Breaking Down the Origin of Minor League Baseball's 7 Strangest Team Names
Born in 1985, I feel genuinely privileged to have grown up watching The Simpsons. Having now been on the air for 23 seasons, one of the show's most historic episodes was 1992’s “Homer at the Bat,” where C. Montgomery Burns lands then-big leaguers Wade Boggs, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey, Jr., Don Mattingly, Steve Sax, Mike Scioscia, Ozzie Smith and Darryl Strawberry to play for his company softball team. Each player’s actual voice was used in the episode.
However, that wasn’t the show’s only baseball-related episode. There was “Dancing Homer,” where Homer’s booze-infused dance moves spark a rally and land him a one-game gig as the Capital City Goofball.
And who can forget the Mark McGwire cameo in “Brother’s Little Helper,” when he arrives in a helicopter to calm the residents of Springfield after Bart knocks a spy satellite from the sky.
His famous line: “Do you want to know the terrifying truth, or do you want me to see me sock a few dingers?”
The widespread appreciation of The Simpsons even led to the naming of the Albuquerque Isotopes, based on the 2001 episode entitled “Hungry, Hungry Homer.”
Here is a look at the full story behind the naming of the Isotopes, as well as some of the other bizarre team names throughout the minor leagues.
Relocating from Calgary prior to the 2003 season, the Isotopes—the Los Angeles Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League—adopted their team name from the greatest animated show of all time, The Simpsons.
In the episode “Hungry, Hungry Homer,” which first aired on March 4, 2001, Homer drunkenly stumbles upon his hometown Springfield Isotopes' scheme to move the team to Albuquerque while retaining the Isotopes moniker. In the end, Homer prevents the relocation by staging a hunger strike—hence the episode’s name.
Idaho Falls Chukars
The Pioneer League Rookie-level affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, the Chukars play their home games in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Before researching it, I would guessed that the team name, the Chukars, was derived from a common vocation within Idaho Falls. Considering that I’ve never been anywhere close to Idaho, it’s not surprising that I was way off.
Apparently, a Chukar is a game bird indigenous to the Idaho Falls region. Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that the team held a fan vote following the 2003 season that resulted in the selection of that name.
For all you non-farmers out there like myself, “muck” is a type of soil that’s ideal for growing vegetables such as onions, carrots, celery and potatoes, to name a few.
The St. Louis Cardinals’ Class-A Short Season affiliate, the Muckdogs play their home games in Batavia, New York—more specifically, in Genesee County.
According to the Holland Land Office Museum, the muckland of Torrey Farms of Elba, New York is regarded as the largest non-partitioned area in the world and includes Genesee County.
However, that still doesn’t explain the role of a Muckdog in the mysterious mucking process.
Ah yes, another farming reference. I have no problem admitting that for about a year, I was convinced that the team name was the Clearwater Thrashers, probably because it seemed more intimidating.
Adopting the team name in 2004, the Threshers—the Philadelphia Phillies’ High-A affiliate in the Florida State League—are based in Clearwater, Florida.
However, little did I know that a thresher (or a threshing machine, as I have come to learn) is actually vital towards the separation of a stalk of grain from the straw, as well as the subsequent separation of the kernel from the rest of the head.
It's also a species of shark, which makes a whole lot more sense given the team's logo.
Pensacola Blue Wahoos
Formerly the Carolina Mudcats from 1991-2011, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos—the Cincinnati Reds' Double-A affiliate in the Southern League—is one of the more puzzling minor league team names.
Personally, I would have cast a vote for the Pensacola Baconators.
This one is actually as simple as it is weird.
The Tampa Bay Rays’ Double-A affiliate in the Southern League, the Biscuits have called Montgomery home since the 2004 season.
Much like some of the other team names on this list, the team was named “The Biscuits” after the owners held a contest. Since deciding on the name, the affiliate has entirely embraced the marketing potential by naming the in-stadium team store the “Biscuit Basket,” as well as firing actual biscuits into the crowd using an air cannon during games—a pragmatic method for discarding stale biscuits.
Richmond Flying Squirrels
In conjunction with the team’s relocation from Norwich, Connecticut to Richmond, Virginia in September of 2009, the Richmond Times-Dispatch held a team-naming contest in October of 2009. As you might have already deduced, “Flying Squirrels” took home the prize and was dubbed the moniker for the Giants' Double-A affiliate—which speaks volumes about the quality of submissions.
I guess they overlooked my entry form for the “Ring-Tailed Lemurs.” It’s both exotic and endangered.