The 10 Best Football Team Nicknames of All Time

02 Aug

Pro football, more than any of the other major sports, has a rich history of folklore that incudes many team and tandem nicknames. It was really hard cutting this list down to only ten, and some of the “honorable mention” names that didn’t make the list are well known ones, like Miami’s “No Name Defense”,  the self-proclaimed Dallas Cowboys’ “America’s Team”, a current one – Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary, the  “Big Blue Wrecking Crew” of the New York Giants of the Lawrence Taylor era, San Diego’s prolific “Air Coryell” offense, and the “Bull Elephant Backfield” of the 1950s Los Angeles Rams. Here are the ten that made the cut:




1. Purple People Eaters - this nickname is sometimes used to describe the entire 11-man unit of the dominant 1960s and ’70s Minnesota Vikings’ defensive units, but is really the nickname of the team’s front four, which included Gary Larsen, a pair of Hall of Famers in Alan Page and Carl Eller, and a Viking legend who belongs in Canton in Jim Marshall. The nickname stuck into the mid-70s, when Doug Sutherland replaced Larsen.




2. The Steel Curtain - this nickname was given to the dominant Pittsburgh Steeler defensive units of the 1970s that helped the franchise win four Super Bowls. Anchored by legends like Mean Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, L.C. Greenwood, Jack Ham, Mel Blount and Donnie Shell, the Steelers dominated the decade under coach Chuck Noll with a hard-nosed in your face style of play.




3. Fearsome Foursome - the Los Angeles Rams’ front four of the 1960s earned this nickname. The line consisted of four hard-working players intent on getting after the quarterback – Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy. Jones, in fact, pretty much invented the term “sack”, which is an official stat in pro football today. Grier was eventually replaced on the line by Roger Brown, but the unit kept the nickname throughout the decade.




4. Million Dollar Backfield – this unit, consisting of four Hall of Famers, was the San Francisco 49ers starting backfield of the 1950s. In an era when the running game dominated, this backfield included quarterback Y.A. Tittle and three running backs – Hugh McElhenny, Joe Perry and John Henry Johnson. Later in the decade, Tittle remained as the QB, but the trio of backs were replaced by J.D. Smith, R.C. Owens and C.R. Roberts and became known as the “All Alphabet Backfield”.




5. Doomsday Defense - this nickname was given to the swarming, dominant defense of coach Tom Landry’s Dallas Cowboys of the 1960s and ’70s. The nickname stuck with two different Dallas defensive units – the 1960s version featuring players like Chuck Howley, Bob Lilly, Jethro Pugh, Lee Roy Jordan, Cornell Green and Mel Renfro, and a later 1970s club that included Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Randy White, Harvey Martin, Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson, Cliff Harris and Charlie Waters. Both versions produced Super Bowl titles for Landry.




6. The Electric Company – the Buffalo Bills’ offensive line of the 1970s that opened holes for O.J. Simpson was tagged with this nickname, as they “turned on The Juice”. They were responsible for Simpson breaking the 2,000 yard barrier in 1973, breaking Jim Brown’s single season rushing yardage record. The unit included center Mike Montler, guards Reggie McKenzie and Joe DeLamielleure, tackles Dave Foley and Donnie Green and tight end Paul Seymour.




7. Greatest Show on Turf – guided by former Arena League quarterback Kurt Warner, the 1999 St. Louis Rams developed into an explosive offensive unit that surprisingly won the Super Bowl and earned this nickname. The team remained an offensive powerhouse the following 2 seasons also, as offensive coordinator Mike Martz was promoted to head coach. Stars of those teams included not only Warner but Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce, Az Hakim and Ricky Proehl.




8. Monsters of The Midway – like Dallas’ “America’s Team” handle, this nickname is used to signify any and all Chicago Bear teams. It was especially fitting for coach George Halas’s championship clubs in the early years, and definitely fit the 1985 championship “Super Bowl Shuffle” Bears’ team coached by Mike Ditka, who along with rugged legends like Dick Butkus, Doug Atkins, Joe Fortunato, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher embodied the Bears’ style of play.




