Minor League

On February 17, 2016 · 9 Comments

Twelve Mile Circle examined piles of sports teams while researching Other State Nickname Thingies. Generally I stuck with university teams although professional basketball’s Golden State Warriors provided the best example. Then I gazed at other sports and fell into the weirdness that could only be described as the names of minor league baseball teams. I wasn’t the first one to notice these unusual designations. The Intertubes were filled with articles about the strangest team names so I decided to take a slightly different tack.

The team volatility also surprised me. They changed names, affiliations, and cities with abandon. I examined a minor league team closest to me geographically, the Potomac Nationals. There wasn’t anything particularly creative about the name for this High-A farm team for the Washington Nationals. However, in less than forty year of it existence it had gone by Alexandria Dukes, Prince William Yankees, Prince William Cannons, Potomac Cannons, and then Potomac Nationals. It also changed affiliations between the Seattle Mariners, Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and currently the Washington Nationals. I noticed this wasn’t unusual as I examined other teams.

Frederick Keys

Frederick Keys vs. Myrtle Beach Pelicans
Frederick Keys vs. Myrtle Beach Pelicans by Mark Poblete on Flickr (cc)

The nearest team to me while I grew up was the Frederick Keys, a High-A team affiliated with the Baltimore Orioles, based in Frederick, Maryland (map). The name "Keys" certainly qualified as an odd choice, in this case honoring historical resident Francis Scott Key, of Star Spangled Banner fame. I’d attended many games over the years when, completely by change, I happened to enter the ballpark on August 14, 1992. It was a Friday. I knew that only because I found a record of game online. Something piqued my curiosity as we approached the stadium gate. I never had to walk through magnetometers like I were entering an airport before, although I suspected what might be brewing. Sure enough, two military helicopters landed next to the field and out walked President George H. W. Bush and family into the stadium. They’d been vacationing at nearby Camp David. Presidential sightings in the Washington, DC area weren’t particularly unusual, however it was still pretty cool.

There was a long tradition with the Frederick Keys at the 7th inning stretch. The team’s theme song always played over the stadium speakers, a hokey event involving everyone shakes their keys, because this was the Keys. A bad pun, I know. Anyway, here was the best part — President Bush didn’t have any keys! He had to borrow a set of keys from someone in his party so he could play along. That notion stuck with me ever since — an amazing realization that the presidency was so powerful that no door ever locked in its path.

Classic Match-Ups

Monty by Chris Murphy on Flickr (cc)

The bizarre variety of minor league baseball team names offered plenty of fodder for fictional match-ups. I didn’t consider whether they made any sense from a competitive standpoint because it hardly mattered, although I’d still love to see some of these games fielded. For instance, how about the Montgomery Biscuits (map) vs. the Kansas City T-Bones? A lump of dough battling a hunk of meat. Nice.

The most laid-back game would have to be the Traverse City Beach Bums vs. the Asheville Tourists. I almost went to an Asheville Tourists game when I was in Asheville last summer. I gave it up after spending most of the day hiking and driving, just too tired from being a real tourist to see the baseball Tourists.

A battle of crustaceans might also be amusing. I’m not sure which team would come out on top in a tournament between the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, the Charlotte Stone Crabs or the Lakewood BlueClaws. Maybe the two teams named for Blue Crabs would gang up on the Stone Crabs. It’s hard to tell.

Beaks and talons would fly if the Nuevo Laredo Owls ever played the Orem Owlz. And no, I didn’t understand why it was Orem Owlz instead of Owls. Maybe the team was trying to connect with a younger demographic although trying a little too hard to be edgy. If that was the case then it fell miserably short when the team announced Caucasian Heritage Night in 2015: "Our night was to include Wonder Bread on burgers with mayonnaise, clips from shows like ‘Friends’ and ‘Seinfeld’ and trying to solve the vertical leaping challenge." The Owlz canceled its plans after the inevitable uproar. The Director of Media and Communications resigned.

Talk about nuts, what if the Modesto Nuts, Lansing Lugnuts and Wichita Wingnuts all got a chance to play each other? Games could take place at Dunkin’ Donuts Park (the future home of the Hartford Yard Goats — another ridiculously named team).

