Weird teams

This page is a showcase of defunct minor league teams that are just….well….weird. It’s a bit conceptual and subjective, but I feel the need to appreciate and acknowledge these teams. Now, there have been many, many minor league teams that could be called “weird,” but the teams on this page are a cut above, and have multiple weird things about them. I don’t have any selection criteria, but I know one when I see one. And when I see one, I’ll put it on this page.

Like the other pages on this site, this list is live and I add to it as I discover more teams that are just really weird.

 

Very weird teams

 

Alamance Indians Why weird? Back in the 1940s, there was a Cleveland affiliate in Burlington, Iowa that took on their parent club’s nickname. The Burlington Indians played in the defunct Central Association from 1947-1949. From 1986-2010, there was a Appy League Cleveland affiliate in Burlington, North Carolina also called the Burlington Indians. This is a rare incidence of same name, different city. That’s neat, but it’s not really that weird, right? But wait, there’s more! There was a third Cleveland affiliate based in Burlington, North Carolina that existed in the Carolina League from 1958-1964. Both online and print sources indicate that this team was also called the Burlington Indians. Using the 3 of 4 Rule, this would likely mean an identity merger with the Appy League club. It’s a gray area, but something I’ve encountered multiple times as I’ve worked through the DIA. Not that weird. But then I started digging deeper and found plenty of evidence that the Carolina League team was actually called the Alamance Indians, named after the North Carolina county that contains Burlington. I hate to get out my tinfoil hat, but I must mention that the sources calling this team the Burlington Burlington Daily Times News April 12, 1962Indians are heavily influenced by one Miles Wolff, a man known for his unique revisionist history tendencies and his constant efforts to connect new team and league identities with same-named entities from the past. He did it with the Northern League and the American Association, two indy leagues he once helmed that have included numerous vampire identities. It’s happened with several minor league clubs he has had an ownership stake in: the Durham Bulls, Butte Copper Kings, Utica Blue Sox, and the Appalachian League’s Burlington franchise–a team that is one of Wolff’s last holdings as he has eased into retirement. The currently-operating Burlington Royals used to be, you guessed it, the Burlington Indians, 1986-2006 version. Did Wolff’s desire to connect the two same-named but disparate Alamance County-based teams lead to him omitting Alamance from the encyclopedia and, thus, from common history? Who knows, but it definitely makes them a weird team. Usually “Very Weird Teams” require some icing on the cake, so how about this: the team was also apparently sometimes called the Indians of Alamance, a rare nickname/place name reversal. Very, very weird team.

 

Butte Copper Kings Why weird? Since the upheaval, independently-operating teams in the affiliated minor leagues have been few and far between. But not in Butte, Montana, where the Copper Kings had three separate indy stints in the Pioneer League. One o106812-7380801Frf these stretches was in the mid-eighties, and in the middle of it (1986), the Copper Kings simply stopped existing for an entire season, only to start up again in ’87 like nothing happened. But that’s not all. The team had a local history-based nickname and timeless logos like the crudely-drawn, armless, bearded king and the double-horseshoe-makes-B that was basically a ripoff of the Billings Mustangs’ M, only rotated 45 degrees. What else? Omar Vizquel talked about them in a Ken Burns documentary. Miles Wolff was once a part owner. Oh, Bill Murray too. Also, they were the first team to ever suit up players in the Tampa Bay Devil Rays’ organization–a full two years before the MLB team existed. Basically, just stare at this picture of their mascot Donkey-Hotey for a while and tell me that the Butte Copper Kings weren’t a weird team.

 

Orlando Rays Why weird?  This team identity began in 1997–using a marketing scheme based off Tampa Bay’s inaugural brand. Of course, this was one year before the Devil Rays played their first game, making them a pre-emptive COTOB….er….DimDer, since the Tampa team wouldn’t 6048be called just the Rays for another ten years or so. In ’97, they were a Cubs affiliate, and Kerry Wood suited up for the Orlando Rays. That means that Wood played for a team that was named after a team that didn’t exist yet and that he would never play for. There was another one-year affiliation with the Mariners in ’98, before the team finally aligned with Tampa Bay–only to relocate/rebrand after five short seasons. To make matters more confusing, these Rays are not to be confused with the Orlando SunRays of the early nineties, which the team was previously called, and which sometimes called itself the Orlando Rays as sort of a nickname for their nickname. Oh, and the team was featured in the movie The Rookie, in which Dennis Quaid wears an Orlando Rays uniform. Yep. Weird team.

