Given that baseball is the oldest professional team sport in America, it is hardly surprising that other sports teams often derive their names from baseball teams, usually those that they once shared a city with. In general, they fall into a few different categories:
- Those that just plain copied or used the name of the baseball team.
- Those who made a name that played off of the baseball team’s name.
- Those that have a history with a baseball team but have since sort of morphed into something else, while keeping a vague link.
- Names that actually aren’t connected, but everyone thinks they are.
Take a look after the jump:
The New York Giants
One of the first shared team names that often comes to mind are the New York Giants. The now-San Francisco Giants began using the name in the 1880s when, according to legend, the team’s manager Jim Mutrie declared that the players were “his giants” after a big victory. Given the fact that they originally shared the Polo Grounds with baseball’s Giants, as well as the how large some football players are, it was only fitting that the NFL’s original New York City team took on the name of “Giants” as well. To differentiate itself from the baseball team legally, the official name of the team’s incorporated business is still the “New York Football Giants,” hence why you sometimes hear them referred to as such, despite the fact the baseball Giants haven’t played a home game in New York in 55 years.
The Washington Redskins are from the Boston Braves
Although many have often protested the often stereotypical traditions surrounding the logos and mascots of the Atlanta Braves and Washington Redskins. What many don’t know is that the two are connected, and aren’t even directly related to Native Americans, but instead to political machines. You see, the Braves- who’s ancestry can be drawn all the way to the original 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings (most of the Red Stockings moved to Boston after that original team folded, although Cincinnati would pick up most of the imagery about the original professional team)- had gone through a variety of names, including the Red Stockings, Beaneaters, Doves, and Rustlers. It was in 1912 that they became the Braves, primarily because their owner, James Gaffney, was a member of the Tammany Hall political machine, which had a Indian-Head as it’s symbol at the time.
Fast-forward through time. In 1932, the Boston Braves football team was founded, playing at Braves Field, and taking their name from their baseball-playing landlord. After a year, however, they moved to Fenway, and so changed their name to Redskins, keeping the Native American imagery while also playing on the Red Sox name in a sick and twisted type of way (Red Sox… and Redskins). They kept the name when they headed south to the District of the Columbia.
One wonders what would have happened if they had changed their name to Red Sox. Would the Fenway Faithful and the Hogettes be in a cold war over the name?
Bears and Cubs, Lions and Tigers
In the cases of Chicago and Detroit, the names of the NFL teams were done to play off the MLB team, but not copy it. Chicago Cubs and Chicago Bears. Detroit Tigers and Detroit Lions. The fact that Detroit never got around to having their NBA or NHL teams be named the Bears is a bit disappointing.
The Cardinals are not actually named for the Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals, despite the fact they once played in St. Louis, were not named for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team. Instead, it goes back to their time in Chicago. The team was rather poor in the early 20th century, a Semi-Pro team that had to buy it’s uniforms from the University of Chicago. Technically, the uniforms were supposed to be maroon, but the colors had faded into a Cardinal color… so the team began to go by the Cardinals name.
It rhymes with Mets and Jets
The New York/New Jersey/Brooklyn Nets got their name, besides the obvious basketball connotations, because the name rhymed with two pre-existing teams, one of them baseball: The New York Mets and New York Jets.
Names that go with Cities
Some cities, before the days where trademarks and merchandising were so important, often used the same name for all of their teams. Charlotte, for example, has used the name “Hornets” several times, first for a Minor League Baseball team, then a short-lived pro football team in the World Football League (a wanna-be contender to the NFL in the 1970s), and then a basketball team, which has since moved to New Orleans. The Buffalo Bisons may now just be a AAA baseball team, but in the past the name was also used for MLB teams in the 19th century, pro football teams in the 1920s and 40s and the pre-Sabres hockey team. There are plenty of other examples…