Occasionally, there are minor league team nicknames that are either identical to or similar to that of major league teams, with no actual connection between the major or minor. In some cases, such as the Indianapolis Indians, the minor league identity is about as old as the major league identity, and the two simply coexist over the decades. These are what we call FauxTOBs, a play on the MLG acronym COTOB, for chip-off-the-old-block.
Furthermore, sometimes there are MiLB teams that seem to be DimDers of their major league counterpart, with no connection between the team’s origin and that of a major league team. As a play on the baseball phrase non-tender, we’ll call these Non-DimDers.
This is a live page and not a complete list by any means. I keep adding as I find more examples in minor league history.
FauxTOBs (incidental MLB team pre-existence)
These are minor league teams that had nicknames that were the same or similar to that of MLB teams that were yet to be created. In these cases, by the time the MLB team came along, the minor league teams were defunct.
Green Bay Bluejays. There were many minor league teams called the Blue Jays (or Bluejays) in the mid-part of the twentieth century, but many of these were regular DimDers of the Philadelphia Phillies, who called themselves the Blue Jays for a brief period of time. But Green Bay, despite being incidentally affiliated with the Phillies (Non-DimDers, below), is an example of a team that used this identity on its own, well before Toronto got a major league team in 1977.
Montréal Royals. The International League’s fabled franchise counted Jackie Robinson among its alums, and was a Dodgers affiliate through the 1960 season, when the Royals were moved to become one version of the Syracuse Chiefs. Baseball, this time major league baseball, would return to Montréal in the late sixties, and Royals was a popular choice for nickname among fans. One problem: the AL’s new Kansas City franchise, an expansion team in the same offseason, had already claimed it. The Expos and the Kansas City Royals took to the field for the 1969 season.
Orlando SunRays. This kind of an odd one. Orlando made a strong play for major league baseball in the late eighties, and that included development of the SunRays identity, including logos. The bid fell short and the SunRays identity was repurposed when the Southern League’s Orlando Twins went a bit more unique in the early nineties. The SunRays also used just the “Rays” in their branding. This isn’t to be confused the Orlando Rays, a later renaming of the same franchise that was a straight DimDer and sort of a pre-emptive COTOB/DimDer….let’s not go there. Instead, let’s think about how there was a minor league team called the Rays (sort of) before there was a major league team called the Rays (sort of) that also played in Florida.
FauxTOBs (incidental MLB team co-existence)
Here we have minor league teams that have had the the same nickname as major league teams, and have played simultaneously with them, but have never been affiliated.
Mission Reds. Played in the Pacific Coast League from 1926-1937, but never had a major league parent club, in Cincinnati or otherwise.
Modesto Reds. The first Modesto Reds booted up in 1914, in an era where MLB affiliation was not really a part of the minor leagues. Modesto’s first parent club was the St. Louis Browns in 1948. As the Reds, the franchise had affiliation stints with six MLB teams, but never the one in Cincinnati.
Spokane Indians. The first version of this currently-used identity started in 1903, a time when the AL’s Cleveland franchise was called the Naps. Spokane has had 10 different stints with MLB parent clubs, but never the one in northern Ohio.
Tacoma Tigers. The first Tacoma Tigers slugged it out in the PCL for a few seasons after the turn of the century, right after the American League’s Detroit club started up. The now-Rainiers were called the Tigers from 1980-1994, but they were a Cleveland and Oakland affiliate for all those years.
Venice/Vernon Tigers. The PCL’s Vernon/Venice franchise was called the Tigers from 1909-1925, but never had a parent club in Detroit or anywhere else.
FauxTOBs (incidental MLB team post-existence)
Sometimes major league team identities and nicknames go defunct, but it hasn’t happened all that much since the American League entered the MLB picture in 1901. After an MLB identity is abandoned, there may be minor league teams that come along and take the old identity, without any apparent connection with the old MLB team. We haven’t seen any Colt .45’s or Browns or Devil Rays pop up since those nicknames were retired, but there have been a few others–especially if you include the short-lived obscure teams in MLB’s early days.
After the Kansas City Cowboys came the Magic Valley Cowboys
After the Syracuse Stars came the Huntsville Stars, Las Vegas Stars, etc.
After the Troy Trojans came the Batavia Trojans
After the Seattle Pilots came the Peninsula Pilots, Riverside Pilots, Wichita Pilots, etc.
