Baseball wins prize for strange names


If you study baseball history, you’ll come across some fascinating team names. Even if you don’t study baseball history, perhaps you will at least find some of the team names interesting.

Pop Chart Lab developed a comprehensive taxonomy of 482 professional baseball teams. The period spans more than 150 years, covering teams from the Major League to the minor and independent leagues, as well as the Negro Leagues, the Nippon Professional Baseball league and more.

Picture if you will, an 18-inch by 24-inch print styled like an old school baseball card. The rest is, as they say, baseball history, and serves as the definitive guide to baseball team names.

The print is titled “Baseball: A Meticulous Metric of Team Names.”

It is safe to say that the weirdest names derive from three settings: (1) very early days when the names might have not seemed all that unusual but have become so over time; (2) low minor league teams, and (3) independent league teams, both of which hope to use a quirky name as a marketing gimmick to sell a few tickets or T-shirts.

The team names appear under several broad categories: inanimate objects, people, natural features, concepts, place of origin, and plants and animals.

Each of the six major categories is then subdivided. For example, inanimate objects features a subcategory called weapons. Some team names in that subcategory are the Poto­mac Cannons, Winnipeg Whips, Williamsport Tomahawks and Colorado Silver Bullets.

Another subcategory is raw commodities, with teams such as the Norfolk Tars and Visalia Rawhide.

The Wichita Wingnuts and Corpus Christi Hooks are among the teams in the subcategory described as tools and fasteners.

Food is yet another subcategory, with team names such as Kansas City T-Bones, Atlanta Crackers, Reading Pretzels and Modesto Nuts.

Space won’t allow me to cover teams from every subcategory, but here are some of the more fascinating team names in the other major categories.

People: Quad Cities River Bandits, El Paso Banditos, Cleveland Infants, Omaha Storm Chasers and Kansas City Royals.

Concepts: West Virginia Power, Nashville Sounds, Chicago Unions, Wichita Aeros and Salt Lake Buzz.

Places of Origin: Newark Newarks, Pittsburgh Burghers, Sioux City Soos, Washington Nationals and New York Gothams.

Natural features: Worcester Tornadoes, McAllen Thunder, Texas Heat, Niagara Falls Rapids and Colorado Rockies.

Plants and animals: Rocky Mount Pines, Cape Fear Crocs, Victoria Rosebuds, Winston-Salem Warthogs, Toledo Mud Hens.

While we’re on the subject of baseball history, did you know the Fort Wayne Kekiongas were a professional team noted for winning the first professional league game May 4, 1871?

According to Wikipedia, Kekionga is the name of Chief Little Turtle’s Miami Indian settlement, where the St. Joseph River and the St. Mary’s River join to form the Maumee River. This was the largest settlement of the Miami tribe.

The honor of playing the first game of the newly organized National Association of Professional Baseball Players was decided by a coin flip.

The game was rained out in the top of the ninth inning. Attendance was 200, and the home-plate umpire was John Boake.

Bobby Mathews was the imposing pitcher for the winning Kekiongas, who won 2-0 over the Cleveland Forest Citys. Well, maybe he wasn’t so imposing, standing 5 feet, 5 inches tall and weighing in at 140 lbs.

Mathews, the only player ever to pitch 100 games or to win at least 50 in three different major leagues, is credited with inventing the spitball and the out-curve.

So does it matter? Well, it does if you happen to be on Jeopardy and the final category pertains to baseball history.


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