The “Buccos” The “Bombers” and the alternate nicknames of all 30 major league teams
In this morning’s recaps I talked about teams with alternate nicknames. As in the Pirates being referred to as the “Buccos” and the Cardinals being referred to as the “Redbirds.” I said this morning that I thought most teams had one or two or three of these informal monikers, but that I didn’t think every team did.
I was wrong about that. Turns out every team at least has some claim on an alternate nickname. Or seven. Or nine. Or in one case 21. Some are more popular than others. Some downright dubious. But there’s a whole Wikipedia article about it, and as we all know, Wikipedia is never wrong.
Below are some of them (go to the Wikipedia link for them all). My Official Editorial Comments are attached thereto, of course.
“Dbacks” and “Snakes” are common enough. I bet people say “Dbacks” more than “Diamondbacks,” actually. They should just change the name to that officially. It’s cool.
You used to hear “Bravos” a lot more than you do now. I wonder if that died with Skip Caray. I love that “Barves” actually made the list. Some dudes with bootleg t-shirts invented that one and people loved it so of COURSE Major League Baseball shut it down. Now the only people who use it regularly are that dude on YouTube and me on Twitter when I’m making fun of my team:
“America’s Team” was a WTBS marketing gimmick that no one ever took seriously. Indeed, even in the mid-80s, before the world became completely drenched with irony, my friends and I still put imaginary joke quotes around “America’s Team” and we were like 14.
It’s almost all “O’s” now. You rarely hear “Orange Birds,” but maybe it’s one of those local things. My brother and I used to say “Oreos” and thought we were being clever, but apparently that was a thing? Who knew?
Boston Red Sox
Nine nicknames are listed here. BoSox and Sawx are pretty common. Olde Town Team is reserved, I think, for pretentious writerly types over 60. Boston, like a lot of teams, has nicknames for an individual year’s teams like “The Cardiac Kids,” but that seems to be a privilege of teams which play in cities with tons and tons of writers covering them. You gotta get creative when you’re sharing a beat with 15 dudes.
Which also raises a fun point: baseball clubs used to be like soccer teams and their "[City] F.C.” or "[City] S.C.” designations. Way back when their official name was really just the city name and, sometimes, the league. Like the “Boston Americans” or the “New York Nationals.” Nicknames used to be fluid back around the turn of the century and were often applied by the press covering the team as opposed to being marketing department and copyright law creations. Go look at the history of the Dodgers “official” nicknames for example. I sort of love that old convention, but it obviously could never happen again. There are too many people and corporations rushing to get the rights to slap things on shirts.
“Cubbies” and “Northsiders” are all I ever hear. “Baby Bears” sounds like something that someone writing dialogue for a fictitious Cubs announcer in a movie would use. “Cubs” is pretty solid and direct as a nickname anyway. There’s not a lot of need for an alternate.
Chicago White Sox
If you’re a regular And That Happened reader you know I’ve been trying to bring back “Chisox” (and “Bosox” for Boston) for years. I may as well be trying to make “fetch” happen. Just a losing battle, even though I know it was a lot more popular in the 70s and 80s. “Pale Hose” is fun. It’s the last link we’ll ever see to the term “men’s hosiery” referring to socks. Haberdashers everywhere are likely appalled. That is, if there are still haberdashers who call themselves that.
Today Newt Gingrich said he’d be in favor of reviving the House Un-American Activities Committee, which helped fuel the red scare. Gingrich wants to do it for Islamic terrorism, though, so I’m SURE it wouldn’t be similarly used to abuse the rights of citizens like HUAC was, right? Not that HUAC was all bad. The Red Scare was cool for nicknames, as it caused the Reds to change their name to the “Redlegs” for a brief period. You still hear that from Cincy people from time to time.
Everyone knows the “Tribe.” Almost all the other ones are either (a) problematic because they reference the racist Chief Wahoo; or (b) were made up by Bob Uecker for the movie “Major League.” I do like “The Fighting Braves of the Cuyahoga,” though, even if it was meant as a joke.
Oh, and another fun fact: in order to not seem racist for using an Indian as a mascot, for years the club -- with help of the media -- peddled the clearly phony story of the team being nicknamed after former Cleveland player Louis Sockalexis. This is pure bunk. The team was called “The Naps” for many years after star player Napoleon Lajoie. When he left after 1914, they needed a name. The Braves had just finished a magical Cinderella World Series run and were the talk of the nation. The press and the club, trying to ride on some of that goodwill, went with “Indians” as their moniker and it stuck.
