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  • Writer's pictureMarc Viquez

Cement Dusters, Red Peppers, & Cannibals: A Few Good Names




Yard Goats, PaddleHeads, RubberDucks, and Cannon Ballers? Do you like these names, or do you loathe them? Are the names a sign of what has become the norm in the out-of-the-box style or the minor leagues, and do they stray away from the traditions of the game?


In the past several years, there has been a collection of unusual yet intriguing names for minor league baseball clubs. The Beloit Snappers of the Midwest League unveiled new potential names and are asking fans to place a vote online. A few of the names include the Supper Clubbers and Cheeseballs–not your run-of-the-mill baseball name.


It could be said that it’s all part of a current fad in the minors that began several years ago, but that may not be quite accurate. Minor league baseball has a history of oddball names dating back to the 19th century.

Just like today, the names were generated from fan input, contests, and regional influences. A few lasted many decades, while some faded away quickly. After a review of multiple newspaper clippings, the role of naming a minor league ball club has been just as important for proper branding and local recognition back then as it is now.


We look at five different clubs that earned their name through various methods. Three teams formed before World War II, and two debuted soon after fighting was over in the Pacific Theater in 1946. However, one has to look at each of these names and wonder how well they would fit in with today’s minor league franchise branding.

 

Nazareth Cement Dusters

The Nazareth Cement Dusters joined the North Atlantic League in 1946 and its name was decided through a fan vote. The winning entry was from Donald Kemmerer and Sam Aristidew, who both received a season pass to the home games at Nazareth Park Field. In total, there were 101 name suggestions for the new ball club, but Cement Dusters was the winning entry.


There was no reason provided on why the name was submitted by both men, but one can surmise that it stems from the Lehigh Cement Company which had been in operation since 1897. The city had been home to many other local cement companies even further back since 1866, which employed numerous area residents and was the prominent producer of bulk and bagged cement in North America.


A Nazareth Cement Factory, Photo Courtesy of The Morning Call.


Legend has it that the dust from the cement bagging plant would blow over across the street to the Nazareth Speedway and cover the all-dirt track. The cement dust would kick up during auto races and be visually noticeable to both drivers and fans. Perhaps, the auto racing industry played a hand in naming the new ball club that played less than two miles from the factory and track.


The Dusters averaged 553 fans per game and sported an impressive 78-40 record on the season. They lost in the first round of the playoffs 4 games to 1 to the Carbondale Pioneers. Unfortunately, by the following season, the name would be gone from the Lehigh Valley sports landscape.


The team would attract the Detroit Tigers in 1947 and, due to its affiliation with them, changed its name to the Nazareth Tigers.  The following year the club did not have a major league affiliation, and instead of reverting to the old Dusters’ name, opted for the Barons for the rest of its existence until the league ceased operations after the 1950 season.

 

Paris Red Peppers

About 1,400 miles southwest of Nazareth is Paris, Texas, which was awarded a franchise in the East Texas League. The baseball club announced a name-the-team contest and on February 10 chose the name Red Peppers. There were 100 suggestions sent to the club that was returning pro ball to town for the first time since 1934.


Lee Johnson received two season passes for his suggestion, and the new club name “seemed most unusual” to a few in the local media. Emblems featuring red pepper pods were quickly designed and placed on home jerseys. The road jerseys were gray with the city name in block letters stretched across the front. A block P would be worn on a dark blue cap.



Courtesy of Ebbets Field Flannels


Like with the name Cement Dusters, there was no information on why Johnson chose the name Red Peppers. The local newspaper would often shorten the name to the “Pods” when covering the team throughout the season. Its home field was put together around the same time as the naming of the club and included an all-dirt infield and box seating for four that cost $75 per person. 


The team would move to the Big State League the following year, and then things got interesting. Following that season, co-owner Fred Kirby bought out the ownership from John Barnes; with the change of ownership also came a new name, the Paris Rockets. There was no reason given, but the local paper indicated that perhaps it was “too hot of a name” for a baseball team.


Perhaps, Kirby was not in favor of the “peppery” name and, now that he had full ownership, decided to get rid of it as soon as possible. There was no word on if Johnson, who had named the club, was upset over his unique name being scrapped in favor of the generic-sounding Rockets.


The Rocket’s name lasted one season before being changed to the Panthers in 1949, complete with a switch back to the East Texas League. The reason behind the name change was that four ex-players purchased the team for $2,500 and opted for a fresh name for the season. 


The Panthers would cease operations on July 19, 1950, after the team and the city failed to raise $20,000 to take over and operate the club. It was a quick ending to the revival of baseball in town that attracted 3,500 fans for its first game and an average of 1,466 for games in 1948. That tally dwindled to 688 fans per game in 1950 before the club folded mid-season.


Baseball would be back in Paris from 1952-1953 and then again from 1955-1957 but under the names of its major league affiliations in Cleveland and Baltimore. A creative name as the Red Peppers was never brought back and, for the most part, largely forgotten by the fans in the eastern Texas town.

 

Longview Cannibals

Another East Texas League team had a very unusual name and one that would more than likely never be used today. The Longview Cannibals were given its nickname by Longview Times-Clarion reporter C.B. Cunningham after a game in 1896.



