Cape Fear Crocs
The Cape Fear Crocs of Fayetteville, North Carolina, played four seasons in the South Atlantic League, serving as a Single-A affiliate of the Montréal Expos.
The team identity began following the 1996 season, when the Fayetteville Generals redesigned their entire brand in an attempt to boost fan interest. Whereas the Generals brand was conservative and stodgy, the Crocs identity rode the cresting wave of nineties-era unique identities. Though they played in the same stadium in the same town, the place name was changed to Cape Fear, a reference to the Cape Fear River that runs from Cape Fear on the Atlantic Coast to right alongside Fayetteville. The unique (and somewhat creepy) place name not only added some intrigue to the name itself, but it indirectly referenced the Robert DeNiro hit film from earlier in the decade. The Crocs nickname was unique, and lent itself well to mascots and marketing.
Primary team colors were a zeitgeisty teal and black, with green and gold elements. The cap logo was a grinning crocodile with a baseball in his mouth, wearing a backwards baseball cap. The croc was framed by two crossed baseball bats, and some reeds in the background hinted of his swamp-like habitat. Though the Crocs were short-lived, the team’s memorabilia lives on–both with collectors seeking original items and with companies producing replica caps and other gear.
On the diamond, the Crocs had their rosters stocked with prospects from the Expos, in the latter years of that Montréal’s MLB existence. In their four short years, Cape Fear managed to field a nice group of future major leaguers, including a year 2000 roster that featured Brandon Phillips and Cliff Lee. Other notable alums include Milton Bradley and Guillermo Mota.
The Crocs made a brief appearance in the 1998 film Major League: Back to the Minors. In the movie, there are shown playing as the opponent of the New Britain Rock Cats. The Rock Cats were an Eastern League team that played in not only a different league, but a different level than the Crocs. This apparently happened because in the movie, the minor league teams are all either Twins’ affiliates (like the Rock Cats) or teams that played near the film’s shooting location in South Carolina.
In the end, the new brand wasn’t enough to save the franchise. Amid flagging fan interest, the team was sold and moved to Lakewood, New Jersey, stretching the northern boundary of the South Atlantic League. The Lakewood BlueClaws play in the Sally League to this day, and the Crocs were chomped out of existence long ago.