15 Weird Stories Behind Sports Team Name Changes


In 1969, the Major League Baseball team, the Seattle Pilots, formed, and it was a terrible idea. The team had no stadium, the owners had no money and the players couldn’t play. The team was named in honor of team president Dewey Soriano’s part-time job as a port pilot. Too bad for Dewey, because he went bankrupt and sold the team to Bud Selig, who had recently founded Teams, Inc. – and ‘Teams’ stood for To Encourage All Milwaukee Sports. While Milwaukee sits on harbor-filled Lake Michigan, Soriano and his silly little hobby name were out. Selig went with Brewers, the name of a team his mother encouraged to grow.

Toronto Maple Leafs choose Canada over Ireland

Toronto’s hockey team was originally known as Arenas before everyone thought “kinda dumb, huh?” and switched to the St. Patricks in 1919. Toronto had a large Irish population at the time, but when NHL trophy namesake Conn Smythe bought the franchise and blocked a move to Philadelphia, he renamed the team the Maple Leafs, capitalizing on a certain cache of patriotism and referencing a First World War infantry unit. Ah, wistfully wondering what sort of special blackout beers might have been on St. Patrick’s Day at the St. Patricks game.

Wilt Chamberlain goes there and back with Philadelphia

Wikimedia Commons: New York World-Telegram and the Sun’s photographer

Less a weird story about a team name and more a fun quirk of history: If you see a picture of NBA great Wilt Chamberlain in a “Philadelphia” jersey, it doesn’t tell you what team he plays for. Chamberlain began his career with the Philadelphia Warriors, who moved to San Francisco in 1962. In the meantime, the Syracuse Nationals moved to Philadelphia and became the 76ers. Chamberlain was traded to the 76ers, where he played four seasons before joining the other California team.


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