Re-Branded: 2001 (Shreveport Swamp Dragons)
Texas League Champions: 1990, 1991 and 1995
The Shreveport Captains were a long-time entry in the Class AA Texas League. The ball club hot potatoed through various Major League parent club relationship during the 1970’s, before settling into a long-time partnership with the San Francisco Giants in 1979. Shreveport’s player development deal with the Giants would remain until the franchise left town in 2002.
The Captains didn’t win a whole lot at first. Shreveport made it to the Texas League playoffs only twice in the first fifteen summers of play. Not that Ark-La-Tex baseball fans didn’t get to see some compelling players come through town. Former American League Cy Young winner Denny McLain drifted through for 12 starts in 1973, trying and failing to revive his dead arm and worse reputation.
The Captains’ fortunes improved in 1986 when 5,000-seat Fairgrounds Field opened up adjacent to the Independence Bowl to replace dilapidated SPAR Stadium. Box office surged and, coincidentally or not, the team began to win. The Captains really hit their competitive stride in the 1990’s, going to the Texas League championship series five times between 1990 and 1997 and winning three times.
In June of 2000 longtime owner Taylor Moore sold the Captains to Mandalay Sports Entertainment, the sports investment group founded by Hollywood Producer Peter Guber (Batman, Flashdance, Rain Man). Mandalay took control at the end of the 2000 season and one of new management’s early moves was to re-brand the team as the “Shreveport Swamp Dragons”.
Mandalay’s in-house marketing guru was Jon Spoelstra, a long-time NBA executive whose books and workshops on ticket sales and consumer marketing were considered bibles within the sports marketing industry. Spoelstra’s 2001 book Marketing Outrageously details, among other adventures, his tenure as President of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets in the mid-1990’s. One of Spoelstra’s major initiatives with the Nets was an attempt to re-brand the team as the New Jersey Swamp Dragons in 1994. In Spoelstra’s telling, the new identity gained approval of the NBA’s executive committee and up votes from 26 of the league 27 owners. The lone “no vote? The Nets own voting representative, David Gerstein, who got cold feet and deep-sixed the name change after the NBA had already spent $500,000 on international trade mark registrations.
So seven years later, Shreveport’s baseball team, now under the management of Spoelstra’s company, wound up with the New Jersey Nets’ sloppy seconds. Interesting to note that Marketing Outrageously was published in 2001, within months of the Captains identity switch to the Swamp Dragons. But Spoelstra makes no mention of the re-purposing (or of Shreveport at all, for that matter) in the chapter of the book that deals with the Nets’ own dalliance with the Swamp Dragons concept.
Mandalay turned out to have little interest in Shreveport or in the city’s outmoded Fairgrounds Field. One of Mandalay’s hallmarks was the construction of new, state-of-the-art stadiums for its properties. Following the 2002 season, the Swamp Dragons departed Shreveport for Frisco, Texas where city fathers approved construction of a $22.7 million, 10,000-seat new ballpark. The former Captains/Swamp Dragons franchise plays on in the Texas League today as the Frisco RoughRiders.