Saturday, August 4, 2012

Great Team Names from 1897

Though the team nicknames of the 1897 Red River Valley League probably did not appear on any uniforms, they were unique nonetheless. The local newspapers in the valley get some credit in helping form the nicknames.
 "Divorcees" was used for Fargo, its origin being in the city's permissive divorce laws. The team's gray uniforms led to the occasional use of the term "greybacks" to describe the Fargo players. The ND Globe, Wahpeton's weekly, liked to diminish the Fargo team by calling them the "Bobolinks". A bobolink is a migratory songbird, so if anyone knows why this is an insult, please let me know!
"Barmaids" was one of the nicknames given to Moorhead, for the prevalence of alcohol in the city as compared to its dry neighbor across the river. Another name used to refer to Moorhead's team was the "Sheriffs", a reference to Manager W. J. Bodkin, who was a local sheriff. The players were sometimes called the "deputies". Occasionally, the Moorhead club was deemed the "Maroons", owing to the color of their uniforms.  
"Senators" was the moniker for Grand Forks, for their manager and North Dakota state Senator W. A. Gordon. The Grand Forks Plaindealer proposed calling the club the "undertakers", which was used occasionally but not as often as Senators.
Finally "Methodists" was used a few times for Wahpeton-Breckenridge, likely owing to the strong Protestant presence among the Red River Valley's largely Scandinavian and German population. The Moorhead Independent preferred to refer to the W-B squad as the "kickers", for the frequency with which their manager argued with league umpires.
The creative and sometimes insulting nicknames even drew attention from the weekly paper in Fergus Falls. The city, home to a prominent insane asylum, commented that it was probably better that they didn't field a team in the Red River Valley League, because if they had, the "wild-eyed diamond reporters" might have deemed them the "Lunatics." 

But there were other gems among the minor league teams of 1897. Some of my favorites:

Grand Rapids (MI) Bob-o-links (Western League)
Paterson (NJ) Silk Weavers (Atlantic League)
Des Moines Prohibitionists (Western Association) - I really wish they had played against Moorhead!
Cairo (IL) Egyptians (Central League)
Palmyra (NY) Mormons (NY State League) - Palmyra was the sight of Joseph Smith's first vision of the angel Moroni.
Williamsport (PA) Demorest Bicycle Boys (Central Pennsylvania League) - Williamsport is now the site of the Little League World Series
London (Ontario, Canada) Cockneys (Canadian League) - a reference to the British Londoners
Junction City (KS) Parrots (Kansas State League)
Columbus (GA) Babies (Southeastern League)
Asheville (NC) Moonshiners (Southeastern League)

Best Major League team name:
Brooklyn (NY) Bridegrooms (National League) - several players married around the same time in 1888, the year of this nickname's origin

Updated 9-15-12

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