It was considered a stretch when the South Atlantic League expanded northward into Lakewood, N.J. Then the Sally League went westward, adding Bowling Green, Ky., and Eastlake, Ohio, to the circut. Those clubs have since shifted to the Midwest League, a better fit for sure.
But now, with some upheaval among the independent league ranks, comes word of a new Atlantic League franchise in … Sugar Land, Texas. I’m not going to get into the geography now, though.
Brought to my attention by the aptly named Paul from Paul’s Random Stuff, the new club announced its nickname yesterday: the Skeeters. And now I’m torn. I love when teams come up with unique names, rather than recycling or sharing names. And it’s even better when it’s not something awkward or forced, like IronPigs or RailCats.
My hesitation comes from the fact that it’s not the first time a team has been called the Skeeters. The original three incarnations played in Jersey City from 1887 to 1933. The 1903 club was one of the best ever. Check out this great old photo from shortly after that season. In 1920, the Skeeters lost to an Akron team that featured Jim Thorpe.
The Jersey City Skeeters actually still exist, though not as a professional minor league team. Be sure to read this great story about David Kerans’ effort to keep vintage baseball alive in the Garden State. (I really should get in touch with that guy.)
It would have been nice to see the Skeeters reincarnated as a professional team in New Jersey, to keep such a great nickname here. It appears that today’s Gwinnett Braves are the descendants of the Jersey City Skeeters (this entry on the International League’s Miami Marlins, 1956-60, shows the lineage the best, but as a rule I don’t trust Wikipedia as a primary source). Pending further research to confirm, we’ll operate under the assumption that the Skeeters left Jersey City after the ’33 season (when the Great Depression caused many teams and leagues to fold) for Syracuse, where they became the original Chiefs. In 1955, the club moved to Miami; then on to San Juan (for a month); Charleston, W.V.; and Atlanta, where they were the Crackers. When the Braves arrived in 1966, the Crackers decamped to Richmond and played as the R-Braves through the 2008 season, after which they moved back to Georgia, to Gwinnett County.
But it’s highly unlikely that the Gwinnett club holds any rights to the Skeeters nickname, so it was there for Sugar Land to adopt. On a trademark-related note, back in January 2006, when the Sussex Skyhawks were holding a name-the-team contest, I posted some suggestions on my short-lived NJ.com minor league blog. One of them was the Sussex (or Augusta) Highlanders, a name that would fit the Skylands region, would touch on the history of the New York Highlanders and would be theirs for the taking so long as the Yankees didn’t have the trademark on the name. Two months later, a college friend who works in copyright law did a little research and discovered that the Yankees had in fact trademarked the Highlanders name — after I’d written that post.
So the Skeeters name was likely out there to be had, and Sugar Land got it. Congratulations, Texas. Wear it well.