When Lansing's new team announced that they would go by the "Lugnuts" for their 1996 debut season in Michigan, the fan response was.... well, "ambivalent" might be a kind way of putting it. A poll in the Lansing State Journal revealed that 90% of fans "strongly disliked" the name, which was designed to honor the city's automotive history as the hometown of Ransom E. Olds (of the Oldsmobile).
As is often the case for Minor League teams, the name for the then-Royals (now Blue Jays) affiliate came by way of fan suggestion. Of the 2,000 suggestions the team received, a host of quirky finalists emerged. Along with Lugnuts, the front office considered River Dragons, Ball Hogs, Bullfrogs, Capitals, Capitols, Crabs, Governors, Llamas, Lumberjox, Mudwumps, Spark Plugs and Mid-Michigan Mammoths. With their obvious edge in terms of ferocity (narrowly beating out the Mammoths in my estimation), the River Dragons were initially the front runner and artwork for the anticipated "Lansing River Dragons" was drawn up before the team owners decided to go in a more inanimate (although less fictional) route.
Along with the damning poll, the Lansing State Journal published letters to the editor from fans on both side of the ensuing debate around the somewhat-silly name. The kerfuffle made national news, attracting the attention of David Letterman, the New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post, and Sports Illustrated. But the owners held strong on the belief that there are worse things than a memorable moniker, and the fans grew to love the offbeat name, good-naturedly cheering for the 'Nuts in droves. Over time, the name fared far better in media polls: it earned the top spot for Minor League team names in a 2004 USA Today poll.
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