On March 27, 1902, the Chicago Daily News used the name “Cubs” for the first time in print. The nickname was coined when Frank Selee (1902-1905) became the new manager of the Chicago National League Ball Club, Inc. The nickname “Cubs” was derived from the new manager rebuilding the team with young, unproven players to replace the veterans that had jumped leagues to play in the American League for higher pay.
Due to new owner Jim Hart signing so many young players the club had taken on the name “Chicago Spuds”, a name given by the Chicago Tribune that did not appeal to the fans. When Frank Selee started to build what would be the nucleus of a championship team, many felt a more appropriate nickname was needed.
The team at the time included such names as Frank Chance, Joe Tinker, Jimmy Slagle and Johnny Kling. Some had thought of returning to the “White Stockings” nickname, but the other team in Chicago took that name, while the future Cubs used the nickname the “Orphans.” Some felt “the team should have a name indicative of bear-like strength and a playful disposition.”
The name may have come from Charles Sensabaugh, editor of the sports department of the Chicago Daily News.
“During the 1900 season Sensabaugh was writing a headline and neither Orphans nor Spuds would fit. He substituted Cubs.”
The nickname “Cubs” came from an unbylined column that noted:
“Frank Selee will devote his strongest efforts on the teamwork of the new Cubs this year.”
After March 27, 1902 the name started to be used on a regular basis but the club did not officially adopt the nickname until 1907. The Chicago National League Ball Club, Inc. had many nicknames before sticking with the “Cubs” moniker.
- White Stockings – 1870-1889
- Colts – 1890-1897
- Orphans – 1898-1901
- Remnants – 1898-1901
Other nicknames used includes:
- Black Stockings
- Rough Riders
And for a brief time they even tried calling the team the “Microbes”.
The Chicago National League Ball Club, Inc. enjoyed much success in the early years of the sport. They won six pennants between 1876 and 1897 and appeared in 10 World Series between 1906-1945, winning back-to-back world championships in 1907 and 1908.
Sources: Day by Day in Chicago Cubs History, Wrigleyville: A Magical History Tour of the Chicago Cubs and Cubs Essential