Red Sox

Why Boston’s baseball team is called the Red Sox

How did the Red Sox come to be named after... socks?

Red Sox Logo
The Red Sox' team logo. The Associated Press

According to Baseball Reference, close to three million people attend Red Sox games at Fenway Park every year. The park has a seating capacity of 37,755 for night games and a near 100 percent attendance rate (the Sox averaged 35,748 fans in attendance in 2018).

The team boasts a loyal fan base. But how many of those fans ever stop and wonder how one of Boston’s beloved institutions came to be named after… socks?

It actually starts with the Atlanta Braves franchise.

The Boston Red Stockings professional baseball team was founded on Jan. 20, 1871, according to the Braves’ website. The Red Stockings joined the National Association of Professional Baseball Players and subsequently joined the National League in 1876.

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The Red Stockings became known as the Beaneaters in the 1880s and were still widely known by that name in 1901 when the new American League formed a competing Boston franchise. That team was not given an official nickname, prompting many to refer to the Boston AL team as the “Americans” given their status as the second team in Boston.

According to the Red Sox’ 2019 team media guide, in the first years of the team’s existence media also referred to the Boston AL team as the Somersets, Plymouth Rocks, Speed Boys, Puritans, and Pilgrims (a Baseball Almanac article by Bill Nowlin refutes that the team was ever widely known as the Pilgrims.)

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According to the Red Sox, the franchise adopted its current name on Dec. 18, 1907. The reason? The National League franchise (Baseball Reference says they were called the Doves in 1907) announced it would remove red socks from its uniforms due to a belief that red dye in the socks could cause infection in wounds from cleat spikes. Americans team owner John I. Taylor swooped in, announcing the AL team would change its name to the Red Sox and wear, well, red socks.

The first mention of the name Red Sox in The Boston Globe came on Dec. 19, 1907, when the newspaper reported Taylor suggested the new uniforms and name to then-manager Jim McGuire for approval.

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The Boston Globe’s story on the Red Sox’ name change, Dec. 19, 1907.

“Pres Taylor has suggested red stockings to be a part of the uniforms and thought the Boston ‘Red Sox’ might sound better to the baseball enthusiasts than the names used by many, such as ‘The Pilgrims,’ ‘The Yankees,’ etc.,” the Globe wrote. “The original Boston team wore red stockings, and Mr. Taylor’s idea is to practically reproduce the old colors.”

From then on out, Boston’s American League ball club was known as the Red Sox (the Globe’s suggestion that the team was once referred to as “the Yankees” may shock modern-day Sox fans.)

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The National League club, however, went through more name changes. According to Baseball Reference, the club played as the Doves from 1907-10 and as the Rustlers in 1911. The team ultimately settled on the name Boston Braves in 1912.

The Braves franchise moved to Milwaukee in 1953, and subsequently to Atlanta, where they still play today, in 1966.