The Cleveland Indians announced Monday they will change their name. The franchise has gone by the name Indians since 1915, but sports franchises are increasingly under criticism for using names, logos and uniform design elements that reference Native Americans. The team is still planning to use the Indians moniker in 2021, however, and has not decided on a new name.
Already the Indians have phased out use of the “Chief Wahoo” logo, and thebeen going by the “Football Team” moniker since altering its identity in July after receiving pressure from sponsors. Soon, the Indians nickname will be gone, and in its place will be … something else.
Let’s take a look at some of the candidates to be that something else.
With apologies to the University of Richmond, “Spiders” is a woefully underused sports team name. In this instance, there’s a civic connection: The city’s short-lived National League franchise of the late nineteenth century was known as the Cleveland Spiders. You’ll find this one to be a popular option on media sociale.
Nap Lajoie spent the heart of his legendary career with Cleveland’s American League team and was the AL’s first true superstar. His star power was such that, yes, the Cleveland team was named the Naps before it was named the Indians. That means it would indeed be a nod to franchise history to roll the name back to “Naps.” Bonus points are awarded since the word also signifies restorative time spent on the couch.
In keeping with that franchise tradition of naming the team after a player, let’s consider the Fellers with a nod to Paul Swydan of the Hardball Times for the idea. The name would of course invoke Bob Feller, author of a legendary fastball, the greatest pitcher in franchise history, and a war hero. Feller is also ordinary vernacular for “fellow,” and that lends itself to all manner of branding punnery.
Cleveland is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, so this one is seamless enough. Guitar-bats on the jerseys and all that. Krokus had a couple of solid jams. They’re not from Cleveland, but still. As others have pointed out, this was also the name of Cleveland’s WNBA franchise from 1997 until 2003.
Note the pleasing alliteration! Bird nicknames are to be encouraged, and “crows” is a neglected avian species when it comes to sports iconography. But wait, that’s not all. Straight from the pages of the Ralph Perkins II Wildlife Center & Woods Garden of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History we learn that, “American Crows are abundant in Ohio …”. Hills be shaken: There are crows in Ohio. So, so fitting. GO CROWS! CAW! CAW! CAW! CAW, CAW, CAW, CAW!
Cleveland Blue Sox
White and Red are already spoken for, so let’s complete the American palette with the Blue Sox. There’s blue in the Cleveland uniform already, so yeah, sure. The goofiness of naming a team “Sox” is also a baseball mini-tradition that should be embraced and possibly expanded.
Among MLB cities, only Pittsburgh’s Monongahela is a cooler river name. The Cuyahoga River runs through Cleveland, and it’s also the name of the county Cleveland is in. Is Cleveland the county seat? I would guess so, but I don’t feel like looking it up.
Cleveland Great Lakers
Cleveland is situated on the shores of Lake Erie, which is a member in good standing of the Great Lakes. So Great Lakers. Also, the name implies that Cleveland is better than the Los Angeles Lakers, which is surely true.
During the American Civil War, Cleveland became an important hub for the Union side, especially when it came to shipbuilding. Cleveland’s population and economic base also boomed during those war years. Also, that side won.
This was actually the name of the Cleveland Spiders before they were the Spiders. It also evokes those Union ties noted above. Please do know that a sum buck named Cinders O’Brien played for the Blues.
I just told you about Cinders O’Brien, so I’m not sure why I’m explaining this one.
President James Garfield is buried in a mini-castle in Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery. So there’s the connection. Also, castles are pretty righteous, and to the extent that this scribe knows what he’s talking about there’s no team anywhere known as the Castles.
Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry is a local maritime hero because of his War of 1812 exploits, and the word also calls to mind some of the hazards we associate with Cleveland. For instance, the aforementioned Cuyahoga River once caught on fire, possibly leaving behind … Cinders. Anyway, burning a river is hard to pull off.
Cleveland Burning River
See above. It’s also the name of a local roller derby league. They had the name first, but everything’s a negotiation.
Consider this an oversight on the part of the author, and let’s let a reader on Twitter lay out the very compelling case for Buckeyes:
This would indeed be an excellent choice and one that — in addition to paying homage to the Negro Leagues — would unify much of Ohio. Yes, Ohio State is most famously known for the Buckeye nickname, but if we can abide two overlapping versions of the New York Giants for more than three decades then we can also make this happen.
The Cleveland Dobys
In keeping that tradition of naming the franchise after a player, why not Hall of Famer Larry Doby, who was the AL’s first Black player?
Across parts of 13 MLB seasons, Doby put up an OPS+ of 136, which is outstanding production for any player, let alone one who spent the majority of his career in the vital role of center fielder. So in addition to being a pioneering figure in the game’s history, Doby was also one hell of a ballplayer.
We understand that you love all of those, but you can choose only one. CAW! CAW! CAW!