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The origin of the "Bullets" nickname, Part XII

Last week, I briefly tried finding a story from The Post's archives explaining the origins of the Baltimore Bullets pro basketball nickname. I failed. But Reader Ted pointed me in the direction of a story from the Oct. 31, 1944 editions of the Baltimore Sun, which announced the fledgling American League team's nickname.

Now, the stories I've heard about the origins of the name have included references to a type of train, and to a munition factory, both of which might ameliorate concerns over the violent connotations of the nickname. This story mentioned neither. Here's the relevant paragraph, from the un-bylined piece.

"The club will be known as the Bullets, which is hoped to be significant of their explosive talents and speed in humbling the opposition. President Stan Behrend announced that the team's colors will be maroon and gold, in which they will don white jerseys with maroon numbers and gold pants for home appearance, and maroon jerseys and white numerals on the road."

Maroon and gold, eh? I know a certain Baltimore position coach who might approve. The item also announced the acquisition of center Herman "Dutch" Knuppel from the Philadelphia Sphas, out of Panzer College. Dutch was a 6-foot-7, 225-pound specimen, meaning he could possibly play point guard in today's NBA.

Regardless, the search for the inspiration behind "Bullets" continues.

(If you haven't seen, The Post already wrote a staff editorial over the weekend opposing any return to Bullets, which included this:

Crime has dropped since those awful days, but there are still too many people, mainly young black men, whose lives end with bullets. Mr. Pollin understood the importance of symbols to educate and to inspire, and we would like to think that his leadership in calling attention to the scourge of gun violence might have helped in quelling some of the killing. To return to a name discredited by violence would send the wrong message.

And Leonsis responded on his blog, rightly pointing out that we're getting pretty worked up over something that's "under consideration."

You all now know where the Washington Post stands on this matter. At least in its editorial page. But it was also debated on PTI. Former and present day Washington Post columnists talked about it on ESPN. It was the subject of the Washington Post's Mike Wise radio show, too. The DC Sports Bog has blogged about it. The monster has been fed. "Hmmm. Tasty. Monster like."...But I am focused on the here and now. I believe this has all been blown out of proportion.

Well, sure. But monster like. I'm still searching.

By Dan Steinberg  | October 12, 2010; 10:16 AM ET
Categories:  Wizards  
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Comments

That's pretty funny - the whole colors being "maroon and gold" bit. Baltimore HATES those colors with a passion, which is just hilarious. My college had maroon and gold as our colors, and when I wear an "Alumni" shirt from said college around the office, I get razzed by coworkers for it.

Posted by: RCBJr | October 12, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

If "Wizards" is so educating and inspiring, then I'm Dan Steinberg.

Posted by: justicio | October 12, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

"Crime has dropped since those awful days, but there are still too many people, mainly young black men, whose lives end with bullets."

Oh yeah, that was totally because of the basketball team and its name. It is sort of like the rise in DC youth practicing black magic because the team is now called the Wizards. It is all cause and effect, it is all symbolic.

Give me a break. Bring the Bullets back.

Posted by: DangerNat | October 12, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I thought the franchise was actually named after the high speed bullet train that ran from DC to Boston??

Either way change the name back to Bullets already!!!!!

Posted by: kevenjones | October 12, 2010 11:18 AM | Report abuse

I thought the franchise was actually named after the high speed bullet train that ran from DC to Boston??

Either way change the name back to Bullets already!!!!!

Posted by: kevenjones | October 12, 2010 11:43 AM | Report abuse

The Fans want the name Bullets back.

Posted by: CrabHands | October 12, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

I suppose the Post is to be commended for opposing the name "Bullets" on the grounds that it trivializes violence (if the editors truly believe it does), but still, is that why there is (and was) gun violence in DC? Did that name contribute to it? I can think of probably hundreds of other, more obvious reasons (dismal education system, lousy mayors, police chiefs, glamorized violence in culture,drug crime, etc, etc) It just seems as though people are so worked up about a name that in the grand scheme is really not relevant to the real issues in DC. Just seems like more PC nonsense getting in the way of important debate.

Posted by: dbunkr | October 12, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

there is only one way to go to satisfy the loyal fan base..bring back the red, white, and blue; bring back the stars and stripes; bring back the Bullets! Hopefully the owner realizes like most of the rest of the community that a name of a basketball team does not contribute to gun crime. Oh, and no need to bring back the 'shorty' shorts, they can remain in the archives!

Posted by: ralston21 | October 12, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Abe Pollin screwed up when he decided to rig the name contest. Ted Leonsis, if your reading this, change the name back to Bullets or have a legit name the team contest for the Wizards and Mystics. DC or American themes only. Whatever the new name is they need to rep the RWB colors and bring back the traditional reaching hands logo. Changing the the name to lamo Wizards turned out to be the worst local sports PR disaster ever!

Posted by: MrWillie | October 12, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Why not just go back to the name of the original local pro basketball team--the Caps, or their full name, the Capitols (sic, with an "o" not an "a"). No problem have two local franchises with virtually the same name; after all, they have the same owner. Those original Caps were quite a team with local legend Red Auerbach as coach and featured Bob Feerick and Bill Sharman. Better than either Wizards--which makes no sense and seems Harry Potterish--or Bullets.

