Before going further into the writeup, I'd like once again to state that before the 1920s, professional baseball team nicknames were largely at the mercy of the local fans and what meager press was devoted to the squad. So this name is unofficial in the annals of Major League Baseball, but was the colloquial term for the team all the same.
Well, for one season anyway.
After their disappointing 7th place finish in 1901, the Cleveland Blues (so named for their bright blue socks and stripes) were renamed as the Cleveland Bronchos for the 1902 season. A number of other changes took place: Billy Armour took over as manager; of the starting rotation, only 22-year-old Earl Moore was kept on; and the entire starting lineup was ravaged, with only excellent hitting third baseman Bill Bradley and team batting leader Jack McCarthy being kept on. In particular, two new additions showed much promise for Cleveland: first baseman Charlie Hickman, a .300 hitter for Cleveland's rivals in Boston; and Philadelphia Phillies superstar Elmer Flick. There was much hope in Cleveland for the 1902 year.
The team started off well enough, with rookie Addie Joss throwing a one-hitter in his major league debut, but then the team became virtually anemic, unable to score runs at any acceptable rate. By May 23, the team was 7-19 and in eighth place. Then, the team finally managed to come alive, and all it took was a little nap.
At the beginning of the season, a Pennsylvania judge had ruled that National League players couldn't jump teams to the American League (with its much higher salaries) unless they sat out a full season. Luckily for Cleveland, the law only applied in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia Phillies star Nap Lajoie had gone in direct violation of this rule, and had been suspended from playing. Charles Somers, owner of the Cleveland team, then offered Lajoie $7,000 to play for his team instead, and Lajoie agreed.
By September 1, the team was back to .500, and Joss, Moore, and journeyman Bill Bernhard were providing an able starting rotation. Bradley batted .340 for the season, and set a major league record by homering in four consecutive games. Hickman proved his mettle by batting .378 and cranking out 94 RBIs, while Lajoie's short season still gave him enough time to bat .370 - which was quite a letdown from his 1901 numbers of .426 with 232 hits! But the team simply couldn't overcome its early season deficit, and finished in fifth place, though it led the league in ERA and batting average.
At the end of the season (bearing in mind the unofficial whims of the fans) the team was re-nicknamed the "Naps", in honor of their new franchise player. The name would last for nearly 15 years before a trade would lead to the Indians moniker of today.
Major League Baseball Teams
Cleveland Blues | Cleveland Indians