In 1869, the ‘Cincinnati Red Stockings’ were established as baseball’s first professional group. The name was abbreviated to the Reds, but throughout most of the following six decades, neither communism nor good baseball was associated with the team.
The team was frequently referred to by the fans as the “Redlegs,” Cold War expressions like “the Red Menace” and “Red China” came about as a result of the association of Communism with “Socialist” red (the red flag serving as the primary color of the Soviet Union flag).
In February 1950, conservative politicians like U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy incited the “Red Scare” by claiming to have a list of more than 200 names of Communist sympathizers employed at the State Department. Never did he present the list.
However, the Cincinnati Reds are no communists as a few days before the opening game of the season, on April 9, 1953, the Cincinnati Reds made the announcement that they had changed the team’s name from the Reds to the Redlegs.
The group gave no justification for its choice. However, according to a report from the Associated Press, it dropped the “Reds” name to distance itself from communism and the Red Scare panic.
Later, according to Cincinnati Reds general manager Gabe Paul, the franchise “wanted to be sure we wouldn’t be confused with the “Russian Reds.”