In alphabetical order and as part of our 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 in part six of the six-part series.
St. Louis Cardinals (NL-C)
Your first thought may have been that this is an easy one because the cardinal bird is a shade of red and the bird is probably found in the state of Missouri. However, the story is much more interesting. The states of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia all have the northern cardinal bird as their state bird. Missouri does not. It is the eastern bluebird and the bobwhite quail.
“The American Association folded at the conclusion of 1891 and the St. Louis Browns [no relation to the Baltimore Orioles franchise] rejoined the National League as part of the newly reformed 12-team circuit. The Browns played in Sportsman’s Park at Grand and Dodier. The St. Louis franchise has had continuous membership in the National League ever since.
Von der Ahe was offered a larger property at Vandeventer and Natural Bridge Avenues, so Chris and his corporation moved Sportsman’s Park to the new location. The last (exhibition) game at the Grand Avenue ballpark (Sportsman’s Park) was April 23rd vs. Cincinnati and the club moved to the new grounds to be ready for the home opener on April 27th. The park was known as New Sportsman’s Park.
After several years of second-division baseball and a disastrous fire, Chris Von der Ahe and his corporation were bankrupt. The Robison Brothers stepped in to purchase the Browns.
The Robison Brothers, Frank and Stanley, discarded the name of Browns, calling the St. Louis National Leaguers the Perfectos. The ownership also discarded the old Sportsman’s Park name in favor of League Park. The team was outfitted in red striped stockings and red-trimmed uniforms. When sportswriter Willie McHale, of the St. Louis Republic, heard a lady fan remark, “What a lovely shade of cardinal,” the new nickname was used in his column, and struck a chord with St. Louis fans.”
Amazing fact: The St. Louis Cardinals eleven (11) World Series titles are the second most only to the New York Yankees twenty-seven (27), but more than the Oakland Athletics (9) and San Francisco Giants (8). The Dodgers have six (6).
Tampa Bay Rays (AL-E)
The Rays are an expansion team, added in 1998 along with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Their arrival was preceded by nearly three decades of trying to lure a professional baseball franchise to the area.
The Rays changed to the Rays from “Devil Rays” in 2007, while introducing a new color pallet and team uniforms. The Devil Rays were named after the native manta ray animal in the Florida Gulf Coast area. The Rays new branding refers to the abundance of sunshine in the Sunshine State. With new ownership, some believe the team wanted to get away from the “devil” name (Mantas are known as “devilfish” because of their horn-shaped cephalic fins, which are imagined to give them an “evil” appearance), but a manta ray still appears on the sleeve of team uniforms.
Amazing facts: The Tampa Bay Rays play in St. Petersburg, Florida, not Tampa Bay, which is not an actual municipality, but “Tampa” is. Per Wikipedia: In 1992, San Francisco Giants owner Bob Lurie agreed in principle to sell his team to a Tampa Bay-based group of investors led by Vince Naimoli, who would then move the team to St. Petersburg. However, at the 11th hour, MLB owners nixed the move under pressure from San Francisco officials and the Giants were sold to a group that kept them in San Francisco.”
Texas Rangers (AL-W)
Per Wikipedia: The team’s name “Rangers” is borrowed from the famous law enforcement agency of the same name. The franchise was established in 1961 as the Washington Senators [no relation to the current Washington Nationals or the former Washington Senators who became the Minnesota Twins] and then the franchise moved to Arlington, Texas to become the Texas Rangers in 1971.
Amazing fact: The Rangers have appeared in one World Series (2011) whey they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.
Toronto Blue Jays (AL-E)
“The name “Blue Jays” came about when the team in 1976 held a “name the team” contest, which involved more than 4,000 suggestions. “Blue Jays” was chosen by majority owner Labatt Breweries—an apparent tie-in with its feature brand, Labatt Blue . . . The “Blue Jays” name originates from the bird of the same name, and blue is also the traditional color of two of Toronto’s other professional sports teams: the Maple Leafs (ice hockey) and the Argonauts (Canadian football). In addition, the team was originally owned by the Labatt Brewing Company, makers of the popular beer Labatt’s Blue. Colloquially nicknamed the “Jays”, the team’s official colors are royal blue, navy blue, red, and white. An expansion franchise, the club was founded in Toronto in 1977.”
Amazing facts: The Blue Jays are one of two MLB teams under corporate ownership, with the other being the Atlanta Braves (Liberty Media). The Blue Jays have won two World Series titles (1992 and 1993).
Washington Nationals (NL-E)
“The National League awards two expansion franchises for the 1969 season. The cities of Montreal and San Diego become the newest members of the senior circuit. Montreal business executive Charles Bronfman of the Seagram’s distilling empire is the front man for the new team . . . Named after Expo 67, the World’s Fair held in Montreal two years earlier, the original Montreal Expos squad reported to camp in the spring of 1969.”
The “Nationals” name has reference to our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., where the team plays its home games in Nationals Park.
“The Nationals are the fourth major league franchise to be based in Washington, D.C., and the first since 1971. The original Washington Senators, who were often referred to as the Nationals, played in the National League from 1891 to 1899. They were followed by a second Washington Senators franchise in 1901, a charter member of the new American League, who were officially named the Washington Nationals from 1905 to 1956. The second Senators franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961 and became the Minnesota Twins. They were replaced that season by a third Senators franchise, who eventually moved to Arlington, Texas, after the 1971 season and became the Texas Rangers . . . The current National League club was founded in 1969 as the Montreal Expos, part of the MLB expansion, which included the Seattle Pilots, Kansas City Royals, and San Diego Padres. Based in Montreal, the Expos were the first Major League team in Canada.”
Amazing fact: The 1994 strike-shortened season for the Nationals franchise (in the form of the Montreal Expos) included some of the best players in the era, including Larry Walker, Moisés Alou, Marquis Grissom, and Pedro Martínez. The Expos/Nationals franchise has never won a league pennant.
And that concludes our six-part series on “How Each Major League Baseball Franchise Got Their Team Name.” We hope you enjoyed the journey as much as we did. (See parts one, two, three, four, and five).