What’s in a name? In this case, a lot of work. Cleveland Indians officials made sure they left no name unturned as they did their due diligence before selecting the franchise’s new name, which was revealed Friday on social media, with a dramatic video narrated by actor Tom Hanks, a longtime adopted favorite son of the city.
At the end of the 2021 major league season the Cleveland Indians will become the Cleveland Guardians. The name Guardians refers to the stone sculptors which, for nearly 100 years, have stood as “traffic guardians” at both ends of the Hope Memorial Bridge, which is located in the shadow of Progressive Field.
“Throughout our research, three key themes emerged, and Guardians reflects all three,” said Indians owner Paul Dolan. “One, to connect to the city of Cleveland in a genuine and authentic way. Two, to honor our rich major league history. And three, to unite our community.”
The Indians’ colors will remain the same: red, white and navy blue. The new logo will be a baseball wedged between two winged G’s, which Indians officials say is meant as a tribute to the organization’s history of strong pitching.
Dolan said the organization “let fan insight drive our decisions. In searching for a new name, we sought a name that strongly reflects the pride, resiliency and loyalty of Clevelanders. Guardians embodies those defining attributes while drawing on the iconic Guardians of traffic which proudly stand just outside of Progressive Field.”
The choice has sparked debate among supporters and critics of the new name, but Indians officials can’t be faulted for not doing their homework.
“Over the last several months, we surveyed 40,000 fans, community leaders and front office personnel, conducted 140 hours of interviews, and we considered 1,198 potential names,” said Indians President of Business Operations Brian Barren. “Three key themes emerged: to connect to the city, to honor the baseball history of Cleveland, and to unite the community.”
Barren also emphasized that the team’s new name, colors, and uniforms “be consistent with our current brand.”
“Our colors have been part of this organization for 80 years, our script has been part of our brand for 75 years, and our uniforms will continue to be the same style they have always been,” he said.
Indians manager Terry Francona, has more than just a casual history with the Cleveland Baseball Club, and is fully on board with the franchise’s changes.
“I don’t know if anyone could have more ties to the Cleveland baseball organization than myself,” Francona said. “I spent the first six years of my life here as my dad enjoyed the best years of his career. I came back here as a player (in 1988), then I came back as a special assistant (to baseball operations in 2001-03), and I have been the manager for the last nine years. So I have tremendous ties, care, and respect for the organization. The work our people have done on this, I am so proud. We’re trying to be the best Cleveland organization we can be, and represent the city of Cleveland like it deserves.”
Indians pitcher Zach Plesac said he found out his team’s new name on social media Friday morning.
“It’s exciting. It’s something we’re going to embrace,” he said. “We’re going in the right direction to bring the city together. It’s a great step in the right direction. I’ll be glad to put on a Guardians jersey. Representing Cleveland means everything to me.”
Cleveland’s team was known as the Blues when the team joined the American League as charter members in 1901. The name was changed to Bronchos in 1902. From 1903-14 the team was known as the Naps, after Hall of Fame player and manager Napoleon Lajoie.
In 1915 the team became the Indians, a name that was first used in relation to the team, in the late 1890s, with the arrival of Louis Sockalexis a Penobscot Indian who became a popular player during that era, when Cleveland was a member of the National League.
Starting in 1915, for the next 106 years, Cleveland’s team was known as the Indians, a name that will be changed to Guardians at the end of the 2021 season.
“We acknowledge the change will be difficult for some of us and the transition will take time,” Dolan said. “I’m a fifth generation Clevelander so I understand that. The Indians will always be a part of our history just as Cleveland will always be a part of our identity.”