The Rockford Cubbies of Rockford, Illinois, played four seasons in the Midwest League. For that short period of time, they were a Single-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubbies were born following the 1994 season, a result of a three-way Illinois affiliation swap in the MWL. The Royals switched from Rockford to Springfield, the Cardinals went from Springfield to Peoria, and the Cubs left Peoria for Rockford. With a new parent club, the Rockford Royals were compelled to change their name before the new players arrived at Marinelli Field.
Instead of going with a straight copy of Chicago, they went with the common diminutive form, Cubbies. Team colors and branding were quite similar to Chicago’s, though Rockford commissioned a few logos featuring a ballplaying bear. In a primary logo, the bear was an offensive player taking a hack. On the cap logo, he was a pitcher in mid-windup next to a red R.
In the four years that the Rockford Cubbies were around, they were able to suit up a tidy little list of future major leaguers. Those who would go on to the most notable careers in baseball are José Molina, Scott Downs, Eric Hinske, Jon Garland, and Kyle Lohse. With relative proximity to Wrigley Field, the Cubs sent a couple of vets to rehab with the Cubbies, with Kevin Tapani being the biggest name.
The end of the Cubbies came after the 1998 season, with local support and attendance lagging and facilities being a bit outdated. The franchise was sold to Mandalay Baseball Properties, LLC, an offshoot of the Hollywood production studio. Mandalay had their sights set on the new ballpark being put up in Dayton, Ohio, and the Cincinnati Reds wanted an early piece of that action. In 1999, Rockford signed on with Cincy and the team was rebranded to the one-year wonder placeholder Rockford Reds. In 2000, the club finally moved to Dayton, where they’ve played as the Dragons ever since.