MLB Background Checks: The Meaning Behind Each Team's Nickname

J FCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2011

MLB Background Checks: The Meaning Behind Each Team's Nickname

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    PHILADELPHIA - MAY 06:  Manager Charlie Manuel of the Philadelphia Phillies sits in the dugout next to a jersey of Phillies Hall of Fame pitcher Robin Roberts prior to playing the St. Louis Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park on May 6, 2010 in Philadelphia, P
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    America's favorite past-time evolved into the first major professional sports league in the United States—Major League Baseball.

    The MLB was founded in 1869, and now has 30 teams, one of them in Canada.

    The nicknames of these teams helped create the names of sports teams ever since. For those of you curious baseball fans and history buffs, here are the origins of each MLB team nickname.

    Note: If you are also interested in NCAA, NFL, NBA, and NHL nicknames, check out my profile for the articles.

Baltimore Orioles

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    BALTIMORE - MARCH 31:  Adam Jones #10 of the Baltimore Orioles waits for his hat and glove between innings against the Tampa Bay Rays on Opening Day on March 31, 2008 at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Founded in 1894 as the Milwaukee Brewers, the team soon moved to St. Louis and became the Browns.

    The franchise settled in Baltimore in 1954, and took the name of Maryland's state bird, the oriole.

Boston Red Sox

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    FORT MYERS, FL - MARCH 14:  Shortstop Marco Scutaro #16 of the Boston Red Sox throws the ball against the New York Yankees during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at City of Palms Park on March 14, 2011 in Fort Myers, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    The nickname was adopted when the team switched to red uniforms in 1907. It had no official nickname before this time but was known as the Bostons and Americans.

    Previous Boston teams, as well as a Cincinnati team, have used the name "Red Stockings".

New York Yankees

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    TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Hall of Famer Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees tips his hat to the crowd as he is announced just prior to the start of the Grapefruit League Spring Training Game against the Philadelphia Phillies at George M. Steinbrenner Field
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Once the original Baltimore Orioles, the franchise moved to New York in 1903 and became the Highlanders.

    They later became known as the Americans, and were officially renamed the Yankees in 1913.

Toronto Blue Jays

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    TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 29: Cito Gaston tips his hat during a pre-game ceremony for retiring Manager Cito Gaston of the Toronto Blue Jays as they play the New York Yankees during a MLB game at the Rogers Centre September 29, 2010 in Toronto, Ontario, Cana
    Abelimages/Getty Images

    Toronto's team was nicknamed after the blue North American bird because of its agressiveness and strength.

    Over 30,000 entries in a naming contest contributed to the final decision.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    CLEARWATER, FL - MARCH 06:  Pitcher Jake McGee #57 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches against the Philadelphia Phillies during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at Bright House Field on March 6, 2011 in Sarasota, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Image
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Since Stingrays was already trademarked, owner Vince Naimoli chose Devil Rays for the nickname of his expansion team in 1995 instead.

    A widely Christian public criticized his choice, but it wasn't until 2007 that the world "Devil" was dropped from the nickname.

Chicago White Sox

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    CHICAGO - APRIL 15: Starting pitcher John Danks #50 of the Chicago White Sox tips his hat to the crowd as leaves a game against the Oakland Athletics on April 15, 2008 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Athletics 4-1.
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    When the St. Paul Saints moved to Chicago's South Side in 1900, they stole the former name of the Cubs, the White Stockings.

    Headline editors often shortened the nickname to White Sox, and it was officially changed in 1904.

Cleveland Indians

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 15:  Grady Sizemore of the Cleveland Indians, wearing a #42 jersey during the Jackie Robinson Day game runs to third base against the Kansas City Royals on April 15, 2009 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by G.
    G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images

    Following the 1914 season, Cleveland was searching for a new nickname. They were originally nicknamed the Naps after Napoleon Lajoie, who was both a player and manager with the team.

    When he left, the name Indians was chosen as a replacement, likely because the Boston Braves had just won the World Series.

Detroit Tigers

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    DETROIT - APRIL 02:  Administrative Assistant, Public Affairs Audrey Zielinski (R) and Brandon Inge #15 of the Detroit Tigers walk off the field after they presented a replica of the Tigers 2006 American League Championship Banner for the fans prior to th
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    It is said the nickname originates from the Detroit Light Guard military unit, "The Tigers", which fought in the Civil War.

    However, there are other legends about its origin.

