El Paso Diablos
The El Paso Diablos of El Paso, Texas, played 31 years in the Texas League. Over that time period, they served as the Double-A affiliate of three MLB teams; the Angels, Brewers, and Diamondbacks.
The team identity began following the 1973 season, when the El Paso Sun Kings were sold to Jim Paul, who would lead the charge for one of the most influential brands in modern minor league history. Paul changed the team nickname to Diablos, the Spanish word for devils, and established bright red and gold as team colors. The Diablos became well-known for their creative promotions and their ability to draw crowds on a shoestring budget. His marketing style became a template that is used by nearly every minor league team today–almost a half century after the inception of the Diablos.
El Paso’s memorable primary logo was a circular image featuring the team name rendered in lowercase 70s-era font, with a large trident rising above the letters. The team’s first caps had the initials EP laced together whimsically, displayed on a cap with contrasting red and gold crown panels. In some versions of the early caps, the EP logo was surrounded by a ring. Though few good images are available from the 1970s Diablos teams, it seems that at least some of their uniforms had the odd quirk of the team nickname displayed in the back of the uniform, in the space above the number where a player’s name typically is.
From their first year up through 1980, they were affiliated with the California Angels, so in a matter of speaking, young players had to rise from the trident to the halo. Notable alums from this era are Carney Lansford, Brian Harper, Tom Brunansky, and Mike Witt. At some point toward the end of the Angels era, the team introduced flashy new uniforms that were a somewhat garish gold color with broad, red pinstripes. Matching caps were pillbox style with horizontal stripes and a simple trident for a logo. This basic uniform set would also be made with white replacing the gold on both uniform and cap, and with a red version of the cap as well. Some caps in the eighties even had the team name stitched in near the trident. Suffice it to say that the Diablos were very creative with their visual aesthetic during their first ten years or so.
In 1981, they began a long and fruitful affiliation with the Milwaukee Brewers. In the first few years of the affiliation, some of the future major-leaguers to pass through El Paso include Tom Candiotti, Doug Jones, Randy Ready, Teddy Higuera, Dan Plesac, Bill Wegman, Chris Bosio, and Juan Nieves–who remains the only thrower of a no-hitter in Brewers history.
Toward the latter part of the eighties, the Diablos subdued their look a bit, and the pinstriped pillbox caps with the trident logo were phased out. Some photos seem to indicate that there was a brief period with a block EP on solid dark red, though this look was short-lived at best. By 1987, El Paso had settled on simple solid red caps featuring the word diablos, in lowercase white lettering. This cap was worn through 1995, and some of those who sported it were Gary Sheffield, Greg Vaughn, Cal Eldred, John Jaha, Pat Listach, Dave Nilsson, Jeff Cirillo, Mike Matheny, Mark Loretta, and Geoff Jenkins.
In 1991, a Diablo player named Greg Edge was featured on the cover of National Geographic magazine, and the team figured prominently in David Lamb’s feature story A Season in the Minors. In addition to the shot of Edge bowing his head for the anthem, there were no fewer than seven other photos from El Paso in the article. Their appearance in the story primarily revolves around Jim Paul, and the novelty of his promotions–still considered unorthodox into the nineties. Around the same time, the Diablos appeared in a few photos in a Sports Illustrated cover story about the minor leagues.
For the 1996 season, the Diablos went through another redesign. Though they kept the same color scheme, they changed their logos and wordmarks, abandoning the trident altogether. The new primary logo was a baseball with the word Diablos superimposed on it, and El Paso underneath. The new font was an angular style that is easily identified as being of its time, and the words were rendered in all caps–the polar opposite of the previous all lowercase design. Within the logo lettering was orange and red flickering hellish flames. A simplified version of this logo was featured on the caps. This design existed for three short seasons, and players to wear it include Ronnie Belliard and Jeff D’Amico.
1999 was a year of change for El Paso. After 18 years with the Brewers, the Diablos deserted for a new parent club–the Arizona Diamondbacks. This relationship made sense on a few different levels. For the Diablos, it was a chance to piggyback on the new MLB team’s red-hot brand popularity. For Arizona, it was a chance to sign on with a relatively regional (at least by west-of-the-Mississippi standards) Double-A club. For both teams, there was a lot of branding overlap since they both used southwest desert motifs.
The Diablos redid their duds once again, this time making a dramatic change to colors that were clearly influenced by the D’Backs, including tuquoise, purple, and copper. The uniforms, heavy on white, were very similar to some of Arizona’s sets in their early days. They retained red and orange, and used them to color their new logo mascot–a grimacing, muscular, anthropomorphic chili pepper armed with a baseball bat. This pepper peeked through a teal, italicized letter D, and appeared on caps. Another wordmark logo featured the team name, with the Arizona snake-tongue A being used in place of two A‘s–the one in Paso and the one in Diablos. This design would carry on through the rest of their existence, and would adorn alums like Byung-Hyun Kim, Brad Penny, Junior Spivey, Lyle Overbay, Chris Capuano, José Valverde, Brandon Webb, Carlos Quentin, and Dan Uggla. They also hosted rehab assignments for the Diamondbacks, including one game started by the great Randy Johnson.
Another big change to come at the eve of the new millennium was that Paul sold the franchise to George Brett’s company. When times got tough for the Diablos and attendance sagged in the early aughts, the new company didn’t have a strong sentimental attachment to the team. After a few years of relocation rumors, Brett Sports sold the Diablos to the St. Louis Cardinals for almost $10 million. The Cardinals moved the franchise from El Paso to Springfield, Missouri, expanding the Texas League’s already questionable geographic footprint. The Springfield Cardinals (no, not those Springfield Cardinals) play to this day, while the Diablos were kicked the hell out of the minors.