Phelps: "It's time" to change the Cleveland Indians' name

anything other than Cleveland Indians won’t sound right. It’ll just be right. 

Jeff Phelps
July 04, 2020 - 3:21 pm

It’s time.

The Cleveland Indians need to become the Cleveland something-other-than-Indians. The team knows it and finally appears ready to do something about it.

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In a statement issued on Friday just hours after the NFL’s Washington Redskins issued a similar statement, the team said, "We have had ongoing discussions organizationally on these issues. The recent social unrest in our community and our country has only underscored the need for us to keep improving as an organization on issues of social justice. With that in mind, we are committed to engaging our community and appropriate stakeholders to determine the best path forward with regard to our team name.”

Interpret those words any way you wish, but it would appear that it’s no longer an issue of should the Indians change their name, but when will the Indians change their name. And what will the new name be?

Whatever the Cleveland Indians become, it won’t sound right. Cleveland’s American League team has been the Indians since 1915. It’s all any of us know. But since a change is on the way, and a new name must and will be found, we’re here to help.

A little history here.  Before becoming the Indians, the team was known as the Naps from 1903-1914. Before that, there’s some debate about the team name, but let’s go with the flow and say the team was actually called the Blues in 1901, and the Bronchos is 1902, as you’ll find in most historical sources. Sorry, but no need to bring back the names Naps, Blues, or Bronchos.

The Cleveland Spiders played in the National League from 1889-1899. In any talk of changing the name from the Cleveland Indians, Spiders has always been a front-runner - some history, not offensive to anyone other than something a spider might eat, very cool logo, and marketing possibilities. However, the worst team in the history of Major League Baseball was…..  (drum roll please)….. the 1899 Cleveland Spiders. That miserable crew put together a record of 20-134. No team has been worse. Ever. In the history of the game. The worst. Clevelanders, do you really want to bring back the name of the worst team in Major League history? How Cleveland.

If I were a betting man, I’d put a few bucks on the notion that “Spiders" will get an awful lot of consideration as the new name. History and losing be damned.  But perhaps we can do better.  

Some options, courtesy of me.

Names inspired by traits of Cleveland: Freighters, Industrials, Coasters, Tornadoes, Guardians, Arrows (a slight nod to Indians - is that allowed?).

Names inspired by Lake Erie: Steelheads, Walleyes, Schooners, Riptides, Breakers, Admirals, Pilots, Commanders. I think Steelheads could be fun.

Names inspired by Ohio wildlife, past or present: Buzzards, Sandpipers, Owls, Red Squirrels, Muskrats, Coyotes, Porcupines, River Otters, Cougars, Fireflies, Crickets.  

Sandpipers are those birds that not only fly, but also scoot around very quickly on the ground. Plenty of bird nicknames in sports, they don’t offend anyone, and the team could be called the Pipers, tying in a bit of Cleveland sports history. Remember the Cleveland Pipers of the old American Basketball League, owned by George Steinbrenner in the early 1960s? Neither do I, but look it up.

With the Pipers in mind, former names of Cleveland sports teams: Spiders (MLB); Rockers (WNBA); Comets (soccer); Gladiators and Thunderbolts (arena football); Barons, Crusaders and Lumberjacks (hockey); Force and Crunch (indoor soccer). Spiders might get some run, perhaps Comets. I love the name Barons, but it’s been used for Cleveland teams in both the American and National Hockey Leagues. Not fresh enough for a baseball reboot.

Names inspired by nothing other than perhaps being suitable: Rhinos, Thunderbirds, Firebirds, Condors, Crocodiles, Monarchs, Knights, Mustangs, Vipers, Zephyrs, Piranhas, Mammoths, Pyramids, Scorpions. I love the name Knights, but it’s probably too closely tied to the movie, The Natural.  I like the Monarchs. Rhinos has been on every league’s list of possible nicknames for a while. Same with Zephyrs. 

A change from Indians seems unlikely to happen before the start of the 2020 shortened season, but a new name before the start of 2021 is a probability.  Again, anything other than Cleveland Indians won’t sound right. It’ll just be right. 

It’s time.