    Some say it came from the orange striped, black socks the team wore. Others say it is because a sportswriter compared the team to his alma mater, the Princeton Tigers.

Kansas City Royals

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    SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 12:  Melky Cabrera #53 of the Kansas City Royals slides at home plate to score a run during the fourth inning of the spring training baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Surprise Stadium on March 12, 2011 in Surprise, Ariz
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    A naming contest in 1969 gave Kansas City's expansion team its nickname. Simply put, Royals stands for the best.

    The name also originates from the American Royal, an animal show and rodeo held annually in the city.

Minnesota Twins

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 18: Tsuyoshi Nishioka #1 of the Minnesota Twins puts on his Twins hats for members of the media during a press conference on December 18, 2010 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien /Getty Images)
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    In 1961, the Washington Senators moved to Minneapolis, which is one of the Twin Cities separated by the Mississippi River in Minnesota.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 15:  Starting pitcher Joel Pineiro #35 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitches against the San Diego Padres during the spring training game at Peoria Stadium on March 15, 2011 in Peoria, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    The name originates from the city that was their first home, Los Angeles. Since the Angels now play in Anaheim, the city requires that "Anaheim" be part of their name.

    Though they were once the Anaheim Angels, Los Angeles was added to reflect the original name, but mostly to attract the L.A. media and fan base.

    In 2005, there was a heated controversy over the new name. However, the owners got what they wanted, and the team is usually referred to as simply the Los Angeles Angels. 

Oakland Athletics

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    PHOENIX, AZ - MARCH 15:  Hideki Matsui #55 of the Oakland Athletics bats against the Chicago Cubs during the spring training baseball game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on March 15, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Commonly referred to as the A's, the team's nickname stems from athletic clubs, which were local gentlemen's clubs in the late 19th century. 

Seattle Mariners

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    PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 12:  Relief pitcher Luke French #25 of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Oakland Athletics during the spring training game at Peoria Stadium on March 12, 2011 in Peoria, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Marine culture is prominent in Seattle, so it is no surprise the Mariners came out on top in a naming contest.

Texas Rangers

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    GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 15:  Nelson Cruz #17 of the Texas Rangers attempts to unsucsessfully make a sliding catch on a  basehit by Andre Ethier #16 of the Los Angeles Dodgers during the thrid inning of the spring training baseball game at Camelback Ranch on
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    The team was named after the famous law enforcement agency that was formed in the 1820's.

Atlanta Braves

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    KISSIMMEE, FL - MARCH 01:  Jason Heyward #22 of the Atlanta Braves hits a 2nd inning double during a Spring Training game against the Houston Astros at Osceola County Stadium on March 1, 2011 in Kissimmee, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The Braves owner was a member of Tammany Hall, a NYC political machine that used an Indian chief as its emblem.

    Braves is a term for a Native American warrior.

Florida Marlins

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    JUPITER, FL - MARCH 04:   Scott Hairston #12 of the New York Mets slides safely against second baseman Omar Infante #13 of the Florida Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium on March 4, 2011 in Jupiter, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    The name originates from a former Miami minor league team called by the same name.

    A marlin is a type of fish native to Floridian waters.

New York Mets

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    NEW YORK - JANUARY 05:  (L-R) General Manager Omar Minaya watches Jason Bay and put on a New York Mets hat as Mets COO Jeff Wilpon looks on during a press conference to announce Bay's signing to the New York Mets on January 5, 2010 at Citi Field in the Fl
    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    The name originates from an earlier New York Metropolitan team.

    It was chosen among other finalists in a naming contest such the Avengers, Bees, Burros, Continentals, Jets, NYBS, Rebels, Skyliners, and Skyscrapers.

    Meadowlarks was also considered by management.

Philadelphia Phillies

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    BRADENTON, FL - MARCH 12:  Pitcher Vance Worley #49 of the Philadelphia Phillies pitches against the Pittsburgh Pirates during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at McKechnie Field on March 12, 2011 in Bradenton, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty I
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Originally the Quakers, the team's nickname was changed to the Philadelphians and later shortened to Phillies.

    A contest was held in 1943 to rename the team, but the winning nickname, the Blue Jays, failed to catch on.

    Phillies is just phine.

Washington Nationals

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    SECAUCUS, NJ - JUNE 07:  A detailed view of a Washington National baseball during the MLB First Year Player Draft on June 7, 2010 held in Studio 42 at the MLB Network in Secaucus, New Jersey.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Washington's original baseball franchise was known as both the Senators and Nationals.

