Last month, MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred Jr. announced the Cleveland Indians will be dropping the controversial “Chief Wahoo” logo from its uniforms in 2019. The announcement sparked a nation-wide debate over racism in sports logos, team names, and traditions. From “It’s always been this way” to “What’s next, the Fighting Irish?”, the arguments have run the gamut since the news broke and the Chief began his slow walk into history.
You may be hurt by Wahoo’s departure, you may be relived or like me, you’re a little of both. Either way, as we mourn/celebrate the loss of this iconic/offensive logo, it’s important not to lose sight of what news could be coming next from the front office. This sudden change of heart over Wahoo does beg a new question: How long after the Chief’s funeral will Manfred and the Dolans wait to change… dare I say it…the name?
Native American-themed nicknames aren’t just recently getting attention from the sporting world. The University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux, Miami of Ohio Redskins, St. John’s University Redmen, Stanford Indians, College of William and Mary Indians, and Dartmouth Indians are just a handful of old college nicknames that have seen changes as far back as the 1970’s. In fact, some of the only organizations that have avoided the dreaded nickname change are members of the “Big Four” professional sports leagues. The Washington Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs, Chicago Blackhawks, Atlanta Braves, and Cleveland Indians have shown no signs of giving in and some teams like the Indians have doubled down saying changes will never be made. If only it was up to them.
Let’s time travel to 2019. The Indians have just won the World Series and Wahoo is officially removed from team jerseys and caps. A few years later, all merchandise sold in Progressive Field only bares the block ‘C’ logo. A year later, the team website follows suit. One day, you’re at a home game and you realize the block ‘C’ is everywhere from the banners to your buddy’s shirt. Soon you notice Opening Day protests are worse than ever and the Dolans are trying really hard to make that cursive ‘I’ a thing. Suddenly, the giant Wahoo signs are gone, John Adams and his drum are gone, then one morning, you wake to the news…
I’m not saying it will happen soon, but it will happen. The name will be changed. It doesn’t matter how loudly you say the team was named after Louis Sockalexis (not true), the first Native American player in the majors (probably not true) or fans named the team through a newspaper contest (not true) or the name was meant to be respectful (it wasn’t) or the name wasn’t racist 100 years ago (it was) why is it racist all of a sudden (it always was)?! Whether you believe the world is becoming too sensitive or we’re finally owning up to our mistakes, society will be the ones to put the “Indians” on the chopping block and it’s only a matter of time until they do and Manfred follows.
Now that you’ve taken a moment to let that sink in, I’d like to offer you some peace of mind. Don’t worry die-hard Indians fan, you will survive this. We survived Ten Cent Beer Night, the 1995 World Series, “Off Nagy’s Glove,” the 2007 ALCS, the 2016 World Series Extra Innings Rain Delay, the banishment of Chief Wahoo, and we will survive this too! How? By picking the most bad-ass, inoffensive, Cleveland-centric replacement name that will have the rest of Major League Baseball wishing they had a borderline-inappropriate, unfortunately dated, 100-year-old name to change!
Below are the top ten name possibilities for the next era of Cleveland baseball. These names range from vintage revivals to brand new ideas plus a few in between. I hope somewhere in this list, die-hard Indians fan, you find some solace.
1. The Cleveland Tribe
Based on: The 1915-2023 Cleveland Indians of the American League
Past Achievements: 1920, 1948 & 2018 World Series Champions
Team Colors: Midnight Navy Blue, Red & White
Team Logo: Block ‘C’ or a Cursive ‘T’ (SEEN HERE)
Team Chant: “Let’s go Tribe!”
The “Tribe” is the most obvious choice. It is both a unique name that also lives within the current feel and design of the team. The chant remains the same, the team colors stay and the jerseys can go untouched while exchanging the cursive “Indians” with a cursive “Tribe.” Or perhaps all the jerseys could bare the simple block “Cleveland” instead of just the away jersey. Overall, this option would be the most crowd pleasing. However, its similarities to the current theme may end up being its downfall. What if a few years pass and a new debate begins over any use of Native culture? In many ways this debate has already started. Perhaps if we’re changing the name, we might as well take a huge step away from the controversy that began this process.
