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Beyond the Scoreboard: Asheville Tourists’ nickname one of the oldest in baseball

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Beyond the Scoreboard: Asheville Tourists’ nickname one of the oldest in baseballPhoto credit: WLOS Staff

Professional baseball has been played in Asheville since 1897 when manager John A. Jobe led the Asheville Moonshiners to an 11-10 record.

And since 1915, the franchise has been called the Tourists, almost continuously for more than 100 years.

Now a recent article reports the Tourists ranks as one of the oldest nicknames in minor-league baseball.

Writer Benjamin Hill penned a story on MILB.com listing the oldest team names, and the Tourists came in ninth.

Hill writes that the Tourists’ nickname began informally because most of the players on a team called the Mountaineers were not from Asheville – thus they were tourists.

In his excellently researched and written “A History of Professional Baseball in Asheville,” author Bill Ballew reported that as early as 1914 the Mountaineers were on occasion called the Tourists in local newspapers.

The new name became official in 1915 and remained until 1971, according to Hill. Asheville had some lapses when there wasn’t a team – 1918-23, 1932, 1943-45 and 1956-58.

In 1972, the Asheville team began a four-year affiliation with the Baltimore Orioles, and the team was renamed the Asheville Orioles. The O’s were managed for three years by Cal Ripken, Sr., and his soon to be famous son was a batboy and played Little League in West Asheville.

When the Texas Rangers became the affiliate with Asheville in 1976, the popular Tourists nickname returned, and this year will mark the 87th season the local nine has been called the Asheville Tourists.

According to Hill’s article, the Buffalo Bisons (1877) are the oldest team name in the minor leagues. Below is the Top 10 list.

Asheville ranks second in the state, behind the No. 8 Durham Bulls (1913).

Top 10 List

  1. Buffalo Bisons (1877)
  2. Chattanooga Lookouts (1885)
  3. Toledo Mud Hens (1896)
  4. Arkansas Travelers (1901)
  5. Birmingham Barons (1901)
  6. Indianapolis Indians (1902)
  7. Spokane Indians (1903)
  8. Durham Bulls (1913)
  9. Asheville Tourists (1915)
  10. Salt Lake Bees (1915)
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