Salt Lake Buzz
The Salt Lake Buzz of Salt Lake City, Utah, played seven seasons in the Pacific Coast League. For that entire time, they served as the Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins.
The Buzz began following the 1993 season, when former major leaguer Joe Buzas moved the third version of the Portland Beavers to the Beehive State. For the previous eight seasons, Salt Lake City had hosted the Rookie Level Pioneer League Trappers, but by the early nineties, the city was buzzing for Triple-A ball in a new park. Buzas moves the team in anticipation of Franklin Quest Field, now known as Smith’s Park.
Salt Lake City had previously fielded a handful of Pacific Coast League teams known as the Bees, and the new team opted to go in a similar similar direction with their brand–sticking with the state nickname theme. They chose Buzz as a nickname; with some accounts saying that it was a tip of the antenna to Buzas himself. For the place name, they removed the city and went with the simplified Salt Lake.
Team colors were a buzz worthy purple, teal, and gold, and uniforms were typical nineties pinstripes. Depending on the year, black sometimes replaced purple as primary team color. The team’s logo, which was also in the caps, featured a flying honeybee with the team nickname; both superimposed on a baseball diamond shape.
The Buzz brand would go on to achieve a modest level of cultural immortality when it was featured prominently in the 1998 film Major League: Back to the Minors, a much less successful sequel to the 1989 hit Major League. In Back to the Minors, Scott Bakula (of Quantum Leap fame) plays a former ballplayer who is tabbed to manage the Twins’ Triple-A team. The team was called the Buzz and featured the same uniforms, mascots, etc. of Salt Lake, but was located in South Carolina and played against real teams from the South Atlantic League. I’ll venture that the idea was hatched to use the real Twins’ Triple-A team of the time, but the optimal filming location was North Carolina, so they shoehorned the Sally League into a Triple-A context. Either way, the movie is incredibly bizarre, and one can watch actors wearing Salt Lake uniforms vying against the likes of the Piedmont Boll Weevils and Cape Fear Crocs.
As the Portland Beavers, the franchise had been affiliated with Minnesota, and this relationship carried forward in Salt Lake. The Buzz hit the sweet spot with major league alums. Triple-A teams always have future big leaguers, but Salt Lake managed to be affiliated with the Twins in an era when they were sending through many future standouts, highlighted by the great David Ortiz. Other notables include Marty Cordova, LaTroy Hawkins, Matt Lawton, Jacque Jones, Torii Hunter, Corey Koskie, and A.J. Pierzynski.
The end of the Buzz identity is a curious and somewhat maddening story. As the story goes, an employee of Georgia Tech university saw a Salt Lake cap (Pro-Line, perhaps?) for sale some time in the mid-nineties, and brought the team to the attention of the school’s legal department. GTU’s nickname for their sports teams is the Yellow Jackets, and their mascot is named Buzz. A few years of litigation followed, and by the end of 2000, Salt Lake was forced (ridiculously) to change their name. One has to wonder if that employee would have even noticed the similarity had the Buzz not put their team name and primary logo right on their caps–merely having the bee logo on the cap wouldn’t have cause such a furor, right? Either way, for the 2001 season, they changed to the Salt Lake Stingers, and again in 2006 to the Salt Lake Bees—an homage to the Pacific Coast League apiaries of yesteryear. The Bees give SLC fans a honey-sweet experience to this day, and the Buzz wore off long ago.