The year 1997 saw the movies Titanic and Men in Black take Hollywood by storm. The TV shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teletubbies, and South Park premiered. Hanson was singing MMM Bop, the Back Street Boys were making their United States debut, and the first Harry Potter book was published.
And in a small town in western Oregon, a short-season Single-A baseball team in the Northwest League debuted, wearing simple logos created in a world that had yet to witness the likes of the El Paso Chihuahuas, Lehigh Valley IronPigs, or New Orleans Baby Cakes. In 2017, the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes still play in the Northwest League, they still play in the same stadium, quaintly called Volcanoes Stadium, they’ve had only one parent club (the Giants), and they still wear the same logos that they wore when they first debuted.
The Volcanoes technically play in the town of Keizer, but they incorporate the larger, adjacent Salem into their geographic identifier to tap into that town’s rich baseball history. Salem has played host to minor league baseball since 1940, including teams like the Salem Senators and Salem Dodgers. Before their debut as the Volcanoes, the franchise had played as the Bellingham Giants for two seasons, but moved after having the Northwest League’s lowest attendance both years.
The logos rely on type as image, including a primary that features a volcano with lava forming the letter S and a wordmark with a volcano forming the letter A. A cap logo takes a slightly less subtle approach, with a baseball literally blowing its top, volcano style.
The team’s name, submitted to a name-the-team-contest by Keizer resident Bill Lien, derives from the significance of volcanoes in the region.
“Team ownership selected that name based on how it identifies with Oregon with its large number of Volcanoes,” said Jerry Walker, who owned the team in 1997 and continues to do so now, “including Mount Jefferson that is clearly visible over the Stadium’s centerfield wall.”
In addition, the team plays just an hour and a half away from one of the world’s most famous volcanoes, and at the time the team was named, that volcano was still fresh in the public’s mind.
“Back in 1996, it was only 16 years after the 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens,” Walker said, “an event that left an indelible mark on many in the region.”
And three hours to the south of Salem (and Keizer) lies another volcano-based attraction that defines the state of Oregon.
“Crater Lake, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the state, was created as a result of a Volcanic eruption of Mount Mazama,” Walker said.
With the preponderance of volcanoes in the area and the impact they’ve had on Oregon’s geography, culture, and economy, it’s no wonder that they became the namesake of the local ballclub. But it was the nature of the geological feature itself that made it perfect.
“The name seemed a perfect fit for a sports team as it denotes grandeur and explosiveness,” Walker said.
With a nickname and brand that’s been in place basically unchanged for two decades, the Volcanoes’ uniform is bound to have seen its fair share of eventual big leaguers. Sure enough, the likes of Joe Panik (above), Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval (right), Tim Lincecum, and Sergio Romo have sported the same Volcanoes’ red, orange, and yellow that this year’s team of wide-eyed, freshly drafted youngsters will wear when short-season Single-A games start later this month.
Mount Jefferson, the one that can be seen beyond the outfield wall from Volcanoes Stadium, is the second-tallest mountain in Oregon. It hasn’t had an “eruptive episode” for roughly 15,000 years, which is the geological equivalent of the amount of time the baseball team’s brand has remained unaltered. So it seems that Mount Jefferson and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes are in a battle of wills, waiting to see which will see significant changes first. My money is on the mountain.