Colorado Springs Sky Sox

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1950-2018

 

The Colorado Springs Sky Sox of Colorado Springs, Colorado was a team identity that existed for a cumulative total of forty seasons. Teams called the Colorado Springs Sky Sox played in two distinct time periods and in two different minor leagues, variously serving as affiliates of the Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, and Milwaukee Brewers.

 

Sky Sox I

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The first Colorado Springs Sky Sox team began when the the long-defunct Western League expanded in 1950, adding Colorado Springs and Wichita to the list of other WL cities at the time: Omaha, Sioux City, Des Moines, Denver, Lincoln, and Pueblo.

The new Colorado Springs franchise was a White Sox affiliate, and their nickname was a play on (DimDer) their parent club, with Sky added to reflect their high-altitude position near Pikes Peak. Uniforms were typical for baseball teams of the fifties, and spoon-lapel jerseys had either cursive or block script across the chest. Caps featured a logo of a wide letter C interlocking with a tall letter S, making for a circular conglomeration.

sports1_conways-sky-sox-varieties-by-payne-stanley-l-stan-payne-collection-courtesy-pikes-peak-library-district-696x502In nine seasons as a White Sox affiliate, a handful of future big league notables took their lumps in the thin air. Earl Battey, Jim Landis, Jack Kralick, and Gary Peters went on to MLB All-Star career careers, while Sam Hairston (grandpa of Scott and Jerry Jr.) would go on to spawn the largest MLB family.

The end of these Sky Sox came with the end of the Western League in 1958. By the late fifties, baseball’s popularity was being threatened by the advent of television, and was beginning the era that has been referred to as the Subsistence Years. The American Association took on some of the WL’s teams, but Colorado Springs was left without affiliated baseball for the next three decades.

 

 

Sky Sox II

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The second version of the Colorado Springs Sky Sox booted up in the late eighties, when the Pacific Coast League’s Hawaii Islanders were moved from the beaches to the mountains, in anticipation of the opening of Colorado Springs’s new Sky Sox Stadium.

The team took on the old Western League identity, and since they affiliated with the Cleveland Indians, they became a sort of vestigial DimDer. On their way to Cleveland, prospects suited up for a team named after one of their future MLB division rivals. The team’s uniforms were inspired by their parent club, with a conservative navy and red look. The team’s cap logo was once again an interlocking C and S, but this time rendered in a more utilitarian athletic/block typeface. Across the jerseys, Sky Sox was spelled out in a bizarre oversized, italicized, thin-gauge typeface. Few things scream late eighties quite like these uniforms.

pict0484The Cleveland affiliation lasted for five years, and future big leaguers who passed through Colorado Springs include Jim Thome, Carlos Baerga, Albert Belle, Jay Bell, Jeff Shaw, and Terry Francona. Others, like Sandy Alomar Jr., bounced between Triple-A and the American League as they nursed injuries or worked to find their major league footing.

In 1993, the Sky Sox hit paydirt when they were able to affiliate with the brand-new in-state Colorado Rockies. To commemorate the occasion, the team spruced up their visual brand. New team colors were a trendy black, silver, and hunter green combo, and a new primary gettyimages-94698645-612x612logo had the team nickname spelled out in cursive with a simplified version of the Colorado Springs skyline and mountainous backdrop tucked into the underline flourish. Uniforms brought back the classic spoon neck look, and caps had a questionable CSX diagonal monogram sewn into the crowns. In addition to many rehab assignments from the local MLB team, future big league notables to wear the CSX caps included Brad Ausmus, Craig Counsell, and the great Todd Helton.

In the later nineties, the Sky Sox attempted to develop their own cartoon logo mascot, and settled on a grouchy img_0586anthropomorphic sock in a batting stance known as Socko. Socko appeared on Sky Sox caps and jerseys, but was retired around the year 2000. In recent years, Socko has been resurrected for merchandising purposes, and he remains a notable logo character of the era. Perhaps owing to the impracticality of making a sock costume, Socko was replaced by a mascot named Sox the Fox, whose face would eventually land on batting practice caps.

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As the Sky Sox transitioned out of the Socko era, they updated their brand to a simplified by similar black and green look, with yet another version of an interlocking C and S for cap logo. This one was similar in concept to the old Western League logo, but with a sleeker look for the aughts. Alums from this era include Juan Uribe, Matt Holliday, and Ubaldo Jiménez.

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In 2009, a major redesign saw green and black ousted in favor of navy, sky blue, and red. A new primary logo was a foreboding mountain with menacing eyes and eyebrows formed by clouds, glaring downward behind the team nickname. The new cap logo consisted of squared off C and S letters fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle. The Sky Sox favored vested jerseys, including a bright sky blue alternate. Future Rockies to rock this look include Jhoulys Chacín, Charlie Blackmon, DJ LaMahieu, Drew Pomeranz, and the great Nolan Arenado.

Big change came after the 2014 season, when the Rockies unexpectedly fled to Albuquerque for their Triple-A needs. The Milwaukee Brewers, who had been spurned by the Nashville Sounds, ended up as the last partner at the dance with the Sky Sox. This was problematic for both clubs.112975-7741055fr For the Brewers, they were suddenly faced with sending their prospects into the elevated offensive environment in Colorado Springs, potentially rendering statistics useless. For the Sky Sox, the connection with Denver was essentially their raison d’etre, and without it, they were merely a low-drawing Triple-A club in an aging stadium. Regardless, the affiliation with the Brewers lasted four years. Though it is too early to give a comprehensive list of notable alums, thus far, three All-Stars were produced in the Milwaukee era—Corey Knebel, Josh Hader, and Brandon Woodruff.

Losing the Rockies sucked the air out of Colorado Springs. As team vitality dwindled, Elmore Sports Group, the owners, concocted an ambitious plan for concurrently relocating three of their franchises. After the 2018 season, they moved their Texas League team, the San Antonio Missions, to a new ballpark in Amarillo, Texas. The Sky Sox moved to San Antonio and their Pioneer League team, the Helena Brewers, moved to Colorado Springs. Initially, the Pioneer League club, like the Missions, was going to keep the same name as their market predecessor, with the expectation of a Rookie-level team called the Colorado Springs Sky Sox. However, the lure of viral marketing was too strong, and they opted for a wacky 21st century identity. The Triple-A franchise is now in San Antonio, and the Pioneer League’s Rocky Mountain Vibes occupy the stadium in Colorado Springs. The Sky Sox identity, however, floated up into the ether.

 

 

 

Ephemera

 

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A new team in 1950

 

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From left: Sam Hairston, Gary Peters, two random guys, Jim Landis

 

1955
B.C.T (Before Charlie the Tuna)

 

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Future MLB All-Star and no-hitter tosser Jack Kralick in ’55

 

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Replica jersey by Ebbets Field Flannels

 

 

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A rebooted identity in 1988

 

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A new look and a new affiliate in ’93

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Craig Counsell in the mid-nineties

 

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Todd Helton

 

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Socko

 

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New logo for a new millennium

 

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Helton down from Denver for a rehab stint

 

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Matt Holliday in the waning days of Socko
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Replica Socko cap produced in recent years

 

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Aughts-era jersey script

 

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Sox the Fox

 

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Sox made it to BP caps

 

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New look in 2009

 

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Drew Pomeranz

 

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Brewers era

 

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