As you undoubtedly know, I love quirky names. But my love of them isn’t just limited to players . . . I love team names too. Names that are evocative of the team’s hometown, or just make you scratch your head.
Well, current voice of the Triple-A Tucson Padres Tim Hagerty loves team nicknames too. So much so that he’s written a book about them, entitled “Root for the Home Team: Minor League Baseball’s Most Off-the-Wall Team Names and the Stories Behind Them“. Its a well-researched yet totally accessible and fun trip through more than 150 current and former nicknames of note, from the 1903 Mobile Oyster Grabbers of the Southern Interstate League to the 2011 Omaha Storm Chasers of the PCL.
I got in touch with Tim and he graciously answered some questions about the project:
VORG: Have you always been interested in team nicknames?
TH: Actually, no. I loved baseball and was fascinated by the game as a kid, but my interest in unique minor league team names started in 2004. I was the broadcaster for the Idaho Falls Chukars and it seemed everywhere I went people were asking me about the team name and minor league team names in general. (A chukar is a pheasant-like bird, by the way.)
VORG: Did you have favorite team nicknames growing up? If so, did many of them “make the cut” for the book?
TH: I remember loving the Chattanooga Lookouts and Carolina Mudcats names and logos as a kid. Years later, I got to broadcast games in both places while working for the Mobile BayBears in the Double-A Southern League.
VORG: Have you ever collected any memorabilia from teams specifically because of the name/logo?
TH: No, not memorabilia, but searching for team images was a fun process. Current teams were very accommodating with providing logos and action shots. The tough part was digging up team pictures from decades ago. The staff at the Baseball Hall of Fame Library was very helpful. I love the Pine Bluff Judges section of the book, because it looked like there wasn’t a team photo in existence until we finally located one in an old Spalding and Reach Guide.
VORG: How cognizant were you of finding a balance between being informative (in terms of the history of the nickname) and keeping it light and “fun” (the trivia and other aspects of the book)?
TH: Good question, and it’s a question that came up in the manuscript process. What is the target audience, families who want a clever book on their coffee table, or fans who love the game and its history? My thought was – why can’t we please both? I hope it does.
VORG: There have been some nicknames of yesteryear that might not be “politically correct” today. Did you come across any that you thought about including?
TH: Yes, the Nevada Lunatics, who were named after a mental asylum in Nevada, Missouri. Another was the Wheeling Stogies. I can’t see a team naming their club directly after a tobacco product these days. They’re both in the book though. One example of a team from yesteryear that I left on the cutting room floor was the Columbus Confederate Yankees in Columbus, Georgia. This is a positive, fun book. I didn’t want to offend anyone.
VORG: How many of the home parks of the active teams mentioned in the book have you actually been in?
TH: I never thought of that. Let me count….. 24.
VORG: How long did it take you to bring the book from idea to publishing?
TH: Six years. A lot of minor league broadcasters pursue basketball broadcasting jobs in the winter, but this book was my off-season hobby for years. In 2008, I realized I really had something, but had no idea how it gets from my laptop to a bookstore. So, I bought “How to Get Your Book Published for Dummies.” It was perfect, as it showed someone who was an outsider to the publishing world how to produce a proposal and how to sell an idea. I was able to get a publishing deal with Cider Mill Press. They specialize in visual books and I think it’s a perfect fit with the logos and photos in my book.
VORG: Since your primary focus/acumen is behind the mic, and this is your first book, how hard was it to just put “paper to pad” for this project?
TH: The format of the book really helped. It is divided into short sections for each team, so it allowed me to say “okay, my goal for the weekend is to finish the Montgomery Biscuits section.” It was easy to create natural markers on when to start and stop a writing session. It wasn’t like writing a novel, where authors must sit for hours on end at a time.
VORG: Did you have trouble tracking down information on some of the nicknames you wanted to include, to the point of having to leave them out of the book?
TH: Yes, but there are two that were too wacky to leave out – the Montpelier Goldfish and Topeka Savages. They’re both in the book because they were too bizarre to be excluded, in my opinion. Instead of an explanation behind the team name, I wrote about their league and other facts. If any of your readers know where the Goldfish or Savages got their names, please let me know!
VORG: Do you see a “Root for the Home Team” sequel in your future?
TH: Right now, I’m trying to help the publisher’s marketing process as much as I can for this book. Many minor league teams are enthusiastic about carrying the book in their team stores. And sports radio stations are inviting me on to talk about funny team names. So, I guess like how players say “one day at a time,” my thought is “one book at a time.”