I love it when a reader asks me a simple question and the answer turns out to intriguing, interesting and insightful.
One such question, sent last week, was, “How did the Alexandria Clippers baseball team get its name?”
The topic struck home with me because my dad, Vic Edenloff, not only played for the Clippers, but also coached the team back in the 1950s.
The question also resonates this summer considering how well the Alexandria Classic Clippers are playing. They’re competing in a league for those over age 35, even though they have seven on their roster who are over 50 (including a 70-year-old catcher). They’ve posted an impressive 12-4 record and are making another run in the state playoffs this weekend.
I turned to Mike Weber, a history buff who happens to play for the Clippers, to find out about the team’s origins and Mike came through again with a wealth of information:
The Alexandria amateur baseball team was formed in the early 1900s. (Mike has a team picture from 1908 or 1909.) The name Clippers was thought to have been a nod to the speed and grace of the Alexandria players, which mirrors that of the clipper ships, and to the community’s location, surrounded by lakes as it is.
Joe Santry, historian, media director, and director of communications for the similarly named Columbus (OH) Clippers, notes that the particular qualities of this kind of ship played into the selection of the team name. “Clippers ships were slick and extremely fast sail ships,” Santry said. Indeed, clipper ships, as in ships that move along at a good clip, saw their heyday in the mid-19th century. They were known for their speed and sleek appearance. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “The emphasis on speed came partly from the desire to bring the first tea of the season back from China, partly from the competition with the overland route across North America to the California goldfields.”
In defining clipper ships, 20th-century Australian author and sailor Alan Villiers wrote, “To sailors, three things made a ship a clipper. She must be sharp-lined, built for speed. She must be tall-sparred and carry the utmost spread of canvas. And she must use that sail, day and night, fair weather and foul.”
An interesting side note: In the late 1970s, Alexandria native Gary Serum, brother of current Classic Clipper Greg Serum, was signed into the Minnesota Twins organization and after several seasons back and forth between the major league Twins and their minor league affiliates, was traded to the New York Yankees.
In 1982, Gary found himself assigned to the Yankees AAA team in Columbus, Ohio, which bore the same Clipper name as the amateur team of his home town. A casual conversation with the Columbus equipment manager eventually lead to the Alexandria Clippers sporting the used but quite professional Columbus uniforms, and when in 1994 the newly formed over-35 team was named the “Classic Clippers” to honor the Alexandria Clipper legacy, the Columbus uniform pipeline continued.
The Alexandria Classic Clippers wore both the logos over the years, before finally devising their own logo, which continues the nautical theme.
The Alexandria Classic Clippers have become a paragon of success on and off the field. They’re in line for their 10th Northwest Minnesota League championship this season and will be making their 22nd appearance in the state over-35 tourney, having only been absent from that event during the four years the team played in the North Star Classic League. The Classic Clippers have played in four State title games, winning the Class C championship in 2016.
The “regular” Alexandria Clippers amateur team disbanded in the mid-2000s.
While it takes some digging to understand why they’re called the Clippers or Classic Clippers, after over a century in action, the name is firmly entrenched in the Alexandria and Minnesota amateur baseball communities.
Thank you, Mike, for providing the info. You knocked it out of the park!