Charleston Alley Cats
The Charleston Alley Cats of Charleston, West Virginia, played ten seasons in the South Atlantic league. In that time, they served as a Single-A affiliate of three MLB teams; the Reds, Royals, and Blue Jays.
The identity was born following the 1994 season, when new ownership opted to swap out the Charleston Wheelers’ riverboat motif for an identity that fit right in with the zeitgeist. Like many other new minor league nicknames in the nineties, they followed the pattern of a cat or dog mascot with an adjective in front of it. The Alley Cats were remarkably consistent with their brand for those ten years, and always had a red/black color scheme.
Their logo featured a baseball bat dramatically curved into a letter C, with the C-bat framing the face of a too-cool-for-school cartoon red feline wearing dark sunglasses. The smug-looking cat appears proud of the fact that he’s caught a baseball in his mouth and is prepared to devour it. The team’s wordmark was the full team name in a cartoonish font, with the L and O in Charleston being formed by a bat and ball, and the Y and C in Alley Cats both having a waving cat’s tail.
The first prospects to don the hep cat cap were those of the Cincinnati Reds, who had been the parent club of the Wheelers as well. This affiliation lasted till 1998, and yielded such big leaguers as Brett Tomko, Jason LaRue, and B.J. Ryan. Next came a two-year stint with the Royals that didn’t contribute any notable alums. Finally, the Blue Jays linked up with the Alley Cats, and the next four years saw players like Álex Ríos, Brandon League, and Shaun Marcum pass through. Overall, there was not much to show for a decade in the Sally League.
For years, there were two teams from two Charlestons playing in the same league–one being the West Virginia variety and the other being the South Carolina city. Whether it was the the Wheelers playing the Rainbows or the Alley Cats playing the RiverDogs, having the matching city name on the scoreboard was a perennial feature of the Sally League. This all changed after the 2004 season, when the Alley Cats changed their name as they moved into a new ballpark. They took on a whole-state place name and for a nickname they chose one that referenced both extracted resources and the seat of the Mountain State’s government. The West Virginia Power play in the South Atlantic League to this day, and the Alley Cats’ nine lives were spent in ten years.