In alphabetical order and as part of a six-part series (five teams per week for six weeks), we are going to list all thirty current Major League Baseball franchises and explain how they got their team name. We are now nearly finished with our journey and begin part five.
Pittsburgh Pirates (NL-C)
First, if you have not visited PNC Park where the Pirates play their home games, it is a must see for the ballpark enthusiast. Truly, a beautiful venue in a wonderful city. Where else can you take a car, trolley, and a boat to a baseball game!
Back to the name, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
“Professional baseball in Pittsburgh dates back to the United States centennial in 1876. While the earliest Pittsburgh teams were run as businesses and the players received salaries, the barnstorming squads were not necessarily affiliated with organized leagues.
That changed in 1887 when a Pittsburgh team known as the Alleghenys joined the National League. The team’s nickname referred to the location of its home field in Allegheny City, today’s North Side.
During the 1890 season, most of the Alleghenys’ best players left the team to join the Pittsburgh Burghers of the fledgling Players League. The Alleghenys competed with a limited roster that season, ending the year with 23 wins and 113 losses — the worst record in franchise history.
The following season, the owners of the Alleghenys turned the tables by signing several players from rival American Association teams, including the Philadelphia Athletics star second baseman Lou Bierbauer. The Philadelphia team loudly protested the move, complaining to league officials that the Alleghenys’ actions were “piratical.”
Although the Alleghenys were never found guilty of any wrongdoing, they became informally known as “the pirates” before officially naming themselves the Pittsburgh Pirates for the 1891 season. The name stuck, and by the turn of the century, the Pirates went on to compete in the first World Series against the Boston Americans [Boston Red Sox] in 1903.”
Amazing facts: Honus Wagner and Roberto Clemente, two of the most famous baseball players in history, both played eighteen seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates (Wagner began the first three-years of his career with the now extinct Louisville Colonels). The Pirates franchise has won five World Series titles in 1909, 1925, 1960, 1971, and 1979. Pirates Bill Mazeroski hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning during game seven of the 1960 World Series against the New York Yankees. Forbes Field, with its beautiful gardens where the Pirates once played (1909-1970) is one of the most iconic ballparks in history. Over time, the Pirates/Bucs/Buccos have had some of the most wonderfully crazy uniforms.
Philadelphia Phillies (NL-E)
Similar to the Detroit Tigers as the oldest continuous one-name, one-city franchise in the American League, the Philadelphia Phillies of the National League are the oldest continuous, one-name, one-city franchise in all of professional American sports, dating back to 1883. According to Wikipedia, the “Red Pinstripes” were once the Quakers (1883-1889) before changing to the “Philadelphias” and later shortened to the “Phillies,” likely because print space in newspapers came at a premium. The Phillies replaced the Worcester Worcesters (Brown Stockings, Ruby Legs) (1880 to 1882) in the National League whose colors were pink and black.
Amazing facts: Per TeamNameOrigin.com: “Ownership decided to freshen things up in the early 1940s and attempted to change the team moniker to Blue Jays. The team wore a Blue Jay patch on their uniforms for a few seasons, but fans kept calling them the Phillies and Blue Jay was eventually scrapped.” The “City Series” was played between the Phillies and Philadelphia Athletics (Kansas City, Oakland) in Philadelphia from 1883 through 1954. Shibe Park, later named Connie Mack Stadium (1938-1970) after the Philadelphia Athletics former manager, is one of the most beautiful ballparks in history known for its facade.
San Diego Padres (NL-W)
“The Padres adopted their name from the Pacific Coast League team that arrived in San Diego in 1936. That minor league franchise won the PCL title in 1937, led by 18-year-old Ted Williams, the future Hall-of-Famer who was a native of San Diego. The team’s name, Spanish for “fathers”, refers to the Spanish Franciscan friars who founded San Diego in 1769 . . . In 1969, the Padres joined the ranks of Major League Baseball as one of four new expansion teams, along with the Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals), the Kansas City Royals [created when the Kansas City Athletics left for Oakland, California], and the Seattle Pilots (now the Milwaukee Brewers).”
