40th anniversary: birth of a nickname

Today is the 40th birthday for a baseball team, or rather, for a baseball team’s nickname.

On Nov. 23, 1971, Bob Short, until now the owner of the Washington Senators, announced a switch in his team’s name.

That he would announce a chance was hardly surprising. Late in the season, he announced the Senators would move out of Washington and take up residence in a new locale in 1972. Largely due to that, Senators fans rioted in their team’s last home game—in what would prove to be the last big league game in Washington for over 30 years.

Short had already announced that his team would play next year in Dallas. And 40 years ago today, he christened them the Texas Rangers. You have to admit, it’s a good name.

A few years ago, I wrote a column ranking big league team nicknames. I figured there were three key elements to a nickname: It should be original, it must relate to the locale, and, most importantly, it must sound cool. Based on that criteria, I placed the Texas Rangers third best, behind only the Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks.

It’s original because there aren’t too many teams called Rangers out there. It relates to the area because the Texas Rangers are famous. And it sure sounds cool—there’s a reason why so many kids play cowboys and Indians. Originality is probably its weakest point; the term “Texas Rangers” clearly predates them, but it’s still very good.

Think about the alternative. “Ladies and gentlemen, your Texas Senators!” Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it? Sounds more like a rally cry for the incumbent U.S. senators from Texas, who at that time were John Tower and Lloyd Bentsen.

There are worse nicknames in professional sports, and they’re often caused by teams keeping their nicknames once they leave. For example, please note the NBA’s Los Angeles (formerly Minnesota) Lakers, and the all-time great one, the Utah Jazz, a nickname that make as little sense as possible now. Yet it was a good nickname as the New Orleans Jazz.

But the Texas team avoided that fate by renaming themselves the Rangers, and they did it exactly 40 years ago today.

Aside from that, many other events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is an event occurring X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you just want to skim:

Day-versaries

3,000 days since Roy Halladay becomes the first person in over a decade to throw an extra-inning complete-game shutout. The last man to do it was Jack Morris in Game Seven of the 1991 World Series.

4,000 days since the Rockies sign free agent Ron Gant.

4,000 days since the Rangers sign free agent Ken Caminiti.

6,000 days since Jeff Bagwell blasts his 100th home run.

7,000 days since Cincinnati’s Bip Roberts connects for a hit in his 10th consecutive at-bat.

7,000 days since the Padres fire manager Greg Riddoch and replace him with Jim Riggleman. This begins the big league managerial career for Riggleman.

7,000 days since Larry Walker guns out Pirates pitcher Tim Wakefield at first base in the rare 9-3 ground out. It’s the second time in eight days the Pirates have seen a 9-3 play.

9,000 days since the Cubs trade Dennis Eckersley to the A’s for three minor leaguers. This moves works pretty well for Oakland.

10,000 days since Nolan Ryan has one of the worst performances of his career. He ties his all-time low Game Score of 7 with this line: 1.1 IP, 7 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 2 BB, and 1 K.

10,000 days since teamed led by managers Dick Williams and Chuck Tanner square off against each other for the 200th time. Since then, only one other pair of managers has done it: Dusty Baker and Tony LaRussa.

20,000 days since Dave Stewart is born.

20,000 days since the New York Yankees and Kansas City A’s engage in a 13-player trade. Among other, the Yankees get Clete Boyer (as a player to be named later), Bobby Shantz, and Art Ditmar. The A’s get Mickey McDermott and Tom Morgan.

25,000 days since relief pitcher Ken Chase walks 11 in one outing. No reliever has issued more free passes in one outing, since 1920 at least.

30,000 days since Kiki Cuyler gets his 1,000th hit. It takes him 794 games.

30,000 days since Art Nehf last appears on a big league mound.

Anniversaries

1878 Birth of Hall of Fame caliber outfielder James Samuel Tilden Sheckard.

1908 The Red Sox sign free agent Harry Hooper.

1910 Hal Schumacher, the long time rotation companion to Carl Hubbell on the Giants, is born.

1926 The Cardinals sign free agent Rabbit Maranville.

1930 Jack McKeon, ageless wonder of the world, is born.

1940 Luis Tiant is born.

1943 Phillies owner William Cox is banned from baseball for life for betting on his team. He wagered from $25 to $200 on them to win games.

1948 Hall of Fame centerfielder Hack Wilson dies.

1964 After his long, fruitful run with the team, the Milwaukee Braves sell the legendary Warren Spahn to the Mets.

1971 The Pirates name Bill Virdon their new manager, as Danny Murtaugh announces his retirement. Murtaugh’s problem is a weak heart, but he’ll return to the dugout in a few years. Had he not, Murtaugh would’ve been the first manager to retire with a world championship, as the Pirates beat the Orioles in the 1971 World Series.

1975 The Angels sign amateur free agent Dickie Thon.

1976 The Astros trade former ace starter Larry Dierker to the Cardinals.

1976 Texas signs free agent pitcher Doyle Alexander.

1977 Adam Eaton, pitcher, is born.

1977 The Red Sox sign free agent pitcher Mike Torrez.

1980 Jonathan Papelbon, closer, is born.

1988 The Yankees sign free agent Steve Sax.

1990 37-year-old catcher Bo Diaz dies tragically and weirdly at his home in Caracas, Venezuela, when a satellite dish falls on him, crushing him to death.

1990 The Tigers sign free agent Rob Deer.

1992 The Orioles sign free agent Rick Sutcliffe. The tall pitcher will win the Comeback Player of the Year Award in Baltimore.

1993 The Orioles sign free agent pitcher Sid Fernandez.

2001 Former pitcher Bo Belinsky dies.

2007 Pitcher Joe Kennedy dies far too young. He was born in 1979.

2009 The White Sox sign free agent Omar Vizquel.

2010 The Reds sign free agent and former phenom Dontrelle Willis.

2010 The Giants sign free agent Aubrey Huff.

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Comments

  1. Bruce Markusen said...

    Not only is “Rangers” a good nickname, but the Rangers had this great logo with a Stetson hat they used back in their early days. It is so much better than the logos they’ve gone with in recent seasons.

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