The crazy stories behind five of the weirdest team names in Major League history
What's in a name? That which we call the Royals or Mets would by any other name probably play just as well. But, really, what's the fun in that? If there's one thing we know about baseball, after all, it's that it has been and always will be indescribably weird. So, in celebration of some of the most spectacularly bizarre corners of the game's history, we've rounded up some of the very strangest team names from baseball history.
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this was not a baseball-Oliver Twist hybrid musical, charming though that would've been. In the early days of the National League, the Chicago White Stockings were a powerhouse, winning five pennants from 1880-1886 behind star infielder Cap Anson -- the first player to enter the 3,000-hit club, thanks in part to a year in which walks counted as hits.
The good times couldn't last forever, though. As Chicago began to slip near the turn of the century, the franchise released Anson, who by then was both player and manager. The local media took the news ... pretty hard: They began referring to the team as the "Orphans," adrift without their leader.
Cincinnati Kelly's Killers
Disclaimer: No one was actually killed during the course of this franchise. In fact, "Kelly's Killers" was never technically the name of a Major League franchise. Before the 1891 season, the Cincinnati Reds decided to jump from the American Association to the rival National League. The Association was blindsided, and quickly scrambled to find a replacement.
They eventually did, and the team hired Mike "King" Kelly as manager. Except, well, the franchise never exactly settled on a name. Most media members just referred to it as the Reds out of habit, but in time, a new moniker emerged: Kelly's Killers. Which, when you consider the man's mustache, makes a certain amount of sense.
Our most fervent wishes to the contrary, the Naps did not earn their nickname by walking out onto the field and promptly falling asleep. Although its actual origin might be even more impressive -- "Naps" was inspired by a single player, Napoleon "Nap" Lajoie, who only arrived in Cleveland thanks to a plot twist out of a telenovela.
Lajoie was already a star for the National League's Philadelphia Phillies when, in 1901, he decided to jump to the crosstown A's of the American League for a significant pay raise. The Phillies issued an injunction, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in their favor. But there was a loophole: The injunction was only valid in the state of Pennsylvania, so the A's dealt Lajoie to the then-moribund Cleveland Blues.
How big of a deal was Lajoie's arrival? He was immediately named a team captain, and a year later a write-in contest resulted in the franchise being named after him. Nap followed it up by winning the A.L. batting title that season, and would stay with the team until 1915 -- at which point a crestfallen Cleveland media came up with "Indians". Fear not, though: Thanks to Francisco Lindor, the real spirit of the original name lives on to this day.
Brooklyn Trolley Dodgers/Bridegrooms/Superbas
It's become so iconic that we hardly even think about it, but how did a baseball team come to be named "the Dodgers" anyway? Come, as we go down a rabbit hole of wedding vows and public transportation.
After beginning its existence with such mundane monikers as "Atlantics" and "Grays," the team was dubbed the Bridegrooms (eventually just shortened to Grooms) because, you guessed it, a bunch of their players got married in rapid succession. Clearly not content with how frivolous that was, however, the name changed again when the team was sold to Ned Hanlon in 1899: There was a popular Brooklyn vaudeville troupe named "Hanlon's Superbas," and local media thought it would be a fun gag, so it stuck. As proof that this is all totally real, we submit the following:
As for the origin of "Dodgers"? At the time, Brooklyn was filled with trolley lines, and as they moved to electric power and became more dangerous, "trolley dodging" became a part of everyday life. Trolley Dodgers became an increasingly popular name for the club, until finally, in 1932, the team legally changed its name from the Brooklyn Base Ball Club to the Dodgers.
St. Louis Perfectos
A little cocky? Sure. But hey, they were just being honest: After years of futility as the St. Louis Browns, the franchise was sold to the Robison brothers, who just so happened to also own the Cleveland Spiders. "But wait," you ask, "isn't that a pretty significant conflict of interest?" You're absolutely right, but what can we say, it was the Gilded Age.
Prior to the 1899 season, the Robisons sent nearly all of the Spiders' best players to St. Louis -- including Cy Young, pictured here in the lower left corner:
The team decided it needed a nickname to reflect its newfound awesomeness. Unfortunately, that didn't totally translate onto the field: Though the Perfectos' 84-67 finish was the best in franchise history, it was only good enough for fifth place in the American Association.
That year had a much more significant impact on baseball fashion, though -- it was the first year the franchise wore red trim and socks. St. Louis Republic writer Willie McHale overheard one woman at the ballpark remark, "What a lovely shade of cardinal," and the rest is history.