OMNI October 2020

As is my usual custom with these OMNIs, I’m putting this up on the site on the last day of the month. In October, of course, that means it’s Halloween. Happy Halloween! While the special edition/extra OMNI that I did last month was focused on goings-on in the wider world of minor league baseball, this one is more of an update on what’s fresh here on the MLG site. If you are new to the site, welcome, and feel free to reach out via email

MLG News

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The biggest news around these parts is that I’ve contributed another article to the Uni Watch site. It was published today (Halloween) and is a uniform-centric history of the El Paso Diablos. While it seems that Halloween costumes become less menacing and more “clever” as the 20th Century progresses, I still associate the holiday with things like, well, diablos. I remember insisting on going as a devil for Halloween in 3rd Grade and wearing the costume to Catholic school. It seems at least somewhat fitting that the Diablos story is reaching the surface on this spooky holiday. Here is the link to the Uni Watch post and here is the link to where I’ve posted the article here on the site for posterity.  

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I occasionally get some great emails from folks who stumble upon the site, and this one is truly wonderful. A gentleman named Ron reached out with some background info about the naming of the defunct West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx of Jackson, Tennessee. Up until receiving this information, here’s what I had on the page I made for a Diamond Jaxx a few years back: “For reasons unknown, the team called itself the Diamond Jaxx. Was it a play on the nickname of the brand new Arizona Diamondbacks–perhaps a ploy to entice affiliation? Was Diamond a reference to baseball diamond and Jaxx for Jackson? Is a diamond jack like a lumberjack for diamonds, despite there being no diamond mines in Tennessee? Is it a reference to the jack of diamonds playing card? The answer to this question may be buried forever.” No, it will not be buried forever! 

Ron shared the story of how there was a local name-the-team contest in the run-up to the team’s inaugural season in 1998. His grandmother Jane–79 at the time–won with a submission of Diamond Jacks. Diamond was indeed a reference to a baseball diamond and Jacks was a nod to the city of Jackson. The club changed it to Jaxx, which was not only nineties-level xtreme, dude, but allowed for a cleverly placed diamond to fit in between the x’s in the original (pre-Brandiose) team logo. 

 

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Ron sent some photos of Jane that were taken at Pringles Park on her 89th birthday in 2006, when she was invited to throw out the first pitch. Jane wrote a description of the event on the back of a photo, and it ends with the ultimate minor league baseball phrase: “Much, much fun!” 

 

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Jane passed away this summer at the age of 103. With Ron and family’s blessing, here is a photo of her, looking like the ultimate minor league fan. 

 

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Big thanks to Ron for helping with a minor league mystery and for sharing this wonderful story! 

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I’ve been busy here on the site! In the last two months, ten new team pages have been added to the DIA. Nine of those–Danville 97s, Lethbridge Black Diamonds, Louisville Redbirds, Martinsville Phillies, Midland Angels, Oneonta Yankees, Rockford Cubbies, Watertown Indians, Williamsport Cubs–were the group of defuncters from 1998, so that’s where I’m at in the Year of Demise progression. I also somehow missed the Pittsfield Mets in the 2000 group, so that’s fixed.

When I can, I’m trying to keep up with routine page revisions, and at some point, I’ll get back on track with current teams and tackle the Durham Bulls. I have to build up some motivation before starting on a team with such rich history. 

While the Bulls may be a giant meal to tuck into, I’ve been keeping full with snacks like Hall of Famer pages. For the 2012 class, the only addition is Barry Larkin. (Ron Santo also got in that year via the Veteran’s Committee, but his time in the minors was just before the Upheaval, and at this point, I’m only making pages for Hall of Famers who played in the minors in 1963 and after.) Larkin was my favorite player for a few years as a kid, due in no small part to my little league team being called the Reds. I found some cool shots of Larkin with the Denver Zephyrs, but unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get my digital hands on an image of him with the Vermont Reds. The 2011 class was fun. Lots of good shots of Roberto Alomar with various late-eighties Padres affiliates. Bert Blyleven was a minor leaguer from ’69-’70 (only about one calendar year) and it was tough to find anything for the Frying Dutchman. Leo, my archive-savvy collaborator, dug up some cool newspaper clippings from the 1969 Florida Instructional League. Good content, folks.

