The Mudville Nine of Stockton, California, was a team identity that existed in the California League for two years. In that short time, they served as a Class A-Advanced affiliate for two major league teams; the Milwaukee Brewers and Cincinnati Reds.
The novelty identity began following the 1999 season, when the Stockton Ports undertook an ambitious and questionable rebranding. As far back as the early-1980s, the Ports had drawn from Stockton’s disputed claim of being the hometown of the Ernest Thayer poem Casey at the Bat, including some merchandise that referred to the team as the Mudville Ports and Mudville Nine. For the 2000 season, they took it to a whole new level.
The place name was changed from to Mudville, as a tip of the pillbox cap to the setting of the old poem. To be fair, Mudville is a nickname for Stockton, so on paper, perhaps it’s merely a nickname for a place name–no more egregious than, say, using Salt Lake instead of the formal Salt Lake City or Hardware City for New Britain. But what Stockton did was totally out of left field. Changing the place name of a team is typically audacious in and of itself, but changing it based on the setting of a work of fiction is essentially unprecedented. The Nine nickname, which was sometimes stylized as the numeral 9, completed the co-opted identity. The real-life players in the California League, like the fictional Casey, played for the Mudville Nine.
Despite the wacky moniker, the Nine had a fairly conservative visual aesthetic. They played into the poem’s turn-of-the-century setting, and used letter and number fonts that were reminiscent of that era’s iconography. Red and black were used as team colors, and logos featured an artistic rendering of Casey with a bat resting on his shoulder. The cap insignia had Casey nestled inside an oversized number 9.
On the ballfield, the Nine continued the Ports’ longtime affiliation with the Brewers for the 2000 season. None of the members of that year’s Mudville roster went on to find major league success of any kind. For 2001, the Nine linked up with the Cincinnati Reds. This year had similarly disappointing yields, though I suppose we could mention player-turned-musician Ben Broussard. Suffice it to say there weren’t any big names to don the Mudville duds.
As it turned out, the identity itself was something of a dud. A mere two seasons after the expensive experiment, the franchise reverted to their former identity, albeit with a refreshed look. The Stockton Ports play in the California League to this day, and the Mudville Nine struck out long ago.