South Bend Silver Hawks
The South Bend Silver Hawks of South Bend, Indiana, played 21 seasons in the Midwest League. The Silver Hawks identity began with the 1994 season, at a time when many minor league teams were recognizing the marketing potential of having a unique identity. Prior to the name change, the team was known as the South Bend White Sox, in honor of their parent club in nearby Chicago, who would retain the affiliation through the early years of the transition to the Silver Hawks.
The name Silver Hawks was an allusion to the Studebaker Silver Hawk automobile, which was at one time manufactured in South Bend. The team’s first logo was a copy of the auto’s art deco-style grill emblem, albeit with the hawk clutching a baseball bat in each claw. Their base color was forest green, and one version of their jersey script was in a classic auto-styled font.
The team sported this basic look for three years, but in 1997, they introduced a primary logo featuring the full body of a cartoon hawk swinging at a ball. The snarling bird made for an upsetting visual, probably because of the addition of clenched teeth. Finding future big-league standouts during the White Sox years was about rare as finding hen’s (er…hawk’s) teeth. Pete Rose Jr. and Brad Penny are the most notable, though the Sox did send some players across the border for short rehab stints, including Joey Cora.
In 1998, the Silver Hawks affiliated with the nascent Arizona Diamondbacks, and would remain as such through the rest of their years. Though the new bird logo had been used with the forest green color scheme in 1997, for their first year with the D-Backs, they switched to a predominately black/silver/gold motif, with only the occasional green detail. In 2001, they simplified their logo by selectively cutting out the hawk’s face. This logo would remain for their duration.
Throughout their 17 seasons with Arizona, many future productive pros and/or all-stars cut their teeth in South Bend, including Jose Valverde, Brandon Webb, Dan Uggla, Carlos Gonzalez, Miguel Montero, Mark Reynolds, Gerardo Parra, Justin Upton, AJ Pollack, Wade Miley, Ryan Cook, Ender Inciarte, Chase Anderson, and Archie Bradley.
The end of the Silver Hawks came in the 2014 PDC open season, which was notable for Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs’ front office exerting their will across a whopping four affiliate levels. As the Cubs dynasty was rising, their affiliation became a hot commodity, and they could essentially chose their MiLB teams–whether it was a preference for facilities, location, etc. The Cubs spurned the suburban-Chicago Kane County Cougars in favor of South Bend, and in a surprising against-the-grain move, South Bend assumed the Cubs’ COTOB identity. Perhaps it was a way for Chicago to mark their territory a little more in northern Indiana, or maybe everyone was just sick of the toothy bird, but either way, the South Bend Cubs are now a force in the Midwest League.