From the Savannah Sand Gnats to the Montgomery Biscuits, Minor League Baseball is full of slightly bizarre names. But where do they all come from? From now until Opening Day, we'll be taking a look at the stories behind some of the greatest team names in MiLB. Yesterday we covered the story behind the Akron RubberDucks and today we tackle the Lehigh Valley IronPigs
In 2008, the team that had been the Ottawa Lynx moved south of the border to play at the brand new Coca-Cola Park in Lehigh Valley, PA. It was just their second season as an affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, who had acquired the team after the Baltimore Orioles cut ties. But while lynx prowl the snowy hills of Canada, they are not common in Pennsylvania. So along with a new stadium, the team would need a new name to kickoff their Allentown existence.
A contest sponsored by a local daily newspaper, the Allentown Morning Call, garnered 3,500 suggestions in the first round. From there, the field was narrowed to eight finalists: Crushers, Gobblers, IronPigs, Keystones, Phantastics, Phillies, Vulcans (always a finalist, never a team name) and Woodchucks. Over 10,000 votes were cast in the final round, and the IronPigs emerged the clear victor, winning by more than a two-to-one margin.
Ron Steele, who originally submitted IronPigs to the contest, credited the quirkiness of his suggestion for its appeal. "It was the weirdest name out there, I guess," Steele told the AP at the time. "I think the uniqueness got a lot of people into it." For his contribution, Steele won VIP game tickets and assorted memorabilia.
But what exactly is an IronPig? Well, nothing really. Not even, unfortunately, a snarling, steely pig like the logo suggests. The name is an intentional butchering of "pig iron," which is the raw iron that gets melted down to make steel. The term refers to the rows of ingots on the conveyor belt all attached to a single runner, which was thought to look like a litter of suckling piglets. Over the course of the 19th century, iron production grew to be the Valley's leading industry, helping drive the country's railroad and skyscraper construction.
When the name was announced on November 13, 2006, IronPigs president Chuck Domino had this to say: "We chose a name that bonds the Lehigh Valley's steel-making heritage to the fun of the Minor Leagues and also the way we plan to operate the franchise, which is boldly with an emphasis on a uniqueness that will set the Lehigh Valley IronPigs apart from anything that the people of the Lehigh Valley have previously been exposed to."
Naming the Mascot
Image Credit: Digital Photographic Imaging
Before the IronPigs inaugural season in Allentown could begin, they needed a name for the mascot. With fan interest running high, the front office solicited suggestions for what to call the giant furry pig. In early December, PorkChop was chosen from a pool of over 7,300 submissions. But just two days later, the name was dropped.
The team had received complaints from Hispanic fans that the name was a derogatory slur and was quick to address the issue. "We were really unaware of any negative connotations with the word 'pork chop,'" General Manager Kurt Landes said at the time. "If it offended a few, it's a few too many."
Instead, the mascot was introduced as Ferrous, derived from the Latin word for iron ("ferrum"), which had received 235 fan nominations.