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Why 'Guardians'? A look at the history behind the new name of Cleveland's baseball franchise

What is the origin behind what will become the new brand of Cleveland baseball in 2022?

CLEVELAND — It's official. The Cleveland Indians will become the Cleveland Guardians effective at the end of this season. 

The club says the decision to go with Guardians came after a year of preparation, which included: 

  • Compiling 140 hours of interviews with fans, community leaders and front office personnel 
  • Surveying 40,000 fans
  • 4,000 fans signing up to participate in research via team name website
  • Conducting 100+ hours of teammate brainstorming sessions 
  • Generating 1,198 name options which were narrowed down through 14 rounds of vetting 

So what made 'Guardians' stand out? According to owner Paul Dolan, the franchise sought a brand that "strongly reflects the pride, resiliency and loyalty of Clevelanders." Dolan believes that Guardians "embodies those defining attributes, while drawing upon the iconic 'Guardians of Traffic' proudly standing outside of Progressive Field on the Hope Memorial Bridge."

For nearly 90 years, the Guardians of Traffic have been a part of Cleveland as the mythic figures carved into pylons on either end of the bridge. The Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, now called the Hope Memorial Bridge, opened on Dec. 2, 1932. 

The Guardians of Traffic symbolize the progress and protection of transportation for anyone who passes by on the bridge. Each guardian holds a different vehicle in his hand --  a hay wagon, covered wagon, stagecoach, a passenger car and four other types of trucks. 

According to Ohio Outdoor Sculpture, "Henry Hering carved each piece out of a 43 foot tall sandstone slab based on designs by Frank Walker. The Guardians were Hering's first foray into the Art Deco style and they remain the only public Art Deco monument in the city."

In 1983, the bridge was renamed the Hope Memorial Bridge in honor of actor Bob Hope and his family. William Henry Hope, Bob's father, was a stonemason who worked on the construction of the Guardians in the 1930s.

More recently, in 2018, the Guardians of Traffic were unveiled as part of a new banner on the Sherwin-Williams Global Headquarters building on Ontario Street. That new banner, replacing the iconic LeBron James display, featured one of the Guardians of Traffic on the Hope Memorial Bridge with the slogan "All for the Land."

Cleveland's "Guardians" have gained popularity in recent years, having been depicted on local t-shirts, placed prominently in artwork and even inspiring the Cleveland Cavaliers' first "City Edition" uniforms. "Guardians" is also a term that's become prevalent in pop culture and comic books, i.e., Guardians of the Galaxy.

While "Guardians" might not have a historic link to Cleveland like "Spiders," "Naps" or "Buckeyes," it makes for a natural replacement that both represents Cleveland and gives its baseball team a larger than life persona.

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