“Boring? What are you talking about? Baseball is exciting!”
~Baseball fan on his fourth beer
Photo from Moose135 Photography
Baseball is our national pastime in the same way that many of our “best friends” are people we were close with in elementary school who we only get to see every couple of years ever since they moved to the West Coast. We still say it’s our most iconic sport, but if we’re being really honest with ourselves we’ve liked watching football better for some time now. As society makes “sitting still for three hours for a game where everyone just stands still doing nothing for the vast majority of the time” an increasingly difficult source of entertainment to get excited about (though we do our best to make it worthwhile through alcohol and insane food) it’s important to remember that baseball hasn’t always been the dusty icon it is now.
It used to be much, much sillier. Don’t believe us? Just look at some of the teams that existed during the early years of Major League Baseball. These are teams that people paid money to watch, and actively claimed to root for. The 19th century and early 20th century were hilarious, basically. So before you can even say “What is a Met, really?” let us present you with…
The Silliest Major League Baseball Team Names of All Time
Finding a good sports name is harder than you’d think—there’s a reason why roughly every High School mascot is either a wildcat, a huskie or an eagle. It also is very obvious when the sports name doesn’t work, as painfully illustrated by about every WNBA team except for maybe the New York Liberty. However, during the infancy of professional baseball in the country, the names that most teams took weren’t just bad. They were downright goofy. Which led to people rooting for teams such as…
The Brooklyn Bridegrooms (1888-1890, 1896-1898, currently the Los Angeles Dodgers)
Before they moved to Los Angeles from Brooklyn, the Dodgers took their sweet time finding a name they could stick with. They started off in 1884 as the Brooklyn Atlantics before becoming the Grays, and even had two stretches where they went by the nonsensical name the “Brooklyn Superbas.” The fuck is a superba, Brooklyn? They also were known as the Bridegrooms from 1888 to 1890, as the Grooms from 1891 to 1895, and again as the Bridegrooms from 1896 to 1898. So for ten years, the professional team from Brooklyn was known as the “person who is about to get married.” Did marriage mean something differently in the late 19th century? (“Yes, it meant between a man and a woman and none of this gay marriage hoopla!” oh shut up racist Uncle Richard, drink your whiskey and leave us alone.) The name is slightly less imposing than just calling them the Brooklyn Husbands, which you might notice is an extremely bad name for a sports team that still miraculously manages to be less silly sounding than the Bridegrooms.
While the Dodgers is a strange name if you actually sit down and think about it (it was a shortened version of the 1911-1912 nickname, the Trolley Dodgers) we’ve grown to accept it, sort of like how the majority of football fans who know nothing about American history don’t really take much issue with the San Francisco 49ers. But the Bridegrooms? They were never around long enough for you to get used to the name, but we’d also humbly suggest you’d never get used to the name. If it had stuck around everyone in Los Angeles would just be like, “Yeah I mean I have season tickets but there’s no reason to show up to a Bridegrooms game until the fourth inning. And yeah, our team name is ridiculous” before doing a line of coke and talking about traffic patterns and how blasé it is to see celebrities out in public. Th…that’s what people do in Los Angeles right?
The Mutual Base Ball Club of New York (1857-1876)
Are we sure this is the actual name of a baseball team? Because it sounds like an insurance company whose clients wear kakis to casual social events. It sounds like an investment company for people who actually know what a ROTH IRA is. It sounds like it should have a TV commercial for it that’s just a giant balloon landing in a field with no explanation of what it does other than the vague sense that it’s for more responsible adults than how you’ve actually turned out. It does not sound like a charter member of the first professional league in 1871, or of the National League in 1876. Though it does kind of sound like a team that decided straight up not to go on its last road trip in 1876, getting themselves expelled before folding as a team, if we think about it.
The Mutual Ball club of New York was also known as the New York Mutuals and, apparently, as the Green Stockings (we’ve not found evidence of that anywhere but the above image, so who knows) had an actually hilarious history to them. They converted the first triple play in a major league game (in 1876 against the Hartford Dark Blues [yes we’ll be covering them at some point as well in a later article]) and they managed to win one and a half national Amateur Association pennants. Why one and a half? Well, they won in 1868, and had a 13-12 lead in the deciding game of a series against the Chicago White Stockings in 1870 when, for some reason, they left the field in protest. Officials decided to revert the score to the end of the previously completed inning, basically giving Chicago the lead again and the game ended there, officially making Chicago the winners, though Mutual declared themselves the champions. So to reiterate—the team basically stormed off in a tantrum, and the umpires decided to take their runs away as punishment. Baseball was so dysfunctional back then, it was hilarious.
