By Pete McGrath
As you may have read in my previous post, I am against mascots that are weather related, sound focused grouped, or generic. I am greatly for mascots that embrace the local city's culture and history. Examples of this are the Detroit Pistons, the Milwaukee Brewers, the St. Louis Blues, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. I don't mind if a team takes on an animal mascot. Nicknames like Lions and Tigers and Bears (oh my!) are always solid, but are at the end of the day are a little uncreative. However, I hate team names like the Minnesota Wild, Washington Nationals, and Oklahoma City Thunder. They sound like arena football/MLS teams. They just sound boring and don't really stand for anything. But there are also some oddball mascots out there that belong to high schools and minor league baseball teams that I love, and that deserve a look next time a league is naming one of their clubs. Here are a few of my favorites-
Edwin Denby High School, Detroit MI
Famous Alumni: Sonny Bono, Bill Bonds (the real Ron Burgundy)
Denby High School is named after Edwin Denby, a prominent Detroit area politician and Secretary of the U.S. Navy during the Harding Administration. There are many nautical motifs on the school building itself, and the nickname of Tars is nautical as well. Back in the day, rigging on sailboats was made of rope that could rot, so they would be covered in tar to avoid this problem. The tar would get all over the sailor's hands, and sailors themselves became known as "tars" or "Jack tars" as a nickname. This nautical theme is reflected in UNC's Tarheels nickname as well. To this day, tar has an impact on U.S. Navy protocol. While the army salutes with the palm facing the floor, the Navy and Marine Corps salute with the hand at a 90 degree angle (all you see is the back of the hand) in an effort to conceal the once tar covered palms.
Cass Technical High School, Detroit MI
Famous Alumni: Diana Ross, Lilly Tomlin, Jack White, David Allen Grier
Cass Tech's nickname really doesn't have much of a story. I just like how direct it is. It was started as a technical school, so the teams are called the Technicians. Simple and cool.
Midland High School: Midland, MI
Famous Alumni: No one you've ever heard of.
Midland is a company town, and Dow Chemical is that company. The company even helped build the school with a donation back in 1911. Once again this is a cool and unique nod to a town's bread and butter industry.
John J. Pershing High School, Detroit MI
Famous Alumni: Tim Meadows
Named after one of America's all time bad assess, General John "Black Jack" Pershing, the leader of American forces in World War I. The American troops sent over to fight in WWI were nicknamed "doughboys." The Mexican-American War is believed to be the origin of the term doughboy, where commonplace slang for a U.S. Army infantryman. It became really popular during WWI, but by WWII had fallen out of favor, with the term G.I. taking over. Pillsbury cookies aside, I think this team name is very unique, and has a really cool link to the School's namesake. This is defiantly one of my favorite oddball mascots. I'm sure Leon Phelps agrees.
Fordson High School, Dearborn, MI
Famous Alumni: Walter Reuther
Fordson was named after Henry Ford and his son Edsel, and it was also the nameplate that Henry Ford used to market his Fordson Tractor, which was a very popular model at the time. Since the school shared the same name, they picked the mascot Tractors. Ironically enough, the school building itself is lavishly decorated, and was one of the most expensive schools in the country when it was built. Even today, the building looks like a college or a boarding school on the outside, contrasting with its unglamourous mascot.
Southeastern High School: Detroit, MI
Famous Alum: Rosalind Ashford of the Motown group Martha and the Vandellas, Bart Scott of the Baltimore Ravens
I've heard conflicting stories on this one, but the one that makes the most sense is that a Jungleer is a military unit/soldier that fights in the jungle. Certainly don't see this one anywhere else.
Moving on from nearby high schools, Minor League Baseball routinely shows that a generic team name is not necessary. Here are some of my personal favorites.
Lansing Lugnuts: Lansing, MI
Lansing is the capitol of Michigan, and nearby in East Lansing is Michigan State University. But the town itself has a long auto manufacturing history, with GM's once proud Oldsmobile division calling this area home base. General Motors still operates a couple plants here, so a nice nod to the automotive history. Lansing Lugnuts also features consonance, so it rolls of the tongue nicely.
Chattanooga Lookouts: Chattanooga, TN
Chattanooga is located right by Lookout Mountain, so that's how the team gets his name. I love when teams find something unique to their hometown, and it's safe to say there isn't another club out there called the Lookouts. Also, gotta love the logo on the hat.
Albequerque Isotopes: Albequerque, NM
Any team name that stems from The Simpsons is alright by me. Also, the name somewhat fits because Los Alamos where the first nuclear bomb was built is nearby. It's a shame that Springfield had to lose its team though.
Toledo Mudheds: Toledo, OH
Despite all these years of being the Tigers AAA affiliate, I never knew the story of this goofy name. Turns out, back in 1896 the team practiced next to a marsh inhabited by American Coots, which are also called Mud Hens. This one holds significance in the family as well, because my Dad came home and cried when he was little leaguer after he found out he was on a team called the Mud Hens.
Alright, that's all I got for now. I'll be here all night if I kept going, especially if I moved into the college ranks.
If you notice in regards to the high school teams I mentioned, I didn't even leave the state of Michigan. Despite my mitten-centric selection of high schools, I got a bunch of really unique and interesting mascots. Oklahoma City, with all its oil and cowboy heritage should've done so much better than the Thunder. Washington D.C. should've paid tribute to the Negro League team that played there(The Grays), or picked something far less focus group sounding than Nationals. The fans in both cities deserved better.