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

Atlanta Braves

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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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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    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.