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How the Phillies also briefly became 'Blue Jays'

After 1943, new ownership held contest to give club a second nickname
Special to MLB.com

The Phillies will play their 20,000th game Thursday night in Toronto against the Blue Jays. In what may classify as an insignificant note, "Blue Jays" was the Phillies' nickname once upon a time -- 70 years ago, to be specific. Even more irrelevant, Toronto was the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate from 1948-50.

So, how and why were the Phillies once known as the Blue Jays?

The Phillies will play their 20,000th game Thursday night in Toronto against the Blue Jays. In what may classify as an insignificant note, "Blue Jays" was the Phillies' nickname once upon a time -- 70 years ago, to be specific. Even more irrelevant, Toronto was the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate from 1948-50.

So, how and why were the Phillies once known as the Blue Jays?

A couple of months after the Carpenter family purchased the Phillies following the 1943 season, the ballclub announced it would conduct a contest for a nickname to supplement the official Phillies name. The contest would end February 27.

A Philadelphia Inquirer story dated Feb. 6, 1944, reported that "suggestions have been pouring in from fans between the ages of 12 and 82." Suggestions ranged from Aces to Zeebs.

Strugglers was one of the suggestions. It came from a prisoner who said, "I won't see any games in 1944, but I'll be out in 1945."

Billy Torretti, president of the Liberty Clown Association, suggested Rainbows, with each player dressed in a different color.

Animals and birds dominated: Bobcats, Bob Whites, Bears, Beavers, Donkeys, Dragons, Eagles, Falcons, Greyhounds, Hawks, Jaguars, Lions, Owls, Quails, Ruffed Grouse, Rams, Ravens, Unicorns, Wild Cats and Zebras.

Many played off the historic prominence of Philadelphia: Bell Ringers, Centennials, Constitutionals, Federals, Flagmen, Independents, Keystones, Liberty Bells, Minute Men, Penns, Patriots, Philpenns, Quakers and Valley Forgers.

An Evening Bulletin story (March 4) reported the Phillies received 5,064 letters and 634 suggestions.

Mrs. John Crooks of Philadelphia was chosen as the winner -- one of seven to suggest Blue Jays. She received a $100 war bond. All seven received season tickets. Mrs. Crooks submitted Blue Jays because: "It reflects a new team spirit. The Blue Jay is colorful in personality and plumage. His fighting, aggressive spirit never admits defeat."

A blue jay appeared on the left sleeve of the uniform jerseys with "Phillies" in black script on the jersey front. A Blue Jay also appeared in souvenirs, publications and club letterhead. Newspapers sometimes referred to them as the Blue Jays.

The Phillies had three Minor League teams 70 years ago: the Wilmington Blue Rocks, Elmira Blue Sox and Bedford Blue Wings.

John Hopkins University officials and students protested that Blue Jays had been used by the school since the 1870s. Despite the protest, the Phillies used Blue Jays for 1944 and '45. Apathy and a change in the uniforms in '46 ended the nickname, although a Blue Jay appeared on the Phillies' Spring Training roster/schedule as late as '49.

Larry Shenk is a contributor to MLB.com.

 

Philadelphia Phillies