Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Given my fascination with obscure historical events, I’ve always been curious about the Renaming of the Phillies That Didn’t Stick. Legend has it that after Bob Carpenter bought the Phillies in 1943, he renamed the team the Blue Jays, but the new moniker never caught on and was eventually dropped.

The other day (while I should have been doing something more productive), I found this AP article in the March 24, 1944 edition of the Lowell (Mass.) Sun, which (sort of) explains what happened. Here’s the gist of it:

In the winter of 1943-44, the Phillies held a contest to select a new “emblem” for the team. (What their old emblem was, or if they even had one, I have no idea.) The team received “over 5,000 letters proposing over 630 different emblems,” as well as a “healthy-sized stack of mail” from fans urging the team to remain the Phillies.

Apparently there was (and still is) some confusion as to whether the team was changing its name – or just adopting a new emblem. I believe it was the latter. Bob Carpenter never intended to change the team’s name; he was just looking for (as we say today) “better branding.”

Carpenter decided the new emblem would be a blue jay. And here’s where things get truly Philliesesque. It turns out there was a popular medication for corns and bunions called Blue Jay. (Here’s another ad.) This naturally led to much joking at the Phillies’ expense, which probably explains why, just before spring training began in 1944, Carpenter went out of his way to make it clear that the Phillies would remain the Phillies – and the blue jay was just an emblem.

In 1944 and again in 1945, the Phillies did wear this blue jay patch (or one much like it) on their uniforms. But after that it seems the rare Philadelphia blue jay flew away and was never seen again.