 

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On the Live Page front, I spruced up the old oft referred-to DimDer Depot. Notably, I added a section of “Possible DimDers,” for teams that may have been named in reference to their parent club, but it’s not quite so obvious. The first four of these are the El Paso Diablos (Angels), Lethbridge Black Diamonds (Diamondbacks), Quincy Jets (Mets), and Riverside Pilots (Mariners). Riverside is an interesting case. I wouldn’t have necessarily made the connection, but reader/collaborator Brian Stanley sent me a newspaper clipping that states that it was at least partly inspired by the Mariners, with the GM quoted as saying “It’s got both that nautical and aeronautical feel to it.” That seems a tad vague. Maybe I need to start a special “inspired by” sub-category. But if I consider a team like the Evansville Triplets to be a DimDer, then the Pilots are as well. 

Speaking of the Evansville Triplets (incidentally, one of Bert Blyleven’s alma maters) I also updated the “Vestigial COTOBs and DimDers” page. This is one of my favorite minor league quirks, so I took the time to organize it and add some photos. 

I added a new live page called the Glitch Niche. I debated the name a bit–these days, people seem to more commonly use the “neesh” pronunciation rather than the Americanized “nitch” pronunciation I grew up hearing. In the end, the pun was too great to pass up. The purpose of the Glitch Niche is to collect glitches that I’ve found in minor league historical reference sources. To start, I just listed some of the errors that I’ve found in Baseball Reference pages, though I may extend that to Wikipedia and print resources in the future. My goal is to have the historic record be as accurate as possible, so ultimately, I’d like to see the Glitch Niche go extinct because the corrections are made. For now, they’ll be hanging out in the Niche waiting for you or someone else to fix them. Or for Baseball Reference to finally get around to the ones that I notified them about several months ago. Some things in life–“it’s the Blue Mountain Bears, not the Walla Walla Bears!”–are too important to let slide. 

 

One of the main reasons that I was able to get around to so much in October is that once the old Professional Baseball Agreement expired without a new plan in place, there wasn’t really a need to crank out a bunch of goofy articles for the ongoing PBA coverage. I only did two articles in October. It’s pretty clear to me that a big part of why it has been so quiet is because everyone was waiting for for the World Series to be over. Now that it’s over (and congratulations to the Dodgers and the infamous Justin Turner) there has been some new stuff trickling out from J.J. Cooper and others about the expected state of the minor leagues in 2021 and beyond. I’ll put something together within a week or so, but here are the most important points:

  • We won’t get the list of 120 until after the election, and probably not for at least a few weeks. Honestly, I would be pleasantly surprised to see it this year
  • The New York-Penn League is probably going to be a summer collegiate league operated under the auspices of MLB. It will likely be similar to the plan for the Appalachian League, but for draft-eligible college seniors. So much for the fun pipe dream of splitting the season with the Florida State League.
  • The new facility requirements are harsh! They will be expensive and could prevent some teams that are expected to be saved on the list of 120 to have to step aside. 
  • There is a good chance that, with the possible exception of Triple-A, the minor league season won’t start until the summer. This has been in the rumor mill for a few months, but now it seems more likely. 
  • As with all things these days (and this year) Covid is a major x-factor. We should count ourselves lucky to even be considering minor league baseball next year. 

This seems like a good time to transition to talk about the wider world of the minors. Keep checking back for new stuff here at Minor League Geek. 

MiLB News

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The Lakewood BlueClaws unexpectedly announced that they are changing their name to the Jersey Shore BlueClaws. In conjunction with the name change, they rolled out a new set of logos featuring their long-time blue crab mascot named Pinchy, and new uniforms as well. They added yellow to the color scheme to go along with their various shades of blue and Phillies red, and the yellow is used for beach elements like a sunset and a beach ball. One cap is made to look like there is a pair of sunglasses resting on the bill, and a closer look reveals amusement park rides reflected in the shades. The overall effect is a more marketable and touristy version of the BlueClaws identity that’s been around for nigh on twenty years now. As the BlueClaws enter their third decade, they’ve given us the third version of Pinchy. The BlueClaws began in 2001, and the most recent crab logo started in 2010, so that gives us some pretty clear demarcation points when considering the overall story of the team identity. Ball-guarding Pinchy for the aughts, ball-clutching Pinchy for the teens, and surfing Pinchy for the twenties. Like sand through the hourglass. 

