These are the 25 best team nicknames of all time

From 'Hitless Wonders' to 'Idiots' to 'The Bomba Squad'

December 27th, 2020

A great nickname celebrates, decorates and resonates. When you say "The Splendid Splinter" or "Mr. October" or "The Georgia Peach," you don't have to add the bearer's formal name to create clarity.

Such nicknames are most commonly bestowed upon individual players. But sometimes a team develops such a personality or occupies such a particular place in the public consciousness that its "given name" alone won't do.

We're not talking here about names like "The Bronx Bombers" (Yankees) or "The Snakes" (D-backs) or "The North Siders" (Cubs) that transcend eras and often stand in as a replacement for the team's actual nickname. We're talking about names from a more specific point in time, making special seasons all the more storied.

Let's revisit and rank the best team nicknames of all-time.

1. "The Big Red Machine" (1970s Reds)
As good as it gets -- both as a team and as a nickname.

Though affixed to the 1970s Reds who won six division titles and two World Series championships, the nickname is actually said to date to 1969. The Reds finished in third place that season, but Pete Rose bought a new red car that he called "The Little Red Machine." Soon, he and his teammates tweaked and applied the name to the team at large. It caught on in the media and among fans as the Machine steamrolled MLB in the years to come, and it says here that it stands as the most magnificent moniker ever bestowed upon a ballclub.

2. "Murderers' Row" (1927 Yankees)
The term was actually coined to initially refer to the heart of the Yankees' order before Babe Ruth arrived. But it really caught on with the Ruth- and Lou Gehrig-led teams of the 1920s and is most often associated with that 110-win team that had a plus-376 run differential.

3. "The Amazin' Mets" and "The Miracle Mets" (1969 Mets)
After posting sub-.500 (and, often, 100-loss) records the entirety of their existence going into 1969, the Mets rallied from 10 games back of the Cubs in mid-August and won the newly created NL East by eight games. A run that wild which resulted in the franchise's first World Series title deserves a great nickname. Or two.

4. "Idiots" (2004 Red Sox)
Sometimes, the less thinking you do the better. This Red Sox team -- a group described by manager Terry Francona as "borderline nuts" -- made history by playing the game with little regard for the weight of an 86-year drought or the history of 3-0 series deficits. "We're just the idiots this year," leadoff man Johnny Damon told reporters. "We got guys just acting like idiots, and I think the fans out there like it." Only an idiot would argue with that.

5. "Harvey's Wallbangers" (1982 Brewers)
Inspired work. Though there is not widespread agreement on the origin of the name "Harvey Wallbanger" for the mixed drink (vodka, Galliano and orange juice), there is widespread agreement that the name perfectly applies to a Brew Crew club that was taken over midseason by manager Harvey Kuenn and banged its way to an American League League pennant with a Major League-leading 216 homers.

6. "The Family" (1979 Pirates)
Many other ballclubs over the years have claimed to be a "family." But only one had timely backing of a Sister Sledge song ("We Are Family," duh) that went to No. 2 on the pop charts combined with an MVP season from a slugger affectionately known as "Pops." A World Series title was a fine family inheritance.

7. "The Gashouse Gang" (1934 Cardinals)
A "gashouse" was a factory that turned coal to gas for lighting and cooking, and the foul-smelling plants were deemed an accurate descriptor of a Cardinals club that wore, per the description of The New York Sun, "stained and dirty and patched and ill-fitting" uniforms while employing an aggressive style on the field. It is applied generally to the Cardinals of the 1930s, but most specifically to the '34 team that beat the Tigers in seven games. What a gas.

8. "The Go-Go Sox" (1959 White Sox)
Al Lopez's scrappy Sox captured the AL title with a mixture of speed, pitching and defense and the backing of a peppy fight song ("Let's Go, Go-Go White Sox"). Alas, it would be several years before Go-Go boots would catch on with the country at large.

9. "The Bomba Squad" (2019 Twins)
Admittedly some recency bias with this ranking. But the Twins did set a single-season home run record (307), and, in the eloquent words of Eddie Rosario, "When you're hitting a lot of bombas, everybody's hitting bombas, [and] everybody's happy." Irrefutable.

10. "The Swingin' A's" (1972-74 Athletics)
The nickname worked for this unorthodox, character-laden band of long-haired, mustachioed free spirits, who have also been referred to as "The Big Green Machine."

11. "The Evil Empire" (2000s Yankees)
For many, this reference to the Galactic Empire from "Star Wars" still endures as a regular reference to the big-spending Yanks. But it has a particular association with the mid-2000s, when the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry was at an apex. Boston team president Larry Lucchino, upset over getting beaten out by the Yanks for Jose Contreras' services prior to the 2003 season, said, "The Evil Empire extends its tentacles even into Latin America." The phrase wound up lasting a lot longer than Contreras did in pinstripes.

