Redskins Renamed 80 Years Ago

Earlier this week, I received a totally unexpected call from a reporter from the Washington Examiner regarding Lone Star Dietz. I say unexpected for two reasons. First, I was unaware that Dietz’s name had again percolated up in the media’s attention and second, I hadn’t considered it was 80 years ago that George Preston Marshall renamed his Boston NFL team from the Braves to the Redskins or that an 80th anniversary mattered. I guess the last part makes it three reasons.

Oddly, it seems to me, Washington media seldom contact me about Lone Star and the team never has. Questions and requests for interviews tend to come from other places. As popular as the Redskins have been over the years in the nation’s capitol, one wonders why neither fan clubs nor bookstores have deemed hearing more about the man who is alternately vilified and deified by people who generally haven’t read his biography. On the other hand, I shouldn’t wonder why when Bob Wheeler, author of the definitive biography of Jim Thorpe, has never been on C-SPAN’s BookTV.

Here is a link to the article the reporter was researching when he called me: http://washingtonexaminer.com/thom-loverro-the-disputed-history-of-lone-star-dietz-the-inspiration-for-the-redskins-name/article/2521717

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4 Responses to “Redskins Renamed 80 Years Ago”

  1. Joseph Gordon Hylton Says:

    I have never understood the claim that the team was named “Redskins” in “honor” of Dietz when the team was called the “Braves” before Dietz was even hired. Given that Marshall wanted to drop the name “Braves” now that the team was going to play in Fenway Park, the shift from Braves to Redskins (as a variant of Red Sox) makes perfect sense.

    We also know that the name change occurred after Dietz was hired, as surviving team stationery from 1934 identifies the team as “Braves” but lists Dietz as the coach. Has anyone pinpointed the day that the name change was announced?

    There is no question that Redskins owner George Preston Marshall used Dietz’ hiring as an occasion to place much greater emphasis on the team’s “Native American” connections–the hiring of several Indians players in 1934 and the adorning the players with warpaint were obvious examples of this. However, Marshall had a life-long fascination with Native Americans stemming from the Indian Burial Mound in Romney, West Virginia, where he grandfather and father were both buried. Dietz’ presence probably prompted Marshall to exploit the Native American tie-in, but his interest in Indians did not originate with either the Braves or Dietz.

    Gordon Hylton
    Marquette University

    • tombenjey Says:

      Thank you for your comment, Dr. Hylton. I was unaware of George Preston Marshall’s fascination with Indians. That fascination probably predisposed him to calling his teams by Indian names but other (practical) factors surely contributed to the choices he made. That his NFL team first played at Braves Field made Braves a natural. He could capitalize on the name recognition of the existing baseball team to promote his new football team.

      His hiring of Lone Star Dietz was announced in the Boston Herald on March 8, 1933 when the team was still called the Braves. The stationery listing Lone Star Dietz as Head Coach of the Braves on page 278 of my biography of Dietz isn’t dated. It’s quite possible the old stationery was used for some time after the name change because Marshall wasn’t known for wasting money.

      The July 6, 1933 edition of the Boston Herald announced the team’s name change from the Braves to the Redskins. I will write a blog article about this topic and include the newspaper article.

      Tom

      • Joseph Gordon Hylton Says:

        This is all quite fascinating. Do you know anything regarding the course of negotiations with the owners of Braves Field after the first season? Did Marshall have a falling out with his landlord? Because of a change in the Boston Blue Law, Fenway Park was available for Sunday sporting events in 1934, unlike the situation in 1933 and earlier. Did Marshall prefer Fenway over Braves Park, or was the problem related to issues he may have had with the Braves owners? I’m not sure who owned Braves Field in 1933-1934. I know that Gaffney retained ownership of the Field when he sold the team in 1916, but he died in 1932.

  2. tombenjey Says:

    I recall reading that the team lost money in 1932 and Marshall lost his partners because of that. I assumed that financial reasons prompted the venue change but have no evidence to support it. If the Redskins still have his old lease agreements, the difference in terms, if any, might shed some light on this.

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