After the Washington Senators came the Harrisburg Senators
FauxTOBs (with incidental affiliation!)
Here we have minor and major league teams with the same nickname that not only co-existed, but were affiliated with each other.
Charleston Senators. Named in honor of West Virginia’s capital, this identity started up in 1910. The team’s first affiliation was with the Tigers in the 30s, followed by stints with the (Boston) Braves, Indians, Reds, White Sox, and Tigers again. In 1960, Charleston linked up with–you guessed it–the Washington Senators. The incidental Senator/Senator affiliation was short-lived, though, as the Charleston club went belly up after that one season.
Clinton Pilots. The first usage of Pilots as a nickname for Clinton, Iowa baseball clubs was 1914-1916, for a club that belonged to the long-defunct Central Association. The old nickname was resurrected in 1966, when Clinton was a Pirates affiliate in the Midwest League. Coincidentally, the Clinton Pilots affiliated with the Seattle Pilots in 1969, the one year the MLB Pilots were a team. Clinton kept using the old Pilots nickname through 1976 as a farm club of several non-Pilots teams.
Indianapolis Indians. Indy was a staple of the American Association in the earlier part of the 20th Century, and the Indians moniker dates back to 1902. That year, the American League’s Cleveland franchise was called the Broncos, and they changed their name to the Naps in ’03 before settling on the Cleveland Indians in 1915. The Indians and the Indians were affiliated for a few years in the 1950s.
These are minor league teams that one might think were DimDers for their parent club, but there was either no affiliation or incidental affiliation.
Orlando SunRays. This is a pre-emptive situation, as the SunRays (also called just the Rays) were gone a few years before before the Devil Rays/Rays were a team. The SunRays are not to be confused with the Orlando Rays, who were a Tampa Bay DimDer.
Salem Redbirds. This is a weird one. The Carolina League club was called the Redbirds and used St. Louis Cardinals-inspired imagery for most of the 1980s, a time period when they were a farm club of the Padres and Rangers. Maybe the owner was a Cardinals fan and it was wishful thinking?
Utica Blue Sox. Ah, the Blue Sox. Though the team was technically (sort of) a DimDer for the Phillies, I’m calling them a Non-DimDer as well because even though they were affiliated with both the Red Sox and White Sox, the Blue Sox moniker is unrelated to either.
Non-DimDers with incidental affiliation
Here we have minor league teams that had eerily similar names with major league teams that they happened to have affiliation with.
Eau Claire Bears. Despite being affiliated with the Cubs for a few years in the 30s, the Bears nickname pre-dates the Chicago affiliation and was held through affiliations with the Red Sox and Braves. Side note: it would be weird to have a major league team be a diminutive form of their farm club.
Savannah Sand Gnats. The Washington Nationals were affiliated with Savannah from 2005-2006, but the Nats/Gnats connection was pure coincidence.
Visalia Oaks. Despite being affiliated with Oakland for a stretch, the team was called the Oaks when they began as a Twins affiliate in 1977–twenty years before they signed on with the A’s.
Non-DimDers with incidental affiliation and pre-emptive affiliation
These are teams that had or have identities with similar qualities to that of a major league team, but the minor league nickname was created before the later affiliation with the similar major league identity.
Green Bay Bluejays. This is a bizarre case. The Bluejays were a new team in 1946 and were affiliated with the Phillies. One would assume that the nickname was a DimDer of Philly’s short-lived attempt to rebrand as the Blue Jays in the late forties, much like other Phillies affiliates of that era: the Bradford Blue Wings, Salina Blue Jays, Schenectady Blue Jays, Utica Blue Sox, etc. But no, Green Bay’s nickname was incidental. There was a team called the Green Bay Bluejays in 1940 (called the Blue Sox in ’41) that existed before Philadelphia started dabbling with the bird nickname. This would (sort of) make them the rare pre-emptive DimDer, er, non-DimDer, I guess.
Inland Empire 66ers of San Bernardino. The Sixers are currently an Angels affiliate and the cheeky nickname-place name reversal makes them a DimDer, right? Not so fast. Though it is very likely that the nickname was a riff on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Sixers were a Mariners affiliate when they came up with the mouthful of a moniker. They didn’t join up with the Angels until 2011–at which point the parent club was already making the switchover to just Los Angeles. In a way, this makes them both a preemptive DimDer and a Non-DimDer with incidential affiliation.