Seattle Mariners' Ken Griffey Jr. is congratulated by teammate Reggie Jefferson after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning off of Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Ron Darling Saturday night, June 11, 1994, in Seattle. Looking on is home plate umpire Greg Kosc. The Mariners are turning back the clock as they wear the 1955 Pacific Coast League Seattle Rainiers jerseys to 'salute the Rainiers.' Mariners won game 6-3. AP file, 1994
Seattle Mariners' Ken Griffey Jr. is congratulated by teammate Reggie Jefferson after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning off of Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Ron Darling Saturday night, June 11, 1994, in Seattle. Looking on is home plate umpire Greg Kosc. The Mariners are turning back the clock as they wear the 1955 Pacific Coast League Seattle Rainiers jerseys to 'salute the Rainiers.' Mariners won game 6-3. AP file, 1994

Tacoma Rainiers

Rainiers was stolen, all right - by Seattle

By John McGrath

The News Tribune

October 26, 1994 12:00 AM

Editor's note: Originally published Oct. 26, 1994.

So you're telling me you're an old-school Tacoma sports fan with such a fierce disdain of Seattle you cannot bring yourself to pronounce the word "Rainiers?"

Sure you can.

First you say "rain, " as in the stuff that falls from sky. Then you say "ears, " as in those things on the side of your head.

Rain. Ears.

Now, in the reconciliatory spirit of Appomattox, Versailles, Camp David and the Los Angeles Raiders sideline, put "Tacoma, " "Rain" and "Ears" together.

Tacoma Rainiers.

Has a ring to it, no?

I know, Seattle took "Rainiers" first, back when the Pacific Coast League had a connection to an actual coast. And, yes, I know, there are those proud Tacomans who'd rather listen to a Plastic Ono Band anthology than cheer for a team even vaguely associated with Seattle.

But just because Seattle had the gall to pilfer a Pierce County landmark for itself - and then had the stupidity to abandon it - doesn't mean a terrific nickname like "Rainiers" should be relegated to the occasional Turn Back the Clock promotion.

Nothing against the Tigers, whose growling mien has represented Tacoma with more nobility than the conveyor-belt line of Giants, Cubs and Twins who preceded them in Cheney Stadium. Tigers, furthermore, are bold and fearless and endowed with an uncanny ability to make a quick strike. (Unless, of course, the Tiger is standing atop a dirt mound, and his name is Jeff Nelson).

Tigers, unfortunately, are also plentiful. They may be going extinct in Jim Fowler's world, but they are as common as eight-figure contract demands in ours.

There are Missouri Tigers and Clemson Tigers and University of Pacific Tigers. There are three Tigers in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (Grambling, Jackson State and Texas Southern) and two more in the Southeastern Conference (Auburn and Louisiana State).

There are, too, Princeton Tigers and Detroit Tigers, and therein lies an unlikely connection: Because Detroit players wore socks in the early 1900s that were navy blue and orange - Princeton's colors - they were named after Princeton's Tigers.

In minor-league baseball, there are the Lakeland (Fla.) Tigers and the Bristol (Va.) Tigers, both of whom are affiliates of Detroit, and the Tacoma Tigers, who recently signed a two-year agreement with the Nintendo of America Mariners.

At last count, 62 minor-league franchises shared the name of a major-league club; only Tacoma shares the name of a major-league club with which it is not affiliated.

Says Tacoma general manager Dave Bean: "There's been some confusion in the past about the Tigers' affiliation. There still is."

Were I appointed czar of baseball, I'd prohibit anybody in the minors from using the name of its parent team and putting a bland face on a potentially creative logo. Once upon a time, for instance, the Macon (Ga.) Braves of the South Atlantic League were known as the Macon Whoopies - the single greatest sports nickname in the history of the world.

In lieu of the Whoopies, the South Atlantic League still is home to such wonderfully colorful teams as the Augusta Green Jackets, Albany Polecats, Hickory Craw Dads, Capital City Bombers and Columbus Redstixx.

Seems a new wave of minor-league nicknames has created a coveted new commodity. As Lions and Tigers and Bears are yielding to Polecats and Craw Dads and Redstixx, souvenir stores can't keep enough caps on the shelves.

"Minor-league baseball, " says Bean, "is, as a whole, a really hot market right now. But not for the Tigers. Tacoma has long had one of the lowest souvenir sales incomes of any Class AAA team."

Still, one does not blithely tread on tradition. Tacoma's Western International League ballclubs were calling themselves the Tigers 50 years ago. Since the city has been reunited with Class AAA baseball, the Giants, Cubs, Twins and Yankees all have been nicknames adorned on Tacoma baseball jerseys.

A two-year fling with novelty came when Tacoma hooked up with Cleveland and called itself the Tugs, a nickname whose mention pains the otherwise ebullient voice of longtime Tacoma general manager Stan Naccarato.

"We went through five name changes in about 20 years, " says Naccarato. "Finally, I figured: enough is enough: Let's just go back to the old 'Tigers' and keep it there. It's a name fans have been able to hold onto. And, besides, I've always liked the way 'Tacoma Tigers' rolled off the tongue."

Had the Tigers been more of a success story on the field, Dave Bean might've read more scathing objections to a name change on the surveys he's compiled. But as Naccarato notes, Tacoma's last PCL championship was achieved under the name 'Yankees" in 1978.

"If it ain't broke, I don't think you ought to fix it, " says Naccarato. "But here's a new guy with some new ideas, and my response is more power to him. If that's what going to sell ... If you can show me a better way to go through the door, I belong to you, sir.

"And you can't deny it: Looking at that beautiful mountain over the right-field fence is a big part of the enjoyment of going to Cheney Stadium."

That beautiful mountain would be Mount Rainier, Pierce County's pride and joy. So what if Seattle wore an "R" on its cap first?

It's better to be a Copy Cat than just an ordinary Tiger.

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