by Paul Bowers
To kick off the 2014 Charleston Pride Festival, the RiverDogs will don throwback Rainbows jerseys this Saturday night and give the first-pitch honors to local drag queen Patti O'Furniture.
The evening is co-sponsored by Charleston Pride and Dudley's on Ann, but the promotion was actually the RiverDogs' idea. Noel Blaha, the Minor League team's director of marketing, says he'd been itching to bring back the jerseys from the team's 1985-1993 incarnation, which always sell out quickly when they're sold at the stadium gift shop.
"Paying homage to a team like the Rainbows brings back, for a certain age of people in Charleston, memories of going to College Park, of attending games, basically just growing up here in Charleston," Blaha says. "You can really tell right off the bat who's a local Charlestonian and who are the transplants when you mention that the team used to be the Rainbows. You get a funny look if it's someone who just recently moved here."
Limited-edition Rainbows merch will be available in the gift shop this Saturday, and the players' jerseys will be sold in a silent auction.
The RiverDogs have never been risk-averse when it comes to promotional events. These are, after all, the masterminds behind Voodoo Night, Drag Queen Night, and Vasectomy Night. More recently, on July 19, the management put a box full of Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus merchandise in a box at center field and blew it up for a promotion called "Disco Demolition 2: You Better Belieb It" (a sequel that went much more smoothly than team President Mike Veeck's original 1979 Disco Demolition Night for the Chicago White Sox, which resulted in a riot and got him banned from the MLB).
But when it comes to Rainbows Pride Night, Blaha says he doesn't expect a lot of criticism from the community.
"I think it works out well in that it's literally a night that we're recognizing the team as they were known in the '80s and mid-'90s, so there's some historical continuity there. It's not an out-of-the-blue sort of event," Blaha says. "We haven't seen any blowback or any upset people regarding that, but we can always offend someone, I suppose."
The RiverDogs will take on the Hagerstown Suns Saturday at 6:05 p.m. at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park. Tickets are available on the team's website.