It’s time to bring back the Cleveland Spiders (who really weren’t that bad, you know)

Bring the spiders back from Cleveland.

The only historical fact about the original Spiders, which is little known to many fans, is that in 1899, they were the authors of the worst record in baseball history (20-134). Really, it’s pretty bad, but it’s too bad they feel that way about honesty.

This last team of Spiders made the Washington Generals – the trumps of the Harlem Globetrotters – look like a Moloch. The Spiders won with 11:101, lost 24 matches in a row with one point and 40 in the final with 41 points. (Joe Riggins says: How could they win?) They played so many street games because they drew so few people to Cleveland – only 70 people in one game – and they lost less money playing outside. They have therefore amended the timetable accordingly. Spiders lost all those street games and were beaten in 960:377.

The Cleveland baseball team needs a new nickname, but why return the name of a team with that legacy? There are two reasons for this. First of all, it’s a really cool nickname that isn’t mainly used by American professional sports at the moment and it offers enormous marketing opportunities. Second, this is an unfair legacy, and the return of the Spiders would give baseball a chance to rectify one of its historical wrongs.

Change time

Since the 2008 season, when the boys from Tampa Bay carved their nickname from the original Devil Rays baseball club, the nickname of major league baseball hasn’t changed. The National League hasn’t changed since the Houston Colt .45 became Astros in 1964, pending its move to the new Houston Astronomical Dome. (With the exception of duty-free sales).

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It was different in professional sport. Nicknames were much more informal and volatile, and it was not uncommon for a team to be known under several nicknames at the same time. Over the years, as the teams became more aware of the value of the market identity and the marketing opportunities they developed, the modern format of its geographical location and nickname became deeply embedded in the psyche of sports enthusiasts. Personality changes have become rarer and have only been caused by franchise movements, which themselves have become rarer than in the early years of professional sport.

The relief is again on foot. That’s what happened to the NFL this summer when the Washington franchise gave up its nickname of critic. D.C. footballers have decided to finally use the term they’ve been using for nearly nine decades to refer to garbage and sift through all the remaining team names associated with Native Americans to examine them in a new light. Within the MLB there are, of course, two such assignments: The Indians of Cleveland and Atlanta the Brave. Back then the Indians said they’d take care of it. Then, on Sunday, the news came that the team was changing. In July, the Braves said they had no intention of changing the team’s name, but at least they were observing their unpleasant tomahawk singing ritual.

As the new name appears in Cleveland, the question naturally arises: What happens then?

Spider’s web and beautiful days

For most of the 1890s, the Cleveland Spiders were among the top teams in the National League. From 1892 to 1898 were the spiders of the 582. After Boston (the predecessors of the Braves) and the Baltimore Orioles, third place in the league is reached. They never finished first, but they played three times at the World Championship proto, which at that time was the team that finished first against the team that finished second. At that time there were four such matches, the Temple Cup, which the Spiders won by defeating the Orioles in 1895.

Students studying early baseball will remember the famous Orioles teams of the time. In Ned Hanlon’s Orioles, which featured legends like John McGraw and perhaps Willie Keeler’s Celebrity Hall, Hughie Jennings and Dan Brouthers played in the style of the Orioles, making the Houston Astros look like a pair of Mother Teresa.

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Baltimore’s main opponents at the time were the Cleveland Spiders, who were almost as good as all the others. Led by their popular manager Patsy Tebo, Spiders and Orioles, the competition was so fierce that when Cleveland visited Baltimore for a series of Temple Cups in 1895, the Spiders had to arrange a police escort to the stadium. And they were still full of bottles, rotten fruit and other bowls. Spiders in general and Tebo in particular were particularly dangerous for the judges.

Yet his rule in the sixth city was glorious and he mourned long after his end. The best one won the Temple Cup. At a banquet that winter, Tebo stood up to give a speech, and in between fights he said with tears of joy that as long as there was a baseball club in Cleveland, the Cup could never leave town. Unfortunately the Cup disappeared after another season and four seasons later the Spiders were gone.

