Thursday, July 23, 2015

Alas, the Worcester Tornadoes Are No Longer (but there are still plenty of great minor league team names out there)

 In the run up to last week’s All Star Game, there was a flurry of publicity about disgraced old-timer Pete Rose. For those who don’t follow sports, the odious Rose, after a brilliant career (most of it spent with his home town team, the Cincinnati Reds), was banned from baseball for betting on games. Which means no Hall of Fame.

This isn’t stopping Pete and his buds from shamelessly lobbying the baseball world to forgive and forget and let him into the Hall, where he would have been a first ballot shoe in. (Instead of a no ballot, Shoeless Joe shoo out.)

I didn’t like Pete Rose when he was playing. I don’t like him any better now.

I vote to keep him out of the Hall – no plaque for you, my friend – but to recognize whatever records he holds (facts is facts) if, in fact, the Hall doesn’t do so already. (Fair is fair.)

And with this preface, I’ll get to the heart of the post:

In one of the pictures I saw of Pete last week, he was wearing gear that said “Corn Belters” on it.

As it googles out, the Corn Belters are a minor league baseball team playing in the Corn Belt town of Normal (Illinois). They’re not to be confused with the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Kernels. Who’re are not to be confused with the Modesto (California) Nuts.

There are so many great baseball team names that are out there…

Some teams are named for local industry (however defunct). So we have the Lowell (Mass.) Spinners, harkening back to the days when Lowell was the original mill town.

Then there are Lehigh Valley (Pennsylvania) Iron Pigs. I don’t really know what an iron pig is, but I suspect it has something to do with pig iron. Which is an actually thing that gets produced, unlike Cincinnati Reds (for Redstockings) or the Boston Red Sox which are items of clothing that, while they may be produced, are never actually worn, except by the players. In other words, they seem to be devoid of local meaning.

Into the Iron Pig heavy industry category go the
Lansing (Michigan) Lugnuts, the Mahoning Valley (Ohio) Scrappers, the Chillicothe (Ohio) Paints, and the Akron (Ohio) Rubber Ducks, which get extra props for not only being a shout out to the industry that made its name, but for having a sense of humor (and, I suspect, some fun giveaways). The Bowling Green (Kentucky) Hot Rods got their name from the local Corvette plant.

Post-industrial, non-Rust Belt, Ashville (North Carolina) has its Tourists, Biloxi (Mississippi) has its Shuckers, and Corpus Christi (Texas) has the Hooks. Traverse City (Michigan) is home to the Beach Bums. I guess this makes sense, given that Traverse City is a vacation spot. But I’m so parochial, I associate beach bums with salt water, not fresh.

Reno (Nevada)’s team is named the Aces, while Las Vegas shuns the obvious gambling references – no Casinos, no Blackjacks, no Slots – and has a team called the 51s, a nod to an area (Area 51) in the state where there have been UFO sightings.

The criminal industrial complex rears its ugly head with the Joliet (Illinois) Slammers.

My favorite nod to local business, however, would have to be the Albuquerque Isotopes. At least it was while I was assuming that the name was taken from Los Alamos. But rather than having anything to do with Robert Oppenheim, it turns out that the Isotopes has something to do with Home Simpson. At least I’ll take
wikipedia’s word for it.)

Some teams have names that I don’t quite get.

Are the Wichita (Kansas) Wingnuts called the wingnuts because they manufacture wingnuts in town, or because they breed wingnuts in town? And where does the Winston-Salem (North Carolina) Dash name come from? Shouldn’t they be the Cigs?

But why quibble, when there’s a litany of wonderful minor league team names to chant? The Omaha (Nebraska) Storm Chasers. The Sioux Falls (South Dakota) Canaries. The Richmond (Virginia) Flying Squirrels. The Peoria (Arizona – not Illinois: that wouldn’t make much sense) Javelinas. (I sure hope they play the Surprise (Arizona) Saguaros.)

You’ve got to love a team – the Brooklyn (New York) Cyclones – named for an amusement park ride. And then there’s the dare-to-be-me Everett (Washington) Aqua Sox. And the almost edible Montgomery (Alabama) Biscuits.

The Worcester (Massachusetts) Tornadoes are, alas, no longer. But, really, how could a team named after a weather disaster that killed nearly 100 locals survive?

There is a minor league team in town, the Bravehearts, named, I’m hoping not for any heretofore unknown Worcester Scots’ heritage, or because of any fondness for Mel Gibson, but, rather for the Heart of the Commonwealth.

Go Bravehearts!

(Source for most of the names: Wikipedia)

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