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Las Vegas 51s

How the Las Vegas 51s Got Their Name

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Las Vegas 51s

From the Savannah Sand Gnats to the Montgomery Biscuits, Minor League Baseball is full of slightly bizarre names. But where do they all come from? From now until Opening Day, we'll be taking a look at the stories behind some of the greatest team names in MiLB. So far we've covered the story behind the Akron RubberDucks and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, and today we tackle the Las Vegas 51s.

The key to understanding the Mets Triple-A affiliate's team name is on their hats. Blue caps bear the elongated head of a cartoon-ish alien sporting baseball-like stitches. The teams' mascot, a googly-eyed guy named Cosmos, continues the extra terrestrial theme. The name refers to Area 51, the top-secret military base located about 80 miles outside the city that has historically been the epicenter of UFO conspiracies.

When the team arrived in Vegas, it was known as the Stars. But 17 years later, before the 2000 season, the team swapped out one cosmic name for another. The change coincided with an affiliation turnover, from the San Diego Padres to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Initially, the alien-adorned hats were a hit and the new brand succeeded in appealing to a younger audience. But when Stevens Baseball Group bought the franchise in 2008, CEO Derek Stevens told the media, "I'll be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of the 51s name."

He planned to change it the following off season, but shifting affiliations got in the way. The Dodgers skipped town for Albuquerque. While in the process of signing a new Player Development Contract with the Toronto Blue Jays, the owners of the 51s missed MLB's deadline to submit name and logo changes.

The team has stayed the 51s ever since, surviving another ownership change and adoption into the Mets' system. As trends in Minor League Baseball team names tend towards ever-increasing originality, the once-wacky reference to UFOs now seems perfectly par for the course.

Or, as 51s media relations director Jim Gemma said, "When you have the El Paso Chihuahuas and the Albuquerque Isotopes, the 51s isn’t that weird."

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Great Big Story, Youtube
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video
Seattle Mariners Fans Are Going Crazy for These Crunchy Grasshopper Snacks
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Great Big Story, Youtube

Seattle Mariners fans have more than warmed up to the newest, offbeat addition to the Safeco Field concessions menu: toasted grasshoppers covered in chili-lime salt.

The crunchy snack, which sells for $4 and comes packed in a small container, has only been available for less than a season but has already sold 300,000-plus orders to date. That's about 1000 pounds of grasshoppers. 

Frequenters of Seattle's popular Mexican restaurant Poquitos will know that this delicacy—which first started as a novelty item on its menu—has actually been available to the public for six years. But it wasn't until local chef Ethan Stowell was hired to give the Safeco Field menu a hip retooling that the salty bugs found new, fervent popularity at the ballpark. (Also on the Safeco menu: fried oysters drizzled in hot sauce.)

Great Big Story met up with Manny Arce, the executive chef of Poquitos and visionary behind this culinary home run, to discuss the popularity of these crunchy critters. You can watch the video interview below:

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Denis Poroy/Getty Images
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History
The First High Five Recorded in the History of Sports
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Denis Poroy/Getty Images

We don’t quite know who invented the high five—but we can pinpoint the moment it became inextricably linked with sports, which the short documentary The High Five explores below.

On October 2, 1977, Los Angeles Dodgers leftfielder Dusty Baker scored his 30th home run, making the team the first in history to have four players—Baker, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, and Reggie Smith—with at least 30 homers under each of their belts. Fellow outfielder Glenn Burke was so overwhelmed with joy and pride, he raised his arm and slapped his flat palm against the victorious athlete’s own palm. The moment transformed Baker and Burke into legends.

Sadly, the latter player faced hard times ahead: Burke was gay, and it’s believed that his sexuality prompted team officials to trade him to the Oakland A's the following year. In Oakland, Burke clashed with team manager Billy Martin, then retired early from baseball. Today, Burke is remembered for his charisma and talent—and for transforming a simple gesture into a universal symbol. “To think his energy and personality was the origin of that, that’s a pretty good legacy,” sportswriter Lyle Spencer says in the film.

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