Amazing fact: The San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are the only two professional baseball teams originally from California. The Los Angeles Dodgers are from the Brooklyn borough of New York City, the San Francisco Giants from Harlem in Manhattan, New York City, and the Oakland Athletics are from Kansas City, Missouri and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Lane Field, which now has a memorial home plate and pitching mound, was home to the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League from 1936 through 1957. The Padres now play in beautiful Petco Park (see image for this article).
San Francisco Giants (NL-W)
“Founded in 1883 as the New York Gothams, and renamed three years later to the New York Giants . . . The Giants’ rivalry with the Dodgers is one of the longest-standing and biggest rivalries in American sports . . . The teams began their rivalry as the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers, respectively, before both franchises moved west for the 1958 season.
The Giants began as the second baseball club founded by millionaire tobacconist John B. Day and veteran amateur baseball player Jim Mutrie. The Gothams, as the Giants were originally known, entered the National League in 1883, while their other club, the Metropolitans [no relation to the New York Mets (1962-present)] played in the American Association. Nearly half of the original Gotham players were members of the disbanded Troy Trojans, whose place in the National League the Gothams inherited. While the Metropolitans were initially the more successful club, Day and Mutrie began moving star players to the Gothams, and in 1888 the team won its first National League pennant, as well as a victory over the St. Louis Browns [modern day Baltimore Orioles] in a pre-modern-era World Series. They repeated as champions the next year with a pennant and Championship victory over the Brooklyn “Bridegrooms.”
A contemporaneous account claims that after one particularly satisfying victory over the Philadelphia Phillies, Mutrie, who was also the team’s manager, strode into the dressing room and exclaimed, “My big fellows! My giants!” From then on, the club was known as the Giants.”
Amazing facts: The Giants played in the Polo Grounds (1911-1963) in Harlem, which was also a home to the New York Mets and Yankees for a time. The original “Polo Grounds” was built in 1876 and played home to the sport of polo.
Seattle Mariners (AL-W)
Professional sports in the northwest, specifically Seattle, is long and storied. The area has been subject to professional teams coming and going, including the Seattle Pilots (Milwaukee Brewers), Seattle Supersonics (Oklahoma City Thunder), and the Seattle Metropolitans (former Pacific Coast Hockey Association (PCHA) team, which operated from 1915 to 1924, but was lost when it then merged with the Western Canada Hockey League (WCHL). Interestingly, the Pilots (1969) lasted only one season in Seattle before owner and eventual Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan “Bud” Selig moved the team to his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin where it has stayed ever since as the Brewers (1970-Present).
“The Mariners were created as a result of a lawsuit. In 1970, in the aftermath of the Seattle Pilots’ purchase and relocation to Milwaukee (as the Milwaukee Brewers) by future Commissioner of Baseball Bud Selig, the city of Seattle, King County, and the state of Washington (represented by then-state attorney general and later U.S. Senator Slade Gorton) sued the American League for breach of contract. Confident that Major League Baseball would return to Seattle within a few years, King County built the multi-purpose Kingdome, which would become home to the NFL’s expansion Seattle Seahawks in 1976. The name “Mariners” was chosen by club officials in August 1976 from over 600 names submitted by 15,000 entrants in a name-the-team contest . . .
The team joined the [American League] as an expansion team in 1977 . . . The “Mariners” name originates from the prominence of marine culture in the city of Seattle . . . The current team colors of Navy blue, Northwest green, and silver were adopted prior to the 1993 season after having been royal blue and gold since the team’s inception [following the Pilots/Brewers color scheme] and fitting for the area’s geographic coloring].”
Amazing facts: Cuban pitcher Diego Seguí was the only player to play for both the Seattle Pilots [Milwaukee Brewers] and the Mariners. The Mariners won 116 games in 2001, an American League record for most wins in a season. The Mariners are one of eight Major League Baseball teams who have never won a World Series championship, and one of two (along with the Washington Nationals) never to have played in a World Series.
We will be back next week for the final installment of this six-part series.