What’s in a Nickname? The Origins of All 30 MLB Team Names

Just like every other sport, baseball is covered in history and its accomplishments. Ask any devoted fan, and they’ll tell you that baseball is more than just a game to them.

Furthermore, the team names and their stories are just as important because they provide them with an identity and individuality which makes them unique.

And thus, to further help you connect a little more, we have listed down the origins of all MLB team names.

So if you have ever wondered what’s the story behind ‘Chicago Cubs’? Or why the ‘Boston Red Sox’ are named so? Well, then you are in the right place! Let’s jump in.

Origin of All 30 MLB Team Names

Arizona Diamondbacks

In 1995, the franchise’s ownership group asked fans to vote for their favorite nickname from a list that included Phoenix, Rattlers, Diamondbacks, Scorpions, and Coyotes. In the end, Diamondbacks, a type of rattlesnake, won the voting, and now we know them as Arizona Diamondbacks.

Atlanta Braves

The nickname braves originated in 1912, in Boston. Before the 1953 season, The Braves moved from Boston to Milwaukee. Therefore, from 1953 to 1965, they were known as the Milwaukee Braves. Again, they moved to Atlanta before the 1966 season, since then, they were called the ‘Atlanta Braves.’

Baltimore Orioles

The Baltimore Oriole is Maryland’s state bird. The orange and black colors of the male Oriole bird are similar to the colors on the coat of arms of Lord Baltimore, that’s how they got the nickname, Baltimore Orioles.

Boston Red Sox

When the “Red Sox” name was adopted for the team, then John Taylor was the owner. He named them as Red Sox to pay tribute to the old Boston Red Stockings which played in the “Player’s League,” and “American Association.”

Chicago Cubs

In 1902, the Chicago team had so many young players, and therefore, the Chicago Daily News nicknamed the group as “The Cubs.” By 1907, the team was universally known by the name Chicago Cubs.

Chicago White Sox

In 1900, Charles Comiskey moved to the South Side of Chicago. The team adopted the former nickname of the Chicago Cubs, and they became the White Stockings. After the addition of Chicago Cubs in the American League, they shortened the name to the White Sox.

Cincinnati Reds

They were one of the earliest professional baseball teams in the USA. However, they were kicked out of the National League in 1880 for playing games and selling beer on Sunday. They re-branded a new team, Cincinnati Red-Stockings. In 1889, again, they joined the National League, and they became Cincinnati Reds.

Cleveland Indians

This team was initially nicknamed as the Naps after their star player-manager Napoleon Laoie. But, after the 1914 season, they cut with Napoleon Lajoie, so they adopted a new name, Cleveland Indians.

Colorado Rockies

They were originally Denver’s NHL team from 1976-1982. They moved to New Jersey, and they became New Jersey Devils. In 1993, they got the nickname Colorado Rockies, in reference to the Rocky Mountains, which surrounds the Denver city.

Detroit Tigers

Many believed that they have stripes on their uniforms, and that’s why they got the nickname, tigers.

Houston Astros

In Greek, Astro means “star.” In 1965, they got the nickname Houston Astros, because NASA trains all of their American Astronauts in Houston.

Kansas City Royals

They were named as the Royals in reference to the American Royal Livestock Show, which has been held in Kansas City, MO, since 1899.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Los Angeles is also known as the “City of Angels”. Hence, they were given this name.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers originated in Brooklyn, and they moved to Los Angeles in 1957. The residents of Brooklyn were good at dodging the trolleys while walking in the streets, so they got the nickname, Dodgers.

Miami Marlins

Miami is a highly popular fishing destination, while Marlin is a sports fish. In 2012, Florida Marlins changed their name to the Miami Marlins.

Milwaukee Brewers

They were given this name because of the Milwaukee’s history of beer brewing.

Minnesota Twins

Two cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul are separated by the Mississippi River. They’re also called the Twin Cities. So, they nicknamed Minnesota Twins to pay tribute to the both cities.

New York Mets

In 1962, when the New York was given an expansion team, they used the abbreviated nickname “Mets” for short.

New York Yankees

From 1903-1912, they were known as the ‘New York Highlanders.’ Yankee means “American,” and so they used “Yankees” as a nickname. Since 1913, it has been the nickname of the team.

Oakland Athletics

Initially, the best team of the area was the “Athletic Baseball Club of Philadelphia.” In 1968, Oakland inherited the Kansas City Athletics, which was formerly known by the name Philadelphia Athletics.

Philadelphia Phillies

In 1933, the first time the word “Phillies” appeared on the team’s uniform. It is short for “Philadelphians.”

Pittsburgh Pirates

In 1890, the Pittsburgh Club of National League signed two players, including Lou Bierbauer. Philadelphia Athletics had forgotten Bierbauer on their reserve list. At the end of the 1890s, a sportswriter said that “Pittsburgh pirated away Bierbauer,” and thus, the nickname Pirates was introduced.

San Diego Padres

In Spanish, the word “Padre” means father. They adopted the nickname of the Pacific Coast League team, the Padres.

San Francisco Giants

In 1957, the New York Giants moved to San Francisco. Formerly, they were known as the Gothams. After a spectacular win, the manager Jim Mutrie said that they played like “Giants.” And so it became their nickname.

Seattle Mariners

In Seattle, fishing and marine activities are prevalent, and that is how they got the nickname, Mariners.

St. Louis Cardinals

In 1899, William McHale, a baseball journalist, referenced the team as the Cardinals because of their red uniforms. They became famous by the name Cardinals.

Tampa Bay Rays

From 1998 to 2007, they were known by the name Devil Rays. After the 2007 season, they dropped the Devil word from their name and adopted Tampa Bay Rays.

Texas Rangers

In 1972, the team was named as Rangers to pay tribute to the state’s history, and in honor of Stephen F. Austin’s law enforcement division.

Toronto Blue Jays

On August 12th, 1976, the team’s front office personnel selected Blue Jays out of 30,000 entries, and 4,000 suggested nicknames.

Washington Nationals

Initially, Washington’s baseball team was referred to as Nationals and Senators. In 2005, when the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington, the organization revived the old “Nationals” nickname, because the Texas Rangers still owned “Senators” nickname.

Final Words

So ‘What’s in a nickname you asked?’ Well, now you know!

It is definitely fascinating to find out why and how your favorite team is nicknamed. You can’t deny that it does make you feel closer to the team, while also providing you with great anecdotes to share with your baseball friends over a glass of beer!

That being said, a little history always enriches the passion while giving you a sneak-peek inside their traditions and legacies.

Vijay Singh
I started playing Baseball when I was 13 years old. I never made to MLB or any big league, but played enough to share some knowledge.

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