Las Vegas 51s
The Las Vegas 51s of Las Vegas, Nevada was a unique team identity that existed in the Pacific Coast League for eighteen seasons. Over that time span, they served as the Triple-A affiliate of three major league teams: the Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays, and New York Mets.
The 51s made first contact following the 2000 season, when the Las Vegas Stars opted to take on a more unique and marketable brand. They chose the name 51s in reference to Nevada’s famed Area 51, and based their identity around an alien motif. At the dawn of the aughts, extra-terrestrials were very popular in the cultural zeitgeist, and in particular, the image of the large-eyed “gray” alien was ubiquitous. Las Vegas incorporated a gray’s head into their logo sets, with the added detail of baseball seams running long its egg-shaped dome.
The franchise’s change in brands happened concurrently with a change in major league affiliates–switching from the Padres to the Dodgers. The 51s took on Dodger blue as a primary color, and paired it with alien gray. Caps featured either the alien head or the primary logo, with their full name rendered in an italicized sci-fi font. An alternate logo had the team name nestled in an atom shape. Some versions of their early uniforms featured Las Vegas in their parent club’s distinct cursive script, with red numerals on the chest.
The Dodgers affiliation lasted for eight years. In addition to the typical Triple-A mixed bag of rehabbers and washed up former stars, the 51s fielded several future big league notables during those years. Players who played in Vegas as they worked to establish themselves as big-leaguers include David Ross, Joel Hanrahan, Shane Victorino, Edwin Jackson, Cody Ross, Chad Billingsley, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Russell Martin, and Jonathan Broxton.
The latter part of the aughts brought a few changes for the 51s. They replaced their LA-based uniform script with the more universal sci-fi typeface that had been used for their primary logo, they switched to a generic 3D block LV logo for primary caps, and most notably, their MLB parent club changed to the Toronto Blue Jays. Considering the fact that they were Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate for four solid seasons, the Jays days were marked by a surprisingly low-caliber list of alumni. The biggest names from that list are Yan Gomes, Brett Cecil, Brett Lawrie, and Eric Thames.
In 2012, the Blue Jays and the Buffalo Bisons forged a convenient regional affiliation, and the 51s were left with the team that Buffalo spurned: the New York Mets. The only notable brand design change was the front jersey numeral subtly shifting from red to orange. The affiliation lasted for six years, and produced a bumper crop of future Mets, including Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, Jeurys Familia, Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso, and perhaps a few more who’ve yet to make their breakout.
By the mid-teens, the team was purchased by the Howard Hughes Corp and plans were afoot for a new stadium in the Vegas suburb of Summerlin. To go with the change of venue, the team decided that aliens were no longer in vogue. Instead, they chose a name that honored Hughes himself, the pilot of the Spruce Goose. The Las Vegas Aviators play in the Pacific Coast League to this day, and the Las Vegas 51s were blasted off into space.