12. "Bless You Boys" (1984 Tigers)
The beatified name actually has biting roots. Detroit sportscaster Al Ackerman sarcastically said, "Bless you, boys" when reporting on the Tigers snapping a long losing skid in 1983. But when the Tigers started off the '84 season 35-5, "Bless You Boys" fit Sparky Anderson's charmed bunch, and Anderson wound up using it as the title of his popular diary that chronicled the championship season.

13. "The Broad Street Bellies" (1993 Phillies)
"I ain't an athlete, I'm a ballplayer" was the wisdom of first baseman (and beer-league softball player extraordinaire) John Kruk. And Kruk perfectly personified a throwback team that charmed us with its unkempt image en route to an NL pennant. Of course, it's a play on the "Broad Street Bullies" name that belongs to the Flyers of the 1970s. Philly birthed a nation and, it turns out, some good nicknames, too.

14. "The Black Sox" (1919 White Sox)
It is the most infamous of baseball teams. But one cannot deny the quality of the nickname, taking the purity of the real team name and contaminating it with the stain of scandal. Of course, as anybody who has screwed up their laundry can attest, it's surprising the White Sox mingling with the Reds in the 1919 World Series didn't result in the Pink Sox.

15. "The Windians" (2017 Indians)
It's been around a while, but this twist on the team name truly caught on and will forever be associated with the 2017 team that won an AL-record 22 consecutive games. Proof that a great nickname does not require a great amount of thought.

16. "The Bronx Zoo" (1978 Yankees)
'Twas a motley mix for the Yankees in the late 1970s, what with Billy Martin feuding with George Steinbrenner and Martin and Thurman Munson feuding with Reggie Jackson. And the rowdy fans at Yankee Stadium further sparked this borough-boosted branding that gave title to a Sparky Lyle memoir.

17. "The Blake Street Bombers" (1995 Rockies)
The opening of Coors Field in 1995 perfectly coincided with the literal rise in standing of a Rockies team that reached the postseason for the first time. Dante Bichette, Vinny Castilla, Andres Galarraga and Larry Walker all hit north of 30 homers.

18. "The Whiz Kids" (1950 Phillies)
This bonus baby-laden band of precocious players won an NL pennant and spawned a noteworthy nickname. Though one might argue that the name given to the much-more-veteran-laden 1983 NL champs -- "The Wheeze Kids" -- is even better.

19. "The Boys of Summer" (1950s Brooklyn Dodgers)
A wonderful, evocative nickname. But it lacks the specificity of others on this list, was retroactively applied by author Roger Kahn in his 1972 book of the same name and was usurped by Don Henley in that song with the seagulls. So it loses some ground in the standings.

20. "The Boys of Zimmer" (1989 Cubs)
With the inimitable Don Zimmer at the helm and managing with his prodigious gut, the 1989 Cubs shook off four straight losing seasons to reach the NL Championship Series. We'll dock some points for appropriating a nickname associated with another franchise, but a good pun is a good pun.

21. "The Hitless Wonders" (1906 White Sox)
With a team batting average of just .230 (worst in the AL and second worst in baseball) it really is a wonder that this team won the AL pennant. Ah, but the club's weighted runs created plus mark was actually the third best in the AL. Why didn't anybody mention this at the time?!

22. "Crush City" (2015 Astros)
A play off "Clutch City" -- the name given to the 1994 and '95 NBA champion Rockets and later used for the 2005 Astros team that staged a late-season NL pennant push. This was the turnaround season for a franchise that had averaged 104 losses the previous four years. The Astros actually finished second in homers in '15, but we won't hold that against them.

23. "Refuse to Lose" (1995 Mariners)
More a mantra than a nickname, but it works and sticks for a team that, well, generally declined the opportunity to suffer defeat in the home stretch of the season. The M's finished the season on a 25-11 tear at season's end to steal the AL West from the clutches of the Angels, beat the Yankees in an epic ALDS Game 5 and likely saved baseball in Seattle.

24. "The Cardiac Kids" (1967 Red Sox)
The 1980 Cleveland Browns, with a penchant for close wins, would usurp this nickname (spelled "Kardiac Kids"), but the Red Sox were putting their fans' coronary arteries to the test first -- not because they pulled out a large number of one-run victories but because they won the American League pennant for the first time in 21 years with an inordinately youthful lineup and unproven rotation. Often referred to as The Impossible Dream, it was Boston's first winning season since 1958.

25. "The Nasty Boys" (1990 Reds)
Can't rank this one too high, given that it applies to a specific segment (the bullpen trio of Rob Dibble, Randy Myers and Norm Charlton) of the wire-to-wire World Series winners, not the team at large. But the team and the name (inspired by Janet Jackson's 1986 hit) are nonetheless forever bound -- a relationship built to Nast.