The Calgary Cannons of Calgary, Alberta, played 18 seasons in the Pacific Coast League. Over that time span, they served as the Triple-A affiliate of four MLB teams–the Seattle Mariners, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago White Sox, and Florida Marlins.
The Cannons were first lit following the 1984 season, when Russ Parker purchased the Salt Lake City Gulls and moved them north of the border. Prior to this move, Parker’s Calgary Expos played in the Rookie level Pioneer League, so in essence, he promoted the city of Calgary to Triple-A status. Interestingly, the Pioneer League franchise was moved to the concurrently vacated Salt Lake City, where they began play as the Salt Lake City Trappers. This means that both Calgary and Salt Lake had an unbroken stretch of affiliated baseball, but both cities now had teams in new leagues and with new identities.
In Calgary, there was a popular name-the-team contest, and a group of local media members picked the alliterative and (at the time) original nickname of Cannons. Red and gold were chosen as team colors, and a primary team logo featured the team wordmark with a baseball being fired out from the letter C in Cannons as if it were a cannonball. A few years after their founding, the team went tri-color; working blue into the mix.
Perhaps the blue was an homage to their parent club in Seattle, who had previously been affiliated with Salt Lake City, and stayed on with the franchise through the transition. Seattle was, coincidentally, the geographically closest MLB team to Calgary, and the two teams enjoyed a fruitful ten years together.
In the Mariners era, many future major league standouts suited up for Calgary before becoming established with Seattle or other MLB clubs. Though they didn’t get Ken Griffey Jr. (he jumped to the bigs directly from Double-A Vermont), the Cannons did feature Edgar Martínez, Harold Reynolds, Danny Tartabull, Bill Swift, Omar Vizquel, Jay Buhner, Tino Martinez, Bret Boone, Jeff Nelson, Mark Remlinger, and, in their last year as a Seattle affiliate, Alex Rodríguez.
In 1993, the Cannons updated their brand, taking a more conservative approach and removing the gold color from their set. Like countless teams in the nineties, they introduced pinstriped uniforms. Their cap had a blue crown with red bill, and a new logo featuring the letter C surrounding a realistic cannon, viewed from the side.
In 1995, after the Mariners opted to sign on with their local Tacoma Rainers, the Cannons linked up with the Pittsburgh Pirates. This affiliation lasted for three seasons, and additions to the alum list included Tony Womack and Esteban Loaiza. In ’98, there was a one-year affiliation with the White Sox–a season that didn’t yield any notable future major-leaguers. However, Calgary hosted a few of Chicago’s rehabbers and last-gaspers, including Jim Abbott.
Around the time of the White Sox year, Calgary switched their uniforms again; this time to something very much in line with the minor league branding boom of that decade. The new logo mascot was a grimacing cartoon cannon with the barrel of the gun forming his snout-like nose. In the primary logo, he was surrounded by what appears to have been a horseshoe, with Albertan mountains in the background. In the cap logo, he sat crouched in a curvy letter C, shooting a baseball out of his single nostril. In both logos, he wore a baseball cap emblazoned with a red Canadian maple leaf. This mascot, and the accompanying uniform set, would stay with the Cannons through the rest of their days.
In 1999, they signed on with the Florida Marlins, and this carried them through to the finish line. Despite it lasting only four seasons, this affiliation sported a nice list of future big-leaguers like Ryan Dempster, Jason Grilli, Mike Lowell, Kevin Millar, Brad Penny, and A.J. Burnett.
By the turn of the millennium, the Cannons were in rough financial shape, and the then-weak Canadian dollar hurt when income came in Loonies and most expenses were in Benjamins. The last shot of the Cannons came in 2002, after which the team was sold to a group who moved them to Albuquerque, New Mexico. The new team, bizarrely enough, named themselves after an episode of The Simpsons in which the Springfield Isotopes are relocated to Albuquerque. So, in essence, the Cannons shared a similar fate with the fictional franchise. The Albuquerque Isotopes play in the Pacific Coast League to this day.