The Shreveport Captains of Shreveport, Louisiana, played an even thirty seasons in the Texas League. Over that lengthy span, they served as the Double-A affiliate of four major league teams: the California Angels, Milwaukee Brewers, Pittsburgh Pirates, and, most notably, the San Francisco Giants.
The maiden voyage of the Captains came after the 1970 season, when the Atlanta Braves switched their COTOB Double-A affiliate from Shreveport to Savannah. In ‘71, Shreveport opted for a unique identity, and took to the field. Incidentally, 1971 was the lone year of the Dixie Association, in which the Texas League and Southern League effectively merged and played an overlapping schedule for that single season.
In the Seventies, the Captains were passed around like a hot potato. They were originally affiliated with the California Angels–a relationship lasted two seasons and produced two future MLB All-Stars in Dave Chalk and Sid Monge. After that came a two-year stint with Milwaukee, who left their previous Texas League affiliate, the San Antonio Brewers, to languish as a vestigial COTOB. The most notable future Brewers to play in Shreveport were Sixto Lezcano and Charlie Moore. 1975 brought the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were building toward their late-Seventies World Series run. That affiliation lasted four seasons, and alums from that period include Al Holland, Rod Scurry, Rick Honeycutt, Don Robinson, and Tony Peña.
Images from Shreveport in the Seventies are sparse, and I don’t know for sure how the team branded itself during the Angels and Brewers days. Luckily, the ever-reliable TCMA brand produced baseball cards as early as 1975. While the uniforms on these cards are fairly conservative, the caps are a very unique design indeed: the block letters SHRV displayed prominently across the front. The 1976 TCMA set reveals some new branding details. For one, there is a primary logo featuring a side-burned captain wearing a black suit and a captain’s cap with an S on it. The captain is situated in the foreground in a batting stance, awaiting a pitch. The background features an industrial scene of some kind. Upon squinting, I’d say that it’s either a large ship or a train with a boat lift behind it. Either way, the Captain theme is apparent. On the uniform side, the jersey script was changed to an old tyme railroad font with loopy seriphs, and the cap was switched to a block S in a similar script. In 1977, the S on the cap was altered from a block design to more of a curved design, but by the end of the decade, they were back to the same old block S.
San Francisco signed on with Shreveport in 1979, and this affiliation had some staying power–accounting for 20 of the Captains’ 30 seasons. In the Eighties, the Giants sent several prospects through the Texas League, with some of the bigger names being Bob Brenly, Chili Davis, Dan Gladden, Scott Garrelts, Rob Deer, Chris Brown, Matt Nokes, Terry Mulholland, Robby Thompson, Jeff Brantley, John Burkett, Charlie Hayes, Kirt Manwaring, Mike Remlinger, Rod Beck, and Gil Heredia.
The Nineties saw some more future big league standouts added to the Captains’ alum list, including Steve Reed, Royce Clayton, Shawn Estes, Bill Mueller, Keith Foulke, Russ Ortiz, Jason Grilli, Joe Nathan, and Ryan Vogelsong.
Let’s talk about what all those Giants prospects were wearing through the years. As far back as we have color images of Shreveport players, the team colors were a conservative navy and red, with naval striping flourishes showing up here and there. For jerseys, Shreveport transitioned from contrasting sleeve pullovers of the seventies to shirts that proudly displayed the team’s primary logo: a cursive rendering of the word Captains, with the dot in the i formed by a baseball and an underlining tail featuring a star and four captain stripes. The early eighties version of the logo was bright red, but change to a dark blue/black design for most of those days. There was a tri-color stripe band of navy, light blue/teal, and red that ran along the sleeves and pants up until the mid-nineties, when it was swapped out for a basic red-white-and-blue look. In the nineties, they created some new road uniforms featuring Shreveport in a slanting, all-caps typeface. Overall, the Captains were a model of brand consistency for thirty years.
As it happened, the end of the Captains came about as a result of their conservative branding. After the 2000 season, the franchise was sold to Mandalay Sports Group, a firm with Hollywood roots. Mandalay’s marketing whiz was Jon Spoelstra, who wrote the book (literally) on outrageous sports branding. Infamously, Spoelstra came a hair’s breadth away from renaming the NBA’s New Jersey Nets into the New Jersey Swamp Dragons. Since many thousands of dollars had already been invested in trademark and design, Mandalay opted to use the identity for their new baseball team. The Shreveport Swamp Dragons lurked around the Texas League for a few years before moving to Frisco, Texas. The Frisco RoughRiders play in the Texas League to this day, and the Captains sailed away long ago.