It Happened In Jersey...
That Unforgettable HIC! Season…
One of the longest standing team-name misnomers is that Houston’s 1962 National League expansion team was named after a brand of liquor. The Colt .45’s (later to become the Astros) were actually named in honor of the pistol that “won the West.” Was there ever a pro sports team that actually named itself after booze?
NBA historians will point to the Sacramento Kings, who trace their roots back to the Rochester Royals in the 1940s. The original club, assembled as an independent pro team in the 1920s, were backed for many years by Seagram’s; players sported the company’s name and logo on their uniforms until 1942. But Seagram’s was not a specific product, it was a company that made spirits.
Does New Jersey get the nod? Back in the late 1970s, a number of national sponsors—including ESPN—got behind a softball organization called the American Professional Slow Pitch League (APSPL). In keeping with the traditional connection between softball and alcohol, APSPL teams included the Kentucky Bourbons, Cincinnati Suds and Milwaukee Schlitz, all of which are good candidates.
In 1979, the Trenton Statesmen found a new team sponsor and changed their name to the Champales. Strictly speaking, the Champales were the first to be named after a specific brand of booze.
The player-manager of the Champales was Joe Pepitone, shown here in a collectible wire photo from the Journal. They went 30–30 and lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Bourbons—who lost to the Schlitz in the APSPL World Series. The Champales’ best player was Gary Richter. Their top slugger, Mike Kolb, slugged 22 homers in 60 games. Alas, 1979 was the one and only season of Champale softball. The club disbanded after the season when a rival circuit—the North American Softball League—was created by Ted Stepien, the spendthrift owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.