Look It Up

Many baseball fans know how the New York Highlanders became the Yankees, that the Cubs were so named because of the youth of their lineup, or that the Blue Jays got their name in an alcohol-soaked dare. But it's the rare fan who knows why Pittsburgh's 9 are known as the Pirates. When Pittsburgh joined the National League in 1887, the team was known as the Alleghenies - in honor, of course, of the Allegheny River. In the late 1800s, however, the Allegheny was swarming with pirates. They were everywhere. Their ships so thoroughly outnumbered commercial vessels on the river that most had nothing to plunder. Regardless, they flew the skull & crossbones every hundred yards or so, firing their cannons at nothing in particular and rattling their sabres as they passed fishermen. Eventually the pirates began going to ballgames to kill time, and soon the right field bleachers were roiling with chants of "Walk the plank!" and "Yar, 'twere a homely run!" Cubs manager Cap Anson remarked to the papers, "No one wants to go to Pittsburgh to face them Pirates." The name stuck. The Alleghenies officially changed their name in 1891.