9. Orange Crush – this nickname was coined by a Denver sportswriter for the 1970s Bronco defense, specifically the 1977 club that reached the Super Bowl. Defensive coordinator Joel Collier, one of the game’s top defensive minds of all time, installed a 3-4 defense that made stars of players like Tom Jackson, Randy Gradishar, Paul Smith, Lyle Alzado, Steve Foley, Rubin Carter and Barney Chavous.




10. The Over The Hill Gang – Washington Redskins’ coach George Allen had a soft spot for veteran players, and despised having to use rookies due to their penchant for making mistakes. When he built the early 1970s Washington teams, he loaded the roster with veteran retreads like Ron McDole, Myron Pottios, Bill Kilmer, Richie Petitbon, Maxie Baughan, Jack Pardee, Verlon Biggs, Roy Jefferson and Boyd Dowler. When the team started to play well and win games, they were given this nickname. Allen even guided the crusty veteran team into the 1972 Super Bowl, where they lost to the undefeated Miami Dolphins.



Classic Team Logo of The Day

02 Aug


Logo of a football team that played in the old defunct World Football League, the Philadelphia Bell. The club played 2 seasons, 1974 and ’75, in the league, and were owned by John B. Kelly Jr., brother of actress and princess Grace Kelly. Former Green Bay Packer star Willie Wood coached the Bell in their second season, becoming the first African American pro football coach of the modern era. Former Bell players include Tim Rossovich, Ted Kwalick and Vince Papale, who went on to play for the NFL Eagles and was the subject of the film Invincible.


Classic Sports Card of The Day

02 Aug


1965 Philadelphia football card of former NFL receiver and kick return specialist Walt “The Flea” Roberts. He played the first 3 seasons of his 6 year career with the Cleveland Browns, 1964 to 1966, helping the Browns win the league championship in his rookie campaign. He was left unprotected in the 1967 expansion draft to stock the new New Orleans franchise, and was grabbed by the Saints. Roberts finished his playing days with 2 seasons in Washington. A college track star at San Jose State, he picked up his nickname for his tremendous speed and diminutive size.


The 10 Best Baseball Team Nicknames of All Time

26 Jul

Baseball, over the years, has never had a shortage of nicknames for individual players as well as teams. Just as my list of top hockey team and tandem nicknames included a pair from the sport’s most iconic franchise, the Montreal Canadiens, this list of the ten best team nicknames has two for the national pastime’s winningest club, the New York Yankees, and it doesn’t even include their most famous nickname – “The Bronx Bombers”. Here’s the list:



1. Murderer’s Row – this nickname was given to a portion of the lineup of one of the best teams of all time, the 1927 Yankees. Opposing pitchers had to face a string of batters that included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel and Tony Lazzeri. That Yankee team finished with a regular season record of 110-44, won the American League pennant by finishing 19 games ahead of their closest competitors, then swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series.




2. Gashouse Gang  – this nickname belonged to the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals, who won the National League pennant that year, then beat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. It’s said that the name was coined by the team’s scrappy shortstop, Leo Durocher, due to the team’s reputation for a shabby appearance and rough-and-tumble style of play. Opponents often claimed that the Cardinals took the field in dirty, unwashed, smelly uniforms, and at the time factories that turned coal into gas were usually known for their foul smell.




3. Amazin’ Mets – the 1969 New York Mets, who just a few years before were a bumbling expansion team, gained this nickname by shocking the baseball world by taking advantage of a late season collapse by the Chicago Cubs to win the NL Eastern Division crown. They continued their surprising run by sweeping the Atlanta Braves in the NL championship series and stunning the heavily favored and more experienced Baltimore Orioles in the World Series. They’re sometimes also referred to as the “Miracle Mets”.




4. Whiz Kids - averaging just slightly over 26 years of age as a team, the 1950 Philadelphia Phillies earned this nickname when they fought off a late season challenge from the Brooklyn Dodgers to win the National League pennant. Two of the team’s young stars, pitcher Robin Roberts and outfielder Richie Ashburn, would go on to be elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, the Phils were swept by the powerhouse Yankees in the World Series.




