The Omaha Royals of Omaha, Nebraska, were an identity that existed for a cumulative total of 39 seasons. The team played in two leagues, and in two distinct, non-consecutive eras. For all of their years, Omaha served as the Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.
The Omaha Royals began in 1969, a year of new beginnings. The American Association rebooted as a Triple-A league after going dormant in the post-1962 Upheaval. Meanwhile, the American League welcomed a new expansion team, the Kansas City Royals, to a city that had been devoid of Major League Baseball following the Athletics’ departure earlier in the decade. The O-Royals were a key part of both new organizations.
The new Association began with 6 teams, including Omaha. They set up shop in brand-new Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium, which served as both the site of the College World Series and had the designation of being the largest minor league park in the country. The new team linked up with the new, regional MLB team, and took on a COTOB identity. In the seventies and eighties, the O-Royals saw several great players take the field, many of whom played major roles in the Kansas City powerhouse that would win the World Series in 1985, including Hall of Famer George Brett (photo at right), Frank White, Bud Black, and Dan Quisenberry. Other notable players who passed through in the ensuing years included David Cone, Tom Gordon, Jeff Montgomery, Kevin Appier, Bob Hamelin, Jeff Conine, Mike Sweeney, and Jermaine Dye.
Throughout every era of the Omaha Royals’ existence, their visual appearance was heavily influenced by their parent club. Royal blue was an easy choice for primary team color, and in the early days, the only notable visual difference between Omaha and Kansas City was the cap logo. The original cap had a block-letter O that was essentially a rectangle with the corners rounded off. This O was soon replaced by a graceful ovaline letter with a tucked in curlicue at the top. This would be the team’s cap from the early seventies to the mid-nineties, when a golden crown was wrangled into the O. At the same time, in 1995, they added much more gold into their uniforms, including some gold jerseys.
Two major changes came for the O-Royals in the late nineties. The first one came following the 1997 season, when the American Association folded, and the eight teams were absorbed by the two other Triple-A leagues. Omaha joined the Pacific Coast League, despite being about 1,500 miles (and two zones) away from the Pacific coast. Overnight, the O-Royals’ travel itinerary became a bit more intensive. Along with the other former Association teams (the Iowa Cubs, Nashville Sounds, New Orleans Zephyrs, and Oklahoma City 89ers–who were renamed the RedHawks), the Pacific Coast League now had a firm foothold in the Central time zone. The second major change around this time was when the team changed their name to the Omaha Golden Spikes in 1999, and kept the moniker for three seasons.
The team revived the Royals identity in 2002, and the next nine seasons saw a handful of future big-league standouts cut their teeth in Omaha. Zach Greinke was on one of the early post-Golden Spikes teams, which wore simplistic uniforms, including a cap with the most boring oval O imaginable. By the mid-aughts, the team redesigned their visuals, most notably adding red to the royal/gold combo. An alternate logo featuring a lion (similar to Kansas City’s mascot) doing something magical to the OR initials was introduced, but rarely used. Several future members of Kansas City’s 2015 World Series team wore the new suits, including Alex Gordon, Greg Holland, and Mike Moustakas.
2010 was the last year for historic Rosenblatt Stadium, and with the opening of the new Werner Park in 2011, Omaha decided it was time to dethrone the O-Royals and take on a new, more marketable identity. After an absurdly extensive name search, they decided on the identity that they use today–the Omaha Storm Chasers.