Guardians for the future: The history behind a name change for the longtime baseball franchise

Two guardians rest on the Hope Memorial Bridge within site of Progressive Field, Friday, July 23, 2021, in Cleveland. Cleveland's new name was inspired by two large landmark stone edifices near the downtown ballpark, referred to as traffic guardians, on the Hope Memorial Bridge over the Cuyahoga River. The team's colors will remain the same, and the new Guardians' new logos will incorporate some of the architectural features of the bridge. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Two guardians rest on the Hope Memorial Bridge within site of Progressive Field, Friday, July 23, 2021, in Cleveland. Cleveland's new name was inspired by two large landmark stone edifices near the downtown ballpark, referred to as traffic guardians, on the Hope Memorial Bridge over the Cuyahoga River. The team's colors will remain the same, and the new Guardians' new logos will incorporate some of the architectural features of the bridge. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Fans were probably a little puzzled at first when the news broke announcing the new nickname for Cleveland’s baseball team.

Many were supportive of getting rid of the team’s long-standing nickname, the Indians, but just didn’t quite get the new nickname.

The Guardians?

Why on earth would the team change it to that?

To answer that question, all you have to do is look at the history behind the bridge that’s near Cleveland’s home ballpark, Progressive Field.

The bridge, called the Hope Memorial Bridge, features eight guardian statues sitting within four concrete pillars, with two guardians in each direction, according to Cleveland Magazine.

A guardian rests on the Hope Memorial Bridge within site of Progressive Field, July 23, 2021, in Cleveland. Cleveland's new name was inspired by two large landmark stone edifices near the downtown ballpark, referred to as traffic guardians, on the Hope Memorial Bridge over the Cuyahoga River. The team's colors will remain the same, and the new Guardians' new logos will incorporate some of the architectural features of the bridge. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Each of the statues holds a different design dedicated to the evolution of transportation, and they have been on the bridge since its construction in 1932.

One statue is holding a stage coach, another a covered wagon, another a hay rack, another an automobile and the other four have different styles of trucks.

They all are supposed to represent being guardians of transportation.

Carved from 43-foot-tall slabs of Berea sandstone, the guardians were sculpted by Henry Hering as Art Deco, a style of art popular in the late 1920s and 1930s that features angular parallel lines that run behind and below. They are the only Art Deco monuments in Cleveland, according to Cleveland Magazine.

Now, the guardians will not only be the faces of transportation history and the Hope Memorial Bridge in Cleveland, but also the city’s baseball team.

“In searching for a new brand, we sought a name that strongly reflects the pride, resiliency and loyalty of Clevelanders,” Indians owner Paul Dolan wrote in a letter to fans. “Guardians (embody) those defining attributes while drawing upon the iconic Guardians of Traffic proudly standing just outside Progressive Field on the Hope Memorial Bridge. It brings to life the pride Clevelanders take in our city and the way we stand for each other while defending our Cleveland baseball family.”

“We acknowledge the name change will be difficult for many of us, and the transition will take time,” Dolan continued. “It is our hope and belief this change will divert us from a divisive path, and instead steer us toward a future where our fans, city, and region are all united as Cleveland Guardians.”


About the Author:

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.