While happily watching the Phillies take 2 of 3 from the Mets this weekend, I was once again struck by a question of paramount importance, though one of possible sacrilegious implications to the faithful …how in the world did we get stuck with such a terrible team nickname? Phillies is so devoid of meaning I can only think of one worse name in all professional sports, the aforementioned Mets. I mean, Mets is brutally bad, what does it mean? Even its long version, Metropolitans is terrible and uninspiring, seriously, that’s the best you could come up with New York (the so-called cultural center of the nation?). Phillies means even less. What is it? Just a shortened version of Philadelphia. Synonym Fillies is a word, meaning a female hoarse under the age of four, but certainly not a name to invoke baseball acumen. Phillies is so bad that ownership attempted to change it during World War II, opting to call the team the Blue Jays beginning in 1943. The Blue Jay name never caught on and faded away quietly by 1944 as fans steadfastly refused to call them anything but Phillies, so I presume we are stuck.
I myself prefer alliterative names, something with some meaning though. I would have liked the name appropriated for the Flyers AHL franchise, The Phantoms.
Names related to the region also work well, such as the 76ers, 49ers, Marlins, Cowboys (I hate giving them any props, but their name fits).
Fierce animal names are popular, Tigers, Bears..Cubs…Cubs?
In the formative years of professional baseball teams were often called after their uniform color, hence we have such clever monikers as Red Sox, White Sox, Red Stockings and Brown Stockings (later shortened to Reds and Browns, though baseball’s St. Louis Browns, who currently reside in Baltimore and are known as the Orioles, are not to be confused with the Cleveland Browns, imaginatively named after coach Paul Brown, and my choice for third worst team nickname). Even these unimaginative choices would be better than Phillies.
World team tennis has appropriated perhaps the best combination of alliteration and local flavor, The Philadelphia Freedom. The baseball team could show a little muscle and push World Team tennis aside taking the name for a far more popular sport. Or perhaps, a combination referencing the big money aspect of modern professional sport and local history…the Philadelphia Benjamins.
What do you think? Should we start a grass-roots campaign to rename our Phillies to something more meaningful, and far far cooler? Or , am I , like Don Quixote, merely tilting at windmills, taking aim at a beloved, if meaningless, traditional name? Let me know, and feel free to add your own suggestions.