"What’s In A Name?"

How come the name Colts?
Here’s a professional football team coming from one of the oldest cities on the East Coast, playing in the Western Division of the National Football League, and dressing its band in semi-cowboy motif.
And the Colts opponents today, the St. Louis Cardinals?
Here’s a mid-Western team playing in the league’s Eastern Division, and calling itself by the same name as the National League baseball team in the same city.
How did these names, and others in the N.F.L. come into being?  Let’s first look at the Colts.


In 1947 the Miami Seahawks franchise in the All America Conference became available, and was acquired by a Washingtonian, Bob Rodenberg.  He moved it to Baltimore, but the Baltimore team needed a name.
A fan contest was held to name the team.  There were 1,887 entries with the winner, Charles Evans, of Middle River, receiving two season tickets, a $50.00 bond, and assorted other prizes.  The name Colts was chosen because Baltimore, and the State of Maryland, had a long tradition of being a racing town and horse country.  The band, incidentally, originally wore a polo-styled hat and long capes.  The cowboy uniform of today relates to the Western Division, where the Colts were placed in order to balance the league in 1953 when they came back into the N.F.L. after a two year absence.  The Colts took over the Dallas franchise which had been in the Western part of the league.


The St. Louis Cardinals have not always been in St. Louis.  They started out in Chicago as the Morgan A.C. over 60 years ago.  In point of continuous operation the Cardinals are the oldest of all teams.  The team was owned by Chris and Pat O’Brien, and started on Chicago‘s South Side where they played before moving to Normal Field.  After the move they called themselves the Normals.  About 10 years after establishing Normal Field as a home base.  Chris O’Brien found some faded cardinal colored jerseys in a loft in Chicago.  They had formerly been used by the University of Chicago, coached by Amos Alonzo Stagg.  Because of the color of the jerseys the name of the Normals became the Chicago Cardinals.
By 1960 the Cardinals found the financial going a bit rough in Chicago, a town which had taken more to the Bears, and St. Louis looked like a greener pasture in which to play.  The fact that St. Louis had a famed baseball team named the Cardinals, and that the football team coming from Chicago had the same name, was coincidental.  One wonders, however, if those jerseys that Chris O’Brien came across had been faded just a little more, would the team have been called the Pinkies?


Curley Lambeau, a broad shouldered boy from Green Bay, loved the game of football.  His Christian names were Earl Louis, but no one ever called him anything other than Curley.  He was a fine high school player in Green Bay, and was offered a scholarship to Notre Dame, where he became a quarterback chiefly because Knute Rockne liked passers, and Curley could throw the ball.
Curley Lambeau dropped out of Notre Dame and went back to Green Bay when his tonsils began to bother him.  He never returned to college because he needed a job.  The Indian Packing Company offered him work, and Curley accepted.  When the football season came on, Curley had the urge to play and satisfied that desire by organizing his own team.  The packing company put up $500.00.  Curley’s team took the name Green Bay Packers, and they had a pretty good first year running up 565 points to the oppositions six.  That six was enough to beat the Packers for their only loss, and by a team known as the "Fairies" who represented Fairbanks Morse.  (Do you think Vince Lombardi would stand for losing to a team called the Fairies?)
By 1921 the Acme Packing Company had bought out the Indian Packing Company and they advance Curley $50.00 for a franchise in the N.F.L..  The following year the Packers had amassed a $2,000 debt and faced a certain financial oblivion until the publisher of the Green Bay Gazette, A.B. Turnbull, organized a group of stockholders which kept the team solvent.  The Green Bay Football Corporation was formed.


The Detroit Lions are actually the third team to represent the Motor City in professional football.  Shortly after World War I they were the Detroit Heralds, but crowds were thin and the money slimmer.  The Heralds folded.  By 1925 Jimmy Conzelman had obtained a franchise and went into the football business in Detroit.  He had a good team, but poor weather in which to play.  Ten consecutive rainy home dates drowned the profits.  Jimmy tried again a year later when the weather was better, but the team was worse.
In 1928 Benny Friedman operated a team in Detroit, but found such public apathy that he finished out the season on the road. Professional football in Detroit seemed doomed with the country saddled by a depression.  By 1934 an enterprising radio station operator, Y.A. Richards, bought the Portsmouth Spartans franchise.  Not wishing to call the team the Detroit Spartans, Richards held a fan contest, which was promoted by his radio station.  He settled on the name Lions because, "The lion is the proud monarch of the jungle, and our team will be the monarch of the league."


The first big league professional sports team on the West Coast was established in San Francisco during the All America Conference days, and it was owned by the Morabitos, Tony and Vic.
Because they were pioneering in big league professional sports in California, the same state so many hearty men came to seek gold in 1849, the name 49ers was given to the San Francisco team.  When, in 1950, San Francisco came into the National Football League the 49ers name was a carry-over because the owners felt that it had gained acceptance and they would have a team rough and bold in the tradition of the original prospecting ‘49ers of the gold field days.


The name Steelers seems like a natural for a team representing the great steel city of Pittsburgh, but the Steelers were not always the Steelers.  They had been the Pirates.
Art Rooney, the present owner of the Steelers, was offered an N.F.L. franchise in Pittsburgh for $2,500 in 1933 and he bought it.  The baseball team in Pittsburgh was, as it is today, known as the Pirates, and that seemed to be, at the time, a good name for the football team.
The Pirates wore jerseys with broad, horizontal stripes.  By 1940 it was decided there were too many conflictions with the name between baseball and football, so a fan contest was held and the name Steelers emerged.


The Los Angeles Rams, California’s other N.F.L. entry started out as the Cleveland Rams in 1937 and didn’t go West until 1946.  When they did, they were faced with competition in the same town from the Los Angeles Dons of the All America Conference.
In 1937, however, a syndicate of Cleveland business men were granted a franchise in the N.F.L.  The group was headed by Homer Marshman, and the General Manager was Damon "Buzz" Wetzel, a cartoonist.  The two were discussing possible names for the team, when Wetzel said his favorite named football team had always been the Fordham Rams. (The Fordham Rams of that era were a football power) Marshman liked the sound of the name Rams.  Rams it was to be, and a nickname was born.
Dan Reeves, the present owner, bought the team in 1941, finally moving them to Los Angeles in 1946 -- after having won the championship the year before and losing $50,000 on the operation.  The playing of Sunday football in the Los Angeles Coliseum, previously prohibited, was the motivating reason for moving the team from Cleveland for the 1946 season.
The name Rams was retained in the Los Angeles move.  Besides, by that time Fred Gerhke, an artist-halfback for the Rams, had already painted the Rams’ horns on the club’s helmets.