In their heyday the Spiders were a real all-star club. Sy Young was the biggest star, but he was closely followed by Hallboer Jesse Berkett. At Young and Berkett, the Spiders were probably the best pitcher and the best hitter of the decade, and certainly had the best shot of one or two shooters. The third member of the Hall of Famer, Bobby Wallace, also played a major role, first as a two-way artist and then as one of the great stops of his time in a career of 25 years. Tebeau was an excellent first baseman, and other celebrities were present, including chief catcher Zimmer, starter George Puppy, the Cupid Childs Infilders and Ed McKeen, and outfielder Jimmy McAler.

When the Indians won the very first world franchise series in 1920 and took Brooklyn Robbins out of production, the Spiders were immortalized on the side wall of Sports News after the series. A long story was written in a play called The Cleveland Struggle for a Place in the Sun : Let’s not forget that Cleveland’s 1895 team, former Spider Team [Patsy] Tebo, once a baseball idol like Tris Speaker today, won the Temple Cup as much as the former Baltimore Orioles. In the 1919 obituary of the Sports News, dedicated to McKeon, the Spiders were described as one of the best baseball organizations ever assembled.

Brief history of name change

In the early years of baseball, the term team was often defined by an observed characteristic of the club itself – even though that characteristic was not necessarily true. The Perfectos weren’t perfect. The superbas wasn’t great. The Colts weren’t all young. Not all married people are married. Some of the orphans had parents. And all Spiders had two legs and made a name for themselves because people admired their long and happy physique and their skill in the field.

In other cases, the names came from the team’s laundry, and some of them are still with us. The White Sox. The Red Sox. The red one. The cardinals. According to Joe Posnanski, even the Indians insisted on calling Cleveland the Black Sox. It was four years before the 1919 World Series, although Joe Jackson’s presence in Cleveland would have been a good omen.

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Some teams had nicknames based on the owner, manager or favorite player – anyone who drew enough mass adoration to characterize the organization on their own. The Brooklyn Robins are named after manager Wilbert Robinson, who belonged to the infamous Orioles. The team of Boston NL was for a while called Pigeons, after the owners John and George Covey. The most famous example is Cleveland, where the team, before becoming Indian, was known as Napoleon’s (for three years) and Sleep (nine more seasons) in honour of Napoleon Lajois’ favorite star.

And as we said before, teams often had more than one nickname at a time. In any given season, the team could be called Brooklyn Superbas, Robins or – as most of them now remember – the Dodgers. The first senators from Washington were called national senators for more than five decades.

Baseball researcher Ed Cohen published the final alias development list in the Baseball Research Journal in the autumn of 2019. It is a fully documented report on how and when the teams were called. What’s clear is how fluid these things used to be.

In fact, the oldest name of the team – the one that has remained unchanged the longest in its current form as the nickname of the city – is the Detroit Tigers, which was called the Detroit Tigers when the American League became a major league in 1901 and has never been called otherwise. No other franchise can claim brand uniformity. Of course even tigers are sometimes unofficially called Bengal for decades.

The point is this: The recent era of brand stability in the sport in general and baseball in particular has been a good one, especially in terms of brand awareness. But these things have evolved over time, and there is no real reason to be valuable. There will be die-hard fans in Cleveland clicking on Facebook and announcing something like that: If they change the name, I’m done. All right, all right, all right. They do it the way the kids say they’re gonna do it. There has never been and there never has been any real consistency in these things, and as I am used to, there is no reason to cling to a bad idea.

Fall and fall of spiders

So, what happened? How did the Spiders go from one of the model baseball franchises in 1898 to 20-134 in 1899? There’s an answer in two words: Frank Robison. Together with his brother Stanley, Robison was the co-founder and owner of The Spiders and the leading voice in the management of the franchise.

Despite their success on the field and Cleveland’s status as the sixth city, the Spiders were in the lower half of NL in the early 1890s. They sank even deeper despite the fact that the final score of their victories increased, and eventually became the least supported team in the league. The presence problem was based on the strict laws of Sunday Blue in Cleveland, which meant the Spiders had to play in a remote park outside the jurisdiction of other clubs.

