South Bend Silver Hawks
The South Bend Silver Hawks of South Bend, Indiana, played 21 seasons in the Midwest League. Over that time, they served as Single-a affiliate of two MLB teams, the Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks.
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 (also appearing on caps) was a copy of the Studebaker’s art deco-style grill emblem, albeit with the hawk clutching a baseball bat in each claw. Their base color was a very Nineties hunter green, and one version of their jersey script was in a classic auto-styled font.
The affiliation with the White Sox continued for three seasons, thoroughly uneventful from a player perspective. Excluding the dubious notoriety of Pete Rose, Jr., the biggest name alums from these years are probably Mike Sirotka and Scott Eyre. The Sox did send a few big-leaguers across the border for rehab stints, though, and Joey Cora briefly wore the hunter green.
A few changes came to the Silver Hawks in 1997. One change was on the branding end–the Studebaker emblem was phased out in favor of 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. Within a few years, this look gave way to a predominately black/silver/gold motif, with only the occasional green detail. In 2001, South Bend simplified their logo by selectively cutting out the hawk’s face, giving us a disconcertingly slanted version of the toothy hawk, this time sporting a mullet tucked into its cap. This logo would remain through the rest of the Silver Hawks’ years.
Another change in 1997 was on the affiliation side. Though Baseball Reference indicates that the team went unaffiliated that season, most of their players were draft picks and/or future members of an MLB team that hadn’t even hatched yet–the Arizona Diamondbacks. This affiliation was built to last. Throughout their seventeen seasons with Arizona, many future All Stars and productive pros cut their (hawk’s) teeth in South Bend, including José Valverde, Brandon Webb, Dan Uggla, Carlos González, Miguel Montero, Mark Reynolds, Gerardo Parra, Justin Upton, A.J. Pollock, 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 farm clubs–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 and the Silver Hawks have flapped away permanently.