5. The Big Red Machine – the 1970s Cincinnati Reds, managed by Sparky Anderson, were so loaded with talent that Anderson once joked that his only job was to write down the starting lineup and get out of the way. Between 1970 and 1976, they won four National League pennants and a pair of World Series. The team’s lineup included 3 Hall of Famers, Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan and Tony Perez, and a player with certain Hall of Fame credentials in Pete Rose.


Dem Bums 2


6. Dem Bums – a sports cartoonist of the 1930s, Willard Mullen, christened the Brooklyn Dodgers with this nickname after a cab driver, when asked about the team, proclaimed “dem bums is bums!” The Dodgers, at the time, had a reputation as lovable losers and Mullin created a cartoon character (pictured above) to feature in the newspaper. The character remained a beloved mascot of the team’s fans throughout the years, and when the club finally defeated their hated rivals, the New York Yankees, in the 1955 World Series, a newspaper headline in large print letters asked “WHO’S A BUM?”




7. Harvey’s Wallbangers – the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers were managed by Harvey Kuenn (above) and featured a lineup of power hitters that included Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Gorman Thomas, Cecil Cooper and Ted Simmons. They wound up winning the American League pennant and got the nickname for their reputation as a capable offensive club. The Brewers lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals.


George Steinbrenner, Billy Martin


8. Bronx Zoo – the 1970s New York Yankees got this nickname after George Steinbrenner bought the team and brought in Billy Martin to manage it. The owner and manager often battled publicly and Martin was fired and re-hired multiple times. Also, the team’s roster was loaded with colorful personalities like Thurman Munson, Reggie Jackson, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Sparky Lyle and Mickey Rivers, although the “Bronx Zoo” nickname mostly signified the constant feuding between Steinbrenner and Martin.




9. Black Sox –  the Chicago White Sox have been known to their fans as the “Chisox” or the  “Pale Hose” over the years, but the 1919 version of the team became known for this nickname due to one of sports’ all-time scandals, as they were accused of throwing the World Series that year to the Cincinnati Reds. Eight White Sox players, including “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, were acquitted of any wrongdoing in court but still banned from baseball for life by commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis.




10. The Boys of Zimmer  – the 1989 Chicago Cubs were managed by Don Zimmer and thrilled Chicago baseball fans by winning an unexpected NL East division title that year. Looking back, that Cub team was a talented one, boasting players like Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg, Mark Grace, Shawon Dunston and pitchers Rick Sutcliffe, Greg Maddux and Mitch Williams. They eventually lost to the San Francisco Giants in the NL Championship series.



Classic Team Logo of The Day

26 Jul


Logo of an old Negro League team, the Baltimore Black Sox. They were founded in 1916 as an independent team, and existed until 1933. They were part of 4 different leagues over the years, and won the American Negro League title in 1929. That ’29 team boasted a “Million Dollar Infield” consisting of Jud Wilson, Frank Warfield, Ghost Marcelle and Sir Richard Lundy. The media dubbed them that since that would have been their prospective worth had they been white players.


Classic Sports Card of The Day

26 Jul


1965 Topps baseball card of one of the game’s true legends, former infielder, coach and manager Don Zimmer. Zimmer spent 65 years in the game, beginning in 1949 with the Brooklyn Dodgers until his death in 2014. He played for 5 different teams and coached or managed in 9 different organizations. Although he was mainly a utility player throughout his career, he was a part of six World Series-winning clubs in some capacity over the years.


The 10 Best Hockey Team Nicknames of All Time

21 May

There’s a tradition in the National Hockey League of placing nicknames on both memorable teams and historic three-man lines, and this list includes both. The Montreal Canadiens, being the most storied and successful franchise in the league, have two entries on the list. Here are my 10 favorite hockey team and tandem nicknames:



  1. Flying Frenchmen – this nickname has been affiliated with the Montreal Canadiens dating back as far as 1917, but the “Flying Frenchmen” I remember are the 1970s Canadiens, featuring players like Guy LaFleur, Larry Robinson, Steve Shutt, Bob Gainey, Rejean Houle,  Jacques Lemaire and Serge Savard. The ultimate “Flying Frenchman” on this club was LaFleur, and the Canadiens won 5 Stanley Cups during his career.




