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Re-introducing the Charleston RiverDogs

The former Devil Rays affiliate re-joins to organization in 2021

Rome Braves v Charleston RiverDogs
Guess who this is a picture of! The answer is in the article.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays and the historic city of Charleston, South Carolina are back to being affiliated after a 16 year hiatus.

Charleston, South Carolina has been the host of minor league baseball team since 1981 when the Charleston Royals were formed as the Single-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. The Charleston Royals were around for five years, until the San Diego Padres took over as the parent team of the Charleston franchise.

As the Friars came to the Holy City, with the new parent club came a whole new identity as the franchise completely rebranded the team from their former bland given team name and allowed Charleston to embrace a new identity as the ‘Rainbows.’

The name was derived from the historic landmark located in downtown Charleston known as ‘Rainbow Row.’ The landmark is a series of historic homes which differentiate in different, vibrant colors and make up a significant section of homes on East Bay St, in downtown Charleston. The resulting jersey and logo was incredible:

The franchise would eventually be taken over by the Texas Rangers for the 1993 season and kept the Rainbows brand for that season; however, in 1994, the franchise decided eight years as the Rainbows was long enough as they rebranded as the Charleston RiverDogs.

Texas stuck around through the 1996 season and then the expansion Tampa Bay Devil Rays came to town. The Devil Rays and River Dogs would then enjoy a partnership through the 2004 season.

After that six-year stint, the New York Yankees and Charleston entered partnership that would last all the way through 2020, when the relationship unceremoniously ended with the pandemic cancelling the 2020 minor league baseball season.

Rome Braves v Charleston RiverDogs Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Over the years, minor league teams have been given the freedom to flex their personalities with more flamboyance and bravado, embracing the quirkiness of mascots and regional themes. Charleston has been no exception to this.

During the 2016 season, the Charleston Riverdogs started hosting what they dubbed as ‘Holy City Sundays.’

The city of Charleston is known as ‘The Holy City’ thanks to a plethora of churches that cater to numerous religions. The skyline of downtown Charleston is defined by its steeples, and its tallest building being St Matthew’s German Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Thus, the Riverdogs have also branded themselves as Holy City, proudly crafting a quality uniform from the monicker, as displayed on the front of their uniforms and a logo to match on their hats.

Charleston RiverDogs reliever Anderson Severino
Credit: Zach Bland

Charleston has stuck with the Holy City jerseys, but has also explored other aspects of Charleston’s long history. A few years ago, this brought to focus on a very popular food that the area is known for: boiled peanuts.

Following the death of a longtime vendor at their ballpark — Anthony Wright who was also known as “Tony the Peanut Man” — the RiverDogs found a unique way to pay homage to him, and to raise funds for a good cause as well. So, during the 2018 season, for one game, the RiverDogs transformed themselves into the ‘Boiled Peanuts.’

The President and General Manager of the RiverDogs, Dave Echols, made it known that the reason for the change was directly as a way for the team to pay tribute to Anthony Wright, with the logo including Wright’s signature straw hat and the team even having ‘The Peanut Man’ Wright’s superhero alter-ego on hand as well during the game.

“We knew that if we were going to supplant our long-time namesake for a game, we wanted to choose something that holds significance to our fans and the region and the ‘Boiled Peanuts’ to us does just that. We hope this is a night to celebrate a Charleston tradition and continue to pay tribute to Tony and his family.”

During the 2019 season, as part of minor league baseball’s “Copa de la Diversion” and a way of celebrating Charleston’s growing LatinX population, as well as their large contingent of Spanish-speaking players, the RiverDogs rebranded as Los Perros Santos de Charleston for several games during the regular season. The name roughly translates to ‘The Holy Dogs of Charleston.’

Per the RiverDogs official release on the promotion:

“The Perros Santos games will feature specialty jerseys, music, food, language, player interaction, and participation for the Lowcountry’s Hispanic community.”

Charleston RiverDogs Facebook page

The Charleston RiverDogs also embrace a beer that is brewed specifically for their home games: The RiverDogs Bellyitcher Ale, made by Rusty Bull Brewing Co. Although they haven’t dignified the ale with a jersey day on the field, yet, they do have select items available in their team store with the BellyItcher logo embroidered on caps as well as a pint glass with the logo on it as well.

The RiverDogs are proud of their vibrant and colorful past and have items from each of their points in history besides their awkward youth with the Royals, but just forget about that, available for purchase in the team’s store online. Their other logos and gear, including the ‘Rainbows,’ ‘Holy City,’ and ‘Boiled Peanuts’ all remain prominent in the team store.

Through MLB’s reorganization of the minor leagues, the Bowling Green Hot Rods have been promoted to the Rays Class A Advanced affiliate, while the Charleston RiverDogs have been invited to be the system’s Class A affiliate.

The RiverDogs will have their start to the season delayed, due to the ongoing pandemic. MLB has told minor league teams that their players won’t be able to report to spring training until the Major League players, as well as those in Triple-A have already departed to begin their respective seasons.

There have been no official announcements yet, regarding their schedule, but the estimate is currently an Opening Day in the month of May.