Phoenix Mayor Milt Graham,
Suns General Manager Jerry Colangelo and Suns coach John Kerr
present Selinda King of Phoenix with season tickets for the year
and $1,000 for being named the winner of the "Name the Team"
Posted: March, 1998
LIKE MOST OF US, MARK BAGNALL has a
tough time remembering what he ate for lunch three days ago. But if
you ask him about a certain letter he wrote 30 years ago, and then
mention the naming of Phoenix's NBA expansion club, you'll jog his
Bagnall was only 12 years old at the time, but he was among the
droves of fans who believed they had the perfect name for the
newly-announced franchise. So he sat down and wrote Karl Eller, one
of the team's co-owners, a letter.
"I remember the name to this day," Bagnall says of his
suggestion. "Whoa, that's amazing."
Bagnall recommended the name "Firebirds" to Eller. He sent his
hand-written letter the same day he wrote it: January 23, 1968. At
the end of the letter, Bagnall asked Eller to please write back
"whenever you can." He closed with a "thank you."
Eller never returned the reply and Bagnall later found out that
his name wasn't selected. A self-motivated youngster from Coolidge,
Bagnall would grow up to own an insurance firm, which is still
based in Phoenix today - the Bagnall Company. One of his clients:
Eller media, which he quickly realized, is still run by Karl Eller
One fan's suggested name
and logo wasn't too far off the winner.
" I think I need to take that letter into him," Bagnall says with a
laugh, "and take him to task on that, and ask him what happened."
Bagnall, a die-hard Suns fans along with his wife, Lynn, planned
to make a special trip to the Suns' offices to obtain a copy of the
letter. Not so much a warning as it was an adherence to deadline,
Suns30.com contacted Eller before Bagnall had the chance.
"That was a great name," Eller says of Bagnall's choice. "In
fact, Firebirds was one of the names that we considered."
Of course, Jerry Colangelo, then-general manager of the new
franchise, went on to select "Suns" out of the 28,000 responses
received in the "Name the Team" contest. Selinda King won season
tickets for one year and $1,000 cash after being selected the lucky
winner of the contest.
"I wanted those tickets," Bagnall says. "I thought my name was
better than anybody else's."
To Bagnall's dismay, he never entered the contest (if there ever
was one) held by the Triple-A Giants in 1986. An affiliate of the
San Francisco Giants, the team decided to change its name that year
and establish its own identity.
The name selected, of course, was "Firebirds." And the winner of
the contest received a trip to Hawaii.
Another fan recommended
Lariats for a team name and even drew a uniform.
" Somebody must have gotten a hold of my letter when they named the
team," Bagnall says, hoping he might still be in line for a prize.
Former Firebirds General Manager Craig Pletenik, who moved into
a position as community relations director for the Arizona
Diamondbacks after the Triple-A team played its last game in
Phoenix recently, says "Firebirds" was one of the most common
entries in the contest.
Well Mark, the name is available for the taking again...
Two people contacted by Suns30.com regarding their hand-written
suggestions couldn't remember much about the letters they wrote to
Another man, Daniel Vinay, Jr., had just celebrated his 80th
birthday. He suggested the name "Lariats" in his response to Eller
and included a detailed drawing of his proposed uniforms - using a
rope for letters and numbers. Asked what he remembered about
writing the letter, he says, "Not much."
One man with an unmistakable last name coupled with a middle
initial suggested that "Camelback Cagers" or "Basketweavers" be
chosen. His daughter picked up the phone and was told the return
address on the letter, which she relayed to her father.
"He did live on 25 Street," she says, "but he doesn't remember
There are probably quite a few fans who don't remember entering
the contest, now 30 years later. Others, might remember, but be too
embarrassed to admit it. After all, quite a few of the suggestions
sound a bit silly now days.
Here are a just a few of the names entered:
Copper State Boys
Sun Valley Pride
White Wing Doves