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How did the Giants get their team name?

@mi_guardado
December 21, 2020

MLB.com is starting a new series seeking to answer some of the most common fan questions about teams’ traditions, stadiums, players and history. So far, we’ve covered the history of two unique ballpark features:

MLB.com is starting a new series seeking to answer some of the most common fan questions about teams’ traditions, stadiums, players and history. So far, we’ve covered the history of two unique ballpark features:

McCovey Cove
Triples Alley

Keep an eye out for more entries throughout the offseason.

In 2014, the Giants unveiled the Gotham Clubhouse, a speakeasy-style event space reserved for Gotham Club members at Oracle Park. Ensconced behind the out-of-town scoreboard, the Gotham Clubhouse pays homage to the franchise’s rich history in New York.

Founded by John B. Day and Jim Mutrie in 1883, the Giants were originally dubbed the New York Gothams. So, how did they come to be known as the Giants?

An apocryphal story links the origin of their current nickname to Mutrie, who served as the club’s first manager. Mutrie was believed to have coined the moniker after a comeback victory over the Philadelphia Phillies in 1885, when he proclaimed, “My big fellows, my giants!"

However, research has suggested that the Giants nickname might have been popularized by P.J. Donahue, a sportswriter for the New York Evening World. There is evidence that Donahue wrote the game report that appeared in the newspaper on April 14, 1885, and ultimately gave rise to the team’s current name.

“This game report gives no indication that Mutrie did or said anything to establish the team’s new name,” researcher Peter Mancuso wrote in Mutrie’s SABR biography. “In fact, there has yet to be found any 19th-century account of Mutrie doing or saying anything that resulted in the name ‘Giants,’ despite there being scores of 20th-century accounts claiming that he named the team. More than 30 years later, Mutrie would claim that he had coined the nickname in 1888 by referring to his players as ‘giants’ at an exciting moment during a game. Mutrie may well have used the name ‘Giants’ before or after 1888, but regardless, the team’s nickname had been immediately popularized and in common use within weeks of the April 14, 1885, story in The World.”

The club has been known as the Giants ever since, even after relocating to San Francisco in 1958. Under their current banner, the Giants have become one of the most storied franchises in baseball history, producing 23 National League pennants, eight World Series championships and several iconic figures of the game, including Willie Mays, Christy Mathewson, Barry Bonds, John McGraw and Juan Marichal.

Maria Guardado covers the Giants for MLB.com. She previously covered the Angels from 2017-18. Follow her on Twitter.