A good dogfight might include any combination of the Portland Sea Dogs, Charleston RiverDogs, Batavia Muckdogs, Glendale Desert Dogs, Lincoln Saltdogs, El Paso Chihuahuas, Erie SeaWolves, Midland RockHounds, or New Jersey Jackals. And a good catfight could include the Carolina Mudcats, Gary SouthShore RailCats, Lynchburg Hillcats, New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Sacramento River Cats, Tri-City ValleyCats, Connecticut Tigers, Kane County Cougars, Lakeland Flying Tigers, Quintana Roo Tigers, or Yucat√°n Lions.

My Favorite

Hillsboro Hops opening game, with rainbow
Hillsboro Hops opening game, with rainbow by ryan harvey on Flickr (cc)

There could be only one favorite. Regular 12MC readers wouldn’t be surprised to hear that I preferred the Hillsboro Hops. This was a Single-A team in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon (map) affiliated with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Its physical placement on the northern fringe of the Willamette Valley and its location outside of Portland made the name a perfect choice. Portland was famous for its heavy concentration of breweries and hops were an essential brewing ingredient grown right in the valley. The team’s logo literally featured a hop cone wearing a baseball cap.

Go Hops!

On February 17, 2016 · 9 Comments

9 Responses to “Minor League”

  1. Ah, minor league sports team names are a never-ending source of entertainment. Being from British Columbia, naturally I started looking up some wacky current team names from various minor and junior leagues. Some of the wackiest ones I could find were:

    Coulee Region Chill
    Fayetteville FireAntz
    Greenville Swamp Rabbits
    Grey Highlands Bravehearts
    Knights of Meaford
    Louisiana IceGators
    Macon Mayhem (not nearly as offbeat as the old Macon Whoopee of the ECHL)
    Metro Fighting Moose
    New York Apple Core
    Odessa Jackalopes
    Orangeville Ice Crushers
    Orlando Solar Bears
    Pittsburgh Vengeance
    Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs
    Rockford IceHogs
    Sherbrooke Hockey Experts
    Southern Tier Xpress
    Spryfield Silver & Black Attack
    Strathmore Wheatland Kings
    Sunny Corner Thunder
    Toronto Blue Ice Jets
    Virden Oil Capitals
    William de Asbestos

  2. Ross Finlayson says:

    Interesting post about the President not having (or needing) any keys on him – something I’d never thought of before…

  3. Tre Baker says:

    How many sports teams are there with *another state’s* name in their official moniker?

    Not so much teams like the New York Giants and Jets, who play in New Jersey, but someone like the now-defunct Tennessee Valley Vipers who played their games in … Huntsville, Ala.


    • Rhodent says:

      The appearance of “Tennessee” in the Vipers’ name isn’t all that unusual when you consider that Huntsville is located near the Tennessee River, and thus is clearly part of the Tennessee (River) Valley.

      In any case, I can think of a handful of other examples, although they’re all dubious on one level or another:

      1. Washington Capitals, Washington Wizards, Washington Redskins, and Washington Nationals. The obvious issue here is that these are clearly named not after the state of Washington but after Washington, D.C.

      2. Washington Wild Things. Same as above, except the Wild Things are in Washington, Pennsylvania.

      3. West Virginia Black Bears and West Virginia Power. Since “West Virginia” has the name of another state in its name, by extension any team using “West Virginia” as its geographic moniker has the name of another state in its moniker as well.

      4. An honorable mention would go to the Ontario Reign of the American Hockey League. One would be forgiven for thinking this team plays in the Canadian province of Ontario (and indeed, there is an AHL team in that province), but in fact the Reign play in the Los Angeles suburb of Ontario, California. Doesn’t quite count since Ontario is a province and not a state, but it’s clearly a similar situation to the various “Washington” teams.

  4. Rhodent says:

    I’ve actually got a website where I talk about the names and logos of minor league baseball and hockey teams at bushleaguefactor.com. Sometimes I even tick to the topic…

  5. Rhodent says:

    BTW, with regards to the Battle of the Crustaceans, there’s also the Hickory Crawdads (division rivals of the BlueClaws) and the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Developmental League. Also, this fall the North American Hockey League (a junior league which stretches all the way fro New Jersey to Alaska) will see the debut of the Shreveport Mudbugs, who are named after a defunct minor league team that played from 1997-2011.

  6. Peter says:

    Although they’re no longer around, there was a minor league basketball team called the Vermont Frost Heaves, surely the only sports team ever named after a road defect.

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