Cleveland’s new start: Team moves away from “Indians” name and moves towards uncertain future
photo illustration: Emma Clute
After years of protests from various Native American groups, the Cleveland Indians will change their name.
Cleveland has one of the longest and richest histories when it comes to baseball, and the club that began in 1865 will have to rebrand itself for the first time in over 100 years. So, what should Cleveland’s new name be?
I’ve tried to answer this question by looking at the history - and future - of the city to come up with my list of the top contenders.
Honorable Mention: The Lightning
Before we begin, this has almost nothing to do with the city, but I discovered this story when researching the history of the team, and it’s too awesome not to include.
In 1919, Cleveland Pitcher Ray Caldwell was pitching in his debut game. In the 9th inning, he was struck by lightning.
Not only did the incredibly statically unlikely event happen, but in the middle of a professional baseball game, to a man standing in the middle of a metal stadium surrounded by fans.
I had to check if it was real, and this happened.
Not only did he get struck by lightning, he came back to consciousness and finished the game. He went on to pitch a no-hitter 17 days later, and Cleveland went on to win the 1920 World Series.
This story is so insane that I had to include it as an honorable mention in honor of baseball’s forgotten champion, Ray Caldwell.
Professional baseball in Cleveland began in 1870 with the eloquently named “Cleveland Forest Citys.”
The city of Cleveland used the Forest City nickname throughout the 1800s after a French writer exploring America wrote about the sophisticated, wooded town and described it as such. Bringing Cleveland, a city cloaked in factory, industry and the color gray, back to the forest theme has a certain irony that fits the city.
The Forest Citys played in the first game of the first professional baseball league, the National Association, losing 0-2. This was the beginning of poor performing professional sports teams in the city, a theme that has continued for a century and a half.
I also think returning to the name 150 years later gives the front office the perfect opportunity to get some city pride and history involved with a team that needs something to connect the fanbase.
The Cleveland Spiders also calls back to the club’s history and is the name that many fans, especially on Twitter, are calling to come back.
The Spiders started when the team joined the National League in 1889, and in more of the Cleveland self-deprecating humor that just makes sense, they coined their name after looking at the skinny, unathletic players wearing black and gray, and - you guessed it - thought they looked like spiders.
The team went on to play until the turn of the 20th century and holds the MLB’s worst win percentage after finishing the 1889 season 20–134 (.130). Makes sense, right?
To be honest, the name spiders just sounds hilarious and described by a joke that matches everything we’ve discussed so far. As a fan favorite to return, it had to be included, but if the team wants to break the MLB’s longest streak without a championship pennant, they should probably look elsewhere.
The Lake Monsters
You can’t think about the city without mentioning Lake Erie. The second smallest but mightiest and murkiest Great Lake is what makes Cleveland, well, Cleveland.
The team was once called the Lake Shores for one year in 1900, but I don’t think that quite makes the cut. There isn’t much of a shore to Lake Erie where it touches the city anymore, although there probably wasn’t in 1900 either.
My suggestion defies logic more than the absence of sand, though.
I propose the Lake Monsters.
There’s a minor league affiliate of the Oakland A’s in Vermont with the name and, they have it figured out. Personally, I believe almost every minor league baseball team name would be top five if they moved to the big leagues, but that’s besides the point.
The Lake Monsters fit the theme of Cleveland teams, and just think about it. There probably is a monster living somewhere in Lake Erie. Or at least a radioactive fish that mutated to eat flesh and make a liar out of the sunken SS Edmund Fitzgerald (Look it up or listen to the song).
Cleveland could easily purchase the rights for the name and take it over, because the River Monsters gives the team a scrappy edge that fits right with the city. Or at least would sell some merch.
Alright, I know this one sounds dumb, but hear me out. Cleveland is a place of industry, factory, and smokestacks releasing endless streams of pollution into the atmosphere.
Shortly after the city’s founding, it became one of the biggest iron manufacturers in the nation, driving many big companies to the area. Surrounding factories even set the Cuyahoga River on fire in 1969. If that doesn’t make it a big part of the area, I don’t know what does. They caught a body of water on fire.
Today, the Goodyear factory is the most notable remaining manufacturer nearby, but the city remains deeply rooted in the industry as its rise.
They call Cleveland the Factory of Sadness for the abysmal sports production, but why not turn it around and use it against itself. The Machine would be the quintessential usage of the idea, as it’s broad enough to fit any industry.
Plus, a team working as a machine is a good thing, so there’s a start on the slogan already. A machine barrels through opponents without thinking twice, has no feelings, and will cut a path straight to the World Series.
This is, of course, just a name and cannot make franchise-defining trades or free agent pickups, though. But whether or not a name can contribute to a team’s success, it’s a start.
This is probably my favorite and proudest aspect Cleveland, Ohio has to offer.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been a staple of the area and cemented it as the center of rock and roll forever. One of the best ways I connect with my dad is through music, and I’ve become a 50s-80s music fanatic for life.
My love of classic rock from sitting in the car with my family, hearing a song for the first time that my dad wore the vinyl tracks off of 45 years ago is a feeling like no other.
Thus, Cleveland’s rock and roll legacy has always been a pride point for me in a state not known for much other than corn, soy and peanut butter chocolate candies.
Ohio is the home base for musicians of all kinds, from The Isley Brothers, to Machine Gun Kelly, Kid Cudi to John Legend, 21 pilots to Dean Martin.
But no matter what, the city has become the heart of rock and roll. The Cleveland Rocks just doesn’t sound right though, so I recommend the Cleveland Blues. Blues predates rock and transferred into the genre in the 50s, and I think the name would fit well with the team.
Hosting countless stars both in performance and to honor, Cleveland has become a music staple, up there with Memphis and New Orleans. For this, I believe the team needs a great name. The Cleveland Rocks.