The Midland Angels of Midland, Texas, was a minor league team identity that existed in the Texas League for fourteen seasons. For that entire duration, they served as the Double-A affiliate of the Angels.
After the 1984 season, there was some shuffling around at the Double-A level. The Buffalo Bisons, after a short stint in the Eastern League, were effectively promoted to Triple-A. Taking their place in the EL was the Pittsfield Cubs. The Chicago Cubs had been affiliated with Midland in the Texas League, with the franchise playing as the Midland Cubs in Christensen Stadium since 1972. The Midland franchise went to the California Angels, who had been with Waterbury in the Eastern League–a team that went to Cleveland, who had lost the Bisons. A simpler way to put it is that the Cubs switched their affiliate from the Texas League to the Eastern League, and the Angels did the reverse.
At that time, more than half of minor league teams took on similar identities to their parent club, and Midland was no exception. Their initial branding and uniforms were essentially identical to California’s, including the A-with-halo on the caps. The most creative element of the early Midland Angels was their primary team logo–the Texas state shape with a halo playfully tilted on the panhandle.
Midland’s first manager was ex-Angels’ farmhand Joe Maddon, who had transitioned from player to manager a few years earlier and was busy working his way up the ranks in California’s system. Some future MLB standouts who passed through Christensen Stadium in the eighties include Mark McLemore, Devon White, Dante Bichette, Bryan Harvey, Mike Fetters, Roberto Hernández, and Gary Disarcina. Some more players who would go on to find other jobs in baseball include future manager Bryan Price and executive Ruben Amaro, Jr.
The early nineties was a time of great change for minor league teams, as many transitioned from being little more than holding vessels for major league players to being profitable enterprises. While the unique branding and promotional boom of the time didn’t cause Midland to drop the Angels moniker, it did subtly seep in. At some point, Midland began employing a mascot named Juice the Moose. While one wouldn’t normally associate the winter-hardy ungulate with the oilfields of west Texas, some unlucky soul put on the bearded moose costume for those blistering-hot summertime games. On the uniform side, the team’s cap emblem switched from the A to an M-with-halo. Lettering on road jerseys used the M superimposed over Texas to spell out the city name. As the Angels went through their short-lived pre-Anaheim brand redesign, Midland followed suit with old-west style fonts. The branding anomaly that resonates (and is replicated) today was a cartoon version of Juice that began popping up as the team’s primary logo toward the end of their tenure. I’ve yet to see an image of a player wearing the Juice cap, but caps have been made nonetheless.
The Angels (both California and Anaheim) had many good players ascend through their minor league system in the nineties, and most had a stop in Midland. Prospect alums from these years include Tim Salmon, Damion Easley, Garret Anderson, Jim Edmonds, Troy Percival, Bengie Molina, Jason Dickson, Jarrod Washburn, and Troy Glaus. Furthermore, some big-time big-leaguers were sent to Midland for either injury rehab or last attempts at holding onto the baseball dream. These stars–surprisingly big names for Double-A–were Fernando Valenzuela, Pedro Guerrero, Jack McDowell, and Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven–who pitched his last professional game for the ’92 Midland squad.
Speaking of overdue endings, the Midland Angels hung up their halo after the 1998 season. Part of this was certainly related to an affiliation change from Anaheim to Oakland, but beyond that, not having a unique identity in the late nineties was akin to leaving money on the table. Rather than opting for Midland Athletics, the club chose a more marketable (and mascotable) identity that seemed to pay some homage to west Texas mineral extraction of some kind. The Midland RockHounds play as an A’s affiliate in the Texas League to this day, and the Midland Angels vamoosed long ago.