MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – This weekend, the Minnesota Vikings will take on the San Francisco 49ers. There’s a lot of pride on the line here — state pride.
Minnesota is the only place in the country where all of its professional sports teams are named after states, rather than cities.
So, how did that happen? Good Question.
At first, the answer seems somewhat obvious. The metro area is the Twin Cities — Minneapolis, population 422,000, and St. Paul, population 306,000 — right next to each other. It wouldn’t be fair to give a team to one city and not the other.
That was the thinking back in 1960, when Minnesota welcomed the Vikings. An Aug. 6, 1960 column in the Minneapolis Tribune reported that Minnesota would be the designation for the new team. It says, “To call this the Minneapolis-St. Paul team would be too awkward and would treat unfairly the considerable number of fans who live out of the area but want to support the team.”
It also points out that the new team needed permission from the NFL to make that designation. It had never been done before by any other professional sports team.
“I think they realized they could get more people up in the frozen tundra to go to games if they made it the Minnesota teams,” said Ross Bernstein, author of several books on Minnesota sports history.
He points out the old Met Stadium, now the site of the Mall of America, was set to be equidistant from downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul.
The name Vikings was recommended by the team’s first general manager back in 1960 to represent Nordic tradition and an aggressive person who had will to win. According to that same Minneapolis Tribune column, the other names up for consideration: The Minnesota Miners, Chippewas and Voyageurs.
The team registered as the Minnesota Vikings with the NFL in September of 1960. The Minnesota Twins registered with MLB two months later.
According to Minnesota Twins team historian and curator Clyde Doepner, Twins owner Calvin Griffith wanted to name his team the Twin Cities Twins, but MLB said no. Doepner says Griffith then made the case to name them the Minnesota Twins, using the Vikings as an example.
The North Stars followed in the tradition when they came to Minnesota in 1967. All other professional sports teams in Minnesota have followed suits as well.
Now, there are seventeen others NFL, NBA, WNBA, NHL or MLB teams named after states or regions.