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The biggest change, of course, is the place name, as the BlueClaws are now made to represent a larger region than just Lakewood Township where the stadium sits. If you’re familiar with the 3 of 4 Rule, you may be wondering whether or not there is identity continuity. It’s a toughie, but I’m leaning toward continuity. It reminds me of the Prince William/Potomac Cannons or the Knoxville/Tennessee Smokies. As with these cases, it comes down to the branding, and it’s a spot where I use some subjectivity. On the one hand, introducing all-new logos and adding the color yellow feels like a “rebrand,” but on the other, it’s still unmistakably the BlueClaws. If they took away the CamelCase and make it the Jersey Shore Blue Claws, that would be enough to separate the identities. Instead, there’s a clear interest in maintaining identity continuity despite changing place name and visuals, i.e. 2 of 4. It’s very close, and I’m definitely adding it to the list of ongoing challenges on the 3 of 4 Rule page. I haven’t made my final decision yet–no rush in this era of total uncertainty–but I’m leaning toward merging Lakewood and Jersey Shore into one. 

Odds and Sods

I really appreciated hearing about the Greenville Drive and their “Day of Action.” It seems like a perfect distillation of 2020 in that we have a baseball park hosting an event that includes Covid testing, flu shots, voter registration, and census completion. For good measure, they threw in some blood donation and the DMV was also on hand to assist with new IDs. Talk about a one-stop shop! Every ballpark in the country should be doing this right now. At a safe distance and with masks, of course. 

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Usually, I have more Odds and Sods, but it’s only been a month since the last round, and this OMNI is already running a little long. But check out this awesome hat that was recently released by Ebbets Field Flannels. I recognized it instantly as being the 1950 Utica Blue Sox cap. I wrote about the Blue Sox and their uniform history for Uni Watch back in August, and at that time, I wrote: “In another team shot from 1950, by which point the Philadelphia Blue Jays experiment was formally abandoned, the Blue Sox players wore parent club-supplied Phillies unis and their caps appear to have been two-toned (red bills?) with a larger-sized U for a cap logo.” Now we have red-bill confirmation from the good folks at Ebbets! Here’s the picture I was referring to. 

 

In Memoriam

In the last OMNI, one short month ago, I wrote about the deaths of two Hall of Fame baseball players, Tom Seaver and Lou Brock. Unfortunately, in the short span of time since then, there are three more baseball legends who passed. 

Bob Gibson’s minor league career began in 1957 with the Columbus Foxes of the Sally League, who were a Cardinals’ Single-A club at the time. After this short stint in Georgia, he got to go back to his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. Conveniently for Gibson, the Omaha Cardinals were the American Association affiliate of St. Louis at the time. He spent parts of the next few seasons bouncing between the big club and Omaha, as well as the International League’s Rochester Red Wings, but by 1961, he was up for keeps. 

Whitey Ford’s first minor league assignment was with the 1947 Butler (PA) Yankees of the long-defunct Middle Atlantic League. In ’48, he was a member of the Norfolk Tars of the Piedmont League, followed by a stint with the Eastern League’s Binghamton Triplets in 1949. Whitey began the 1950 campaign with the American Association’s Kansas City Blues, and was called up to the Bronx in July. 

Joe Morgan sped through the minors as a prospect of the Houston Colt .45’s. 1963 was split between the California League’s Modesto Colts and the famed Durham Bulls, who were then in the Carolina League. In ’64, he played for the Texas League’s San Antonio Bullets (one of the best DimDer names ever) and was called up to Houston that September. 

These greats will be remembered. 

 

Thank you for reading! Please be safe and kind out there.