The team dropped its highly offensive Chief Wahoo logo off its hats and uniforms in 2018. It was offensive because it was an ugly caricature with a mouth full of teeth and one feather that seemingly made fun of Native Americans rather than honor them.
That was understandable. But is Indians and Tribe offensive? It was to some Native Americans who often picketed outside of stadiums where Cleveland played, home and away.
And I understand that. And I understand the disgust toward Chief Wahoo. But to me, somebody who grew up a devout Cleveland fan who spent many hours in decrepit Cleveland Municipal Stadium, they will always be the Indians and the Tribe.
The team invited suggestions from fans for a new nickname and received more than 1,200 suggestions.
It was thought that Spiders or Rockers were the leaders in the clubhouse. The team was the Cleveland Spiders before 1900. The 1899 team’s record was 20-134, not a great image to celebrate. Rockers would have honored the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But there already was a Cleveland Rockers franchise — a Women’s National Basketball Association team from 1997 to 2003.
But Guardians it is. Why?
Well, across the street from Progressive Field, home to the Cleveland Indians, uh, Cleveland Guardians beginning in 2022, is the Hope Memorial Bridge, a structure that spans the Cuyahoga River that opened in 1932, exactly 100 years before the Indians become the Guardians.
At the entrance to the bridge are 43-foot high stone monuments called “Guardians of Traffic.”
Team owner Paul Dolan said he decided to move forward with a new nickname earlier this summer of the civil unrest stemming from the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“Cleveland has and always will be the most important part of our identity,” Dolan said in a statement. “Therefore, we wanted a name that strongly represents the pride, resiliency, and loyalty of Clevelanders. ‘Guardians’ reflects those attributes that define us while drawing on the iconic Guardians of Traffic just outside the ballpark on the Hope Memorial Bridge.
“It brings to life the pride Clevelanders take in our city and the way we fight together for all who choose to be part of the Cleveland baseball family. While ‘Indians’ will always be a part of our history, our new name will help unify our fans and city as we are all Cleveland Guardians.”
Even the seemingly innocuous nickname of Guardians might have some social detractors. Guardian or guardians appears at least 22 times in the Bible so the nickname might draw criticism from some religious groups.
So the Cleveland Guardians initials are CG, which in baseball terms means complete game, a relic of the past. That certainly in apropos for today’s game of six-inning pitchers.
The original announcement was made via the team’s Twitter account and featured movie star Tom Hanks, who worked in Cleveland early in his career. And he was the main character in the movie, A League of Their Own, where he famously said, “There is no crying in baseball.”
For a lot of Cleveland fans, there will be tears over the disappearance of the team’s iconic nickname. But it had to be done.