The K Zone News
A Series by Mike Duffy and Maddie Marriott
Installment #1 by Maddie Marriott
January 2nd, 2019
A team’s name is a vital part of its identity. The name shapes almost everything about the team’s image, including merchandise, uniforms, and their beloved mascot. While names can share a similar importance across the league, how each team got its name is quite different. Whether it’s from the origin of their players or the staple of the city, the origin of each MLB team’s name is uniquely interesting.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the origin of the names of AL West teams: The Houston Astros, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Oakland Athletics, the Seattle Mariners, and the Texas Rangers.
The Houston Astros
Houston’s baseball team was originally called the Colt .45’s when they were founded as an expansion team in 1962. This name came about after the owners of the new team hosted a name-the-team competition that allowed people of the city to submit their own ideas for the name of the first Texas baseball team. Colt .45, a gun used in the fight for the American West, won out because of its historical significance to the city. William Neder, the man who submitted the winning name, wrote, “The Colt .45 won the west and we will win the National League.”
The Colt .45’s changed their name to the Astros in 1965 to represent the huge aeronautics and space industry in the city. Houston, at the time called Space City U.S.A., was the center of aeronautics activity in the United States. The spring training headquarters for the team was even located at the Cape Kennedy Launching Pad. Furthermore, the front office hoped that the name change would get rid of the stigma that Texas was a land of “cowboys and Indians” and help bring the team and the city into the 20th century.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The history of the “Los Angeles” team name is…complicated to say the least. The name “Angels” came from the city’s former Pacific Coast League (PCL) team. “Angels” has stuck as the team name, but the city name in front (and behind) has changed multiple times. They started out playing in Los Angeles, sharing a stadium with the Dodgers, also from Los Angeles. The team moved out of that stadium and into Anaheim Stadium in 1966. They then appropriately changed their name to the California Angels. Thirty years later, the team was renamed the Anaheim Angels after the city put in an additional thirty million dollars to the renovation of their stadium.
Unfortunately, the name changes didn’t end there. In 2003, The Walt Disney corporation sold the Angels to Arte Moreno. Two years later, in 2005, it was announced that the team would be renamed “The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.” Yep, that’s two cities in there. People everywhere were confused, and the people of both Anaheim and Los Angeles were upset. Moreno claimed the name change was part of a marketing plan to extend the Angels’ fanbase into urban Los Angeles. The people of Anaheim felt cheated, especially since the city had paid for the stadium about a decade earlier. The city of Anaheim sued with the support of Los Angeles to keep the name from changing, but eventually lost the case, and the mouthful of a name has remained ever since.
The Oakland Athletics
The Oakland Athletics started out in 1901 as the Philadelphia Athletics. They were named after the Athletic Baseball Club of Philadelphia, a local organization founded in 1859. The Athletics remained in Philadelphia until 1954 when they moved to Kansas City. Just thirteen years later, in 1968, the club moved to Oakland. The name “Athletics” is often shortened to “A’s” which can be found on much of the team’s merchandise and some of their uniforms. The name has been called the “oldest name in baseball.”
The Seattle Mariners
The Mariners were actually not the first Seattle-based baseball team. The Seattle Pilots were formed in 1968, but after one unsuccessful season, the owners sold the team to a Milwaukee car dealer who moved the team to his home town. After the state’s attorney general filed a lawsuit against the league for failing to field a team in Seattle as promised, new teams were created in Seattle and Toronto.
The Seattle Mariners were created as an expansion team in 1977. Once again, a name-the-team contest was held to pick a name for the team. The name “Mariners” was submitted by multiple fans, the most compelling argument being, “I’ve selected Mariners because of the natural association between the sea and Seattle and her people, who have been challenged and rewarded by it.”
The Texas Rangers
The organization originally began as the Washington (D.C.) Senators in 1961. After a noticeable lack of success in the number of seasons after their creation, low attendance and therefore, low revenue, contributed to poor play. The team relocated to Arlington, Texas after the 1971 season.
After the move, the team needed a new name. “Rangers” was chosen by team owner Robert Short, honoring the Texas Rangers Division, a Texas-born law enforcement agency founded in 1823. The agency was originally founded to track down and punish a band of Native Americans, but evolved into the state police force.
If you want to check out more of my writing, click here to find my articles about the 2018 NL Cy Young Race, Sixto Sánchez, and Odubel Herrera. You can check out all of the content on the K Zone here.
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