I tell ya, there’s something weird about this summer. Back in June, I commented on how there wasn’t much news percolating around the world of the minor leagues. I’d be tempted to chalk it up to some sort of familiarity bias, but it holds up to objective scrutiny! One thing I love about the OMNI archives is that I can look back at last summer and see what was going on. A lot, it turns out. There were relocation rumors, new name news, PDC previews, and all kinds of things to talk about. This summer…crickets. Back in the spring, there was a quick succession of rebranding announcements. Maybe this fall, we’ll get a quick succession of new identities for Kannapolis, Connecticut, Missoula, etc. We’ll see.
Meanwhile, there has been action here on the MLG site-building front. I wrote a post for the Uni Watch blog about the 1983 International League pillbox caps, and also published the same article here on the site. While I wouldn’t consider this to be a full “go public” moment for the site, I buried an MLG link in the Uni Watch article, and had over 1,000 views on the day the post went up on the UW blog. Since then, my baseline daily views have about doubled from where they were before. No rush to fully go public, but it was nice to do a soft launch of an incomplete site. A side benefit is that it spurred me to clean up the site a bit, fleshing out many of the live pages that I’ve been working on for a while.
Other than that, I’ve been working on making team pages for the current minor league teams. I’m starting at Triple-A, and working alphabetically by league and then team. That means that the first team for me was the Buffalo Bisons. You can’t get much more daunting than over 100 years of unique and interesting history. I started chipping away at the Bisons maybe three weeks ago, and I’m still putting the finishing touches on it as I write this. At least the next team, the Charlotte Knights, won’t be nearly as many words. In addition to that, I’m going to dive into the 1990s entries in the DIA, revise already-written entries in the DIA, and add to random things like the Bill Murray page.
What a fun hobby that I have. OK, let’s get into the bits of news that I do have.
News of Minor Interest
As the 2019 minor league season coasts into the finish line, there have been some “fans say goodbye” articles that have given us some clarity regarding the upcoming 2019 class of defunct team identities.
First up, we have the New Orleans Baby Cakes. For some reason, this one really snuck up on me. It was about a year ago when the official news broke that the Pacific Coast League’s New Orleans franchise would be moving to Wichita. Here was the scuttlebutt at the time: “…As part of the move, the PCL ownership group would buy an existing Class AA Southern League team and move it to their present market. It sounds like the arrangements on the MiLB side are close to final…” Well, it wasn’t that close to final, and I certainly let my guard down. Though I’ve had the Jackson Generals on the Endangered Teams since then, we’ve reached the end of the 2019 season, and as far as we know, there is no movement in the Southern League. As the Baby Cakes prepare to move to Kansas for next season, it appears that the Big Easy will have no affiliated baseball in 2020. It’s still quite likely that there will be just one or two fallow seasons as the stadium gets tuned up and a Southern League is scooped up. Once that happens, it’s also likely that the Baby Cakes brand will return as a resurrected one/two-year-gap multilevel mover, but this offseason, I’ll probably have to plop the Cakes on the DIA.
Meanwhile, in Kannapolis, the Intimidators have played their last game at Intimidators Stadium and also their last game as the Intimidators. Their new name is set to be unveiled on October 23. Just in time for the next OMNI.
It’s not entirely clear when the Potomac Nationals will be leaving Woodbridge and playing in Fredericksburg with their nickname, but it’s entirely possible that the P-Nats are done. If the new stadium isn’t done by April, they may play part of the 2020 season in the Pfitz before moving to their new home.
The Lowell Spinners are reportedly committed to Lowell, despite concerns about the Pawtucket Red Sox relocating only 40 miles away in Worcester. Even if the Spinners lose the Boston affiliation, it doesn’t inherently spell doom for affiliated baseball in the city, whatever some Lowell locals might think. They would still be a middling-vitality team, perfectly suitable for the low-stakes NY-Penn League.
However, there will some baseball team occupying historic McCoy Stadium in Pawtucket. Reports indicate that the two bids are the aforementioned bid from the NY-Penn League (maybe the Spinners franchise, but also the Batavia Muckdogs are a strong candidate) as well as another from the independent Atlantic League. I don’t have a read on which one is more likely at this point, but the Atlantic League has a good shot–especially with all the press they’ve gotten with their MLB experimental rules. I could see either option working out, and it’s good that McCoy will immediately be used for baseball once the PawSox ship out.
The Appalachian League’s Bristol Pirates are facing some major stadium issues. It sounds like there is talk about building a new park on the Tennessee side of the bi-state city. Whether or not to consider the Bristol Pirates an Endangered Team rests mainly on the major league parent club. If only the geographic location (and not the place name) changed, the 3 of 4 Rule would dictate that there is identity continuity.
Speaking of the Appy League, the Kingsport Mets and Pulaski Yankees announced that they will have a promotional series known as the “Big Apple-achian Rivalry.” This is significant in that the Appy League’s teams rarely do much to promote themselves or show creativity. Could this development presage further promotions and eventually lead to (gasp) unique identities in the league? Or maybe this is just a one-off. Pretty cool either way.
Here’s an interesting bit out of Ottawa. The long-form article reflects on five years of the indy Can-Am League’s Ottawa Champions, including a video featuring the immortal Miles Wolff. It also quotes a Concordia University economist who suggests that the city should “cut its losses” and plan long-term for the possibility of affiliated ball. The article hints at the possibility of Montréal’s return to the big game, and how the defunct Ottawa Lynx were able to thrive from that relationship. This attitude is a change of course from six years ago, when the Can-Am surprisingly outbid the Double-A Eastern League for an Ottawa franchise.
I closed the last OMNI with some images of the new MiLB Hometown Collection gear, especially the fantastic Key West Conchs. Shortly after that, the always-great Paul Caputo wrote up a cool article about the creative process behind the gear for Chris Creamer’s site. As it turns out, the well-known sports logo designer Todd Radom is the one who spearheaded the efforts. Even more surprising is that the Conchs graphics are not necessarily true to what the team wore. From the Caputo article:
“In a world full of sports logos, this really wasn’t a formal thing until, in many cases, after World War II—there was no licensing, no marketing of the stuff to speak of,” Radom said. “So when you’ve got nothing to work with, perhaps some block uniform lettering, it’s a good thing to flesh it out…. I was tasked with creating artwork that was evocative of the era.”
From a designer’s perspective, this is a distinctly different challenge than recreating original logos, and Radom is careful to designate which marks are authentic and which are theme art.
“To evoke a certain kind of time and place, for instance Key West, really come up with something flamboyant, and over the top, that really looks like 1972 Key West, Florida, is a very different from thing from looking at the authentic uniforms of the Montgomery Climbers from 1910,” Radom said.
Speaking of Key West, the erstwhile Conchs, who played from 1972 to 1974, “didn’t have a big budget for their uniforms,” Radom said. “I came up with something a little more exciting than what they actually wore.”
This is all very cool. It’s also a good reminder to me that some of the graphics floating around on the web are not necessarily authentic. Though I trust Radom to differentiate authentic vs. inspired graphics, I did not get this impression when I first came across the gear on the milb.com team store listings. Good to know!
With being said, there were six new additions to the MiLB Hometown Collection in August. The most eye-catching was the Miami Beach Flamingos, but after reading those Radom quotes, I suspect that this is an inspired-by situation. That flamingo logo was used by the old team, but as far as I know, it was only a sleeve patch. The one new addition that spoke to me the most was the Memphis Blues. The Blues used a similar music-note M in their days as a Mets affiliate, but I don’t know if this blue cap ever saw an actual field. Hard to say.
And it’s hard to say what news will bubble up before the next OMNI. Till then.