Brooklyn’s Duke Could Have Been a Canary

Bowman Gum photo/Duke Snider could have been one of the greatest sluggers in Canary history.

Bowman Gum photo/Duke Snider could have been one of the greatest sluggers in Canary history.

By Glen Sparks

“Now batting for the Brooklyn Canaries … Duke Snider.”

Well, that was probably never going to happen. But someone did suggest more than 80 years ago that the Brooklyn baseball club, then known unofficially as the Robins, adopt the nickname the Canaries. Here’s a bit of the backstory: The Brooklyn baseball team was founded in 1890, but it operated for decades without an official nickname. At various times, Brooklyn was known as the Bridegrooms, the Superbas, the Trolley Dodgers, etc.

In 1914, Brooklyn hired Wilbert Robinson to manage the team. Hence, the nickname the Robins. “Uncle Robbie” won a couple of pennants during his lengthy tenure, but never a World Series. He retired after the 1931 season. The Robins nickname also was retired.

Baseball fans brainstormed and sent in their suggestions for a new name: the Emperors, the Sultans, the Chickens, the Kangaroos … you get the idea. Well, the new manager was Max Carey. Maybe the team should be named after him. An English professor at the University of Southern California noted that Carey’s original name was “Canarius,” which comes from the Latin root for “canary.”

Maybe they were onto something. The Sporting News, the leading sports publication of its day, wrote in 1931 that “it (the Canaries) sounds well.” With just a few adjustments to the uniform color, The Sporting News opined, the team could easily become the Golden Canaries. Momentum was building. Thankfully, though, no one in Brooklyn apparently liked the idea. Having a small, pet bird, however melodious, represent a borough famous for its toughness and grit just didn’t sound right.

Actually, the “Kings” nickname got some traction. “Carey’s Kings” sounded good. And the team played its home games at Ebbets Field in Kings County. Hmm… But, no.

Finally, on Jan. 23, 1932, the now defunct Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper, reported that the team would henceforth be known as the Dodgers, its on-again, off-again moniker. “Through the years, ‘Dodgers’ has hung on pretty well,” reporter Thomas Holmes wrote.

Of interest, the final decision came down to a vote of the Brooklyn Chapter of Baseball Writers. The writers informed team management, which declared that in 1932, the word “Dodgers” would be inscribed across the front of every player’s jersey, thus, Holmes wrote, “leaving no doubt as to what the nickname of the team shall be.”

Cool story.


  1. Pingback: Yanks Cruise in Game 2 of ’55 Series against Dodgers « Dazzy Vance Chronicles

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