by Dan McClelland
Tupper Lake residents will have a chance Saturday to vote on a name for the new Empire League franchise coming to Tupper Lake next year.
In past weeks since the announcement of the coming of Tupper Lake's new semi pro baseball team there have been numerous letters to the editor and public comments in opposition to the suggested team name, the “River Pigs.”
The name was selected by League President Ed Gonzalez, after researching our community's logging heritage and finding the name that was a term for the men who rode the logs down rivers and across lakes to mills. Old timers have said the men were revered for their agility and skill, doing one of the most dangerous jobs in a dangerous industry.
In the face of the local opposition to the name, the local support committee for the Empire League, headed by Trustee David “Haji” Maroun, decided it would be in the community's best interest to give people a one-time chance to vote on another name.
The village board was set to mull the issue next month (see related story this week), but that won't be necessary now.
The vote will take place on Saturday, August 31 at the municipal park ball field between 12p.m. and 6pm.
Anyone wishing to vote on the team name will fill out a confidential ballot and place it in the box there. Everyone must cast your vote in person if you would like their voice heard, Rick Skiff, a member of the Empire League baseball committee said this week.
Tallying the votes after 6p.m. will be Free Press Publisher Dan McClelland and Adirondack Daily Enterprise reporter Aaron Cerbone. Seems the committee couldn't find honest people to do that.
The committee members have teamed up with Rick Reandeau of New York Life and together they will be selling hot dogs and hamburgers all afternoon, with all proceeds going towards the work being completed on the municipal field.
“We encourage as many of you as possible to attend, said Mr. Skiff. “It will only take a few minutes to cast a ballot. In addition, the committee members can answer any questions you may have concerning the field construction.”
The following is the list of possible team names chosen based on public suggestion with all names vetted through the Empire League president to ensure the names could be used. These choices are: River Pigs, Axemen, River Driver (another name for the men who rode the logs to market), Rowdy Bucks, Tupper Timber, River Otters and the Mighty Hemlocks.
Explains Mr. Skiff: “The team name that receives the most votes will be the name of the team coming to Tupper Lake next summer. This vote will be final. If you feel passionate about any one of these names, cast your vote and let your voice be heard!”
Trustee Ron LaScala, another member of the baseball committee, said he was not happy this week that Mr. Gonzalez has been asked to change his team's name.
“When has this community asked a private business to change its name? Never!” he stated.
He called it “offensive and unfair” to Mr. Gonzalez, who will be investing a lot of money in creating this new team for Tupper Lake, and said he has personally apologized to him several times in recent weeks.
The name controversy did, however, generate the kind of publicity that money can't buy.
Borrowing a term from social media, the story from the Adirondack Daily Enterprise went viral across the Associated Press wire service. It appeared in a number of national newspapers including USA Today and the Washington Post and was mentioned twice this week on the nationally syndicated Bob and Tom radio show.
This is the short piece in USA Today: “New York Tupper Lake: Organizers of a new semi-pro baseball team are rooting around for a new nickname after some residents grunted at the proposed moniker “River Pigs.” The Adirondack Daily Enterprise reports Tupper Lake Village Board Member David Maroun says the name of the Empire League will be changed. “River Pigs” was chosen to reflect the region's logging history, but some residents said it sounded demeaning.”