The Syracuse SkyChiefs of Syracuse, New York, was a distinct team identity that existed in the International League for ten seasons; bookended by two versions of the Syracuse Chiefs. For all ten of those years, they served as the Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The specific SkyChiefs designation began following the 1996 season, when the Syracuse Chiefs added the Sky on to their nickname and redesigned their visual aesthetic. At this point, I can only speculate on the reasons for the change. The most likely answer is that they simply wanted to vitalize their brand at a time when everyone else was doing it. Another factor that may or may not have played a role is that the new identity was a move away from the Native American imagery that the first version of the Chiefs made liberal use of. It should be noted, however, that the version of the Chiefs coming after the SkyChiefs made use of the old Chiefs’ Native-based logos for their throwback games. It’s hard to say for sure if this played a role in the SkyChiefs’ origin.
The SkyChiefs used navy blue and red for team colors, and their logo was indeed a bizarre beast. It was a baseball bat outfitted with wings and stylized to resemble the WWII-era bomber planes that had eye and mouth paintings on them. While the real airplanes were meant to be ferocious and intimidating, the SkyChief logo gave off an affect of panic and consternation.
In the ten years of the SkyChiefs, several future big-league notables came through Syracuse. The biggest name is Roy Halladay, but other standouts include Shannon Stewart, Chris Carpenter, José Cruz Jr., Paul Quantrill, César Izturis, Jayson Werth, Álex Ríos, Aaron Hill, Shaun Marcum, Adam Lind, and Brandon League. With the relative proximity to Toronto, several rehabbers and last-gaspers suited up for the SkyChiefs, including, for what it’s worth, Deion Sanders.
The final flight of the SkyChiefs came after the 2006 season, when the franchise decided to go back to being simply the Chiefs. When they changed their name, they also changed their brand; swapping out aviation for railroad transportation. The Midwest League’s Peoria Chiefs had recently switched from Native American imagery to a “fire chief” motif, and similarly, Syracuse opted for a “railroad chief” brand. Following the 2018 season, the franchise became the Syracuse Mets.