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While Robison’s teams threw themselves into the goal, 12 teams from NL had other problem cities. One of them was the Proto-Cardinals, a team then known as the Brownes, owned by a Prussian businessman named Chris von der Hey and the future owner of the White Sox, Charles Comiskey. Von der Ahe was a person of greater than normal character, probably most comparable to modern property records for people like Bill Wick and Charles O. Finley. He knew nothing about baseball, and eventually Comiskey walked away and the Brownes collapsed.

The Von-der-Ahe baseball stadium in Saint-Louis partially burned down in 1898, at a time when the formidable owner was going through a difficult divorce alongside other legitimate confusions. Eventually, the Ahe cases were settled by the bankruptcy court, which led to the auction of the Brownes on the steps of the courthouse. The winning bid is from a G.A. Gruner ($33,000). Gruner turned out to be a front for E.S. Becker, Brown’s minority shareholder, and his partner, one Frank Robison, owner of the Spiders. Robison took command and Becker disappeared into the background.

After this auction Robison therefore checked two franchises, which of course could never happen now. Robison organized the exchange between his two teams, always in a fully legal, if not ethical, way according to the rules of the time. Most of Spider’s good players – including Yang, Berkett, Wallace, Tebo, McKeen and Puppy – have been traded to the outcasts at St. John’s, where they are now the only ones who have a chance to play. In 1899, the Perfectos, as they were unofficially called in that first season, grew from 373,909 to 6,088 spiders. Shortly after, the club was renamed Cardinals. In fact, it was a brand new franchise – after Van der Ahe had made some legal waves after losing his team, the league excluded the former St. Petersburg club. Louis and restarted the new club under a different brand identity.

Fault! The file name is not specified. Sai Young scored 240 of the 511 career victories with the Cleveland Spiders, the highest overall score of all teams. Louis Van Owen/Western Reserve Historical Society / Getty Pictures

Thus arose the long and glorious story of the Cardinals of St. Louis – about the death force of Cleveland’s spiders.

Back in Cleveland, the Spiders singled out last season, after which the National League was strengthened by an eight-wheeler construction that lasted until 1962, when the Mets and Colt started playing. After several markets, including Cleveland’s, were opened up due to budget cuts, Ben Johnson created the Western League, which he oversaw. This title started to be played as Little League in America in 1900 and was named Major League the following year. Unfortunately the nickname of Spider’s National League didn’t follow the name Cleveland.


When looking for a new brand for a Cleveland franchise – and nowadays nicknames have more to do with marketing cachet than anything else, that’s why we call it a brand – you have to make a general first choice:

1. We want the Cleveland franchise to go to a former baseball player? Or perhaps an inactive nickname from another sport?

2. Is there a new Cleveland-specific nickname that can be made from an entire canvas?

3. Do we just want to generate a common sports name that has no real connection to the city, but some kind of common marketing pizza?

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Let’s start with the last chance, if we can give it up so quickly. Nicknames for sex sports are a terrible idea, at least if they have no historical connection to the city. For example, I don’t think there’s a lot of legal lion pride in southeast Michigan, but the Detroit Lions get along well. Once upon a time there were panthers in Michigan (and maybe they came back!), and they are sometimes called mountain lions. There are no tigers either, but tigers are one of those general and ubiquitous sports names. Both my school (Red Oak Tigers) and my college (Missouri Tigers) use this name, and it makes no sense. When the Detroit NFL team chose the name Lions, it was probably a simple attempt to capture the Tiger pattern and it stayed.

However, the name must reflect something in the city for which it is used as an avatar. If you look at the list of fake pseudonyms of the football leagues, you see all kinds of errors in the everyday – assault, violence, scramble and the like. Whatever approach the Indians take to a new name, this type of name should be avoided.

We start with our first questions and look at some of the Cleveland issues that may not have been addressed in the past. I continue as a low-ranking resident who was just in town to cover baseball. When I come to this area, it always means I’m going to miss something and focus on something that isn’t really important, so I’m inevitably going to upset half of northeastern Ohio. Think of it as an alien perception of Cleveland.

Some things I notice:

– Rock and roll. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is located on the shores of Lake Erie and Cleveland’s disc jockey of the 1950s, Alan Freed, played an important role in the growth of the R&B audience and was the first to be recognized for using the term rock and roll. As in most cases, the development of rock’n’roll cannot be reduced to a certain time or place, but if there is one American city that can boast the cradle of rock’n’roll, it is probably Memphis, Tennessee, where most of the early groundbreaking recordings were made. It’s a good thing they set up a rock museum in Cleveland, but we shouldn’t promote Cleveland more as the cradle of rock ideas than we should.