DISCLAIMER: This option would be appropriate in my eyes under one condition. The Cleveland Tribe organization would have to partner with local Native American tribes and reservations to make a difference in their communities. Perhaps we could create a Native youth charity program where certain Tribe Baseball proceeds go to building baseball diamonds in Native American communities or maybe a “Native Americans in Sports” museum in or around Heritage Park. The Tribe organization would have to make an effort to better the lives and image of Native Americans in Northeast Ohio. If a partnership or at least an acknowledgement of these communities is made, the Cleveland Tribe could bring Native Americans and baseball fans together after years of tension.
2. The Cleveland Spiders
Based on: The 1889-1899 Cleveland Spiders of the National League
Past Achievements: 1895 Temple Cup Champions, 1899 record of 20-134 (worst all-time)
Team Colors: Midnight Navy Blue, White & Red
Team Logo: Original Cleveland Naps logo (SEEN HERE)
Team Chant: “Here we go Spiders. Here we go!”
One of the most underrated sports names out there, the Spider isn’t currently used by any major or minor league teams in North America. Yes, the Spiders of the 1800’s played the worst season in Major League Baseball history but they also won Cleveland its very first professional sports championship! Not to mention, the team signed a young man named Denton True “Cy” Young. Young made his major league debut with the Spiders on August 6, 1890 and would go on to be one of the greatest pitchers of all time. A historic team to say the least.
Imagine a slight change in color scheme from the Indians. A mostly dark blue and white jersey with small red accents and a classy ‘C’ logo based on the logo of Indians predecessor, the Naps. It’s very important the design of the jerseys and logo suggests the turn of the century era the name was born in. If the design is too modern with a big spider holding eight baseball bats for a logo…the Spiders could quickly fall into a MLS/Arena Football/Minor League Baseball feel. Definitely something to avoid.
3. The Cleveland Green Sox
Based on: The 1913 Cleveland Green Sox of the Federal League
Past Achievements: Played only one season finishing 63-54
Team Colors: Forest Green, Cream & Black
Team Logo: Vintage ‘C’ logo i.e. the Sherwood Park Crusaders (SEEN HERE)
Team Chant: “Let’s go Green Sox!”
In 1913, the Cleveland Green Sox, coached by now local legend Cy Young, was a charter member of the newly formed Federal League. The Sox were sold after only one season but did compete for the pennant that year finishing 2nd behind the Indianapolis Hoosiers. The following season, the Federal League declared itself the “third major league” but ultimately ceased operations after only two more seasons.
What a huge change this would be. New logo, new name, new colors. It’s a lot to take in, but it’s very important this new name, whatever it may be, instantly evoke history and experience. The Indians played over 100 seasons in Cleveland so this name needs to feel like it’s been around longer. This is why we go for a vintage look with a green and cream base with black accents. The jerseys would likely be pinstriped with the classiest of vintage designs: a block “CLEVELAND” across the chest. While a comparison to the White Sox and Red Sox is inevitable, this could bring new life to these recently deflated rivalries.
4. The Cleveland Blues
Based on: The 1879-1884 Cleveland Blues of the National League
Past Achievements: Still playing (sort of) in the form of the L.A. Dodgers
Team Colors: Midnight Navy Blue, White & Black
Team Logo: The original Cleveland Blues logo (SEEN HERE)
Team Chant: “Go Blues Go!”
I know what you’re thinking. The Cleveland Blues? As in the way you feel when you’re in Cleveland? Sure, the jokes and headlines basically write themselves, but what did Clevelanders do when people started ragging on their city? They owned it. Self-depreciating humor is how we get by! So, you take this killer name (only used by one other “Big Four” team) and you take pride in the double meaning. Not to mention Cleveland’s rich music history gives this name the rare TRIPLE meaning! As for the history of the Blues, there isn’t much of it. Though the team was sold and folded into the Brooklyn Grays which currently play in Los Angeles as the Dodgers. So, in a very small way the Blues live on.
