The Nickname 'Phillies' Applies To More Than Just The Baseball Team

Beating the San Diego Padres 4-3 in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series (NLCS), the Philadelphia Phillies moved on to the 2022 World Series for the first time since 2009. The last time the Phillies won it all was in 2008, as the Courier-Post explains. Recent seasons aside, Philadelphia's had a Major League baseball team since the 19th century. Active since 1883, the Phillies are sometimes referred to as the "oldest, continuous, one-name, one-city franchise," as the MLB website notes.

There's some discrepancy, though, in the origin story of the Phillies' team nickname (the city itself is shortened with a "y," like the sandwich, while the baseball team ends in "ie"). According to Baseball Reference, Philadelphia called their baseball team the Quakers until 1889, and per that same website, it was in 1890 when the team became the Phillies. So clearly, "oldest, continuous, one-name, one-city franchise" is not the whole story. Suffice it to say, the true story behind where the Phillies got their nickname is quite complicated, and the name itself refers to more than just the team.

The Quakers quit in 1875

As the MLB website goes on to explain, there really was a baseball team in Philadelphia called the Quakers, but that team disbanded in 1875, eight years earlier than what Baseball Reference lists as the Phillies' first season with that nickname. That original Quakers team was part of a failed attempt at a baseball league called the National Association. In 1876, though, the National League we know today — a replacement for the National Association — first got started (per History), and Philadelphia wanted in on the action. (The 1888 Phillies/Quakers team is pictured above.)

According to Sports Talk Philly, there were plans to make the move and return baseball to Philadelphia as early as 1881. Nonetheless, it took seven years for the sport to make an official return to the city — in 1883, when the Worcester Brown Stockings (sometimes called the Ruby Legs) were relocated. What would that new franchise be called, though? As MLB goes on to explain, that old Quaker nickname — though not in official use for some time — was a hard one for 19th-century Philly baseball fans to shake. 

At that time, there were no official baseball team nicknames

It's also important to note that when the franchise we know today as the Philadelphia Phillies were first chartered in 1883, there were no official team nicknames at all, and what teams were called was entirely fan-generated, as Sports Talk Philly also notes. For that reason, baseball fans of that era most often referred to the Phillies as the Quakers after the old disbanded team, according to MLB. But when the franchise was looking for players, the team was simply advertised as the "Philadelphia Ball Club and Exhibition Company" and finally, "Philadelphia Ball Club Limited," which was then shortened to the Phillies.

There had been some version of a "Phillies" team in the city since 1881, but with their formal admittance into the National in 1883, the team's official history had started. So what does that all mean? The roots of the Phillies' nickname (officially adopted in 1890) is the city itself. As founder Al Reach later said (via MLB), the name "tells you who we are and where we are from." On that note, Phillies brand cigars share a similar origin story: that product began life as Philadelphia Hand Made, which was then abbreviated. So Philadelphia Phillies really does effectively mean the Philadelphia Philadelphias. And now that's out of the way, don't get us started on exactly what the team's beloved mascot, the Phillie Phanatic (pictured), is supposed to be.