Now that the offseason is underway, several Minor League Baseball teams will soon unveil new names. For these clubs, the hope is that a new name will not only boost merchandise sales, but strengthen the ties of the team to its community.
There are numerous examples in recent years of successful rebrands, but there are also times where a name change has proven to be short lived. Whether it was a franchise relocation or a lack of appreciation from fans, a handful of monikers have come onto the scene quickly, only to soon fade away.
To look back at some recent examples of that phenomena, here are six short-lived names that were not directly tied to an affiliation change.
Omaha’s Golden (Spikes) Years
For 30 seasons, the Omaha Royals (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) continually lured fans to Rosenblatt Stadium. The name and its connection to the team’s parent club proved to have staying power, but in the late 1990’s, it briefly vanished.
A 1998 name-the-team contest led to Royals being rebranded as the Omaha Golden Spikes. A homage to Omaha’s railroad history, the concept behind the Golden Spikes was not inherently flawed. It had a unique historical tie-in, and allowed the team to maintain some of its gold color scheme. However, it never took off with fans in Omaha, prompting new owner Matt Minker to seek feedback on the moniker during the 2001 season. Following that campaign, the franchise reverted to Royals, a name it kept until opening Werner Park in 2011 and becoming the Storm Chasers.
Kings of Queens
The year 2000 was one of transition for the St. Catherines Stompers (Short Season A; NY-Penn League). As they left their home in Ontario and headed to New York City, the Stompers were still a year away from settling in at Brooklyn’s MCU Park, forcing them to play the season at The Ballpark at St. Johns. Furthermore, the club was still an affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays—something that was all but certain to change when it arrived in Brooklyn.
Perhaps as a reflection of its transition, the club waited a year to become the Brooklyn Cyclones, instead playing the season as the Queens Kings. Sporting a variation of the Stompers’ green, purple, and gold color scheme, the Kings made the New York-Penn League playoffs during their only season. The team became an affiliate of the New York Mets upon arriving in Brooklyn.
The Friendly Casper Ghosts
With their time at Mike Lansing Field winding down, the Casper Rockies (Rookie; Pioneer League) made an effort to reinvent themselves. The result was the Casper Ghosts, a brand that stood out during its short existence.
Before the 2008 season, the Ghosts rolled out a unique uniform scheme that included a glow-in-the-dark black cap with a ghostly baseball image. The unique hat—which resurfaced in the news when the Columbia Fireflies (Low A; Sally League) introduced a similar concept last year—generated headlines, but it was not enough to keep the team in Wyoming. Before the 2012 season, the Ghosts relocated to Grand Junction, CO, where they remain today as the Grand Junction Rockies.
A Short-Lived Defense
Much like the Casper Ghosts, the Norwich Navigators (Class AA; Eastern League) took a chance on a rebrand before relocating. Seeking to broaden their regional appeal, the Navigators became the Connecticut Defenders in 2006.
The Defenders were a true reversal from the Navigators. A cartoon alligator logo was ditched in favor of an image that resembled a submarine, and the colorful palate that included green and purple made way for a more traditional blue, white, and black scheme. However, it was not enough to keep the team at Dodd Stadium. Following the 2009 season, the franchise relocated and became the Richmond Flying Squirrels. The team was replaced in Norwich by the Connecticut Tigers (Short Season A; NY-Penn League.
A Brief Swing in the Quad Cities
In both its current and previous form, the logo of the Quad Cities River Bandits (Low A; Midwest League) has been one of the more recognizable in MiLB. For a brief time, however, it went away.
Before the 2004 season, the River Bandits switched gears and became the Swing of the Quad Cities. With the Swing moniker came a unique blend of colors that included orange, navy blue, and tan, and a logo that paid tribute to the region’s jazz history. Despite that, the Swing identity never caught on with the team’s fan base, which resoundingly chose to reintroduce the River Bandits in a contest before the 2008 season.
Low Primary Turnout
Rounding out our list is a name so controversial that it did not even last into the season. Upon relocating to Manchester, the New Haven Ravens (Class AA; Eastern League) became the New Hampshire Primaries, which was intended to honor the New Hampshire presidential primary.
Complete with a logo that included the Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant, the Primaries looked poised to shakeup the moniker landscape in 2004. However, fans in the area did not respond kindly to the politicized name, and a grassroots effort for a replacement proved successful when the franchise launched a new name-the-team-contest that resulted in the name being changed to New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
Over time, the Primaries name has proven to be somewhat resilient. The Fisher Cats have incorporated it into what-if nights, and a promotion for the team’s 2016 opener allowed fans to choose between a red elephant hat and a blue donkey cap for the team’s on-field cap.
- Before the New Hampshire Primaries, the Battle Creek Golden Kazoos (Low A; Midwest League) was another name that did not play out a regular season. The franchise introduced the name after relocating from Madison in the fall of 1994, but criticism from fans forced a change. In March 1995, just weeks before their first game, the Golden Kazoos became the Michigan Battle Cats.
- A legal dispute with Georgia Tech forced the Salt Lake Buzz (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League) to make a slight variation to its identity. From 2001 to 2005, the team played as the Stingers, but became the Salt Lake Bees before the 2006 season.
- When their affiliation with the St. Louis Cardinals ended after the 1997 season, the Louisville Redbirds (Class AAA; International League) became the Louisville RiverBats. RiverBats would only last four seasons, however, as the name was shortened to Bats prior to the 2002 campaign.
- The Shreveport Swamp Dragons (Class AA; Southern League) are another example of a rebrand that could not keep the team from relocating. After playing 30 seasons as the Captains, they spent the 2001 and 2002 campaigns as the Swamp Dragons, only to relocate to Frisco, TX before the 2003 season.
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