We all know baseball players have funny names. But baseball teams often have equally-ludicrous nicknames. While today’s nicknames are relatively tame (even though I still have no idea what a Met is, besides a stupid grinning baseball man), baseball teams in the early years of the sport were truly remarkable. Here are some of the team names we’d love to see make a comeback.
The Cincinnati Kelly’s Killers
When you have a great ballplayer joining your new club, you name the team after him. Cincinnati’s American Association franchise, formed in 1891, was named for Mike “King” Kelly, who had played 13 seasons in Cincinnati, Boston, and Chicago. Kelly was a celebrity on and off the diamond. He performed on the vaudeville circuit on occasion, and wrote his own autobiography called Play Ball: Stories from the Ballfield.
Despite the name, Kelly’s Killers weren’t all that threatening. The team went 43-50 in their only season, after which Kelly returned to the Boston Beaneaters (another great team name) and the team moved to Milwaukee. Kelly died shortly after ending his playing career, but he was later enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Why don’t we name teams of today after star players? “The Los Angeles Kershaw’s Killers” has a nice ring to it.
The Burghers were part of the Players’ League, which existed only for one year in 1890. Apparently a “burgher” is a “member of the middle class; a prosperous solid citizen,” particularly in reference to Dutch and German culture. But middle class Dutchmen don’t have the same promotional material as burgers. Imagine it! Bunt-A-Burger: if Pittsburgh gets a bunt single, everyone gets a free burger! Burgers and Mash: if Pittsburgh hits three home runs, free burgers for everyone! Ten cent burger night!!!
Someone get the CEO of Five Guys on the phone…I’ve got a great idea for them.
“Quick: Let’s think of a strong, intimidating name, one that will strike fear into our opponents and show that we’re a serious baseball team.”
“Nah, I’ve got a better idea…”
Like the Burghers, the Infants were part of the Player’s League, and folded after the 1890 season. But baby names are making a comeback: last offseason Miami’s Triple-A affiliate changed their name to the New Orleans Baby Cakes, and unveiled a logo inspired by that creepy doll from Toy Story.
Ah, now this is a threatening name! The gladiators, the ancient Roman warriors of the arena! Spartacus! Russell Crowe! Now we’re getting somewhere…
Or not. The Gladiators only played one season in the American Association, and finished dead last with a 26-73 record. Only three players on the Gladiators (including my new favorite Gladiator Jumbo Davis) ever played professional ball after the Gladiators folded.
No, we are not entertained.
All of the previous teams played only one season, but the Pittsburgh Stogies played only one game. Originally formed as the Chicago Browns, the organization was part of the Union Association in 1884. They played just one game in Chicago before moving to Pittsburgh and changing their name to the Stogies. They didn’t fare any better; the Stogies too played just one game before the franchise folded, with most of the players moving south to Baltimore to play for the Monumentals.
Two later Pittsburgh ballclubs players briefly under the nickname “Stogies.” The Pittsburgh Filipinos, a minor league ballclub who’s nickname may or may not be more offensive than the current Washington NFL team, played as the Stogies in 1913. Just a year later, the major league team in Pittsburgh went by the nickname “Stogies” before changing their name to the Rebels for the 1915 season.
Which names did we miss? Let us know in the comments, or on Twitter @standingroombaseball!
Scott is the guy you see at the ballpark with a loaded hot dog in one hand and a marked-up scorecard in the other. He’s been following baseball since 2006, when his beloved Tigers made the World Series. Scott is an expert in baseball film trivia, a connoisseur of ballpark food, and a firm believer that pitchers should have to bat (I’m looking at you, Bartolo Colon).