Rename the Cleveland Indians “Spiders”


Note: Check out the Cleveland Spiders logo mock-up that was originally used for this column via Michael McFarland:

Among the din following Major League Baseball’s announcement Monday that the Cleveland Indians uniforms would no longer feature Chief Wahoo — which Chase Ruttig tackled here — I learned of the Cleveland Spiders.

The short-lived organization predated the current Cleveland MLB franchise’s launch in Grand Rapids as the Rustlers by a few years. Likewise, the Spiders died in 1899 due to mismanagement — a longer standing tradition in Cleveland sports than I previously realized — one year prior to Grand Rapids relocating to its home ever since.

The Cleveland Indians spent 14 years in Cleveland before being christened the Indians, a nickname that wreaks of bygone times with or without the cartoonishly insensitive Chief Wahoo logo. To wit, Stanford athletics dropped the moniker in 1972, a few months prior to the now-annual protests outside the Cleveland baseball franchise’s Opening Day. Dartmouth, Siena, UL-Monroe and Arkansas State followed suit in ditching the nickname Indians — some more begrudgingly than others — while other college teams parted with different titles, logos and mascots re-appropriating Native imagery.

Pro sports have been much slower to change on this front, but Monday’s decision on Chief Wahoo underscores the worthlessness of clinging to these titles in the 21st Century. The franchise should embrace this opportunity to move on from the name Cleveland Indians altogether, and bring back the title Cleveland Spiders.

Independent of anything to do with the nickname Indians, Spiders is just cool. The name invokes a commonly held fear, giving the team and intimidating and menacing quality. What’s more, it’s unique: Only the University of Richmond adopts the name among high-profile levels of sport.

Because the nickname’s so rare, and since spiders are awesome, the merchandising opportunities are endless. A black widow-style hourglass logo on a ballcap? I’d wear it. A Spring Training alternate with an animated spider sporting gloves on seven-of-eight legs? Take my money. 

Lest anyone dismiss the suggestion as a failure to pay homage to the Cleveland Indians’ rich history — why recycle the name of a failed organization? — consider that Cleveland Indians is already a recycled title.

After changing names for its first 14 years in the city, local sportswriters voted on the name the franchise has held for the past 103 years; and did so in recognition of a failed ballclub from Cleveland’s past, which played in the National League.

From the team’s official website:

“President Somers invited the Cleveland baseball writers to make the selection. The title of Indians was their choice, it having been one of the names applied to the old National League club of Cleveland many years ago.”

Further, the man for whom the Indians name has long been honoring, “Chief” Louis Sockalexis? A rebrand to the name Cleveland Spiders continues to pay him proper homage, as he was standout for the Spiders in the 1897 alongside legendary names like Cy Young, before the franchise’s owners intentionally sabotaged the club to benefit the other organization they had just purchased, the St. Louis Browns. 

Yes, Browns were screwing over Cleveland long before Jimmy Haslam. 

I am hardly the first to suggest this rebranding, having only learned of the Cleveland Spiders today. In fact, the website Redesign The Tribe offers several gorgeous concepts for a Spiders name change, as well as some other suggestions for the franchise. 

Scouring Redesign The Tribe reminded me of the Washington Redhawks concept that turned heads with parody headlines last month. The Redhawks conceptual art maintained many of the elements that fans identify with the Washington NFL franchise, but replaced the name with a title others like Miami (OH) and Seattle already used. The logo is also a vast improvement. 

Likewise, I fail to see a move to Cleveland Spiders as anything but a dramatic upgrade for the Cleveland Indians.