by Bob Carson
The Red Sox spent 86 years overcoming an alleged curse. Sammy Sosa somehow got the impression that he needed corked bats to amp up his already terrific game. And a few years ago, a girl in a giant Italian sausage costume was whacked to the ground by the Pittsburgh Pirates' first baseman. We're not saying baseball makes a whole lot of sense; we're just trying to put a small dent in all the mystery—starting with those weird team names you're always hearing.
1. The Altoona Curve
Like curveballs, team names are usually meant to be intimidating.
But Altoona's moniker is based on something far more frightening than anything a pitcher could toss over the plate.
About five miles west of Altoona, Penn., is Horseshoe Curve, a span of railway built in the 1840's that cuts a deathly sharp angle. At the time, figuring out how to get trains through the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania wasn't the easiest task in the world, but fortunately, J. Edgar Thomson found an answer. Constructed with picks, shovels, horses, and drags, this stretch of railroad is considered one of the finest engineering feats of all time. And, considering the nearby rail line allowed little Altoona to grow into a thriving industrial town, it was deemed a fitting tribute for their baseball team as well.
2. Swing of the Quad Cities
If you're thinking of a baseball swing here, you miss! In 2003, Iowa's Quad City River Bandits switched their name to Swing "¦ as in jazz. Turns out, Davenport, Iowa, (a quarter of the Quad Cities) is also the hometown of Bix Beiderbecke, famed coronet genius and 1920s' jazz sensation. Though only on the planet a few short years (he drank himself to death by age 28), wild Bix managed to make quite a lasting impression. In addition to having a baseball team named in his honor, the Davenport native also inspired the 1938 novel Young Man With a Horn, and a 1950s' movie based on the book starring Kirk Douglas.
3. Las Vegas 51's
In the gambling and debauchery capital of America, reason would have it that Las Vegas' baseball team, the 51's, is named after a short deck of cards, or the legendary nightclub on The Strip. Apparently, all those craps games and strip clubs get old after a while, so the good people of Las Vegas searched for a name with a bit more intrigue—the mysterious "Area 51" military base in southern Nevada. Surrounded by ominous signs with phrases like "Restricted Area, Use of Deadly Force Authorized," the base has led to plenty of paranoia and paranormal prognostication since it was first established in the 1950's.
4. South Bend Silver Hawks
While bird names for mascots are popular around the country, aves aren't the highest thing in the South Bend pecking order. From 1957 to 1959, the Studebaker-Packard Co. of South Bend, Ind., produced a snazzy car called the Silver Hawk. The company was a family-owned operation that butted heads with the Big Three auto companies until its last model, the Avanti, rolled off the assembly line in 1964. A source of great pride for the town of South Bend, the Studebaker museum is fittingly located only a block from where the members of its eponymous team play each season.
5. Kannapolis Intimidators
In this case, both the team name and the city name merit explanation. Kannapolis is a city in western North Carolina, which was originally known as Cannonville due to its proximity to the Cannon Manufacturing Co. textile mill. Somehow, after years of misspellings and usage tomfoolery the name evolved into Kannapolis. As for the city's intimidation factor, that's based on its very own racecar-driving legend, the late Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Due to his intensity (and propensity for wrap-around sunglasses), the late N.C. native was known to his legions of fans as "The Intimidator."
6. Idaho Falls Chukars
You might think the folks in Idaho were proud of how hard their players could chuck the ball at opponents and, when naming the team, simply left out that pesky second "˜c.' But that's not the case. The chukar is a small partridge, and not even the scary predator kind that might intimidate an opposing team. In fact, it's a game bird that was introduced to the northwest region of America from Asia in the 1930's for the sole purpose of giving happy hunters something else to shoot and kill.
7. Brooklyn Cyclones
Aside from their experiences riding in cabs through Manhattan, New Yorkers don't know too much about the fury that a tornado can unleash, which should be your first clue that this Minor League team name has nothing to do with a funnel cloud. The Brooklyn Cyclones are actually named after the famous Coney Island roller coaster. Early on the morning of June 26, 1927, excited crowds lined up to sample the inaugural run of the mammoth coaster, and by that afternoon, delighted (and nauseated) thrill seekers had a new love. Legend has it that after a brutal spin on the Cyclone, Emilio Franco, mute since birth, spoke his very first words: "I feel sick." While the Brooklyn Dodgers may have moved away, the Cyclone, continued to roll on.
8. Albuquerque Isotopes
Team names are almost always a tribute to something, but it's safe to assume that the Albuquerque Isotopes is one of the only teams in America named in honor of a cartoon episode. But, hey, if any show is going to have that kind of cultural impact, it's going to be "The Simpsons." In a March 2001 episode of the show, Homer goes on a hunger strike because his local baseball team, the Springfield Isotopes, is secretly planning a move to Albuquerque. The real city had lost its minor league team, the Dukes, but were awarded a new one for the 2003 season. New Mexico's baseball fans enjoyed being immortalized in the iconic sitcom so much that they couldn't help but suggest the name.
This list was plucked from an old issue of mental_floss. Make our editors happy and subscribe to magazine here!