How Did the Red Scare of the 1950s Impact Major League Baseball?
If you've been following the news in recent months, you'll know that numerous collegiate and professional sports teams have changed their names, in order to replace offensive racial stereotypes. But this isn't the first time that a sports team has adopted a new name in response to wider sociopolitical trends, though for a very different reason.
In 1953, Cincinnati's Major League Baseball team, the Reds, changed their name to the Cincinnati Redlegs. The country was in the grip of the "Red Scare," in which Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) had stoked fears that communists had infiltrated the U.S. government and the highest echelons of academia, labor unions, the entertainment industry, and even the military. Although many fans ridiculed the name change, the Reds stayed the Redlegs until 1959 to avoid the association with communism, and even altered their uniforms.
More about the Cincinnati Red(leg)s:
- The Reds were originally known as the Cincinnati Red Stockings when they were founded in 1869 as the first pro baseball team.
- In 1961, having returned to being the Reds, the team faced off against the New York Yankees in the World Series. The Yankees won, thus avoiding newspaper headlines such as "Reds Beat Yankees" that wouldn't have gone down well with Cold War-era readers.
- Ironically, the New York Yankees' manager during the 1930s and 1940s was also named Joe McCarthy; he also managed the Boston Red Sox briefly from 1948 to 1950.
McCarthy was/is right.
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