Wednesday, January 20, 2010

National League History 101

There are now sixteen teams in the National League. Only eleven of those teams still play in the same city where they started. Of those the eleven teams, six are expansion teams that came into existence since 1962. That leaves just five organizations that have not moved. The Phillies (1883), Cubs (1876), Pirates (1882), Cardinals (1882) and Reds (1882) still reside in the city of their birth.

Of the five teams above, only the Phillies name has endured from inception to current day. Even that fact must be denoted with an asterisk. There were two periods when the Phillies carried dual-names. Initially, they answered to the Quakers and Phillies. During World War II, a contest to rename the Phillies resulted in another split personality, the Blue Jays and the Phillies. Fan and press disdain for the new moniker killed the Blue Jay name after 1945.

The Cardinals began as the Browns, a name later claimed by the American League team in St. Louis.

The Cincinnati organization was originally the Red Stockings until 1890 before being simplified to the Reds. From 1953 to 1958, the McCarthy Communist witch hunt forced the name change from the Reds to the Redlegs.

The Pirates began life as the Alleghenies. People had a hard enough time spelling Pittsburg (I mean Pittsburgh) let alone Alleghenies. After a brief run as the Innocents, the Pirates name was assumed in 1891.

Finally, the Chicago team was, at birth, the White Stockings, followed by the Colts, Orphans, and finally Cubs in 1902. When the American League was created in 1902, the Southside team in Chicago grabbed the name White Stockings for themselves.

The Atlanta Braves began in Boston in 1876 as the Boston Red Caps. This team carries the honor of having played under the most team names. They have been called the Beaneaters, Doves, Rustlers, Braves, Bees, and finally back to the Braves in 1953 when they fled Boston for greener pastures in Milwaukee. How proud it must have made a Boston player to call himself a Beaneater. In 1965, Braves ownership was lured away from Milwaukee to Atlanta.

The Los Angeles Dodgers may be the most famous city jumper even though they only moved once, in 1958. Walter O'Malley made a lucrative deal for himself in southern California after convincing Giants owner Horace Stoneham to move west with him. The Dodgers own the runner-up prize for most names. They started out in 1884, as the Grays, before morphing into the Bridegrooms, Superbas, Dodgers, Robins, and back to Dodgers in 1932. The original Dodger nickname came from Trolley Dodgers, which, if counted as an official name would tie them with the Braves for most name changes.

The San Francisco Giants began in 1883 as the New York Gothams and soon adopted the name Giants which has endured for more than a century.

Only one NL expansion team has moved. The Montreal Expos came into the league in 1969 as the first team to be based outside of the United States. The name Expos was borrowed from the World's Fair held in Montreal in 1967. After several years of rumored repatriation, the Expos came home to the U.S. in 2005 as the Washington Nationals.

Just one NL expansion team has changed its name. The Houston Colt .45s paid tribute to NASA's space command center in Houston by renaming the team the Astros and moving into the Astrodome.

American League History 101 will be presented in the next post.

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