Sunday, June 28, 2015

When the Browns Weren't the Browns: Alternate Nicknames, 1902-1953

If you go back into the early days of baseball, team nicknames were more informal than they are today. Indeed many fans took to calling their team what their favorite newspaper called them. Although "the Browns" was the official nickname of the franchise beginning in 1902, a few other names popped up, even one that appeared to be official.

According to Baseball Team Names: A Worldwide Dictionary, 1869-2011, "In the era 1890-1910, some teams received bird nicknames based on their stocking color, i.e. Blackbirds, Bluebirds, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Crows, Doves, Ravens and Redbirds."  In 1905 and 1906, according to this book, the Browns were actually officially called the Ravens.  (We have never heard this before.  Have you? Please comment below. We need confirmation.  ~ Ed.).

Through 1909 some newspapers took to referring to the team as the Macaleerites, after the team's inaugural manager, Jimmy McAleer.

In 1928 the Sporting News Guide referred to the Browns as Howley's Sensations. Dan Howley was the manager of the 1928 team and indeed he seemed to have started the Browns on something of an uptick after the short and futile managerial reign of player-manager George Sisler.

In 1939, the year the Browns set a franchise record for lowest winning percentage which still stands, they were apparently referred to as the Little Brownies.

In 1944 the Browns only pennant spurred an explosion of journalistic creativity: Cinderella Boys, Cinderella Brownies, Rags-to-Riches Boys, Sackcloth Brownies, and Sewell's Wonders.  And add to the list Sewellmen which I personally have seen in the 1944 Sporting News.

All in all, the "St. Louis Americans" suffered through much less nickname identity crisis than did other franchises of the time (see Brooklyn, Cleveland, Boston N.L., Philadelphia N.L. e.g.).


  1. Mark Okonnen's book on baseball uniforms refers to the period when the Browns were known as the Ravens. For those two seasons, they removed the brown uniform trim and wore black. All the daily St. Louis newspapers referred to them as either the Ravens or McAleerites for those two seasons. I have personally seen the microfilm copies. The Globe-Democrat seems to have been particularly fond of "Ravens." Also, it's worth pointing out that it was common for the newspapers to use nicknames based on managers' names up through the 1930s. St. Louis papers commonly referred to the Browns as the "Hornsbymen" and the Cardinals as the "Frischmen" in the 1930s, and the Browns as the "Fohlmen" during their glory days of the early 1920s.

    Very interesting subject...thank you for the blog post. I for one really wish Baseball-Reference and other sources would use the "Ravens" nickname for those two teams.

    1. Ive looked at a bunch of Post and Star Times clips from the period ... all "Ravens". If you have fb, join our group. a lot of discussion over there re this

  2. Haden ... Thank you for your erudite post. You have certainly brought a lot of information to the table. Yes I think the baseball Reference change should be at least explored.