So it looks like the Cleveland Indians will get their long-awaited name change. Team owner Paul Dolan said: “The name is no longer acceptable in our world.”
But, as Elon Musk proved after naming his child X Æ A-12, choosing a new name isn’t an easy task.
Sparked by the death of George Floyd, ownership conducted extensive discussions to learn how the name affected different communities, and decided that a new name would unify the community.
Their statement finishes with the line “While Indians will always be part of our history, it’s time to move forward.”
Personally, I’ve never liked the name Indians or the still-available-but-not-promoted Chief Wahoo merchandise. I own a couple of Indians tops, but the logo seems more applicable for teen-wear, and the Indians name always looks like I’m promoting one billion inhabitants of the sub-continent.
Generally, when talking to non-baseball people, I simply refer to the team as Cleveland. It saves replying to questions like “As in cowboys and indians?”
The pending name change has been widely criticised. The demographic of white millionaires screamed “Cancel culture” – although, surprisingly not all capitalised.
To be fair, President Trump knows quite a bit about cancelling, having tried to cancel or boycott Apple and Glenfiddich and Oreo and HBO and Starbucks and Rolling Stone and Mexico and Scotland, among many others.
Founded in Cleveland in 1901 as one of the American League’s eight charter franchises, the first Major League incarnation was the Cleveland Blues. They then became the Cleveland Bronchos and Cleveland Naps before assuming the name the Cleveland Indians in 1915.
Five years after the name change, the Indians won the World Series. It’s possible this is a contributing factor of why the name stuck for the next 100-plus years.
The need for a name change is an opinion shared by one of the most respected voices in Cleveland baseball. MLB’s Anthony Castrovince said:
“When I was 8 years old, I’d stage solo wiffle ball games in my front yard, pretending I had been invited to join an unusual and remarkably relevant youth team made up entirely of the children of Cleveland Indians players.”
“I am an obsessive Bruce Springsteen fan who can tell you the Boss’ Little League team was named the Indians, hence the line in Blinded by the Light of “Madmen drummers, bummers and Indians in the summer…”
He brings this up to demonstrate that when he says “It’s time to change the name”, it’s not coming from some woke outsider with no emotional stake in the game.
It looks like 2022 will be the earliest time we see the newest manifestation of the Cleveland franchise, and Dolan confirmed there will not be an interim name like Cleveland Tribe or Cleveland Baseball Club.
Major name changes don’t happen often. The Rays had a minor change when they dropped “Devil” from Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and the Florida Marlins became the Miami Marlins.
The Angels are on their fourth variation since I first saw Tim Salmon and the California Angels, although the changes have all involved their geographic struggle: California Angels, Anaheim Angels, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Angels.
I guess the last major change was when the Montreal Expos were reincarnated as the Washington Nationals in 2005.Embed from Getty Images
So, what will we call Cleveland’s baseball team in 2022?
Tongue-in-cheek suggestion which has plenty of support from those believing the ownership wimped out when organisations like the Atlanta Braves, Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Blackhawks are standing firm.
Same name as the Negro League team that played in the city in 1932. Few details are known about the team – they might have finished in last place with an 8-14 record.
This is my favourite, and therefore unlikely to make the shortlist. I like the music connection, no-one can be offended, and of course, Cleveland is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
I’m in good company with The Athletic’s Eno Sarris concurring:
“Cleveland Rocks gives the city and the museum so many different avenues to market themselves, and it’s fun — a major-league version of the Nashville Sounds, a chance to really celebrate music and baseball.”
Buckeyes is Ohio’s state nickname. Full disclosure: I had to Google to discover that a buckeye is a nut, not too dissimilar to a horse chestnut. The Cleveland Conkers has some alliteration appeal, but I’m not sure they have conkers in the USA.
A buckeye gets its name from the resemblance with the eye of a deer, and apparently, carrying one brings good luck.
The Cleveland Buckeyes were a Negro League baseball team that played in the 1940s. It is the preferred name-change choice of Ash Day, author of some of the best Cleveland Indians articles penned this side of the Atlantic. Ash mentions that “Now with the Negro Leagues getting Major League status, it seems fitting to pay tribute to that club.”
However, it is also the nickname of Ohio State University, which would surely cause lots of legal issues.
This is already the name of the women’s softball team, but I like the idea that you see Halley’s comet more frequently than a Cleveland Indians World Series-winning team.
The eight enormous monoliths called the “Guardians of Traffic” watch over passengers travelling on the Hope Memorial Bridge crossing the Cuyahoga River to Downtown Cleveland. They are unique to the city and represent power, strength and creativity.
This is the preferred choice of Pete, Tribe fan since 1997, who runs the unofficial Cleveland Indians UK fan account @uk_indians. He recalls making a mistake walking across the Hope Memorial Bridge to get to Progressive Field. It sounds a great idea, but the blinding sunshine and the deceptively long bridge – “it’s bloody massive” – makes it a venture that perhaps won’t be attempted next time.
The city has an authentic naval tradition, but the “Cleveland Commies”? Surely not.
Call back to the first Cleveland team in 1901, and there is a nice Ohioan symmetry with the Cincinnati Reds.
A few suggested names are unlikely to progress further than social media platforms: Cleveland McBoatFace, Cleveland Rain Delays, Cleveland Lindors and Cleveland Midges.
This is the leading suggestion according to the bookies. The city once had a team, albeit a different franchise, called the Spiders.
It offers logo designers plenty of scope, although I’m not sure if spiders fit Ohio like diamondbacks fit Arizona. Although as Anthony Castrovince states:
“I don’t have hard data on this, but I am confident Northeast Ohio has more spiders than Native Americans.”
For me, I don’t like it. It doesn’t sound like a serious Major League team. I will still revert to calling them Cleveland when talking to non-baseball Brits. My disdain is shared by Ash Day who comments that it is a “dreadful name for a sports team” and he doesn’t even mind spiders.
However, I am happy to bow to the superior wisdom of the great C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic:
“Dude, it’s fucking cool. It’d have the best logo, few other teams have it. It also ends in an s, it’s not trying too hard. Honestly, I think just as important is a total redesign, get away from red, white and blue. Do something different. Go black and white, like Spiderman from the Secret Wars or the Brooklyn Nets. Be different, but not bad ’90s MLS different.”
It is also the preferred choice of Anthony Castrovince
“It is an objectively functional and arguably awesome sports team nickname. The Spiders won that era’s answer to the World Series, so if you’re scoring at home, it’s…
Spiders: 1 championship in 13 years.
Indians: 2 championships in 105 years … and none since 1948
It has history, it has embraceability and it is offensive only, perhaps, to those with arachnophobia.
A third vote for Cleveland Spiders comes from Bat Flips and Nerds’ resident sabermetric genius, Russell Eassom, who confesses:
I’m all in on Spiders. Everything else seems lame to me. Really don’t like Rocks or Buckeyes.
The final word goes to Pete of @uk_indians who admits he is gutted to be losing the Indians name but his sentiment of “Sport should be a force for good, not another vehicle to divide us” should be our motto for 2021.