existing nickname or accompanied by a geographical move.

After 10 years as the Devil Rays, Tampa Bay scaled back its name to the Rays before the 2008 season. The franchise enjoyed an unrelated change of fortune. The Devil Rays had a .399 winning percentage  and never made the postseason. In 14 seasons as the Rays, the team is .545, with seven postseason appearances two AL pennants.

The Cincinnati Reds changed their name to Redlegs for five seasons during the McCarthy era (1954-58) to avoid any association with communism. (Was anyone at the time really confused on this issue?) Rick Walls, executive director of the Reds Hall of Fame:

It was at the height of the fear of communism taking over the world. The Reds didn't want the headline with the "Cincinnati Reds". They were fearful. And a lot of people called them the Redlegs going back to the Red Stockings. Redlegs made a lot of sense for them.

Many fans and sportswriters did not stop calling them Reds. The team removed "Reds" from its home uniforms in 1956; the road jerseys that year featured only a logo of the mustachioed mascot Mr. Redlegs. McCarthy died in 1957 and the Reds name was restored in 1959, but it did not appear on the uniform until 1961.

The Philadelphia Phillies were briefly known as the Blue Jays in 1944 and 1945 and Oakland owner Charles Finley changed the team's official name from "Athletics" to "A's" in 1972. It was switched back in 1981.

As mentioned, the Astros were known as the Colt .45s for the first three years of their existence (1962-64). The name was often shortened to "Colts", to avoid possible legal issues with the firearm manufacturer and to inspire thoughts of young horses. This article cites NASA's presence in Houston, as well as the Colt Firearms Company wanting a share of the team's merchandising revenue, as reasons for the change. The team has also bounced around a bit:

1962-1968: National League
1969-1993: National League West
1994-2012: National League Central
2013-2021: American League West

Most nickname changes (as opposed to small revisions) in the last 70 years have accompanied a geographical move.

After 1953: St. Louis Browns became Baltimore Orioles.

After 1960: Washington Senators became Minnesota Twins. (But, confusingly, the following season the American League still featured a Washington Senators team. Those Senators were an expansion team and, after 11 seasons, they decamped to Texas and became the Rangers. (The Rangers' nickname is associated with white supremacy and racist, murderous gangs of terrorists and vigilantes.))

After 1969: Seattle Pilots became Milwaukee Brewers.

After 2004: Montreal Expos became Washington Nationals.

And so, the Guardians Era begins . . .

Of course, the insane still walk among us.

Cancel culture? Please.


allan said...

Other stuff, pasted here instead of being deleted:

The Boston Braves were known as the Bees from 1936-1940.

The AL team in Washington, D.C. was first known as the Senators (1901-04), then the Nationals (1905-1957). However, newspapers used both names interchangeably (also "Nats"). Some baseball guides referred to them as "National or Senators".

In 1933, World Series programs sold in New York used "Senators", while programs in Washington used "Nationals". Over time, "Senators" became the preferred name. Before the 1957 season, owner Calvin Griffith officially changed the name to "Senators", but the word did not appear on uniforms until 1959. "Nats" continued to be used in newspaper headlines.

The Brooklyn Dodgers were called the Robins (when Wilbert Robinson was manager), but Dodgers was also used. In 1916, the Brooklyn Eagle often referred to the team as the "Superbas", a nickname from the 1890s. Around 1910, after team president Charles Ebbets declared "Baseball is in its infancy", the team was referred to for a while as the Infants.

I Will Not Get The Jab said...

Weird, how the article never once mentioned "Indians"...
Cancel Culture is getting waaay out of hand.

Paul Hickman said...

Can't stand the New Name - Spiders would have been so much better !

As for the logo - it is just childish

I am prepared to suggest that within 5 years, either or both might be changed ? Assuming they are still in Cleveland ?

Certainly Conservatives will welcome any "failure" as proof "cancel culture" is damaging & responsible ...... which of course, it isn't ! Any success will be swiftly dismissed & disregarded

Guardians Fans Beware - you lose & Tucker the Fucker will never stop belting on about you ..... start winning & you won't be mentioned as it never happened !

allan said...

Weird, how the article never once mentioned "Indians"...

Not so weird, really, since I have not knowingly typed the word in (probably) well over a decade.

laura k said...

Weird, how the article never once mentioned "Indians"...

Not so weird, really, since I have not knowingly typed the word in (probably) well over a decade.

What would be weird: if a random wingnut comment made any sense or contributed anything to the conversation.

laura k said...

However, I see someone has done extensive research and learned that the vast majority of Native Americans liked the previous Cleveland baseball team name. I would be quite curious to see the methodology of that survey!

FenFan said...

Perhaps another ominous sign...

An existing Cleveland Guardians roller derby team (I didn't realize that sport still exists!) brought a lawsuit against the city's MLB team in late October because of existing trademark rights. Apparently, the two sides did reach an agreement early last week, which allowed the baseball team to move forward with the change.

I am prepared to suggest that within 5 years, either or both might be changed? Assuming they are still in Cleveland?

I agree that another name change may happen, but I don't see the team moving since they just extended their lease of Progressive Field in August through 2036 and plan to spend over $200M on updates and improvements to the stadium.