Good afternoon, did you enjoy your time under a rock? The Cleveland baseball team is now the Guardians and it’s kind of a big deal. If you want to read more about how that transpired, and what exactly it all entails, head over here.
I’m here now to tell you one simple thing: I think the name and logos are kind of great.
I would have been happy with literally any name change, but I did not expect to be this happy about what they came up with. Hell, I was on team Commodores from nearly the very beginning, at least right after I gave up hope on Owlbears being a reality. But seeing and feeling the name Guardians in action just feels right.
Despite what your great-uncle Charlie or that random guy with shades and a cap for his Twitter avatar say, the name that Cleveland has landed on has deep ties to the city. Deeper than waves of people who refuse to Google something would lead you to believe.
Let me explain.
“Guardians” is the nickname for eight 43-foot statues that have been a Cleveland staple for almost a century. The bridge these behemoths call home, originally called the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, was opened in 1932 and designed by engineers at the Cleveland-based Wilbur J. Watson & Associates with the consulting help of Frank Walker, who also designed the Guardians themselves. All eight Guardians were built alongside the bridge, carved from stone by Henry Hering and local stonecutters following Walker’s design. According to Cleveland Scene, even the giant slabs that the Guardians were cut from were from nearby Berea, Ohio.
Two pylons sit at each end of the bridge, renamed the Hope Memorial Bridge after its closure in 1980 and reopening in 1983, with statues on either side of each of them, for a total of eight Guardians. Each statue holds a mode of ground transportation that is supposed to signify the evolution of transport under the guidance of these “Guardians of Traffic”.
Guardians holding a covered wagon, a hay wagon, a cement truck, and a dump truck sit on the end of the bridge closest to Progressive Field. On the other end of the 5,865-foot bridge awaits Guardians holding a stagecoach, a semi-truck, an old-fashioned car, and another unidentified truck that looks like it might be a logger of some kind.
The baseball team, with the help of the grizzled disembodied voice of Tom Hanks, has pushed hard on the rough and tumble, hard-working narrative of the statues; that Cleveland’s history is full of grit and what have you — typical marketing buzzwords abound, but all very true stuff.
That’s all well and good, but honestly, any fixture in the city that was locally created, been around for almost 90 years, and gives you views like this is enough to make me think it’s OK to name your baseball team after it.
For all the uninformed people, there is massive Cleveland Guardian statues that are meant to protect the city. You see them as you enter the city, that’s the reason for Guardians pic.twitter.com/XyhKWOGNsn— 1st in 2021 No-Hitters (@ClevelandJack22) July 23, 2021
It’s more creative than just going with the state bird (the Cardinals already exist, anyway), something to do with a lake, or heaven forbid a guitar. It’s a Cleveland-exclusive feature that just so happens to be within spitting distance of the team’s home stadium.
Besides, they play in a league with more than a handful of silly name origins — much worse than a few statues on a bridge. For example:
- The Red Sox are named because they desperately wanted to keep wearing red socks.
- The Cubs name comes from the fact that, in 1902, they had a young roster and it apparently sounded better than their previous name, the Orphans.
- The Phillies play in Philadelphia.
- Kansas City was the home of The American Royal Livestock and Horse Show.
- The Dodgers, originally from Brooklyn, chose their name because pedestrians used to “dodge” trollies in New York City.
- The Pirates once signed a player that another team forgot to add to their roster, prompting a sportswriter to say they “pirated away” that player from another team.
The only reason these are not seen as ridiculous today is that they are so ingrained in our lexicon that they feel normal — the completely landlocked Pittsburgh Pirates would not fly as a name in this century. A new name can’t breed that kind of familiarity right away, but with time the Guardians will be just another sports name and we’ll look back at how antiquated everything else was. We’ll probably even look back at how strange these first-iteration brand graphics look, but the Guardians name will be synonymous with Cleveland baseball. That’s just how things work.
Granted, it’s a connection that seems to elude a lot of people outside of the Cleveland sports-o-sphere. Most non-Cleveland fans that talked about the name change in the first several hours had no idea what a “guardian” was and were excited to start making jokes instead of figuring it out. A quick Google search would have given them their answer, but they — as I’m sure many others in the future will — opted not to do it.
That’s part of what makes it special, though, isn’t it? I don’t know the origins of most teams' names without looking them up first, but I bet most fans know the origin of their own team. It’s a chance to explain why the name means so much to a city and a fanbase; to educate someone who might not know otherwise. That’s a place we can get with Guardians fairly quickly that was impossible with the racism of the old name. If you don’t have something that is a least a little bit of a mystery to total outsiders, you end up with something completely generic.
Guardians is a solid, inoffensive name at worst, and a deep-rooted Cleveland connection at best. Hate the goofy little wings on the baseball logo if you want (they’ve grown on me over the past several hours), but the statues and their psuedo-namesake that will soon be playing at Progressive Field should be seen for what they are: Cleveland.