Vote: Miami Marlins a good name change?

September, 16, 2011
9/16/11
6:31
PM ET
So the Florida Marlins will be renamed the Miami Marlins next season, when they move into their new retractable-roof, 37,000-seat ballpark in Little Havana, about two miles from downtown Miami.

Name changes are nothing new in baseball, although fairly rare in the past 50 years. In the early part of the 20th century, team nicknames were somewhat unofficial, with the local media usually creating monikers that became de facto nicknames. For example, when Cleveland joined the American League in 1901, it was original known as the "Bluebirds," which the players hated, so "Blues" became the common usage. The next year, the players tried "Broncos," which never caught on. In 1903, the Cleveland club became the Naps, in honor of star second baseman Nap Lajoie, a nickname apparently decided upon by a newspaper contest.

Later, some referred to the team as the "Molly McGuires," after the coal workers who had attempted to unionize in Pennsylvania in the 1870s. Needless to say, that nickname didn't catch on. When Lajoie joined the Philadelphia A's in 1915, another newspaper contest was held, with "Indians" winning out. Legend has it that the name honored former Cleveland player Lou Sockalexis, a Penobscot Indian, who played for the Cleveland Spiders of the National League in 1897 and briefly the two next seasons. Historians now dispute the origin of that story as a more politically correct revision of history. Considering Sockalexis played fewer than 100 games with the old Spiders and was dismissed from the team due to alcohol problems, the truth is probably that club owners simply liked the nickname, especially since the Boston Braves had just won the 1914 World Series. Anyway, the "Indians" name never appeared on the team's uniform until 1946.

Other teams had name changes. The Boston Braves were actually known as the Boston Bees from 1936 through 1940, before going back to Braves. Before they became the "Dodgers," the Brooklyn club was variously known as the Bridgegrooms, Superbas or Robins (from 1914 to 1931, after popular manager Wilbert Robinson). "Robins" never appeared on the teams uniforms, but "Dodgers" first appeared in 1932.

Anyway, here are the last five teams to change names, not including franchise re-locations:

Florida Marlins become Miami Marlins. This will become official in November, when the team's new uniforms will also be unveiled.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays become the Tampa Bay Rays. Let's just say the team wasn't too successful under the "Devil Rays" moniker. When Stuart Sternberg took over as prinicipal owner he pushed for a change; for 2008, the nickname change became official. "We were tied to the past, and the past wasn't necessarily something we wanted to be known for. Nobody's running from it or hiding from it, and we're proud of certain aspects of it, but this is something the organization was able to really put their arms around," Sternberg said.

Los Angeles Angels to California Angels to Anaheim Angels to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. From 1961 to 1964, the team was known as the Los Angeles Angels, and played one season in Wrigley Field (no, not THAT Wrigley Field) and four years at Dodger Stadium. The team changed its name to the California Angels late in the '65 season, in anticipation of its move to Anaheim Stadium in 1966. When Disney purchased the club and renovated the stadium, the city of Anaheim contributed $30 million to the project, with a stipulation that the team change its name, so in 1997 it became the Anaheim Angels. In 2005, the official name was changed to Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, although most national media outlets refer to the club as the Los Angeles Angels.

Houston Colt .45s become Houston Astros. Originally named after the gun, the team changed its name when it moved into its new domed stadium in 1965.

Cincinnati Reds become Cincinnati Redlegs. This is my favorite. From 1954 trough 1959, the Reds were known as the Redlegs? Why? With the McCarthy hearings and the fear of the Soviets, the team didn't want to be associated with communists, commonly known as "Reds." The team's 1954 and 1955 uniforms continued to use "Reds" on the chest logo, however. The name didn't stick and the club went back to "Reds" in 1960.

David Schoenfield | email

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