Longview Cannibals newspaper ad


Cunningham wrote that the “Longview Cannibals ate up the San Antonio Missionaries here today.” The locals loved the name and it stuck, proceeding ball clubs in town would carry the Cannibal's name for the next 40-plus years. The handle would be used on and off in town until 1939 when new owner George Schepps asked fans to vote on a new name for the club.


Cunningham wrote that the “Longview Cannibals ate up the San Antonio Missionaries here today.” The locals loved the name, and it stuck, proceeding ball clubs in town would carry the Cannibal's name for the next 40-plus years. The handle would be used on and off in town until 1939 when new owner George Schepps asked fans to vote on a new name for the club.


They were voted on by a panel of three men from the local newspapers and radio station; after three weeks, the name Texans was selected from four individuals: R.C. Latchman, Rita Roark, Mrs. Bonner, and David Eubanks. 


Sadly, the team would fold after the season and would not return until after the war in 1947. Schepps did put a lot of effort into renaming the club, and it must have been a shame that the club ceased operations after one year of using the new branding. The Texans would be gone for good from Longview after the 1950 campaign.

 

Appleton Papermakers

In 1940 the Appleton baseball club opted for the handle Papermakers that had been used by pro ball clubs since the early 20th century. The name has been in use at Kimberly High School in nearby Buchanan, Wisconsin, which has a wasp in its logo. 


Appleton had not had a pro club since 1914 when it joined the Wisconsin State League and announced that it would use the name on April 12, a few weeks before the beginning of the season. The team would be a member of the league until 1953 except 1943-1945 due to World War II.




Appleton Papermakers throwback uniforms in 2008, Photo by Chris Mehring.


The paper industry was Wisconsin’s third-largest industry at the time and began in Milwaukee in 1848 when it was produced out of rags and straw. Three months after the first papermaking began in Wisconsin, President James K. Polk signed legislation to make Wisconsin a state. Today, there are a total of 35 pulp, paper, and paperboard mills with a total annual payroll of nearly $2.5 billion in the state.


The club and league ceased operations after the 1953 season, and when minor league baseball returned in 1958, the team was dubbed the Fox Cities Foxes–switched to the Appleton Foxes in 1961 and again in 1967. When the club moved into a new stadium in 1995, it would rebrand as the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.


The Rattlers wore Papermakers throwback jerseys for a home game in 2008. The design featured a block letter A on the front chest of the white jersey and a Tuscan font “A” on a navy blue cap. However, don’t expect the branding to return anytime soon on the minor league diamond, according to Chris Mehring, Play-by-play Announcer/Director of Media Relations for the Rattlers.


“Appleton was a center for the paper industry, and it made sense to name the team Papermakers at the time. To bring Papermakers back as a nickname is not an option for us, except for special Throwback Nights during any anniversary season. Especially since Kimberly High School has taken the Papermakers nickname and done great things with it.”

 

Green Bay Bluejays

A few miles north in Green Bay, the pro ball was also marking its return to the Wisconsin State League in 1940. Professional baseball dates back to the 1890s and clubs were known as the Ancients (Green Bay is known as the Ancient City), Bays, and Flies before the end of World War I. During the mid-1920s, the Green Bay Green Sox began being used for the ball clubs in town and lasted shortly before the announcement of the new minor league club in 1940. 


John Walter, the sports editor of the Green Bay Post Gazette, stated in his column that “the selection of a good name is important, and one deserving serious thought” and that “a colorful, lively name can help a lot in selling a new organization in Green Bay.”


A contest took place to name the team, and the winning entry submitted by Glenn J. DuBois was Blue Jays, spelled Bluejays. Although the name is not uncanny, what was it spelled as one word? DuBois came up with the concept since the club’s first manager was Otto Bluege, pronounced BLUE-jee.  

Bluege ‘s brother was Ossie, who just ended an 18-year career with the Washington Senators and would play 87 games with Green Bay that year. He would later discover a young Harmon Killebrew as Farming Director for the Senators.


The homeage to Bluege would stick in town as clubs could be called the Bluejays, one year the Blue Sox, until 1959. The Jays created some beautiful-looking jerseys that featured a stitched emblem of the bluebird on its sleeve, upper right chest, and cap. The look was sharp, detailed, and eloquent for minor league baseball, and although not a very unusual name, thanks to Mr. DuBois’s suggestion, the town received an aesthetically pleasing home jersey. 




Red Smith takes a sip of water, File Photo.


The main difference between those teams of the 1940s is that the identities would change quite often from year to year. A ball club would announce a name for the team contest that included prize money and then opt for a new name two years later. Could you imagine the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, Binghamton Rumble Ponies, or the Las Vegas Aviators scraping their names after less than a handful of years of usage?


Yes, there is much more time and money invested in team branding, and I am sure the Paris Red Peppers or the Nazareth Cement Dusters never had a primary and secondary logo, along with five different uniforms and caps when they played. 


It is not too hard to look at each of these five names and wonder just how well they would fit in with the likes of the Norwich Sea Unicorns, Rocket City Trash Pandas, or the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels. As much as the game has changed over the years, it is nice to know that even in the 1940s, baseball fans were coming up with innovative ways to name their minor league ball clubs.

 

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Follow all of Marc’s stadium journeys on Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. You can also contact him at Marc.Viquez@StadiumJourney.com




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Follow all of Marc’s stadium journeys on Twitter @ballparkhunter and his YouTube channel. Email at Marc.Viquez@stadiumjourney.com 

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