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MLB Name Origins: The Bronx Bombers Mystery

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Yankee fans both young and old are familiar with the name Bronx Bombers. Fans have seen it printed in newspapers, spoke on on broadcasts, and probably spoken it themselves in social gatherings. But has anyone stopped to wonder the origins of the name? If you were to take a guess without researching, you likely assumed the the phrase would have first been used in the early 50’s when World War II veterans have returned to Major League Baseball for a comfortable amount of time, and the name representing bomber planes. Not only was that prediction wrong, but the search for the origin will take you to a few unexpected places in MLB history!

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A Journey Through MLB History

When researching, Google searching “Bronx Bombers” and “who started saying Bronx Bombers” was only going to bring highlights, social media accounts, and apparently a broadway play instead of decades old newspaper articles. After many different searches, and multiple pages of results, one website had the answer to this question in MLB history. On November 15, 2001 at 2:01 A.M, a member under the name “Allonsanfan” made the following comment:

“ Term “Bronx Bombers” became popular in 1936 shortly after Joe Louis'(who had nickname Brown Bomber) fight against Max Schmelling at Yankee Stadium in June 1936. Nickname “Bronx Bombers” was coined by Daniel M. Daniels, a writer for “New York World-Telegram” in July 1936. I found this information in “The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary”.

The Bronx Bombers

It is worth nothing, that the post spelled the writers name “Daniels” when it is In fact “Daniel” (no “s”). From what one can gather, “The New Dickson Baseball Dictionary” is a 1999 second edition to Paul Dickson’s original edition “The Dickson Baseball Dictionary” published in 1991, with the third edition published in 2009. So, the book seems to be both real, and reliable enough to warrant multiple publishings, this should answer the question, right?

Here’s the catch: when researching another topic in MLB history, some eye grabbing information raised additional questions. In reading about the New York Black Yankees of the Negro National League, it turns out that they originally went by the name Harlem Black Bombers in 1931, just a few years before Joe Louis fought in Yankee Stadium. Could it be a coincidence, or did Daniel M. Daniel know about this and re-brand the name in a new context, while knowingly taking it from the Negro League team? The only person who can answer that question truthfully is Daniel himself, who passed away in 1981.

The Historic Bombers

This instantly spawned the adjacent question: Who named the Negro League team as the Bombers? Clearly, given the timeline, it must be a World War 1 reference. Well, the 369th Infantry in World War I, was none other than the legendary Harlem Hellfighters. The drum major of the Hellfighters may be a familiar name Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Those who do not recognize Robinson’s name as one of the most famous tap dancers in American history, may recognize him as one of the owners of the Harlem Black Bombers, and the New York Black Yankees.

It is to be noted, Robinson’s co-owner was a man named James “Soldier Boy” Semla. From what one can find, he was just a successful businessman with no previous connection to the Hellfighters.

The deep history of the New York Yankees only gets richer with every little nugget of information. Thank you to the Negro Leagues, thank you those who defended our country, and thank you for baseball.

Let us know your thoughts on the Bronx Bombers nickname and on the entire Yankees roster in the comments below!

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