After 15 Years, Cats Still Rock

The Hartford Courant

It is so much easier when the minor league team takes on the nickname of the big league franchise, like the Trenton Yankees or in days gone by the New Britain Red Sox, Waterbury Giants or West Haven Yankees.

Once you get away from that concept, things can get interesting.

In 1994, when the Twins became the Double A affiliate in New Britain, the name trotted out was the Hardware City Rock Cats. Hardware City came from New Britain's history as a hardware manufacturer. But Rock Cats? That even confused the owner of the team as Paul Doyle wrote then in The Courant:

With members of the media, the New Britain Chamber of Commerce and the Booster Club waiting for his reaction, Joe Buzas stepped in front of a cardboard cutout of his Double A franchise's new logo.

Buzas, 75, looked up and down at the cartoon of a guitar-strumming purple cat sporting a pompadour, earring, sunglasses and leather jacket. For a guy whose musical tastes fall in the neighborhood of Guy Lombardo, the hipness of "Rock Cat" was lost on him.

"What is it?" Buzas asked.

The name and logo came from Connecticut resident Guy Gilchrist. He started looking at 1957, the year Buzas first owned a minor league team. It was the birth of rock 'n' roll . . . New Britain was known as the Hardware City . . . lunch pail workers and a blue collar city . . . it all came together in the mind of Gilchrist as the name Hardware City Rock Cats with the cat having a bat as a guitar and decked out in a leather jacket, that '50s sort of cool cat.

Hardware City never lasted. No one knew what city the team played in. New Britain came back into the picture, but the nickname Rock Cats, maybe given little chance back then, has stayed all these years. The logo was soon changed to have the letters NB behind the cat's face.

The updated logo in 2007, by Simon Designs of Louisville, has the team name, the cat and a glove. And, of course, "These Cats Rock" - words created by Jay Sloves at Elkinson & Sloves in Farmington and the jingle by Paul Lombardo of L & R Productions in East Hartford - is now widely known. Bottom line: Team president Bill Dowling says the team does well in merchandising. The cat is purring.

The 2007 logo design "was a great change to a logo that was in need of some updating, though some fans still request the old logo," Dowling said. "And that is the beauty of creating a new logo; now we have a retro logo, which we can release a line of merchandise that some fans demand. . . . Since we launched 'These Cats Rock' in 2000, our sales have increased nearly five times."

The jingle does what it is intended to do: It stays in your head.

"When fans hear our song, they know it's the Rock Cats," Dowling said. "When we go in the community, kids sing the song - people know us as 'These Cats Rock.' "

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