(submitted in response to May 14 and May 17, 1999 Plain Dealer articles on Chief Wahoo and the Indians)
May 17, 1999
I agree whole-heartedly with Afi-Odelia E. Scruggs in her May 14 and May 17 columns that the new owners of the Cleveland baseball franchise should change the team’s nickname. Mr. Jacobs passed up a golden opportunity to mark the team’s renaissance by not changing the name when the club changed its uniforms and address upon moving into Jacobs Field in 1994.
I also congratulate Bob Dolgan on his May 17 article “Tale of Indians’ name off base.” If the newspaper contest origin of the Indians’ name is merely a myth (like the hundreds of Eskimo words for “snow” which was disproved by Cleveland State’s Dr. Laura Martin), and there is no evidence that this was meant as a tribute to Sockalexis, there is no reason to keep the name. The popularity of Wahoo merchandise is not good enough.
Dolgan’s article contained an impressive list of names considered at the time. My favorite is The Grays (also a reader favorite in 1915) because of its later use in the Negro Leagues, but many modern fans may find it too dull. I also like The Panthers or a return to The Blues, but these may be out of the question due to potential trademark disputes with the NFL (Carolina) and NHL (St. Louis). The Buckeyes, Pioneers, Originals, and Spiders are also good, but may seem too traditional or old-fashioned.
So with an eye to the new millennium and the team’s recent reputation for power, I will suggest another nickname: The Cleveland Nova. This has the double meaning of a shining star and the Latin and Portuguese words for “new.” Marketing departments could have a field day designing a bright, highly stylized star as the new logo. In addition, the name Nova could lead to interesting debates over whether the name should be invariable (à la Utah Jazz, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, and Minnesota Wild), pluralized as Novae, or as an irregular plural, Novas (like the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Florida Marlins).
If instead we continue to believe the Indian myth and give in to greed, racism, and the status quo, then another 1915 favorite nickname seems more appropriate: The Hustlers.