MERCER: Time to be brave about that name of the BravesPIERRE — I started to re-think my thinking recently about whether calling a sports team the Braves is a racial wrong.
By: Bob Mercer, The Daily Republic
PIERRE — I started to re-think my thinking recently about whether calling a sports team the Braves is a racial wrong.
I would rather we be done with tomahawks and feathers and that chopping motion as symbols and expressions for sports teams. Those just play on a big group of people’s heritage.
I have absolutely no use for the team names used for the Cleveland Indians and the Washington Redskins.
For a long time I felt the same way about the Atlanta Braves. As a Little League coach, my team was designated as the Braves one season. I volunteered to pay for new jerseys bearing some other team, such as the Nationals. It didn’t get far. We stayed the Braves. The local association still uses the Braves. A friend who’s coaching a team in Little League this season was assigned the Braves. He refused to accept any team name that was offensive. When I heard about his stand Thursday I thought, “Darn right.” Then I woke up, unable to sleep and for some reason trying to remember “The Star Spangled Banner.” I probably could have hit every word right if I was just singing along at a stadium or listening to the radio or watching on TV. But trying to remember it a capella, in bed, left some gaps. I worked my way through and reached the end. “… and the home of the brave.” Who are the brave? I’m not making light. There’s a new animated movie coming called “Brave.” This is a word that can be traced through centuries of Italian, French, Irish and Latin usages.
That brave came to become an American noun is the way languages work.
I didn’t understand the term “wop” for most of my life until I read that it was a reference to “without papers,” meaning Italian immigrants who came illegally.
The only times I’ve heard wop have been negative.
I’ve never taken “braves” to be anything other than a positive term.
That braves was applied to one group of people, and in turn braves became a stereotype and caricature, is why the question persists whether Braves is appropriate to be used as a team name.
Back on that Little League team years ago, I asked several boys for their thoughts about being the Braves. They were 11 and 12, and they didn’t seem to care about the name.
But one boy did screw up his face in a “What’s that?” expression of dislike, and pointed at the tomahawk that was part of the Braves logo on the uniform top.
In our Teeners baseball program we assigned colors as names for the two ages 15-16 teams. One was Green, one was White.
One of our players wore a White Teeners T-shirt last year during a visit to Washington, D.C. His dad reported that the words on the shirt drew some odd looks.
This year we expanded the Teeners 13-14 program to include more teams. We stayed with the color theme. One was to be the Black Teeners.
I asked our son his thoughts. “You can’t do that,” he instantly replied.
Now the names are Green Sox, White Sox, Black Sox and Gray Sox.
The first professional baseball team I followed was the Milwaukee Braves. To me a Brave was Hank Aaron or Eddie Matthews or Warren Spahn.
Supposedly the name, which dates back to the team’s days in Boston (when it was first the Beaneaters, then the Doves, then the Pilgrims, then the Braves, then the Bees and then the Braves again), resulted from a political organization of which a team official was a member. It was known as the Braves.
The logo during the Milwaukee years was an American Indian man in full cry with a Mohawk-style haircut, a gold earring and a single feather at a hard slant.
He certainly didn’t look like Hank or Eddie or Warren.
Prior to him it was an elder in full headdress.
The name Braves didn’t seem wrong in a place where Marquette University’s teams were the Warriors.
The nearest National Hockey League team down the road in Chicago was named the Blackhawks, after the Indian leader who fought against the U.S. soldiers who came to help the westward spread of American settlement.
The Braves left Milwaukee for Atlanta for the 1966 season. One of the owners of a smaller piece of the franchise was Bud Selig. He worked to get the Seattle Pilots franchise transferred to Milwaukee for the 1970 season.
The new team became the Milwaukee Brewers.
He eventually became the commissioner of Major League Baseball.
And now the Milwaukee team’s image is a funny-looking caricature of a German guy in lederhosen.
For some reason, that doesn’t bother me.
One year the Little League team I helped coach was the Brewers (we won the title). I wear Brewers shirts on a regular basis.
I had a special Milwaukee Braves shirt, celebrating their two World Series years. My mother gave it to me about a decade ago. Now it’s worn out, to the point of tattered retirement.
It probably would be good if the Atlanta franchise stopped using the Braves name. I don’t see that happening. So we probably should do what we can here, and stop using the Braves name for our Little League teams in South Dakota. Is it a big deal? The answer depends on whose feelings get hurt by it. Baseball, after all, is supposed to be fun, not make people uncomfortable.