This jersey and logo style could range anywhere from vintage to modern since the name has a nice vintage simplicity to it. A block ‘C’ logo was their original design but perhaps a simple name/logo matchup wouldn’t survive unless the jerseys were insanely good looking. My favorite part of this nickname option is the possibility of an Opening Day matchup between the Cleveland Blues and the Cincinnati Reds. How cool would that be?!
5. The Cleveland Crusaders
Based on: The 1972-1976 Cleveland Crusaders of the World Hockey Association
Past Achievements: Own an overall winning record of 150-144-20
Team Colors: Royal Purple, Black & White
Team Logo: The original Cleveland Crusaders logo (SEEN HERE)
Team Chant: “Let’s go Cleveland!”
In 1972, major professional hockey finally arrived in Cleveland in the form of the Crusaders. They even displaced the immensely popular minor league Cleveland Barons to Jacksonville where they folded soon after. The Crusaders never made it deep into the playoffs and before they could make their championship push, the NHL moved the California Golden Seals to Cleveland to form the NHL iteration of the Barons, displacing the Crusaders to Minnesota. Two years later, the Barons would cease operations leaving Cleveland without a hockey team until the 1992 Cleveland Lumberjacks began play in the IHL.
This short-lived hockey team is perfect for a baseball revival. The purple color scheme is extremely rare in sports and works well with the unique name. As with the Spiders, it’s important the jersey and logo harken back to its time in the 70’s. If the design is too modern, it could fall into the uncanny valley of Arena Football names. What a sight it would be to see the older crowd sporting their original WHA Crusaders jerseys in Progressive Field (a common sight as it is). This option also leaves the door open for the Cleveland Barons to return to the NHL…something I’m desperately holding out for.
6. The Cleveland Flames
Based on: The 1972-2018 Atlanta/Calgary Flames of the National Hockey League
Past Achievements: 1988-1989 Stanley Cup Champions
Team Colors: Red, Yellow & White
Team Logo: A variation on the Calgary Flames logo (SEEN HERE)
Team Chant: “Go Flames Go!”
This name originated in the 1970’s with the Atlanta Flames NHL franchise named for the burning of Atlanta during the Civil War. When the team moved to Calgary, the name went along despite no major fires to speak of in Calgary’s history. As mentioned with the Cleveland Blues option, Clevelanders own their city’s shortcomings no matter how bad it gets and naming their baseball team after the Cuyahoga River fire would be the most Cleveland thing Cleveland could do.
The team designer could go literally anywhere with this option. The name begs for a modern design which I’m surprisingly okay with. The Calgary Flames logo is the right idea but perhaps a flaming baseball flying toward you would be more appropriate. As for colors, the Red/Yellow/White combo of the Atlanta Flames gives a better look than Calgary who added Black in the 90’s. Either way, the Cleveland Flames is the most modern option on this list and for that reason it’s worth considering.
7. The Cleveland Moondogs
Based on: The Moondog Coronation Ball held in Cleveland on March 21, 1952
Past Achievements: Known as the first Rock and Roll concert in music history
Team Colors: Midnight Navy Blue, Red & White
Team Logo: Some sort of mean dog logo i.e. the Camden Bulldogs (SEEN HERE)
Team Chant: “Woof, Woof, Woof!”
They say Rock and Roll was born in Cleveland due to two major milestones in music history: Cleveland DJ Alan Freed is said to have coined the phrase “Rock ‘n’ Roll” and the first ever rock concert was held in Cleveland Arena on March 21, 1952. The Moondog Coronation Ball was to feature Tiny Grimes, Paul Williams and his Hucklebuckers, the Rocking Highlanders, the Dominoes, Varetta Dillard, and Danny Cobb. Due to the riotous nature of the crowd, the concert was shut down by police after only one song, cementing the evening in Rock and Roll history.
