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What's in a Minor League team's name?06/07/2012 10:00 AM ET
By Jared Ravich / MLB.com
If you were to pick up a book and stumble upon references to Babies, Incubators and Orphans, you might think you'd gotten your hands on something from Dr. Spock, or maybe Aldous Huxley. But if you are a fan of Minor League Baseball, you will want that book to be Root for the Home Team: Minor League Baseball's Most Off-the-Wall Team Names and the Stories Behind Them.
It happens to be a fun new guide by Tucson Padres broadcaster Tim Hagerty.
From active, MLB-affiliated teams like the Altoona Curve to nearly forgotten clubs such as the Zanesville Flood Sufferers -- whose lone season came and went 99 years ago -- Hagerty takes readers on a journey through time and across the continent, along the way presenting wonderful vintage photos and unique treasures of colloquial expressions he has unearthed.
"In 2004, my first year in professional baseball, I was the broadcaster for the Idaho Falls Chukars," said Hagerty, an award-winning media fixture who has also worked the microphone for the Portland Beavers and Mobile BayBears. "That was the first year they went by the Chukars. In years past, they were the Idaho Falls Padres. So everybody around town was asking me, 'Where does this name come from? What's a Chukar?'
"And then I began noticing, when I would go back home for the holidays, people were asking me, 'What's up with those Minor League team names?' And I realized that when fans think of Minor League Baseball, that's one of the things they think of."
Hagerty began a simple quest for a book on the topic, expecting to find something in the sports section of libraries and bookstores. But among volumes on general baseball history, players and rules, even on umpires and uniforms, no one had compiled the reference he was seeking.
"Nothing like it existed -- I was stunned."
For the next few years, Hagerty made a hobby out of gathering information about team names and interesting team histories, until he came to realize in 2007 that he actually might have enough for a book of his own. After another round of information gathering -- this time on the world of publishing -- Hagerty found a perfect partner in Cider Mill Press, which had already published books with similar aesthetics.
"I really wanted [the book] to be visual. I wanted people to be able to see these logos and pictures."
With support from his publisher, Hagerty was able to obtain photographs from the Hall of Fame and the Library of Congress for the historical teams. He also received enthusiastic support from active teams, naturally proud of their uniqueness.
"It's enjoyable for me to look through the book now, and I can picture where I was when I wrote [a particular chapter], or where I was digging around for a picture. For months, I knew there was a picture out there of the Pine Bluff Judges because I'd seen it online in an archive. But I couldn't find it. Finally, after multiple sessions with the Baseball Hall of Fame Library, we were able to find it. So now, I smile when I look at the Pine Bluff Judges chapter, because I know how much went into finding that picture."
Hagerty also found that, behind the quirkiness or silliness of team names and logos, there is often a compelling connection to a community and its history.
"It made me learn about things away from baseball. For example, I found in a history of baseball in New York book that there was a team called the Ilion Typewriters (1901-1904). I laughed that there was really a team named the Typewriters. But the more I looked into it, it had a relevance to that city. Ilion, N.Y., is where they invented the Remington Standard 2 typewriter, which at the time was the top typewriter of its class. I think those are the best team names, the ones that are unique, but are also really connected to that town or city."
The book is available online from Barnes & Noble and Amazon, or you can ask for it in your local bookstore. And you can follow @MinorsTeamNames on Twitter.
And, by the way, a chukar is a bird.