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The Name of the Game

08/16/2020 5:02 AM

Article By: Ethan Kagno and Taylor Viles

    In the 135 year history of the Cape Cod Baseball League, there have been many unique teams to contribute to the legacy and carry on the tradition of some of the best collegiate athletes in the world. In the late 1800s to early 1900s, four teams highlighted the start of the CCBL. These included Falmouth, Osterville, Hyannis, and Chatham. These ball clubs helped shape the landscape of today’s prestigious Cape League through modernizing the great game of baseball while keeping its heritage and notoriety throughout many successful years.

    Fast forward to 2020, and there are 10 current Cape Cod Baseball teams. These consist of the Bourne Braves, Brewster Whitecaps, Chatham Anglers, Cotuit Kettleers, Falmouth Commodores, Harwich Mariners, Hyannis Harbor Hawks, Orleans Firebirds, Wareham Gatemen, and Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. Today, we take a deeper look into how some of these nicknames came to be, and what they represent to the league.

    The Chatham Anglers, formerly the Athletics changed their name back in 2008.  Chatham’s decision to rebrand to the Anglers certainly resonated well with the Cape Cod community and their history. In addition, they showcase one of the most clever logos in the league with a fishing rod and hook establishing the “S” in “A’s.”

    In addition to the Anglers, two other teams changed their nicknames around the same time; the Orleans Cardinals became the Firebirds and the Hyannis Mets became the Harbor Hawks.  
According to a Cape League article written in 2009, a Firebird is said to have magical powers such as invisibility and regeneration. “Baseball is replete with allusions to other ‘fire’ concepts, such as a team or player ‘catching fire’ or being ‘fired up,’ ‘firing the ball’ and describing hard-throwing pitchers as ‘fireballers,’” the article said. “The new name is also a tip of the cap to the team’s next-door neighbors and good friends and supporters, the Orleans Fire Department.”

    Brad Pfeifer, longtime president of Hyannis recalled the process of changing their nickname. “When we were the Mets we always had an Osprey nest on our light poles.” he said. “The Osprey was always our unofficial mascot.”  The team held a naming contest because when they wanted to change their name to Osprey, the team realized that there was a single-A team already with that nickname.  Many ideas were sent in but ultimately the Osprey idea made the most sense. He explained that an Osprey is a “fish hawk” and the Hyannis ballfield resides by the harbor.  “Over about six months, [the name] morphed into the “Harbor Hawks,” he said.

    The Bourne Braves didn’t adopt their current name until the late 1980s. Prior to the 1988 season, the Bourne ballclub had gone with the Canalmen moniker due to the canal that separates Cape Cod with the rest of Massachusetts.

    The Yarmouth-Dennis ballclub did not become the Red Sox until the 1961 Dennis Clippers disbanded and the Yarmouth Indians chose to rename (partially because of the 1967 “Impossible Dream” Boston Red Sox) by adding Dennis to their title in 1968. The often abbreviated “Y-D” Red Sox continue to be a strong fan-favorite club that proudly displays the well-known MLB Tuscan font across their chests.

    The original Yarmouth team had a good relationship with the Boston Red Sox that started long before joining Dennis as one team.  “For many years the Red Sox would come down on fishing excursions to the Cape and join the Yarmouth team,” said John Garner, director of Cape League broadcasting.  “Then they would have a big clambake after [fishing].” The time the two teams spent together back then creating a bond that, as shown by the continued use of the name, still stands.

    The Harwich Mariners were established in 1930 and took their name from the the waters that surround the cape and the people who worked on them.

    The remaining four teams include the Brewster Whitecaps, Falmouth Commodores, Cotuit Kettleers, and Wareham Gatemen.

     Brewster was admitted into the Cape league in 1987 and according to Whitecaps board member Mike Gradone, their name was “The Brewster Baseball Club, Inc.” A whitecap is the seafoam crest over the waves as they come crashing in and Brewster’s proximity to Cape Cod Bay plays a part.  A fan contest was held to determine the name of Brewster’s team and among the 146 different nicknames given, “Whitecaps” rang out as the clear favorite.  “Just to clinch it, the home uniform that season included caps with a white crown and navy blue bill,” said Gradone. “The Whitecaps actually wore white caps, and boy, did they get dirty quickly.”

     A “Commodore” is a highly ranked naval officer. According to Cape League (and Falmouth) President Chuck Sturdivant, the team’s name came out of the fact that it was run by a commodore in its early days.  The team's home field for over sixty years of the 20th century was in Falmouth Heights which also played an influence on the name of the team.  

     Gatemen is plural for a gatekeeper, as Wareham is essentially the gateway to the Cape. Wareham President Tom Gay explains, “While not on what is now known as ‘The Cape,’ Wareham is actually part of Cape Cod.  Before Rt. 495 and Rt. 25 were built, the only way to the bridges was on Rt. 28, he said. “As you enter Wareham on Rt. 28, there still exists a Gate with Light Houses on each side with a sign ‘Welcome to Cape Cod.’” Gay explained that the Gatemen are the “protectors of the entrance.”

     Last but not least is the Kettleers. According to Cotuit’s official website, “more than 300 years ago...the Indians bartered with the early settlers for the land on which the villages of Cotuit and Santuit now stand. The terms of the sale were a brass kettle with a hoe thrown in for good measure. Thus, the Cotuit baseball team’s nickname, Kettleers, was derived from that early real estate transaction.”

    It is certainly fascinating to learn more about how each team derived its nickname and how the evolution of the Cape Cod Baseball League has continued to express each team’s uniqueness. Although the season has been dearly missed, next year, teams will continue to don their signature threads, reminding everyone just how significant Cape Cod Baseball is to the surrounding communities.