by Kevin Burton
Cleveland’s Major League Baseball franchise is doing the right thing by dropping the name “Indians,” but what should the new name be?
The team, established in 1901, announced the move last month, following the lead of the Washington DC pro football franchise that dropped the name “Redskins.”
These moves and others that may follow, belatedly correct team names reflecting racism against Native Americans.
Ideas for new names are flooding in to the team of course. This is no small matter. The new name will be an identity not just for the team but for a whole region.
When teams refer to their fan base as “nation,” they speak the truth.
My first, not entirely serious idea, how about the Cleveland Buzzards?
That inspiration, I got from reading the great book “The Buzzard; inside the glory days of WMMS and Cleveland rock radio, a memoir,” by John Gorman and Tom Feran.
Cleveland is not a rock and roll town because the Rock and Roll Hall of fame is there, the hall was placed there because Cleveland is a rock and roll town.
According to the book, The Buzzard and the concerts it sponsored were about the only things bringing people into downtown Cleveland in the 70s.
The rock and roll tie in to the new name is an obvious one. “Buzzards” however isn’t gaining any traction.
“Rockers” is an idea put forth by USA Today. The website www.fansided.com thinks that is a “silly” idea. One of their suggestions is my choice as well. Since we can’t swing Buzzards, how about the Cleveland Blues?
“Blues is a much more muted option that still has musical connections given the large overlap between the blues and early rock and roll,” the website wrote, adding that in 1879 Cleveland’s first National league team was called the blues.
Even better, using “Blues” would perfectly divide Ohio politically, with the Reds based in ultra-conservative Cincinnati and the Blues in liberal-leaning Cleveland.
That’s delicious, way too good to pass up. It’s got to be the Blues.
Other suggestions point to names that previous teams have used. There was a Cleveland Spiders team from 1889 to 1898. USA Today thinks that is the early favorite for a name. But Spiders is only marginally better than Buzzards on the creepy scale.
The Cleveland Buckeyes were a Negro American League team but using that name doesn’t seem like a great marketing ploy because of nearby behemoth Ohio State.
Cleveland Baseball Club sounds very European soccer not very Cleveland. Don’t see that happening.
“Lakers” is an idea put forward by USA today because of the city’s proximity to Lake Erie.
Cleveland Guardians would be a fairly hideous name based on the “guardians of traffic statues” on the Hope Memorial Bridge, which hovers over the Cuyahoga River.
A letter to the editor in The Cleveland Plain Dealer suggested “Municipals” or Munis for short, as a nod to the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium the team played in for years.
Or how about the Cleveland Wild Things after the character Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn in the movie Major League?
In 1903 the team was named the Cleveland “Naps” after star player Napoleon Lajoie. Indians was the name chosen after Lajoie left the team after the 1914 season.
The name was partly based on the success of the Boston braves, who won the 1914 World Series, and on Louis Sockalexis, a former Native American baseball star in Cleveland who died in 1913, according to Cleveland Magazine.
The team removed its racist Chief Wahoo logo from uniforms after the 2018 season. It will be called “Indians” in 2021, then change to something new.
“With their commendable decision to alter the team name, Cleveland’s team is taking an important step,” said Ray Halbritter, an Oneida Nation representative and leader of the Change the Mascot campaign. “By finally acting, Cleveland’s team is moving the team and professional sports forward down a new path of inclusivity and mutual respect.”
Michael Wilbon, cohost of ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption, praises Cleveland as a city that vibrates with passion for its teams. He says it is a much better sports town than many larger cities with a reputation for a loyal fan base.
Cleveland deserves a decent name, one approved by people from Cleveland who care about Cleveland, not one approved by marketers.