– The Rockefellers. The industrialist (and monopolist) John D. Rockefeller was not born in Cleveland, but he grew old there and founded his company. One of Cleveland’s most remarkable historic buildings is the Rockefeller building on West Sixth and Upper, near Progressive Field. Rockefeller eventually moved to New York, and his stay in Cleveland probably doesn’t deserve a sporting nickname unless it’s used in conjunction with something else or as a general concept. Stay with us.

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– The forest. Cleveland has been known as the capital of the United States since the second half of the 19th century. At the end of the 19th century, the city was called Forest City. If you look at the newspapers of the late 19th century, it was called Forest City. It’s always called Forest City. That seemed to be the case of course, because northeastern Ohio must have been heavily wooded in the past. Apparently it’s not that easy, and the origin of the name Forest City is a bit vague. This may or may not have something to do with Alexis de Tocqueville. Ohio is of course the state of Bakkai, and the Bakkai was once a tasteless tree in this region.

– Six. What we also find when Cleveland is mentioned in publications from the late 19th and early 20th century is that he is a very good writer. The only thing mentioned at the beginning of the 18th century is that it was the sixth city. In terms of population, the city was about sixth in size until the 1940s. Now she’s in the top 50.

– The lake. Lake Erie’s over there. Naval activities still offer many opportunities for nicknames. Lakers. Big Lakers. Sail. Sailors. Rowers that can actually be quite vicious, as you did on the talented Mr Ripley. And then there’s Anchors, a very strong name.

– Secret comics. The great R. Kruimel started his career in Cleveland and spent a lot of time there. He had a very weak connection with baseball, in his time he illustrated non-sporting cards for Topp. One of his friends, Clevelander Harvey Peckar, recently caused a sensation with his American comic book Magnificence. There’s another baseball goal: The bakery was represented by Paul Giamatti in American Beauty, and Giamatti’s father, Bart, was a baseball commissioner. Hey, there are worse things than being known as the underground comic book center.

– Animals. The Ohio bird is a cardinal. Okay, good. A white-tailed mammal is very cute. A reptile is a snake called a black racer. Although the riders don’t look too promising. In Ohio there are other animals in the state: Spotted salamander, American bullfrog, ladybird and trilobite. The fur.

– The colors. The national colours of Ohio are scarlet and grey. If we want to go into town, let me remind you that the Cleveland NFL team has a nickname that has a color. The Browns are of course named after their founder and first coach, Paul Brown. By the way, Paul Brown also helped with the search for the Cincinnati Bengals, so we should probably be glad that the team is not known as the So Browns. Grey, however, is a name that has long historical roots in baseball and dates back to the Grey Providence of the old Hoss Radborne in the 1870s and 80s of the last century. Moreover, more than one version of Cleveland’s early baseball clubs was called the blues.

– Celebrities. Like most cities of all sizes, many famous people come from Cleveland. Holly Berry, Anna Gunn, Arsenio Hall (Arsenios!), Phil Donahue, the fictional father of Thurston Howell/Mr. Magoo/James Dean (also known as Jim Beckus), Mayel Barrett (Star Trek Royal Family), Bob Hope, Paul Newman and of course Drew Carey. There’s more.

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– Historical figures. Teams no longer carry the names of their star players, and you can see why. If you’re a star today, you might not be a star tomorrow and players are often on the road. Even Nap Lajois was traded. However, there are some possibilities if Cleveland wants to revive this old practice. Dobie. The Fellers. Sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep. In summary. The president. Barefoot Joe. Bella. Clubs. You can also reprint Robinson after Frank Robinson, who became the first African-American baseball coach in Cleveland. Or Robbie. There are also the Yangs – after Sai Yang, whose 240 Spider victories were the most important for a team.

– A hybrid. You could combine some of these subjects. The Rocks of Rockers could honor music and rich oil families. Or the Rockefellers – the music, the rich oil families and the big jugs. Jugend are two great historical kickers, a hit for the Rising Arizona crowd and a tribute to eternal youth. Or Pekarsenios is a cartoonist and stand-up comic artist.

