Cleveland Indians to change team name

Originally posted on MLB Trade Rumors | By Mark Polishuk | Last updated 12/13/20

The Cleveland Indians have decided to change their team name, according to David Waldstein and Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times.  An announcement from the club could come at some point this week, though the team might retain the name throughout the 2021 season and then officially adopt a new nickname for 2022.  The club is also considering adopting a generic name (such as “The Cleveland Baseball Team”) in the interim.

The Cleveland organization announced it was considering a possible name change in a statement last July, not long after the NFL’s Washington franchise indicated it was weighing a move away from its former nickname — hence the creation of the “Washington Football Team” designation for the 2020-21 NFL campaign.  Even before July, however, there had been indications that the Cleveland team was slowly laying the groundwork for a name change, such as how the club’s old “Chief Wahoo” mascot was no longer prominently featured on uniforms, and the now-familiar “C” logo had become the primary choice on caps.

This won’t be the first name change for the franchise, as they were first known as the Grand Rapids Rustlers upon their original foundation in 1894 (when based in Grand Rapids, Michigan) and then became known as the Cleveland Lake Shores after moving to Ohio.  When the team joined the American League in 1901, the name changed twice in as many seasons, going from the Bluebirds (or Blues) in 1901 and then the Bronchos in 1902, before settling on becoming “the Cleveland Naps” from 1903-1914 in a nod to newly-acquired superstar Napoleon Lajoie.

A new name was obviously required after Lajoie was sold to the Philadelphia A’s following the 1914 season, and it then that Cleveland adopted its current nickname.  The proper origin of the “Indians” name has remained unknown, as the popular story that the nickname was chosen in honor of Louis Sockalexis (a Native American and fan favorite for the National League’s Cleveland Spiders in 1897-99) isn’t exactly true, as there are also several indications that Cleveland chose the name to capitalize on the popularity of the 1914 World Series champion Boston Braves.

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