Little Rascals: The Story Behind the Quad Cities River Bandits – SportsLogos.Net News

Little Rascals: The Story Behind the Quad Cities River Bandits


The Quad Cities River Bandits, the Midwest League’s low-A Houston Astros affiliate, have done things a little differently. They are embodied perfectly by their logo and mascot, Rascal the raccoon—scrappy, undersized, and kind of adorable, but they’ll hold their own in a fight. In a market a fraction of the size of most higher-level minor league teams, the River Bandits finished fourth among all 160 teams in Minor League Baseball’s 2014 logo popularity contest, the Clash of the Caps—and they were the top finisher among the 100 single-A and rookie league teams in the contest.

“You can’t compete with a club that’s in a much, much, much larger market, like Nashville, where they have NFL football, or Charlotte, where they have NBA basketball and NFL football, or San Antonio,” said Dave Heller, one of the team’s owners. “We’re not that big. We have a quarter million people in our media market. To be able to win that kind of voting means people all over the country are seeing our cap and liking it and in many instances buying it.”

quadlogThe River Bandits play in Davenport, Iowa, one of a cluster of cities on the Mississippi River known as the Quad Cities. Like many minor league teams, they adopted the names of their various Major League affiliates for many years, but ultimately rebranded with a unique identity.

From 1992 to 2003, the team was known as the Quad City River Bandits, a reference to the nefarious bandits who killed the town’s namesake, George Davenport, in 1845. The first iteration of the River Bandits featured a popular logo of a baseball with a bandana.

After horrific floods in 2001 and 2003, then-owner Kevin Krause chose to distance the team name somewhat from the river, and rebranded as the awkward and ill-fated Swing of the Quad Cities in 2004.

swing-quad-cities“That name was based on a triple entendre,” Heller said. “It referenced the swing of the bat, and Davenport sits on what some people like to call the swing of the river, where the river turns and actually runs east-west at one point, and then the swing of the old jazz era. Davenport and the Quad Cities are right on the Mississippi, where there’s a long blues history.”

When Heller and his partner Bob Herrfeldt purchased the team at the end of the 2007 season, they chose to put the name of the team back in the hands of the community, and the community made its voice heard in a name-the-team contest.

“With six finalists of names suggested, the River Bandits name took something like 82 percent of the vote,” Heller said. “In a six-way race, that’s a pretty significant landslide, so we rechristened the team the River Bandits.”

But there were changes. First, the original River Bandits in the 1990s were the Quad City (singular) River Bandits, whereas their current name is the Quad Cities (plural) River Bandits. Heller explains:

If the question is, “Where are you from?” you would never answer, “I’m from Quad City.” Nobody would say that. You would say, “I’m from the Quad Cities.” My thought was, we’re going to put this name on a visiting jersey and we’re going to wear it with pride, it ought to say what the answer would be if anybody asks, “Where are you from?”

Another important change was the team’s logo, designed by Francis Santaquiliani of FS Designs, who has designed other sports logos, but none in affiliated minor league baseball, according to Heller. The logo features a raccoon, Rascal.

“We wanted something that could be both friendly and fierce at the same time,” Heller said. “And we thought a raccoon with basically a mask around its eyes already, was the ideal way to depict a bandit that could be both friendly and fierce.”


Before the 2014 season, the River Bandits redesigned their primary logo to be more appropriate to their location, specifically relating to Davenport’s well-known architectural centerpiece, the Centennial Bridge. The bridge is a prominent feature of the skyline as seen from the team’s home, Modern Woodmen Ballpark, which was voted minor league baseball’s best park in a USA Today poll last season. The original version of the logo from 2008 is on the left above, and the updated version from this season is on the right.


“The reason we did that is we wanted to really localize the logo,” Heller said. “We wanted people to have it be instantly identifiable as the Quad Cities. Our ballpark sits right below the Centennial Bridge and the new the bridge in the logo is really a more geographically accurate representation of the Centennial Bridge.”

Not only that, but the team unveiled a series of alternate logos, each with a specific purpose.

“What we’ve tried to do with our logos,” Heller said, “is really very intentionally use each one as a means of telling the story of what this team means to the community and what you get when you come to Modern Woodmen Park.”


It begins with water. “We are right on the Mississippi River, the biggest river in the nation,” Heller said. “And so we wanted something that would reflect the river. That’s why we have the ball landing in the river. If you’re a strong left-handed hitter, you could easily pull the ball over the fence and plop it down in the river.”


A second alternate logo “is Rascal in the gondola, because we added a Ferris wheel to the ballpark this year,” Heller said. “We’re the only minor league park in the country with our own Ferris wheel inside the ballpark.”


But most importantly, “the third piece is the paw holding the baseball,” Heller said. “There’s all kinds of different ways, with the rides and the views, the boats going by, and the bridge, to enjoy yourself at the ballpark. But at the end of the day, we’re still about baseball, and so the paw holding the baseball very prominently reminds people, first and foremost, we’re a baseball team.”


And fnally, speaking of baseball, “We thought, for a BP cap, we’d have Rascal taking BP,” Heller said. “So we put a bat in his paws.”

The River Bandits’ approach is not unusual—minor league teams everywhere are using cartoon characters to appeal to children. (It worked on my 10-year-old son, who has never been to Davenport, but owns a River Bandits T-shirt.) Indeed, the Bandits fared well in this year’s Clash of the Cap contest because fans liked their logo on a superficial level—it’s fun and eye catching. But on a deeper level, the River Bandits’ design decisions are meaningful in a specific way to their hometown, and intentionally create a narrative related to their own ballpark experience. This is not typical of every low-A minor league baseball team, and it’s what make this identity worth a second look.