Finally, to address our latest research area together, let’s take a look at the history of Cleveland’s professional sports pseudonyms. I used the pages of the sports manual to compile this list:

– Baseball: Bears (Minor), Bears (Negro League), Blues (American Association, American League and National League), Bronchos (American League), Brownes (Negro League), Bucky (Negro League), Clippers (Negro League), Cubs (Negro League), Elite (Negro League), Forest City (Minor), Forest City (National Federation), Giants (Black League), Hornets (Black League), Indians (American League and, unofficially, National League), Sleep (American League), Red Sox (Black League), Spiders (National League), Stars (Black League), Tigers (Black League).

– Soccer: Brownes (NFL), Bulldogs (NFL), Indians (twice, both NFL), Rockers (Arena), Gladiators (Arena).

– Basketball: Cavaliers (NBA), Rebels (BAA, 1946), Rockers (VNBA, 1997-2003), Allman Shifts (NBL, 1943-1945).

– Hockey: Les Barons (NHL, 1967 – 1978)

Slot milling

Well, the first sentence of this story reveals the game – it must be the spiders.

As I said before, I quickly exclude the common names for sports balls that have no historical or geographical connection to Cleveland or even baseball. Among the theme options, excluding Youngfellers and Pekarsenios, I like the Grays and Blues, two traditional baseball monkeys that help create a colourful pattern for Cleveland. (I’m not sure what you’re going to do with the Knights.) You can go ahead and choose the Grey Sox or the Blue Sox. The latter is probably better and gives AL three versions of the Sox – red, white and blue. Awesome. Awesome.

The name Gray reflects the official colours and prehistory of Old Hoss and is associated with the nickname of the historic Homestead Gray League, which included legends such as Josh Gibson and Buck Leonard. It has nothing to do with Cleveland, but I like the idea of celebrating the Negro Leagues franchises, such as the plans to challenge the team in Nashville, Tennessee, and with the Stars for possible expansion.

You cannot use the Brown, Kabs, Giants or Red Sox among the Cleveland Negro League teams. Buckeyes was the longest club and would have been a good choice even without Ohio State University. I don’t think Cleveland wants their baseball team to be the second most popular Buckeyes team in Ohio. The name Tate Star was a fictitious owner who doesn’t work anymore. Clippers is the name of the short-lived league team (as it was called a few weeks later) founded by Rickey’s branch to track down African-American players. The name has maritime potential, but it is also the former nickname of the Troika-A team in Columbus, Ohio.

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As with the previous teams in the first division, most of them can be eliminated quickly. (Yes, even Allmen transfers.) Personally, I don’t like rocks or rockers because I find them historically presumptuous. And in baseball there are all the Rockies, who are often called Rockies by their Rox fans.

Fans’ interest in gladiators seems to have been fuelled by some of the Cleveland statues on the bridge named after Bob Hope’s father. As far as I’m concerned, the connection to the city is weak, making it one of the common nicknames for the sports ball I hate. Place your fingers on the gladiators.

As long as I like Graze or the Blue Sox, I land on the Cleveland Spiders and I’m a little excited when I think about it. Maybe that’s partly because I came back to that name a long time ago. The Cleveland team in my SIM baseball league, which I started in the mid-1980s with a board game called Statis Pro Baseball, has always been called Spiders.

Although I cannot honestly claim that there is a consistent relationship between Cleveland and the class of arachnids in the animal kingdom, there are of course spiders, and some of them are large. Spiders are both threatening and intimidating – ideal for a sporting identity. It’s an untapped brand that works surprisingly well in the comic and superhero industry.

Like the nickname of the sport, Spiders is proud of its history in Cleveland, despite the injustice of the last season in the original incarnation. And designers have already worked hard to create great logos that combine Cleveland’s existing C logo with the existing colour scheme and re-create the logo used by these long-lost spiders. It’s all about marketing and merchandising.

It’s time to… …pass the time… …to put the Cleveland Indians on a scissors boat and let them sail away under the sun of Lake Erie. It’s time to bring back the Cleveland Spiders.

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