Las Vegas Stars
The Las Vegas Stars of Las Vegas, Nevada, played eighteen seasons in the Pacific Coast League. For that entire span, they served as the Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. The franchise can trace its PCL lineage back to 1919, when they were founded as the second version of the Portland Beavers. Those Beavers moved to Spokane, Washington in the seventies, where they took on the Spokane Indians identity. The Stars were born following the 1982 season, when the Spokane franchise was moved to Sin City.
Despite playing in such a flashy locale, Las Vegas had a relatively conservative brand. Stars was appropriate for Vegas, what with all the sparkling lights and celebrities, but was also respectable and simple. From the start, the Stars were affiliated with the San Diego Padres, who had abandoned the Hawaii Islanders in favor of the shiny new and more practical Triple-A franchise located one state to the east. The Stars’ inaugural uniform set was unmistakably influenced by the Padres’ famed look of the era. Team colors were a mishmash of gold, brown, and orange, and the caps were stylized in the specific way that San Diego’s caps were–a triangular swath of gold enveloped by a mostly brown crown with orange eyelets. Their original cap logo was the letters LV rendered in thin typeface, interlocking with a star dancing in the upper right corner. The first jerseys were gold pullovers with tri-color striping on the cuffs and a screen-printed graphic on the chest consisting of Stars in Old West style typeface, surrounded by several multi-colored stars. The Las Vegas roster for that inaugural season featured Padres prospects like Bruce Bochy, Kevin McReynolds, and none other than the great Tony Gwynn. The Hall-of-Famer was on the verge of establishing himself as a major league star after spending the 1982 season split between the Islanders and the Padres.
For their second season, the Stars embraced the color orange. Though they kept the gold pullovers, they also introduced burnt orange jerseys with shoulder striping and an oversized Stars across the front in a more conventional font. A white version had colors inverted, with tri-color, rainbow-esque (brown/gold/orange) stripes on the shoulders. Burnt orange caps had a new logo that would prove to have staying power–the letters LV side-by-side, with the negative space between the letters forming a star. If one squints, the whole image looks something like a capital letter N (for Nevada?), but that is likely just coincidental. Ozzie Guillen and John Kruk donned the orange duds, which would only last for two seasons. Also during this time, a young announcer named Colin Cowherd did play-by-play for the Stars, en route to a successful career as a hot take-haver.
In 1986, uniforms were changed again. Though the logos were retained, the Stars switched to a brown-based color scheme with orange details, eliminating the gold altogether. Pinstriped uniforms were introduced, and once again, it was unmistakable who the team’s parent club was. This look would carry them through the latter half of the eighties decade, which boasted a bumper crop of young players including Benito Santiago, Shane Mack, Joey Cora, Bip Roberts, Carlos Baerga, Andy Benes, and the brothers Alomar–both Roberto and Sandy, Jr. In the late eighties, the Stars changed their primary logo to an italicized team nickname superimposed on a pinstriped roundel. The overall look is very similar to the Padres’ logo of the nineties, but the first version of that design was unveiled in 1990. Could San Diego have co-opted the look from Las Vegas?
In the early nineties, the Stars’ visual brand was tweaked yet again. When the Padres dropped the color brown in favor of navy blue, the Stars followed suit; albeit with lighter shade of blue than San Diego’s. The kept the same cap logo and jersey typeface from the brown days, with orange serving as a complementary color to the blue. Pinstripes were ousted from the uniforms, and the overall look was quite bland. The team’s rosters during this period were similarly bland, with Ricky Bones and Todd Worrell’s brother Tim being probably the most notable young players to pass through Vegas in the early part of the decade.
Action in Vegas picked up for the 1995 season, when the team did a full-scale redesign of their visual brand. They changed team colors to a perfectly zeitgeisty teal and purple, with silver embellishments, flashy fonts, and vested jerseys. Completing the look was a bizarre yet likable new mascot–a yellow dog dressed as Vegas-era Elvis Presley, with pompadour, sunglasses, and a sequined jumpsuit. For the new cap logo, the dog Elvis hovered above a teal LV-with-star, with bat cocked in anticipation of a pitch. The dog Elvis was an alternate look, however, and typical caps merely had the initials. This look would carry the Stars through the rest of their days, a time that saw a few more notable names added to the alum list, with the biggest being Derrek Lee and Homer Bush.
The end of the Stars identity came like a flash from outer space. Following the 2000 season, the Padres abandoned Las Vegas in favor of, ironically enough, a new version of the Portland Beavers. Las Vegas signed on with the Dodgers and decided to completely overhaul their identity simultaneously. This meant that the 18-year stretch as the Stars aligned perfectly with the franchise’s 18-year stretch as the Padres’ Triple-A team. For the new name, the team chose to go with an extra-terrestrial theme–something that was anecdotally very popular around the turn of the millennium. With the Area 51 base being near Vegas, they opted to call themselves the Las Vegas 51s. After eighteen seasons carrying that identity, the franchise changed their name to the Las Vegas Aviators. This team plays in the Pacific Coast League to this day, and the Stars collapsed into the void many years ago.