2. Broad Street Bullies – this would be the 1970s Philadelphia Flyers, who won back-to-back Stanley Cups using a rugged style of play that was big on intimidation and short on style. They were regularly the most penalized team in the NHL, and most of those penalty minutes were fighting majors or roughing minors, featuring players like Dave “The Hammer” Schultz, Andre “Moose” Dupont, Don “Big Bird” Saleske, Ed Van Impe and captain Bobby Clarke, the ultimate instigator.




3. The French Connection – right around the time that the movie “The French Connection”, starring Gene Hackman, was hitting the theaters, Buffalo Sabres’ GM Punch Imlach assembled a line of three French-Canadians. Centered by Gilbert Perreault with Rene Robert and Richard Martin on the wings, the trio was tagged with the French Connection nickname and became one of the most prolific lines in NHL history.




4. MPH Line – if you were to try to name a top line of the 1960s and ’70s Chicago Black Hawks that was named after the players’ last initials, you’d probably guess that the “M” was for Stan Mikita and the “H” for Bobby Hull, but you would be wrong. The players who made up this famous line were Pit Martin, Jim Pappin and Bobby’s brother, Dennis Hull.




5. Triple Crown Line – this line got their nickname because of the team they played for – the Los Angeles Kings, whose uniforms featured a crown logo. Consisting of Dave Taylor, Charlie Simmer and Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne, they were a prolific scoring line that was the first line in NHL history to have all 3 members score 100+ points in a single season.




6. Big Bad Bruins – this nickname is used on the Boston Bruins’ franchise to this day, for their rugged style of play, but was really earned in the 1970s when the team had players like Terry O’Reilly, Wayne Cashman, Carol Vadnais, John Wensink and Mike Milbury, and even carried some of their battles into the stands with opposing fans (see picture above).




7. Les Habitants – this nickname for the Montreal Canadiens is a favorite of their French Canadian fans in Quebec. Like the New York Yankees in baseball and Boston Celtics in basketball, the Canadiens are the standard for their sport that all other clubs hope to be. They are one of the oldest North American sports franchises, and have won a total of 24 Stanley Cup championships.




8. Broadway Blueshirts – this is a long-time nickname New York fans have for their Rangers, an original six franchise that played in the 1920s at the old Madison Square Garden, which was just blocks away from Times Square and the Broadway scene. They were a huge fan favorite in that Roaring Twenty era, having won the Stanley Cup in their second year of existence.




9. Desert Dogs – when the old Winnipeg Jets’ franchise made the unlikely move to the desert to become the Phoenix, and later Arizona Coyotes, they were tagged with this nickname. Coyotes have long been known as “desert dogs”, so the nickname fit the new hockey club when it changed locations in 1996.




10. The Production Line – this line, consisting of hockey legends Gordie Howe, Sid Abel and Ted Lindsay of the Detroit Red Wings, was named after their home city’s long-standing automotive industry connection. They are considered one of the greatest lines in hockey history, with all three members having been elected to the sport’s Hall of Fame.


Classic Team Logo of The Day

21 May


Logo of a minor league hockey team that existed from 1996 until 2001, the Manitoba Moose. They played in the International Hockey League and moved from Minnesota to Manitoba to fill the void after the original Winnipeg Jets’ NHL franchise moved to Arizona. They were an independent club during their IHL existence and not affiliated with an NHL franchise. There is a current reincarnation of the Moose that plays in the American Hockey League that is affiliated with the new Winnipeg Jet team.


Classic Sports Card of The Day

21 May


1979 Opeechee hockey card of Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne, who played 18 seasons in the National Hockey League with three different franchises, most notably the Los Angeles Kings. In L.A., he was a member of the “Triple Crown” line along with Dave Taylor and Charlie Simmer. Dionne, nicknamed “Little Beaver”, was the third player in NHL history to reach the 700 goal plateau for his career. He was a two-time winner of both the Lester B. Pearson Award as the outstanding regular season player and the Lady Bing Trophy for sportsmanship, and won election to the Hall of Fame in 1992.


