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Syracuse Chiefs returning to roots

Toronto's Triple-A team takes on old nickname, the Chiefs
December 11, 2006
The Sky has fallen in Syracuse.

For the past 10 seasons, the city's International League franchise has gone by the name of the SkyChiefs. That moniker is now a thing of the past, as the club announced its new name and logo at a press conference at Alliance Bank Stadium on Monday afternoon.

The team's new name -- the Chiefs -- will certainly be familiar to long-time Syracuse baseball fans, as the club was known by that handle from 1934 to 1996. The team adopted the SkyChiefs' name and logo in 1997, as part of an attempt to distance themselves from criticisms that their previous identity was offensive to Native Americans.

"The reason we changed the name in the first place was because political correctness came about," said Syracuse general manager John Simone. "But all along we knew the fans didn't want to let go of the Chiefs. Now, we're bridging the gap by bringing back the name, but placing it in an entirely different context. We've been hinting at this change for a while now. In recent years we've had "Chiefs" alternate jerseys and batting practice hats."

While the old SkyChiefs logo was aviation-themed, Syracuse's new logo pays tribute to another type of transport: the train. In honor of the city's history as a manufacturing hub that shipped goods all over the country via rail, the logo features a steam locomotive, an engineer mark and the word "Chiefs" in a stylized font reminiscent of Syracuse's industrial heritage.

While the Chiefs' redesigned logo is a nod to the past, the team's new blue, black, silver and graphite color scheme acknowledges the club's affiliation with the Toronto Blue Jays. The home uniform will feature the word "Chiefs" across the chest and, for the first time in the 72-year history of the franchise, players' last names will be included on the back of the jersey.

The road uniforms, meanwhile, will feature "Syracuse" across the chest. Both uniforms will include an engineer patch on the sleeve and a black hat depicting a locomotive plowing through the letter "C."

Syracuse's new look is the work of Plan B Branding, a "creative ideas" company that has made a significant impact on the Minor League landscape during the offseason. The San Diego-based firm has recently helped create new logos and identities for the Lakeland Flying Tigers, Spokane Indians, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Boise Hawks and Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

"Many of the Syracuse fans thought the team had strayed away from its heart and soul when they changed their name to the SkyChiefs," said Plan B's Jason Klein. "My favorite story involved a season ticket holder who continued to make his checks payable to the "Chiefs" for each of the past 10 seasons. He even made his own counterfeit Chiefs apparel."

Benjamin Hill is a contributor to