Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons of northeastern Pennsylvania played eighteen seasons in the International League. For that entire span, they served as the Triple-A affiliate of their regional parent club, the Philadelphia Phillies. The Red Barons were born in the late-eighties, when an ownership group from Scranton bought the IL’s Maine Guides, and began efforts to build a new stadium in the Scranton suburb of Moosic, PA. While the ballpark was being built, the new owners changed the team’s name to the Maine Phillies for the 1988 season, creating a One-Year Wonder in the process. The fact that the Maine franchise had a serendipitous a-philly-ation was not likely lost on either the Scranton group or the parent club situated a couple hours’ drive down the interstate.
When the team was moved, following the 1988 season, they chose mouthful of a team name. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre place name claimed a footprint that included two neighboring cities, one of which was already a hyphenated merger-city name. Even without including the nickname, S/W-B (or the slash and dash, as I like to say) was longer than many full minor league monikers. Their nickname was one of the more clever in the annals of the minors, merging the defunct identities of two former local minor league teams; the Scranton Red Sox and Wilkes-Barre Barons. This process also created a complete, unique identity–a reference to the World War I flying ace, Manfred von Richthofen. As befitting a team at the highest level of the minors, the Red Barons took the field in respectable uniforms, based on a dark red and midnight blue color scheme. The team’s primary logo was their nickname, presented in an italicized slant, with a baseball flying over the letter. The team’s attractive cap logo, which would remain through all their years, was an interlocking, triangular arrangement of the SWB initials.
The local-ish affiliation with Philadelphia was a mutually-beneficial relationship, and the Phillies shipped many major league players upstate for rehab assignments. They also stocked the Red Barons’ roster with prospects, and those who took their lumps in Lackawanna County Stadium in the early and mid-nineties included Andy Ashby, Mike Lieberthal, Mickey Morandini, and the great Scott Rolen.
In 1997, the team updated their brand a bit, emphasizing lighter, brighter hues of red and blue, similar to what the Phillies had done earlier in the decade. S/W-B’s new, super-cool primary logo featured updated text with an incoming biplane flying low over the letters, cocked at a 30° angle. This basic set would identify the Red Barons through the rest of their days, though they would toy with the color combinations and tints on caps and uniforms here and there. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre alums who would wear these duds formed the core of the Philadelphia juggernaut of the late aughts/early-teens, including Pat Burrell, Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Shane Victorino.
The end of the Red Barons came when the Phillies dumped them, in favor of a shiny new partner. After the 2006 season, Philadelphia signed a PDC with the Ottawa Lynx, in anticipation of the team’s move to Allentown, Pennsylvania, where they became the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. The team in Moosic, meanwhile, linked up with the New York Yankees, and changed their name to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, ending the long flight of the Red Barons. The S/W-B team would later be sold to the Yankees and would change their name to what they are today: the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.