    When the Montreal Expos moved to the capital, the nickname was fittingly revived.

Chicago Cubs

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    SECAUCUS, NJ - JUNE 07:  Team representative of the Chicago Cubs Billy Williams looks on during the MLB First Year Player Draft on June 7, 2010 held in Studio 42 at the MLB Network in Secaucus, New Jersey.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Thankfully a local newspaper nicknamed Chicago's team the Cubs in 1902 because of their young roster.

    It had previously been known as the Orphans.

Cincinnati Reds

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    SCOTTSDALE, AZ - MARCH 14:  Scott Rolen #27 of the Cincinnati Reds against the Colorodo Rockies during the spring training baseball game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on March 14, 2011 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Ima
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    The franchise was originally named the Red Stockings because of the red socks the players wore.

    The name was shortened to Redlegs, and eventually just the Reds.

Houston Astros

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    LAKELAND, FL - MARCH 02:  Oswaldo Navarro #26 of the Houston Astros looks to the dugout after hitting an eight inning three run home run during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium on March 2, 2011 in Lakeland, Florida. The Astros
    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Houston was the center of the astronaut program in the United States.

    Until it began playing its games in the Astrodome, the team was called the Colt .45's.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    SCOTTSDALE, AZ - MARCH 14:  Prince Fielder#28 of the Milwaukee Brewers swings the bat in the dugout prior to the start of the spring training baseball game against the San Francisco Giants during the spring training baseball game at Scottsdale Stadium on
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    The team was founded as the Seattle Pilots, and moved to Milwaukee in 1970.

    Milwaukee is known for its brewing industry.

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    BRADENTON, FL - MARCH 12:  Infielder Lyle Overbay #37 of the Pittsburgh Pirates rounds the bases after his home run against the Philadelphia Phillies during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at McKechnie Field on March 12, 2011 in Bradenton, Florid
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    When the Pittsburgh Alleghenys signed Lou Bierbauer, a star second baseman at the time, it was said to be a "piratical" move.

    It is said that a sportswriter claimed they "pirated" him away from the Philadelphia Athletics, who had forgotten to include him on their reserve list.

    Pittsburgh poked fun at the accusations and renamed themselves the Pirates in 1891.

St. Louis Cardinals

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    JUPITER, FL - MARCH 06:  First baseman Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals plays against the Florida Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium on March 6, 2011 in Jupiter, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    A St. Louis columnist heard a woman describe the team's socks as cardinal red and included the nickname in his articles.

    The name gained popularity and was officially changed from Perfectos in 1900.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    SCOTTSDALE, AZ - MARCH 09:  Wily Mo Pena #16 of the Arizona Diamondbacks bats against the Milwaukee Brewers during the spring training game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on March 9, 2011 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    A diamondback is a venomous type of rattlesnake native to the region.

    The nickname was chosen in a fan contest above entries such as Coyotes, Phoenix, Rattlers, and Scorpions.

Colorado Rockies

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    SCOTTSDALE, AZ - MARCH 14: Troy Tulowitzki #2 of the Colorodo Rockies against the Cincinnati Reds  during the spring training baseball game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on March 14, 2011 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Colorado's team was named after the Rocky Mountains because they are strong, enduring, and majestic.

    Fans preferred the Bears, but management decided on the Rockies.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 15:  Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda #2  of the Los Angeles Dodgers visit with coach Dave Anderson #16  of the Texas Rangers during the spring training baseball game at Camelback Ranch on March 15, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Phot
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    The name refers to people who dodged trolleys on the streets of Brooklyn, where the team originated.

    It had been previously nicknamed the Bridegrooms, Superbas, Robins, and Trolley Dodgers before the move to Los Angeles.

San Diego Padres

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    PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 15:  Ryan Ludwick #47 of the San Diego Padres is congratulated by teammates Orlando Hudson #1 and Brad Hawpe #11 after hitting a 2 run home run against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the third inning of the spring training gam
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Padres is Spanish for father or priest.

    Friars founded San Diego in 1769, and began the first Spanish Mission in California in the city.

San Francisco Giants

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    SCOTTSDALE, AZ - MARCH 14:  Matt Cain #18 of the San Francisco Giants throws a pitch against the Milwaukee Brewers during the spring training baseball game at Scottsdale Stadium on March 14, 2011 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    Formally the New York Gothams, it is said the team received its nickname after the players were described as giants after a big win in Philly.

    The team kept the name the Giants upon its move to San Francisco.