This might be the weirdest name on this list but stay with me. We keep the color scheme of the Indians and design the jersey/logo like the team was founded in the 60’s/70’s, giving it a Mets, Astros or Expos feel. This will hopefully avoid the WNBA/MLS/Arena Football feel that gives me nightmares. Imagine a “Dawg Pound” in the bleachers, dawg masks getting some use during the summer, clips of Sandlot on the scoreboard, and “Bark at the Moon” playing after each homerun. This would be a fun opportunity for strange traditions to flourish.
8. The Cleveland Americans
Based on: The 1925-1941 New York Americans of the National Hockey League
Past Achievements: First professional sports team to put last names on jerseys
Team Colors: Midnight Navy Blue, Red & White
Team Logo: The Cleveland Indians 1973-1977 cap logo (SEEN HERE)
Team Chant: “Let’s go Tribe!”
The “Americans” is a classic nickname from the first half of the 20th century. Likely in a response to the Montreal Canadiens, the New York Americans joined the NHL in 1925 and folded as the Brooklyn Americans due to issues with the New York Rangers. The name still exists in minor league hockey as the Rochester Americans (AHL) and the Allen Americans (ECHL).
Now, here’s where things get interesting. We keep the colors, the chant, and the drumming. We keep all things “Indians” and simply replace the name on the jerseys with “Americans.” You could see it as a short for “The Cleveland Native Americans” which is obviously a mouthful. As for the logo, perhaps a return to the 70’s ‘C’ that resembles an arrowhead. In fact, I think you could fit an “A’ for “Americans” inside it… Anyway, the Cleveland MLB team would no longer represent Native Americans with a Chief Wahoo logo or a historically inaccurate name, but with a name fitting for what they are: Americans. This name, like the “Tribe” option above, would be an opportunity to bring Native people and baseball fans together because in the end, we’re all Americans.
DISCLAIMER: As with the “Tribe” option above, the Americans organization would have to actively make a difference in Native communities. Please read that disclaimer for more info.
9. The Forest City Baseball Club of Cleveland
Based on: The 1871-1872 Cleveland baseball team known as “Forest City” of the National Assoc.
Past Achievements: Very first professional sports team in Cleveland history
Team Colors: Forest Green, Cream & Black
Team Logo: The original Forest City logo (SEEN HERE)
Team Chant: “F-C! B-C!”
We’re all here because we love the Indians. You’re reading this article and I’m writing it because we love Cleveland sports. Well, “Forest City” was the VERY FIRST professional sports team in Cleveland history. They even took part in the VERY FIRST Major League game on May 4, 1871 (A 2-0 loss). What better way to honor the incredible history of Cleveland sports than to revive the team that started it all?
A vintage pinstripe jersey with the ornate ‘F’ and ‘C’ logo originally worn by Forest City would give the team the historic look it deserves. Forest City existed before the modern team name structure was common (the Cleveland Forest Cities would be incorrect) so a slight reworking is required, but the result is the most vintage name a team could possibly have. Let’s go F.C.!
10. The Cleveland Infants
Based on: The 1890 Cleveland Infants of the Player’s League
Past Achievements: Played only one season finishing 55-75-1
Team Colors: Baby Blue, White & Black
Team Logo: The Gerber Baby (SEEN HERE)
Team Chant: “Infants, Infants, Cry, Cry, Cry!”
I can see it now…Fans wearing diapers, John Adams with a big baby rattle, Ten Cent Applesauce Night…
This one is a joke but this team literally existed at one time.
I know this isn’t easy for you, die-hard Indians fan, change is never easy, but isn’t it a little easier when you imagine an Opening Day without a crowd of people yelling at you? Isn’t it nice to imagine the Cleveland Spiders playing deep into October? A Halloween game maybe?! See? We’ll figure this out, Indians fan. And I promise, one day, you’ll look back at your old Indians jersey with Chief Wahoo on the sleeve and say, “Yikes…I can’t believe that was a thing…”
Let us know in the comments which of these names you’d pick when society inevitably calls on the Indians to change their name and which option you’d move to Pittsburgh to avoid.