Cleveland Indians History: Indians Settle Upon Current Name

It took a few years, but on this day in 1915, the Cleveland Indians settled upon the name that their franchise would be known as to this day.

Imagine a player so popular that their franchise names themselves in their honor. It happened with players like Cap Anson and King Kelly, true stars during the 1800’s. And that happened once again in Cleveland, when the American League franchise was renamed from the Broncos to the Naps in 1903 to honor Nap Lajoie.

After Lajoie left Cleveland to join the Philadelphia Athletics, it was time for a new name. After all, it did not make any sense to continue to call the team the Naps, especially when they would be playing against their namesake. And so, team owner Charles W. Somers asked the city’s sportswriters for ideas as to the new team name.

On this day in 1915, it was announced that the team formerly known as the Naps would now be the Cleveland Indians. Given the nature of things these days, it is probably a good thing this happened a century ago. Otherwise, any fan poll would have ended up with votes for the Cleveland Harambe or other assorted nonsense.

The origins of the name were questioned even in the beginning. A rumor began that the name was chosen in honor of Cleveland Spiders outfielder Chief Sockalexis, the first Native American player in MLB history. In fact, for a time, the Spiders were called the Indians, due to the excitement over Sockalexis. However, that would prove to be unfounded.

These days, the name has attracted some negative attention. The cartoon smiling mascot, Chief Wahoo, began to come under fire with the Indians began appearing in the playoffs with regularity in the late 1990’s. A lawsuit for $9 Billion was filed against the team in 2014.

Despite all the controversy, the Indians name endures. Chief Wahoo may not be as visible these days, and the logo may not be on the caps, but the team name remains unchanged. At least, for now. While the Indians have not come under the same fire as the Redskins, it almost feels like a matter of time before they, and the Braves, are forced to rename themselves.

Cleveland lost more than a great player when Nap Lajoie departed; they also lost their identity. On this day in 1915, they found a new one as the Cleveland Indians.

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