The 10 Best Basketball Team Nicknames of All Time

09 May

In the past I’ve done “list” posts of what I consider the best player nicknames in all four major sports. Now, after careful consideration and painstaking research (thank you Wikipedia and Google), I will publish my lists of the best team or tandem nicknames in those four sports, starting with basketball. Of all the major sports, there aren’t very many memorable team nicknames to choose from, so I had to consider not only pro teams but also clubs from the college and even Olympic ranks. Here’s the list of the 10 best basketball team or tandem nicknames:



1. Showtime (1980s Los Angeles Lakers) – the 1980s Lakers, led by coach Pat Riley, were the dominant club of the decade who earned the nickname with their flashy, upbeat style of play. Their roster included some of the league’s All-time great players like Kareem Abul Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Jamaal Wilkes, and won a total of five NBA championships in the decade.




2. The Bad Boys (1990 Detroit Pistons) – coached by Chuck Daly, the Pistons won back-to-back NBA titles in 1989 and ’90 with a rough-and-tumble style of play that featured tenacious defense and rugged physical play that rankled opponents and earned them their moniker. Players like Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, John Salley and especially Dennis Rodman were among the most hated by their peers in the league at the time. The team wasn’t just a goon squad, however, as players like Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Adrian Dantley added enough offense to turn the club into a champion.




3. Boston Three Party (Boston Celtics) – one of the NBA’s most storied franchises hit a low point in 2007 following the death of their long time patriarch, Red Auerbach, but the team’s GM at the time, Danny Ainge, made bold moves to acquire two superstars, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, to go with the team’s star of the era, Paul Pierce, forming a potent threesome that would be dubbed with this nickname and that coach Doc Rivers would mold into a championship club in 2008.




4. Texas Twin Towers (Houston Rockets’ Centers) – this nickname was more recently used for San Antonio’s big man duo of David Robinson and Tim Duncan, but the original “Twin Towers” are former Houston Rockets Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajowan. They were a pair of seven footers who patrolled the front line for the Rockets in the 1980s. They reached the NBA finals once but lost to the Boston Celtics. They never won a title as a tandem, but Olajuwan led the Rockets to 2 in the 1990s.




5. Dream Team (U.S. Olympic Team) – this club was put together to represent the United States in the Olympic Games in 1992, the first year NBA players were declared eligible to compete in the games. The media dubbed them the “Dream Team” and they truly were, with a stocked roster that included stars like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, John Stockton, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley. Coached by Chuck Daly, the U.S. contingent easily won the gold medal.




6. Fab Five (Michigan NCAA Champs) – we dug into the college ranks for this team nickname, but this group, the University of Michigan hoops team of the early 1990s, earned their nickname. “The Fab Five” were a team of five freshmen – Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson, who all started and reached the Final Four two years in a row.




7. Phi Slama Jama (University of Houston 83-84) – another college team, this team, the University of Houston Cougars, got their name for the style of play they exhibited, an exciting fast break game that featured breath-taking dunks. Two of their players, Olajuwan and Clyde Drexler, went on to have stellar NBA careers. This club is credited with popularizing the “above the rim” style of play that is commonplace in both college and pro ball today.




8.  Run TMC (Golden State Warriors 1990s) – this nickname was a play on the rap group Run DMC, with TMC representing the first names of a trio of sharpshooters who played for the Golden State Warriors – Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin. They played together for two seasons, and under coach Don Nelson, featured a fast-paced, run-and-gun style.


Jordan, Pippen, Rodman


9. Superman, Batman and Rodman – this unit came to be when Dennis Rodman, formerly a hated rival with the Detroit Pistons, joined ranks with Michael Jordan(Superman) and Scottie Pippen(Batman) to form an almost unbeatable threesome for the 1990s Chicago Bulls. In fact, after Rodman was acquired, the Bulls won an amazing 72 games, against only 10 losses, on their way to winning the 1995-96 NBA title, their fourth championship in a six year period.




10. The Heatles (Miami Heat) – following an NBA trend of building a roster made up of a “Big Three” (see Boston Three Party above), Miami Heat GM Pat Riley went out and signed a pair of superstars – LeBron James and Chris Bosh – to join his own star, Dwyane Wade, and the group eventually was dubbed The Heatles, after winning a pair of NBA championships.