The Rox is all you ever hear, but you don’t hear it much. Blake Street Bombers was fun for a brief period but all of those guys are gone now. So many temporal names up and down this list.
For a team as old and venerable as the Tigers there isn’t much to choose from here. Sometimes you get “Motor City Kitties,” but that’s so unwieldy that it defeats the purpose of a nickname. “Bless You Boys” didn’t start until 1984, and that’s less a name than, I dunno, a command? “Tigers” is like “Cubs.” Short, sweet and to the point. When your name is cool and short, you don’t really need a nickname.
The ‘Stros is all you ever hear. But it doesn’t even save a keystroke so it’s not written much. The Wikipedia page has a bunch of astronaut-inspired stuff, but in most ways the entire connection to the space program in Houston and the space age in general -- which gave the team its name and image for years -- has been scrubbed away from the baseball team. For cryin’ out loud, they have an old-timey train in the outfield of their ballpark. Using a 19th century transportation device for a putatively space age-named team is basically an insult and a total repudiation. Sad.
Kansas City Royals
I have heard literally none of the names listed there used in conversation nor have I seen it in print: “Boys in Blue,” “Crowns,” “Cowboys,” etc. Really? Fun fact: Most people don’t realize that “Royals” isn’t connected to the concept of royalty or even to the old Negro League Kansas City Monarchs. It comes from a cattle show. For real. Bet there are no other sports teams literally named after a livestock show. Wait, Calgary Stampede? That’s a thing, right?
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
When you give yourself a series of different and increasingly complicated geographic names like the Angels have, a pithy nickname like “Halos” is gonna stick. The Wikipedia page lists “Los Angelinos” too, which is both elegant and cool and I wonder why I’ve never seen it before now. I think I’m gonna start using that one.
Los Angeles Dodgers
I thought this morning that the Dodgers didn’t have any, but there are some listed. Most are no good for these purposes. Someone mentioned “Bums,” but that seems like something only the people old enough to remember them from Brooklyn would say. The Dodgers haven’t had that proletarian, underdog image for 60 years. “Los Doyers” is kind of cool but because that’s colloquial it sounds more like cultural appropriation for non Hispanics to say than the literal Spanish translation of “Los Angelinos” is to say for the Angels. Screw it, they’re just the Dodgers.
“Fish” is basically it. Someone said the “Fins” but that’s the Dolphins. You can’t steal the football team’s name. They had it first.
“Brew Crew” is fantastic as far as these things go, but like the Astros scrubbing away the space age stuff, the Brewers have seemed to try to mildly scrub away the beer. Bernie Brewer used to slide into a beer mug after every home run. Now he goes down a big dumb waterslide into . . . nothing. He just lands on a platform. Put the space back in Houston, put the beer back in Milwaukee!!
Also: I’m dismissing single season or single-era nicknames here because they’re fleeing, but the 1982 Brewers’ nickname of “Harvey’s Wallbangers” -- also booze-themed, even if no one drinks those anymore -- may be the best of these there ever has been. I’d put that above the Dodgers “Boys of Summer.” Yeah, I said it.
Did the “Twinkies” exist before the 1980s, or did Chris Berman or someone invent it? I know he used to use it a lot. That’s pretty much it. Again, “Twins” is short and to the point. It works for almost all cases.
New York Mets
The Mets have 21 alternate nicknames listed. The next closest is, like, nine. Some of these are clearly dubious. It may be evidence of Wikipedia editors with Mets allegiences messing with the page a lot. It’s no doubt partially a function, however, of people liking to get literary with an underdog, and the Mets have been that for most of their history. Blame Casey Stengel, too, for talking them up so colorfully in the early years. The “Amazin’s” was always a favorite of mine, but there is a lot to choose from here. The “Metropolitans” is like when you call your son Charlie “Charles.” I mean, c’mon. Who ya kiddin’? You guys ain’t that fancy.
New York Yankees
“The Bombers” is one of the better ones out there. And one that managed to transcend its temporary, era-specific origins and last for decades upon decades. Blame the short porch in right I guess. And all the money they’ve always had to sign big sluggers. Every other name on their list is either era-specific or derogatory, which only speaks to the Yankees’ success to be honest. No one hates you if you suck.
