What goes into a team’s nickname?

November 3, 2009 

Check out Bradenton.com and you will see an incredible sight: The Pittsburgh Pirates in first place.

OK, so it is an online poll to suggest a name for the Pirates Class-A team that will join the Florida State League this summer, but hey, for a franchise mired in a 17-season losing streak, a winning campaign is a winning campaign.

Personally, I like “Explorers,” but my suggestion for the five-name poll is in fourth place, many games behind the Pirates, who have captured nearly half the votes.

I went with Explorers because of the whole Hernando deSoto thing. I like team nicknames that reflect the area.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Miami Dolphins. San Francisco 49ers. Names like those.

I can live with the Bradenton Pirates since real pirates were known to frequent the Gulf waters back in the day.

Not sure if Gasparilla ever terrorized the waters of the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, though.

Kind of makes you wonder how the Pittsburgh nine came to adopt the Pirates as their nickname.

Well, once upon a time, the franchise played in the American Association and played its games in Allegheny City. In 1887, the club moved to the National League and became known as the Pittsburgh Alleghenys.

Three years later, the Alleghenys signed Lou Bierbauer, who had played with the Philadelphia Athletics in the A.A. but jumped to the outlaw Players’ League in 1890.

The A’s, who left Bierbauer off their reserve list, complained, and one team official accused the Alleghenys of being “piratical.”

Someone with the Alleghenys apparently had a sense of humor because the ball club became known as the “Pirates” in time for the 1891 season.

In 1912, the word “Pirates” appeared on the team’s jersey for the first time.

The Bradenton.com poll is unofficial since Pittsburgh has yet to receive the official OK to trade Class-A teams with the Cincinnati Reds and no one from Pittsburgh has asked for any help in naming the new entry in the Florida State League.

But if someone did, we’re here to help.

The other three names in the poll are Juice, Breeze and Sailors.

Juice reflects Tropicana’s presence in Bradenton. Breeze is for the cooling gulf breezes. Sailors is for the all the sailboats that dot the Manatee River, Tampa Bay and the gulf.

I don’t think Pittsburgh can go wrong with any of these five, should they take them seriously.

Bradenton Pirates would be easier since the organization can recycle uniforms from the parent club down to the Class-A players.

Explorers would work, too. We can call them the “X-men” for short.

Works for me.

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