A Worldwide Dictionary, 1869-2011, by Richard Worth. McFarland, 2013. 416 pages, $55.
What’s in a name? More than you’d think, according to this entertaining reference.
In some 400 pages, Worth lists every name of every professional franchise — including Negro and foreign leagues — according to city/town, from Abbeville, Alabama, to Zion, Utah, totaling more than 7,300 names (the entries are numbered consecutively, a concept made logical in the index.
Granted some are used much more than others and some of that repetition can be considered boring, egotistical, or lazy. Can’t Major Leagues teams be more imaginative when it comes to their lowest-level affiliates, rather than just name them after the parent club, such as the Gulf Coast Nationals?
Baseball Team Names contains many surprises. Who would have thought that Saginaw, Michigan, would have been home to 19 teams? By contrast, New York, NY, has had 135 clubs under its domain.
The reader will discover, however, that these are not necessarily individual teams; the roster includes unofficial nicknames, some familiar, such as the Bronx Bombers for the Yankees; others, not so much, as in the case of “My Entire Teams Suck,” a epithet used for the Mets at various times over the years. It can be a bit confusing in spots and disingenuous at times, but Worth explains the derivation of each sobriquet.
Three appendices follow the main entry section. The first — Barnstorming and League-Affiliated Road Teams — strikes me as something that would be difficult to complete, given the tenuous nature of such enterprises. The second is a year-by-year rundown of each Major League team from 1876-1900. The final, and most major undertaking, completes the time frame from 1901-2011. Most teams have more than one identity. For example, in 2000, in addition to their official name, the Boston Red Sox were at one point or another called the Beantowners, BoSox, Carmines, Crimson Hose, Hub Hose, Old Towne Team, and Sawks. The Tampa Bay Franchise was basically the Devil Rays, Rays for short.
Logos would have gone a long way to improving the look of the book and breaking up the text. I imagine some of the oldest ones could be found somewhere, but no doubt it would have added some cost to the publication, which already weighs in at a hefty price.
As basically a reference volume, Baseball Team Names obviously isn’t mean to be read straight through, but it’s a fun item to include in your baseball library nonetheless.