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The Houston Not-Stros

Oh, hell no.

Even more drastic changes could come next year, when the [Astros move] to the American League.

Possible transformations include new uniforms and logos, changes to the playing field and “Tal’s Hill” in center field, and even a re-evaluation of the name “Astros,” which the team has used for the last 47 years of a 50-year history.

“We’re taking a look at everything,” [new owner Jim] Crane said when asked about the potential name change. “We’re going to do a study on it. We’re going to study the information, both from our fans and from all sorts of marketing people. I’m not saying we’re going to change. We haven’t made a decision. If the change is going to come, it’s going to come next year.”

I assure you, this will not go over well. Many people are already upset at the forthcoming change to the American League. Save yourself the money on the study.

Yes, I know, the team changed its name once, from the Colt .45s to the Astros, back in 1965. That was a long time ago, and it was a three-year-old franchise updating its name to fit a brand new, first of its kind stadium. That team had no history to leave behind, and the move into the Astrodome made the name change make sense. There’s no parallel here. Besides, the other time a team changed leagues, the Milwaukee Brewers kept their name.

Geek that I am, I got to wondering how often teams changed names. Often, the name change was accompanied by a relocation – the Expos became the Nationals, the Senators became the Rangers (and an earlier version of the Senators became the Twins before that), the Pilots became the Mariners, and the Browns became the Orioles. For teams that remained in the same place, the name changes I could think of were:

The Tamps Bay Rays dropped the “Devil” from their name in 2008.

The Oakland Athletics became the Oakland A’s in 1970, but then reclaimed the “Athletics” name in 1981.

The Cincinnati Reds were briefly known as the “Redlegs” during the 1950s. Yes, this was a craven response to McCarthyism and the hysteria over Communism.

The Boston Braves, which had numerous other nicknames early on, were known as the Bees from 1935-39, before becoming the Braves again. They remained the Braves through relocations to Milwaukee and then Atlanta, as the Athletics kept their name after moving from Philadelphia to Kansas City and finally to Oakland.

In 1933, the Brooklyn franchise officially became the Dodgers after previously being known as the Grays, the Grooms, the Bridegrooms, the Superbas, and the Robins. Let me just say now that I will drop my own opposition to an Astros’ name change if Jim Crane agrees to call the team the Houston Superbas, if only because I would love to know what a Superbas team mascot might look like.

Go back further and there are more and more examples of name changes. Even the New York Yankees were once known as the Highlanders, a name that was supposedly hated by New York’s many newspapers because it was impossible to fit into a headline. There’s plenty of examples of name changes, but none that I can see for a longstanding franchise that isn’t going anywhere. I personally would prefer the Astros make history in other ways than that. Hair Balls, which focuses on the positive things that were said like lower ticket prices, cheaper beer, and the ability to bring your own food and beverage into the stadium, and Greg, who’s with me, have more.

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6 Comments

  1. Jeff N. says:

    Excellent baseball history, thanks. When I was a kid in the 70s, I read about the Brooklyn Superbas and imagined the third syllable of their nickname (rather than the second) was emphasized, like an early version of “Superbads.”

    Wouldn’t Houston Superbads be a good name for a baseball team?

  2. Bill says:

    The Oilers name is available:)

  3. Mase says:

    The biggest baseball name change you missed: The Washington Senators/Nationals becoming the Minnesota Twins in 1961.

    You didn’t mention other sports where name changes have been more common (Oilers/Titans, obviously)

  4. Mase – Actually, I did mention it: “the Senators became the Rangers (and an earlier version of the Senators became the Twins before that)”. But as noted, I was more interested in name changes that were not also associated with franchise moves.

    If we want to bring in other sports, the most prominent recent example I can think of is the Washington Bullets becoming the Wizards. A sort-of similar case is the Phoenix Cardinals becoming the Arizona Cardinals, but if you count that you also have to count the California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

  5. PDiddie says:

    And the Florida/Miami Marlins.

  6. […] can watch the video here. I had said this wouldn’t go over well, and an unscientific Chron poll confirmed that fans were strongly […]

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