Editor's note: Originally published Oct. 29, 1994.
Think back to the baseball team you cheered for as a youngster. Then recall your team's archrival. Now try to imagine how you'd feel if your team changed its nickname - and adopted the name of its most bitter opponent.
The Boston Yankees? They'd throw tea into the harbor again.
Los Angeles Giants? San Francisco Dodgers? The earthquake would level California.
If anything was left of the West Coast, it'd topple when you rename University of Washington teams the Cougars and Washington State the Huskies. Tradition makes it ridiculous.
And then, there are the Tacoma Rainiers. Tacoma's Pacific Coast League team actually is considering changing its name from Tigers to Rainiers. And it'd make a terrific name - except that Seattle claimed it first, and the Rainiers became archenemies of the Tacoma Giants and Cubs in the '60s.
For many longtime Tacoma baseball fans, adopting the name Rainiers spits in the face of tradition - a tradition newcomers can't grasp, unless they apply the concept to the teams they loved and hated as kids.
Around here, Tacoma's baseball success is a badge of achievement. Cheney Stadium's record crowds in recent years, with a major league team only 30 miles away, is a source of local pride. Diluting that pride with a Seattle name will alienate the core of traditional Tacoma fans. Turning enemies into friends may be a good idea, but not if it means turning away people who are already your friends.
It's also a matter of public trust. This team is Tacoma's. The mountain may be ours, but the name Rainier on a baseball team belongs to Seattle.
It seems the driving force behind this probable name change is money. Brand new Tacoma general manager Dave Bean has developed a close working relationship with Rainier Brewery. Bean says Rainier might commit thousands of dollars to the Tacoma team if it carries the brewery's name. The proposed new logo even features the brewery's distinctive script "R."
Interestingly enough, 9-year-old Katie Small of University Place looked at Thursday's front page News Tribune picture of the new logo and, without reading any of the story, said to her father, "Look, Dad, that 'R' looks just like the R on Rainier Beer."
This raises a point more important than sports rivalries or civic trust. A link between the beer and the baseball team might pack a subliminal message to youth. It seems to me the Tacoma Rainiers would become another Joe Camel - a promotional devise intended to build young people's acceptance of a negative adult habit. When kids get to drinking age, they're primed for six-packs.
Is this influence really the family entertainment we want at Cheney? Primarily in the name of selling more advertising? Would the University of Southern California change its Trojan logo to resemble a pack of condoms if Trojan prophylatics promised USC big bucks?
Bean says the name Rainiers has wider marketing appeal and will help regionalize the franchise. Regionalizing the Seattle-Tacoma area is a great idea in many respects. It builds strength to compete with larger metropolitan areas. But sports is based on competition. Besides, Tacoma's new affiliation with the Mariners already has regionalized it - as long as the Mariners stay in Seattle.
Maybe that's part of the plan. Mariners Chairman John Ellis recently announced the team will probably leave Seattle after the 1996 season unless a new outdoor baseball stadium is constructed. With no financing available and the current reluctance of voters to approve higher taxes, unless someone like Bill Gates or Craig McCaw buys the franchise, I'm afraid major league baseball will leave the Northwest again, and not come back.
That would position Tacoma to offer the region's highest level of baseball, and the Rainiers name might help attract more former Mariner fans from Seattle.
On the other hand, maybe Seattle will get a Pacific Coast League team again and want the name Rainiers back. After all, it really is a Seattle baseball tradition.
Art Popham is a former radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Tigers.