Posted by: iliwai34 | October 12, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Screw the WaPo. Change the name back to Bullets

Posted by: slim4 | October 12, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

"Bullets" was right with "Baltimore," nice alliteration. "Wizards" and "Washington," same effect, senseless name: there is nothing even remotely wizard-like about this bureaucrat-laden, northern charm/southern efficiency town pretending to be a city.

Change, yes. Back to the Bullets, why? What was so glorious about that losing-record franchise that managed a single championship in a half century?

And hey: if they start actually to win with Wall, you can call them the Stink Bugs, it won't matter.

Posted by: eyestreet | October 12, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

When I was a kid in the 50's & 60s, the word bullet basically meant speed. A hit record climbing up the charts was number whatever "with a bullet". And Superman was faster than a speeding bullet, amongst other things. So I grew up loving the Baltimore Bullets. Would love to see the name come back.

Posted by: shanks1 | October 12, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Well, according to Wiki (and we all know how reliable that can be), the first franchise in Baltimore known as the "Bullets" (1944-1954) was named after "Beta Bullets" athletic shoes, which were apparently made in Harford County. They were a member of the American Basketball League (1944–47) at first, and later, a Basketball Association of America team.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimore_Bullets_(original)

Because it was a regional thing, it might be reasonable to assume that the follow-on team (the Baltimore/Capital/Washington Bullets), which according to Wiki was in no way related to the first, simply borrowed the name to cash in on regional familiarity. AFAIK, no trademark infringement lawsuits were ever filed.

Posted by: Diamondback1 | October 12, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Well, according to Wiki (and we all know how reliable that can be), the first franchise in Baltimore known as the "Bullets" (1944-1954) was named after "Beta Bullets" athletic shoes, which were apparently made in Harford County. They were a member of the American Basketball League (1944–47) at first, and later, a Basketball Association of America team.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimore_Bullets_(original)

Because it was a regional thing, it might be reasonable to assume that the follow-on team (the Baltimore/Capital/Washington Bullets), which according to Wiki was in no way related to the first, simply borrowed the name to cash in on regional familiarity. AFAIK, no trademark infringement lawsuits were ever filed.

Posted by: Diamondback1 | October 12, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Well, according to Wiki (and we all know how reliable that can be), the first franchise in Baltimore known as the "Bullets" (1944-1954) was named after "Beta Bullets" athletic shoes, which were apparently made in Harford County. They were a member of the American Basketball League (1944–47) at first, and later, a Basketball Association of America team.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimore_Bullets_(original)

Because it was a regional thing, it might be reasonable to assume that the follow-on team (the Baltimore/Capital/Washington Bullets), which according to Wiki was in no way related to the first, simply borrowed the name to cash in on regional familiarity. AFAIK, no trademark infringement lawsuits were ever filed.

Posted by: Diamondback1 | October 12, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Wizards stands for the X-rated play by the team since they got the name. The obscenities must stop! We've had a whole generation of fans warped by this name!! These kids don't know what a badass team the Bullets were. And it is sad. And I weep for man/womankind. Btw, there are a whole bunch of people up in Harm City who want the Bullets name back. They consider the team theirs too. They're the lead story during the season. Do it for the kids, Ted - do it for the kids!! Besides, when has the Post editorial section ever been right about anything oh man did I just say that? Two snaps and around the world girlfriends.

Posted by: Brue | October 12, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Another lead:

http://www.sportsecyclopedia.com/nba/dc/wizards.html

On the left-hand side, "Nickname:
Originally called Bullets because of Baltimore's original NBA team that played in an Armory. In 1996 owner Abe Pollin decided to change it due to a number of recent high profile shooting deaths. The name Wizards was chosen over other finalists like Dragon, Express, Seadogs and Stallions in various focus groups."

Posted by: Patera | October 12, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

The team is called the Bullets and a lot of people become victims of gun violence. The team changes its name to the Wizards, and a lot people become fans of Harry Potter. Coincidence? Its pretty clear that the team should be renamed "The Washington Jobs" and maybe the recession will end.

Posted by: MAlvino | October 12, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that one way of choosing a name is to first think of somethin that represents fierceness in an athletic sense or is representative of the locale and then try for some alliteration. For example...Baltimore Bullets, Cleveland Cavaliers, NY Nets, NY Knicks, LA Lakers...get it? I remeber when the name was changed that the Wizards was voted on as the best name. It wasn't horrible it had alliteration and it gives the image of a basketball wizard like the Globetrotters or Pistol Pete. Think of it like the "pinball wizard" from Tommy. Maybe they can come up with a better looking Wizard. I seriously don't think red white and blue will go with the present Wizards logo though. I personally would not mind calling them the Bullets again. As a matter of fact I still forget and call them the Bullets many times when talking about them. But then again
I still call Verizon Center the MCI Center too.

