Thursday, July 23, 2009

How the Cubs Named 2 Other Pro Teams

The Chicago Cubs had a direct influence on the naming of two other professional sports teams. Say what you will about a century of futility, but how many other teams can claim that?

In the early days of baseball well up until the early 1900’s, team nicknames where generally speaking exactly that: nicknames. They were given to teams by the fans and the writers often resulting from what color they happened to be wear. From the time of its founding in 1870 as the Chicago Base Ball Club through its transition to the Chicago National League Ball Club with the founding of the National League in 1876 up until about 1890, the team was named the White Stockings after their white socks of course.

1885 NL Pennant Winners (white socks not pictured)

Unlike the current century, in its early years the team dominated, winning the first National League Pennant in 1876 and five others (1880, 1881, 1882, 1885, 1886). By the 1890’s the team’s nickname had changed to the Colts (“Anson’s Colts” after team leader Cap Anson) and then (after Anson left) the Orphans or even sometimes the Remnants. Then in the early 1900’s, when the team jettisoned most of its veteran players for a group of youngsters, writers starting calling the youthful group “Cubs” which of course finally stuck.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Surely you’ve guessed the first team to be named after them. When Charlie Comiskey founded his Chicago American League Ball Club he jumped on the name the White Stockings to harken back to the winning teams of the 1880’s. A scorekeeper shortened the cumbersome “Stockings” to “Sox”. Sports writers ran with it and by 1904 they’d adopted it officially.

1901 AL Pennant Winners (white socks pictured)

This results in the interesting curiosity that the both the inaugural National League and American League Pennants were won by a team known as the “Chicago White Stockings”.

But what’s the other team named after the Cubs? After playing one season at Wrigley Field as the Chicago Staleys of the National Football League, the team changed their name to the Bears in order to identify with the baseball team that shared their home. The Bears played at Wrigley for 50 years, a record that stood until 2007, the Packers 51st year at Lambeau Field. Wrigley also had hosted more NFL games than any other stadium until 2003 when Giants Stadium passed it. Of course two NFL teams play there.

So there you have it, the American League White Sox and the NFL’s Bears both named after the Chicago National League Ball Club.

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