 

Queens Kings Why weird? This team was a one-year wonder and a placeholder team, so that’s a good start. It’s the only time that the NYC borough of Queens had an affiliated team, so now we’re getting somewhere. Despite being such a short-lived team, they had a very well-developed brand based around a wordplay place name/nickname combo, and created attractive logos and uniforms. That’s getting pretty weird. But what really pushes imagesthis team into weird-zone is that there is not a clear reason why the team even existed in the first place. It makes sense that an enterprising owner would seize the opportunity scoop up a New York-Penn League franchise (the St. Catherine’s Stompers) when it came up for sale, and then wait a year until the Rudy Giuliani-greenlit Brooklyn Cyclones project was completed, but why not just keep the franchise in Ontario for one lame-duck season? It’s not like he would be making huge profits with a pop-up shop in Queens. My best speculative guess is that the owner lived in the New York area and preferred to keep tabs on his team until the Brooklyn park was done. But if so, then why open the pocketbook for marketing costs and bedeck the players in such gorgeous garb? Weird team.

 

River City Rumblers Why weird?

 

Utica Blue Sox Why weird?  What if I told you that there was a team called the Blue Sox who were at one time affiliated with the White Sox, and followed that up with a stint with the Red Sox? A coincidence, sure, but just another DimDer, right? Nope. The original Utica Blue Sox were called as such because they were a Philadelphia Phillies affiliate in the mid-twentieth century, and at that time the Phillies were often called the IMG_0344Blue Jays. So Blue Sox is a DimDer of Bluejays, which was a nickname of the Phillies. Then the identity blinked out of existence for a quarter century, only to return when the Utica Blue Jays (a COTOB of the Toronto expansion team in 1977) became independent of affiliation in the early eighties before signing on with the Phillies, then the White Sox, then the Red Sox, and then the Marlins. Head spinning yet? Well, there’s more. There are sources that say that in their first year with the Marlins, they were called the Utica Marlins or the Utica Blue Marlins or the Utica Teal Sox or (most likely) just the Utica Blue Sox. So to recap, the Blue Sox are named after the Philadelphia Blue Jays, went away, came back after the Utica Blue Jays changed their name, then affiliated with the Phillies, White Sox, Red Sox, and Marlins. Whew. That might be enough for this team to make the weird teams list on coincidence alone, but there’s more. At various times in the eighties, the team was partly owned by Bill Murray, his brother Brian, Miles Wolff, author Roger Kahn, and Morganna the Kissing Bandit. Kahn wrote a book about the Blue Sox and they were profiled in People magazine. Plus, they had a lot of weird branding elements over the years, including just about every version of the letter U that you can imagine for a cap logo. The Utica Blue Sox are in the running for weirdest team.

 

Walla Walla Blue Mountain Bears Why weird?

 

Pretty weird teams:

Bend Rainbows.

Deerfield Beach/Winter Haven Sun Sox

Evansville Triplets  It seems weird to apply the weird label to a team that held its own at the Triple-A level for a solid fifteen seasons and boasts several big league notables (and a few HOFers) on its alum list. But, c’mon, this was a weird team from the get-go. When we think of Triple-A caliber cities, we naturally think about metros that are not quite up the major league levels–Indianapolis, Charlotte, Salt Lake, etc. In all fairness to Evansville, Indiana, which today boasts over 100,000 souls, it seems like a perfect example of an overlooked middle American city. (today…) Then let’s talk about that nickname.

Green Bay Bluejays

High Point-Thomasville Hi-Toms

Idaho Falls Padres

Maine Guides

Memphis Blues

Middlesboro Cubsox

Orlando SunRays. Failed MLB expansion team. 

Port City Roosters

Raleigh-Durham Triangles

Rhode Island Red Sox

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons

Shreveport Swamp Dragons

South Georgia Waves

Swing of the Quad Cities

Walla Walla Islanders

Winnipeg Whips