Posted by: bobilly2 | October 12, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that one way of choosing a name is to first think of somethin that represents fierceness in an athletic sense or is representative of the locale and then try for some alliteration. For example...Baltimore Bullets, Cleveland Cavaliers, NY Nets, NY Knicks, LA Lakers...get it? I remeber when the name was changed that the Wizards was voted on as the best name. It wasn't horrible it had alliteration and it gives the image of a basketball wizard like the Globetrotters or Pistol Pete. Think of it like the "pinball wizard" from Tommy. Maybe they can come up with a better looking Wizard. I seriously don't think red white and blue will go with the present Wizards logo though. I personally would not mind calling them the Bullets again. As a matter of fact I still forget and call them the Bullets many times when talking about them. But then again
I still call Verizon Center the MCI Center too.

Posted by: bobilly2 | October 12, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Here is a paper I have done on the origin of the Bullets. It has color pictures, but your email option won't show them, so I provide links to the photos instead.

The T. & A. Bata Shoe Company was founded in 1894 in Czechoslovakia by Tomas Bata. It is still going worldwide today.

In 1934, Bata opened a factory/city with worker housing in Belcamp, Maryland, in Harford County MD, just north of Baltimore, becoming a haven for many Czechoslovakians fleeing Nazi invaders. Founder Thomas Bata had brought the shoe business to the United States, to Belcamp, for just that reason, and encouraged others from his homeland to follow. The Bata Shoe Co. buildings were considered architecturally significant because they were among the early examples in the United States of the Bauhaus school of design.

[ Picture of factory, also at link

http://www.kilduffs.com/BATA.html

At its height it employed as many as 3,400 workers to manufacture shoes such as the Bata Bullet sneaker. One of its best selling shoes was the Bata Bullet, a canvas shoe used by basketball players, similar to the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars (“Chucks”).

See picture of Beta Bullets shoes, also at link

http://www.icollector.com/Oversized-Advertising-Tennis-Shoe-Bata-Bullets_i5415397


Here is a link for a commercial for Bata Bullets, http://www.filmarchive.org.nz/sellebration/view.php?id=133

Bata has bankrolled many athletic teams around the world, such as the Malawian football/soccer team, the "Bata Bullets," still known as the Bullets.

Well, another team it bankrolled was the Baltimore Bullets, who wore the Bata Bullets shoe from the 1940's even through the 1960’s. So please tell Ted and your readers that the origin of “Bullets” is a basketball shoe, meant to connote speed, not a gun projectile.

[ Picture of Beta Bullets shoe box, as worn and endorsed by the Baltimore Bullets.

also at this link

http://cgi.ebay.com/Vtg-1964-Bata-Bullets-Chino-Boot-Canvas-Sneakers-w-Box-/310260472138

scroll down to see box.

Posted by: dgresh | October 12, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Here is a paper I have done on the origin of the Bullets. It has color pictures, but your email option won't show them, so I provide links to the photos instead.

The T. & A. Bata Shoe Company was founded in 1894 in Czechoslovakia by Tomas Bata. It is still going worldwide today.

In 1934, Bata opened a factory/city with worker housing in Belcamp, Maryland, in Harford County MD, just north of Baltimore, becoming a haven for many Czechoslovakians fleeing Nazi invaders. Founder Thomas Bata had brought the shoe business to the United States, to Belcamp, for just that reason, and encouraged others from his homeland to follow. The Bata Shoe Co. buildings were considered architecturally significant because they were among the early examples in the United States of the Bauhaus school of design.

[ Picture of factory, also at link

http://www.kilduffs.com/BATA.html

At its height it employed as many as 3,400 workers to manufacture shoes such as the Bata Bullet sneaker. One of its best selling shoes was the Bata Bullet, a canvas shoe used by basketball players, similar to the Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars (“Chucks”).

See picture of Beta Bullets shoes, also at link

http://www.icollector.com/Oversized-Advertising-Tennis-Shoe-Bata-Bullets_i5415397


Here is a link for a commercial for Bata Bullets, http://www.filmarchive.org.nz/sellebration/view.php?id=133

Bata has bankrolled many athletic teams around the world, such as the Malawian football/soccer team, the "Bata Bullets," still known as the Bullets.

Well, another team it bankrolled was the Baltimore Bullets, who wore the Bata Bullets shoe from the 1940's even through the 1960’s. So please tell Ted and your readers that the origin of “Bullets” is a basketball shoe, meant to connote speed, not a gun projectile.

[ Picture of Beta Bullets shoe box, as worn and endorsed by the Baltimore Bullets.

also at this link

http://cgi.ebay.com/Vtg-1964-Bata-Bullets-Chino-Boot-Canvas-Sneakers-w-Box-/310260472138

scroll down to see box.

Posted by: dgresh | October 12, 2010 5:45 PM | Report abuse

Dear Old Abe had no problem selling "BULLETS" retro jerseys long after the name change. This change occurred to generate new sales of merchandise for a moribund organization. Bring back the moniker BULLETS and let us put Dear Old Abe to rest.

Posted by: garrafa10 | October 12, 2010 6:24 PM | Report abuse

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