The Rockford Reds of Rockford, Illinois, was a minor league team identity that existed in the Midwest League for one season at the tail end of the 20th Century. In their short lifespan, they served as a Single-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.
The team was born following the 1998 season, when the Chicago Cubs broke their affiliation with their in-state DimDer, the Rockford Cubbies. The Cincinnati Reds latched on, and the change of parent clubs necessitated a change in the team’s branding. Rockford took on a straight COTOB nickname, and their visual brand was identical to Cincy’s 1999 look, save for one notable change–the cap logo. For the logo, the Reds’ traditional “wishbone C” was broken in half and a simple vertical line was added to the left side, making a lowercase r for Rockford. It was a clever and cheap way to satisfy branding requirements for one anomalous season.
Considering that the Rockford Reds were only a thing for one year and that they operated at a lower level of the minors, it’s impressive that they had ten future big-leaguers on their roster that season, as well as a short rehab stint by former Atlanta standout Mark Wohlers. Of the prospects to wear the lowercase r, the biggest name alum is Adam “Big Donkey” Dunn.
Incidentally, there was a team called the Rockford Reds that played in the long-defunct Wisconsin-Illinois League from 1908-1910. This was pure coincidence, as the old team pre-dated MLB affiliation and (as far as I know) had no connection to the Cincy ballclub.
Following that ’99 season, Mandalay Sports Group moved the franchise to Dayton, Ohio, not far from Cincinnati. Though I have no proof, I assume that the Rockford Reds were what I call a placeholder team. The Reds and Mandalay wanted to secure the affiliation when the opportunity arose, but there was one lame-duck season where a new identity had to be cobbled together while the new park was being built in Dayton. The Dragons have been the most powerful team in the Midwest League since the dawn of the new millennium, and the quirky one-year wonder Rockford Reds will not be forgotten by minor league geeks.