And Then There Were Five

After receiving over 3,000 nominations for its name the team contest, Winston-Salem has narrowed the candidates down to five to replace the equally beloved and peculiar Warthogs moniker.

The team is moving into a brand-new ballpark next spring, and its out with the old transition includes a team name whose biggest quality is its alliterative quality. In case you didn’t know the root of the Warthogs—which I did not until just a few minutes ago—the name was the winning entry of a 1995 name the team contest sponsored by the Winston-Salem Journal. The name Warthog was not come upon arbitrarily, after all the local Winston-Salem zoo had just received a shipment of Warthogs. (Growing up in Washington, D.C., I remember it being a big deal when the National Zoo got some Pandas from China, but you didn’t see the Redskins changing their name to the Washington Ling-Lings).

Well, the Warthogs went back to the public-naming well and narrowed the list to these five possibilities:

• Aviators (Piedmont Airlines founded in W-S),

Dash/The Dash (as in Winston DASH Salem),

Racers (who doesn’t love auto racing in The Dash?),

• Rhinos ("A strong, swift ferocious animal with ties to the area," according to a team release)

Wallbangers (why not?)

To help settle the debate, I asked the ever-wise and all-knowing-about-everything-baseball staff of Baseball America to rank the entries in order of preference.

After an underwhelming seven responses, the unofficial Baseball America selection is: Aviators, which edged out Wallbangers by one vote.

I actually think that’s the right choice. Aviators has the best tie-in with local history, and I think some of the best logos in baseball has a strong local connection (see Lakeland Flying Tigers) and Spokane Indians. Find me a rhino wandering the streets of Winston-Salem and I’ll change my opinion. I’d support Dash only to see what kind of logo they come up with.

Aviators and Wallbangers definitely drew the most support from BA staffers.

"I would definitely go with Aviators," one veteran editor wrote. "A legitimate tie to the area, and it calls back to a beloved airline that was ruined after it was swallowed by US Air back in the day. Racers is acceptable. Not many people know about the history of Bowman Gray Stadium, which is one of the longest-serving tracks in NASCAR–though it no longer has Cup races. It’s one of the few combo race/football venues you’re gonna find. Richard Petty won races there, and it still has weekly races."

Also, in support of Aviators, lobbied a BA designer:

"They could have such a cool 40s logo, and it sounds like a classic team name that could be in a movie. And I think the best team names are the ones that reflect where the team is located (like the Biscuits! and the Bulls.) The opportunities for branding/promotion seem pretty strong with this one. Instead of fireworks at the park, they could have plane fly-overs. Or raffle off rides in an old bi-plane. Or parachute drops onto the field. T-shirts could be dropped from remote-controlled blimps or planes–the tiny ones they use at hockey games, etc."

Support for Wallbangers was slightly more arbitrary: "Nothing quite like it," one BA staffer succinctly pointed out. "I just like this one," theorized another editor.

Dash and Racers were the next most popular choices. Dash "separates itself from other" team names, penned one witty editor. "I like that (Racers is) of this place, but dislike NASCAR a lot," wrote another Yankee editor.

Feel free to pass along your opinions in the comments area. I’m curious of others opinions, and enjoy proof that people are reading the blog.