How MLB Teams Got Their Names: NL Central

The K Zone News

A Series by Maddie Marriott and Mike Duffy

Installment #3 by Maddie Marriott

January 24th, 2019

Your favorite series is back and better than ever with its third installment.  If you’re new to this series, check out the first two installments here: AL West and AL Central. In this series, we take a look at what makes a team who they are: their name.  Today we’ll be checking out the five teams in the NL Central Division: The Chicago Cubs, the Cincinnati Reds, the Milwaukee Brewers, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the St. Louis Cardinals.


The Chicago Cubs

The organization now known as the Cubs started out as the Chicago White Stockings.  Interestingly enough, there is no relationship between this team and the current White Sox- today’s White Sox took the name after this organization dropped it in 1889.  I’ve also read that the team wore shoes of “white goatskin,” which doesn’t really scream “baseball uniform” to me, but I guess the late 1800s was a weird time for fashion, as evidenced by the huge dresses and weird hats.  Anyway, that name stuck until 1889, when the team became known as the Colts due to the young ages of their players.  They were called the Colts until 1897, when they became known as the Orphans for a short time after Cap Ansen left the team, leaving them without a manager.


The Cubs that Chicago fans know and love were known by that name starting in 1902.  The name was first used by a newspaper journalist, again the result of the youth of the team, as well as their new manager, Frank Selee.  Some still used their previous names, but the short and sweet “Cubs” caught on rather quickly, and by 1907, it was the official name of the team.



The Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati teams have been known as the Red Stockings since professional baseball originated in the city in 1869.  We all know how baseball players feel about their socks, so I bet you can guess where this name came from.  This specific Red Stockings organization formed in 1882, and they quickly became known as the Reds, the shortened name being placed on uniforms by 1911.


The Reds changed things up for a while in the 1950s to make sure they wouldn’t be associated with Communism.  During a time when everyone thought everyone else was a secret Communist thanks to Senator McCarthy of Wisconsin, Cincinnati took steps to ensure that baseball, the most American of activities, would not come under any suspicion from the government.  From 1953 to 1961, Cincinnati’s baseball team was known as the Redlegs, a small but important distinction. Interestingly enough, the team kept the large “C’ in their logo during the so-called Red Scare until 1955, which, although seemingly inconsequential now, would have probably been enough to arouse suspicion at the time.



The Milwaukee Brewers

The franchise now known as the Brewers was born in Seattle as the Pilots in 1969.  The Pilots derived their name from Seattle’s history with William Boeing, aviation pioneer who founded the Boeing Company in 1916.  The Boeing Airplane Company was soon a staple of the Pacific Northwest, including the city of Seattle, and came to dominate industry in the region.


After a single unsuccessful season in Seattle, the team came under new ownership and moved to Milwaukee. Breweries were a big deal in Milwaukee at the time, so like many other teams, the Brewers were named after their new city’s leading industry.



The Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates’ name actually stems from a battle of the Pennsylvania teams, at the time known as the Pittsburgh Alleghenys (I know, I don’t like that spelling either) and the Philadelphia Athletics.  For those of the readers that are not great with geography, Pittsburgh’s original name, the Alleghenys, is a reference to their stadium’s location in what was then known as Allegheny City and the Allegheny River that runs through Western Pennsylvania.


After the 1890 season when a few Alleghenys left the team to join a Pittsburgh franchise in a different league, the team signed several players from their rival, the Philadelphia Athletics.  The Athletics were not happy, to say the least, referring to the Alleghenys actions as “piratical.” The nickname stuck and many referred to the team as the “Pirates” starting during the 1891 season.  By the time they reached their first World Series in 1903, they were formally known by the Pirates, which has a much nicer ring to it than Alleghenys.



The St. Louis Cardinals

If I had a dollar for every time socks showed up in one of the articles in this series, I’d have enough money to buy my own franchise and give it a more creative name.  Professional baseball started out in St. Louis as the Brown Stockings, named after their brown socks.  The impeccably named Brown Stockings had a rough year in 1898, going 39-111 and losing their stadium to a fire.  (Side note: their owner was also kidnapped for outstanding debts, but I think that’s a story for another time.) Looking for a fresh start, they went with the Perfectos.  Shoot for the stars, I guess.


Under new ownership, the team was looking for yet another rebrand since Perfectos was, as Aimee Levitt put it, “sort of lame.” The official story of the Cardinals’ name says that a reporter, William McHale, overheard a woman in the stands at one of the Perfectos’ games commenting on the beautiful “cardinal” shade of the players’ uniforms.  He used that name in his column, and the city approved.  The name was widely used by the players and fans alike by the end of the 1900 season.  The bird in the logo was not adopted until the 1920s.


If you like this series and want to see more installments, let us know in the comments or on any of our social media accounts.  You can follow The K Zone News on Twitter here, or on Instagram here.

If you want to read more of my writing, my articles about Sixto Sánchez, Odúbel Herrera, and The 2018 NL Cy Young Race are linked here.  Check out all of the great content the K Zone News has to offer in the Article Index. The links to the first two articles in this series are in the first paragraph of this article and can also be found in the Article Index.

All credit for images goes to original owners.


How the Cubs Got Their Name

How Each MLB Team Got Its Name (National League)

The Only Major League Baseball Team to Go Bankrupt: The Story of the Seattle Pilots





  1. Anonymous says:

    okay bro but this one…. exceptionally slaps


  2. Anonymous says:

    Enjoy the history lesson! More please!


  3. mikes dad says:

    follow @dumbmemesdotcom on instagram or else every baseball team will become the orioles


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