How the Great Falls Voyagers Got Their Name

More than a moniker, the name of a sports team may reflect local history, culture, and myth.  Baseball, certainly, has contributed to this linguistic equation.

San Diego is the site of the first Franciscan mission, hence the name Padres.

The West Virginia Power, the Class A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, honors the Mountain State’s energy roots, including coal, hydro-electric, and natural gas.

Baltimore’s Orioles pay tribute to Maryland’s official bird.

The Sugar Land Skeeters ball club of the Atlantic League draws its name from the Texas pronunciation of “mosquitoes,” those pesky insects indigenous to the Houston area.

A UFO incident inspired the name of the Pioneer League’s team in Great Falls, Montana—Voyagers.  It happened in August 1950, when two objects in the Great Falls sky diverted a routine inspection of Legion Park—the home field for the Great Falls Electrics, a minor league team in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization.

Nicholas “Nick” Mariana, the general manager of the Electrics (or Selectrics, as the team was briefly known for the 1949 and 1950 seasons), had the duties of checking out the ballpark.  Accompanied by his secretary, 19-year-old Virginia Raunig, he saw two bright, silvery objects in the Great Falls sky.  Mariana fetched a 16-millimeter movie camera from his car to document the event.

A 2008 article on OurSports Central titled “Historic sighting spawns new image for Great Falls ball club” states the sighting’s impact:  “Media from across the nation reported on the sighting, and over the next two decades the film was examined and studied by UFO buffs, prominent scientists and engineers, the Air Force and even the CIA.  Often disputed but never refuted, the ‘Mariana Incident’ remains to this day one of the strongest cases supporting the existence of UFOs ever captured on film, and Great Falls, Montana maintains its place as one of the most active locations for UFO sightings in North America.”

The article also quoted Vinney Purport, the team president, who explained the reasoning behind the Great Falls baseball team choosing Voyagers as its new name beginning in 2008.  “The community owns the team—and it has for the past 60 years.  But it’s been hard to capture that feeling of ownership rooting for the Dodgers, Giants, or White Sox.  Now the team will continue to be the Great Falls Voyagers even if our major league affiliation happens to change.”

Did Mariana document voyagers from another planet, galaxy, or dimension?  Was it a hoax?  Is there a reasonable explanation?  Project Blue Book researched, catalogued, and analyzed thousands of UFO reports.  Mariana was not alone in witnessing or claiming to witness a UFO traveling across Earth’s skies.  The National Archives web site states, “On December 17, 1969, the Secretary of the Air Force announced the termination of Project BLUE BOOK, the Air Force program for the investigation of UFOs.

“From 1947 to 1969, a total of 12,618 sightings were reported to Project BLUE Book.”

So, are we alone in the universe?  The National Archives summarizes the project’s findings.  “As a result of these investigations and studies and experience gained from investigating UFO reports since 1948, the conclusions of Project BLUE BOOK are: (1) no UFO reported, investigated, and evaluated by the Air Force has ever given any indication of threat to our national security; (2) there has been no evidence submitted to or discovered by the Air Force that sightings categorized as ‘unidentified’ represent technological developments or principles beyond the range of present-day scientific knowledge; and (3) there has been no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as ‘unidentified’ are extraterrestrial vehicles.”

A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on September 3, 2014.

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