The Worcester Worcesters (1879-1882)
In their short time as the team with the laziest name in the history of professional sports, the Worcester Worcesters had two additional nicknames, sort of like how kids who were given the name “Alistair” choose to go by their middle name to save themselves the school beatings. While they also were known as the Brown Stockings (boring) or the Ruby Legs (what the actual fuck) the fact remains that a team decided to name their team after where the team plays. God, we’re so glad that trend didn’t catch on—could you imagine, having to watch the Boston Bostons play the Tampa Bay Tampa Bays? Or, God forbid, a subway series between the New York New Yorks and the New New York New Yorks? That is the literal definition of hell for us.
The Worcester Worcesters came into existence almost entirely because of their star pitcher, Lee Richmond. When the Worcesters were a minor league team in 1879, Richmond pitched in some exhibition games against major league teams, posting a 6-2 record, and even pitched a game for the Boston Red Stockings that season. He also was an incredibly attractive man, which had to have been something they were considering in terms of the team’s marketability. In order to get the team, and also Richmond (who would go on to throw the first perfect game in major league history during the 1880 season) into the league, the requirement that the city’s population be at least 75,000 was waived (Worcester had 58,000 residents at the time). The team itself had to do a series of kind of hilarious schemes in order to pay their way to join the league, such as selling shares of the team for $35 (which, unlike Packers shares, actually came with season tickets, instead of a certificate and the permission to attend a shareholder meeting once a year), sponsoring a walking race that attracted 3,000 people, and holding benefit concerts and dramatic performances to raise funds. Yes, that’s right, benefit plays.
When really all they had to do was offer to have Lee Richmond take off his shirt if fans donated enough money to pay league fees because, hot damn.
The team was dropped from the league after 1882 due, to quote Wikipedia, to “miniscule attendance.” Think Miami Marlins during a rebuilding season bad. As in, the second-to-last game of the season had a total attendance of six people, a record for lowest attendance that stood until April 29th, 2015, when no fans were allowed to watch the Orioles and White Sox play because Baltimore was in the middle of motherfucking riots. That’s pretty impressive, Worcester. Maybe if you had called yourselves the Worcester Lee Richmond’s Team you might have gotten more asses in the seats.
The Columbus Solons (1889-1891)
What the active fuck is a Solon? The best we can figure, it’s either a historical Athenian statesman, or it’s a town in Ohio. “Oh, well the town thing must make sense, they probably played there or something, near Columbus” you say, falling for our carefully laid word trap. Fuck no, that’s not it at all! Solon’s a goddamn suburb of Cleveland! It’s 250 miles away from Columbus! Who the fuck was in charge of naming this team, an inanimate dart chucked at a road map of the state of Ohio?
There’s very little information out there about the Solons—they played for the American Association for three seasons, winning 200 games and losing 209, and the best pitcher for the one season where they finished over .500 (a second place 1890 finish) was named Ice Box Chamberlain, proving once and for all that in the 19th century we were infinitely better at naming baseball players than we were at naming teams. The fucking Solons, give us a break.
The Toledo Maumees (1888-1890)
This is another team named after a word that isn’t a word anyone knows. Maumee? Really? Is it an affectionate term for someone’s grandmother? Well, actually, this is another Ohio suburb, because apparently creativity was banned in the state of Ohio during this period, though thankfully Maumee is at least a Toledo suburb. Granted, the games were still played in Toledo, but it’s at least somewhat close, if still stupid. It’d be like naming your baseball team the Chicago Auroras.
The team formed in 1888 to play for the Tri-State League before moving to the International Association in 1889, and ending up in the American Association in 1890, where they finished 68-64, or 10 games behind the Columbus Solons (and 20 games out of the pennant). We’d have to imagine that they probably had attendance issues as well, because we just can’t imagine how anyone could get themselves excited to root for a team called the Maumees. That’s just ridiculous.
Cincinnati Kelly’s Killers (1891)
Okay, so this is probably the best name ever. They technically were referred to as the Cincinnati Reds (playing at the same time as the real Cincinnati Reds) but they were best known as Kelly’s Killers, and we do not want to discourage history from remembering them as that. The team was formed for a year and player-managed by Mike “King” Kelly, the source of the team’s name. The ballpark built for the team was mainly accessible by steamboat, which, when combined with the team’s 43-57 final record (keep in mind that most teams played a full 135 game season—Kelly’s Killers had to skip every game that was scheduled for a Sunday due to Cincinnati law) kind of explains how they folded after just one season.
But goddamn it, for a brief, glowing moment, there wasn’t a baseball squad with the best goddamn team name in American history. Here’s to you, Kelly’s Killers, you glorious sons of bitches.