Posts Tagged ‘Atlanta Braves’

“What’s in a Name?”…

October 11, 2013

…William Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 2)

All the fuss about the Washington football team name “Redskins” is beginning to dominate the American sporting world. I guess it’s fair to question the validity of the name. It’s a football problem; but baseball has its own problem with team names that offend some people. I mean “Indians” and “Braves.”

Before getting there, a note about my terminology. I don’t use “Native American” to describe the guys who had feathers in their hair at Little Big Horn. Heck, guys, I’m a native American, born in Brooklyn, raised in Oklahoma and Texas. I can trace one relative back to 1609. Try getting much more “native” than all that. And I don’t have “Native American” or “Indian” blood in me (at least I don’t think so). Therefore I don’t like using the term to describe one group of “Natives” while ignoring another group of “Natives.” Indians is just incorrect, although I grew up using it (as in playing Cowboys and Indians). I know a number of people who are “Native American” and not a one uses either “Native American” or “Indian” to describe themselves. They use their tribal name. “Hi, there, I’m Frank and I’m Houma (or Apache, or Navajo, or Cherokee, or…pick a tribe).” You see, all the “Native Americans” I know consider themselves members of a particular tribe and are proud of same. So I use “Tribal American” to describe them generically. I don’t expect anyone else to do so, but I do and that’s what you’ll find in this post. Got all that?

First, the Braves. The name comes from way back when the team was in Boston. They’ve been called a lot of things, Red Stockings, Beaneaters, Doves, Bees, Braves (and a few other things by irate Yankees fans). A key to the names is that many of them start with a “B”, giving you Boston Beaneaters, Boston Bees, Boston Braves. It’s a nice bit of alliteration and apparently that was what it was meant to be all along. Braves was a militant sounding “b” word and that worked in Boston. But when you move to Milwaukee and then Atlanta, the “B” alliteration goes by the way. So the original basis for the name has “gone with the wind” (just for Atlanta).

But there’s a problem with the attack on “Braves.” It’s not just Tribal American types who can be brave (besides Brave being an English word and never something any tribe would have called its members). Firemen are brave, soldiers are brave, cops are brave, heck pilots can be brave. So in many ways the problem isn’t the word, it’s the symbols that go with it, the tomahawk and the “tomahawk chop”. You know, if they took the tomahawk off the uniform and inserted a firefighters helmet or a police badge you’d still have “Braves” without an overt symbol of tribal Americanism. The chop on the other hand is something that has to be stopped by fans, not just management. In fact, the quicker they stop the chop the better. I think it’s the most annoying chant in American sports.

Indians is an entirely different issue. According to the story (at least the one I heard), when they decided to put a new team in Cleveland no one wanted to use the old National League name “Spiders” because it was associated with losing, especially the 1899 disaster. So a new name was needed. Someone suggested (apparently in 1901) they name the new team for the Spiders best ever player, Lou Sockalexis. Turns out Sockalexis was a Penobscot  and no one thought the Cleveland Sockalexi or the Cleveland Penobscots would work, so Cleveland Indians was born. OK, maybe. But there are a couple of problems with that. First, Sockalexis only played two years with the Spiders, one good and one awful (he apparently had the stereotypical “drunken Indian” problem) and everyone knew that their early 1890s pitcher, guy named Cy Young, was better. And of course the main problem is that Cleveland joined the American League in 1901 as the Blues, went to Broncos, then to Naps (for manager and best player Napoleon LaJoie) before becoming the Indians in 1915. It seems to have taken a long time to decide that Sockalexis was the best ever Cleveland player. And of course this shoots down the idea that they decided early to go with Indians, making the “no one wanted to use the old name and Sockalexis was immediately brought up” theory ridiculous. If you’re going to name the team after your best player I suggest you should stay with Naps, Cleveland.

Another problem at Cleveland is the logo. It’s ugly, cartoonish, clownish, and frankly if I were a Tribal American I’d be offended. So it needs to go, without reference to the name. But the name is still the major problem. What do you change it to? I dunno. The original Cleveland entry in the old National Association was the Forest City (don’t guess there’s much forest around Cleveland now). The Negro League team was the Buckeyes. There’s Lake Erie for Cleveland Eries. Heck, name it the Fire Rivers for the Cuyahoga fire disaster. My personal choice would be Buckeyes, but I wouldn’t be upset with another name.

I guess all this means I favor leaving Braves alone (but dumping the tomahawk) and getting rid of Indians. I’d be interested to know what Cleveland and Atlanta fans think of this entire mess. On the other hand, I think baseball has a lot bigger problems to deal with than team nicknames. So if they do change the name in Cleveland to Fire Rivers (or River Fires), remember, you heard it here first.

Best Possible Game 6

December 14, 2009

If game 5 was the easiest Series game to pick because it was so obvious, game 6 was the hardest. There have been an inordinate number of quality sixth games in World Series history. I saw a number of them, so I chose the one I found the most exciting.

Down 3 games to 2 to the Atlanta Braves, the 1991 Minnesota Twins went into the Metrodome for game 6 needing two wins. What they got was a great game. They also ended up with the Kirby Puckett show.

The Twins broke on top with a Chuck Knoblauch single, a Puckett triple and a Shane Mack single for an early 2 run lead. In the 3rd inning Puckett made one of the most sensational catches against the glass I ever saw. It stopped a Braves rally cold. The Braves did break through in the 5th inning with two runs of their own. Terry Pendleton popped a two-run homer. Not to be outdone, the Twins went back into the lead in the bottom of the inning on Puckett’s sacrifice fly.

It took the Braves until the 7th inning to tie the game on a force out. The game remained tied until Puckett smashed a leadoff home run against Charlie Leibrandt to end the game and tie up the Series. In game 6, the Twins tallied 4 runs, Pucket had 3 RBIs and scored two runs. Heckuva performance.

Honorable mention game 6:

1947-The Dodgers tie up the Series. Famous for Al Gionfriddo’s great catch robbing Joe Dimaggio of a home run.

1975-Carlton Fisk’s “body English” home run in extra innings tied up the Series, which the BoSox lost the next night.

1986-in maybe the most famous error in World Series history, Bill Buckner leaves the wickets open.

1993-Joe Carter’s two-run blast for the Blue Jays wins the Series for Toronto.

2002-The Giants have the World Series wrapped up until the Angels rip off 3 runs in both the bottom of the 7th and the bottom of the 8th to tie up the Series. They win it all in game 7.

2003-Josh Beckett stifles the Yankees to record Florida’s 2nd World Series victory in franchise history.