Early Team Names
I wrote this some 25 years ago, in a letter to friend Geoff Ward, but I post it today in response to a Twitter request for odd and interesting baseball team names. The Newark, New Jersey, team in the 1884 Eastern League had the most quotidian nickname of all time–the Domestics. Contrast that with its league rivals the Quicksteps of Wilmington, Delaware, and the Actives of Reading, Pennsylvania. The famous Excelsior Club of Brooklyn was originally formed in the 1850s as the JYBBBC, standing for the Jolly Young Bachelors Base Ball Club.
Many clubs were named after volunteer fire companies, such as the Knickerbockers and Mutuals, both of New York, the Alerts of Philadelphia, the Americus of Newark, the Resolutes of Elizabeth, New Jersey, and countless more in this vigilant vein. The Civil War supplied some grand names, such as the Antietam of Hagerstown, Maryland, the Monitor of Westport, Connecticut, and the McLellan of New Jersey.
Cosmological visions might have led to the naming of the Eons of Portland, Maine, the Constellations of Brooklyn, the Meteors of Addison, New York, the Mystics of New York, the Orions of Philadelphia, and the Harmony of Brooklyn.
Those of an exclamatory bent might have named the Eurekas of Newark, the Excelsiors of Brooklyn, and the Hunkidoris of Wheeling, West Virginia.
Literature may have given us the Pequods of New London, Connecticut, the Hiawathas of Kittanning, Pennsylvania, and the Mohicans of Hightstown, Maryland.
One is caught short by the Surprise Club of West Farms, New York, and the Black Joke of New York, and the Wide Awakes of Hartford and Monumentals of Baltimore.
On the major league level, besides the oft-remarked Cleveland Spiders and Brooklyn Bridegrooms, we have such marvels as the Molly Maguires of Cleveland (as the current Indians were known for a couple of years at the turn of the century), the New York Highlanders (so named not only because their ballpark, known as Hilltop Park, occupied the high ground now taken by Columbia Presbyterian, but also because their owner’s name was Joseph Gordon … Gordon’s Highlanders).
We also have, as major league entrants, the Troy Haymakers; St. Louis Maroons, a.k.a. Black Diamonds; Boston Rustlers (later known as the Braves); Boston Pilgrims (today’s Red Sox); Chicago Whales (Federal League, which also gave us the Newark Peps, Baltimore Terrapins, and Brooklyn Tip-Tops); Baltimore Canaries (National Association, 1872-74); Worcester Ruby Legs; Louisville Eclipse; Cincinnati Porkers; Toledo Maumees; and the Cleveland (again!) Infants.
Which last named brings to mind the neat little story of Adrian Anson and the White Stockings: as a young player, before he became the famous captain of the Chicago nine, thus the nickname “Cap,” he was an umpire-baiter and complainer par excellence for the Rockford Forest City and Philadelphia Athletic clubs, at which time his universally accepted nickname was “Baby”–this for being a crybaby, principally, but also because he was the first white baby born in Marshalltown, Iowa, a tedious fact that became even more tiresome through repetition in the press. As Anson’s playing career extended prodigiously into its third decade, his nickname became “Pop,” and his inexperienced charges, the wretched White Stockings of 1893 and ’94, became known as the Colts. This team nickname was also the basis of a starring vehicle that melodramatist Charles Hoyt wrote for Anson in 1895 called A Runaway Colt. When Chicago fired Anson as manager after the 1897 season, Pop’s team became known in the press as the Orphans.