Perhaps the only team more often referred to by their informal nickname -- “The A’s” -- than their actual nickname, “The Athletics.” I think this has changed some in the past 10-20 years, though. When I was a kid they were ALWAYS called the A’s, with “Athletics” being a rare, affected-sounding thing like the Mets’ “Metropolitans.” You see “Athletics” more now. I wonder how much of this was about Topps cards in the 70s and 80s, where “A’s” were more common due to space restrictions. Though I also vaguely remember reading something one time about how the team made a point to change the emphasis in the 1990s back to “Athletics.” Maybe I just imagined that, though, because I can’t find it.
“The Phightin’ Phils” or the “Phils” is pretty well known and has expanded outside of their home region. There was a Phillies blog called the Phightin’s a few years ago that was kind of fun and which spread that name to some non-Phillies fans in ways it may not have traveled before. More often you see “Philly,” which is one of the few city-focused nicknames as opposed to mascot/primary nickname-focused nicknames.
“Buccos,” as we discussed. Sometimes just “Bucs.” I think this declined a bit when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers launched in the mid-70s, though. You sometimes see Black and Gold, but the Steelers get that more often. There’s probably an interesting article to be written about the whole Pittsburgh black and gold thing and how all three major sports teams in the city came to adopt those colors despite histories with other colors. Hell, it was more than just municipal branding. It extended to the dang Iowa Hawkeyes, which were clearly ripping off the Steelers. The 1970s were wild.
St. Louis Cardinals
“Redbirds” and “Cards,” which could’ve gotten the whole “A’s” treatment with a little push. Topps certainy had their back on that one for many years. “El Birdos” is something I’ve heard -- and there’s a Cards blog called with that name in it -- but that’s grammatically wrong on, like, five levels. Would it not be Los Pájaros?
San Diego Padres
“Pads” and “Friars” though the latter is WAY better than the former. The Padres have abaonded the friar brown, sadly, and you rarely if ever see the Swingin’ Friar logo, even if they do still have a mascot. Regionalism is dead. It’s all about marketing to the most possible people, I guess. “Friars” is cool and so is the Swingin’ Friar.
San Francisco Giants
Another one that rarely gets an alternate nickname. Many are listed, but hardly any are ever used. “G-Men” is something that is almost always used by the NFL Giants, but I can’t recall it ever being used in San Francisco. “Gigantes” is cool, again, because it’s a literal translation and not lame Spanglish. I think the Giants were one of the early adopters of using Spanish names on the jerseys for special days -- and their aggressive move to integrate and scout Latin American talent was literally literary worthy -- so they can own that one proudly.
The M’s is a pretty practical shortening of a three-syllable nickname that gets tiring to repeat and rewrite. Like the O’s in that respect. None of the others listed on the Wikipedia page have ever been used by actual human beings. I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise.
Tampa Bay Rays
I can’t rememebr if, before they officially changed from the Devil Rays to the Rays in 2008, people just called them the Rays for short. Maybe. That would assume anyone paid attention to them before 2008, however, and I’m not sure we have evidence of that. Although I guess Carl Crawford came from someplace.
The Lone Stars are listed there. I’ve heard that and, again, there’s a blog with that in its name, which is usually a fair indicator of at least some usage of an alternate nickname. This is about nicknames, not logos, but I do miss the baseball with the cowboy hat. You don’t see that much anymore. That was a good freakin’ logo.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays, of course. I think I write that in every recap of their games, which makes it like the O’s and M’s -- good shorthand. I’ve heard “Blue Birds” a few times. It’s never gotten a fraction of the traction that “Redbirds” gets in St. Louis, though.
“Nats” for the same reason as the Jays. But here we come full circle. As mentioned above, “Nationals” and “Americans” used to refer to multiple teams and was a distinguishing appellation for clubs from cities with multiple teams. I truly thought when the club name was announced following the Expos relocation that it would be a placeholder and that, eventually, another nickname would develop. Guess not.
Oh well. Memo to Rob Manfred: when baseball expands again, let’s go soccer-style with it and call them "[City] B.C” for “baseball club” and let some crazy radical fans name their team organically. I know that will make things hard for merch sales, but on the bright side you could sell everyone t-shirts multiple times, with a new one being needed each time the club changed names! Think of the money that would roll in. Just be sure to give me a cut for the idea.