The Beautiful Design of MLB Teams in Japan, 1953-84

A team of MLB All-Stars is touring Japan and playing a team of Japanese All-Stars, the first such meeting since 2006.

Goodwill tours by individual Major League teams were common in the years following World War II. The New York Giants visited in 1953, followed by the New York Yankees two years later. The 1984 Baltimore Orioles were the last MLB club to make the trip.

These goodwill tours were very popular in a postwar Japan that was in the midst of rebuilding itself into a major global economic power. It’s no coincidence that the Giants’ 1953 visit took place just a year after the end of the Allied occupation, which lasted from 1945 to 1952.

The rise of a renewed consumer culture and the transition to an industrialized economy at this time gave birth to a distinctive Japanese style of graphic design, one which featured a blending of Eastern and Western influences and traditions. Japanese designers embraced the art of the poster—the perfect expression of this modern age. This also served as a practical way to reach consumers in a society that was witnessing rapid urbanization.

The ticket and program designs from these tours are incredibly crafted. Eastern and Western letterforms are utilized in concert with highly stylized illustrations and expressive colors to create some of the most beautiful and memorable sports graphics ever seen. Enjoy.

 

TIGERS_JAPANDODGERS_JAPAN_031956_CARDINALS_JAPAN1960_GIANTS_JAPAN

1955_YANKEES_JAPANDODGERS_JAPAN_02DODGERS_JAPAN_041956-DODGERS-JAPANMANTLE_JAPAN1974_METS_JAPANORIOLES_JAPANDODGERS-JAPAN-TICKETSTIGERS_POSTER

Commemorating a World Series Champion

For the third time in the last five seasons, the San Francisco Giants have won the World Series. In 2015 they will likely remember their championship season in the form of a uniform sleeve patch, just as they did in 2011 and 2013. And, when and if they do, they will be following a tradition that their New York predecessors began in 1906, when they sported jerseys with a (not so subtle) nod to their World Series victory the previous October:

1906 GIANTS_01Boasting aside, the really important thing about the Giants’ 1906 uniforms is the fact that these were the first jerseys in MLB history that did not have collars, a look that various news articles cited as looking like “pajamas.” (Just imagine their opinions on the baggy look of today.)

One year later, the 1907 Chicago White Sox, fresh off a World Series win, celebrated with something truly revolutionary—the first commemorative sleeve patch in MLB history.

The May 4, 1907 edition of Sporting Life described the White Sox’ uniforms:

The White Sox are real modest in letting the public know that they are the champions of the world. Instead of “World’s Champions” being across their breasts a la the New York Giants, they have their emblem in a monogram on the shirt sleeves.

1907 WHITE SOX_SLEEVE PATCH_

The emblem was worn exclusively on the road uniforms. It made its debut in St Louis on April 11, 1907. The Chicago Tribune described the patch in their game account the following day:

On the sleeves of the shirt appears a map of the world, bounded on the north, south, east, and west with the inscription “World’s Champions White Sox.”

1907 WHITE SOX_02

The roots of the patch design lie in an expensive piece of championship bling.

In those days before rings were awarded to World Series winners, the champion White Sox were presented with watch charms. Produced by a Cincinnati jeweler, Frank Herschel Company, the charms were valued at $1,600 each—$40,000 each in today’s dollars.

The design was credited to Garry Herrmann, chairman of the three-man National Commission that ruled Major League Baseball from 1903 to 1920 (the National Commission was responsible for awarding the World Series winners with the bauble of their choice.)

There was plenty of significance attached to each element within the design. The team’s navy blue uniforms are referenced, along with what was described as “mercury wings, the sign of the great speed which carried the Sox on to victory.”

1906 WHITE SOX CHARM

1907 WHITE SOX LOGOJust as the charm became the basis for the White Sox’ sleeve patch, it also served as the foundation for the club’s official logo for the next quarter century. The charm design was featured on invitations to the raising of the championship flag on May 14, 1907. (The purple and gold flag was raised with appropriate pomp and circumstance, in the middle of a driving rain. In what could only be described as a truly bad omen, the flagpole literally snapped in half before the pennant could be completely raised, accompanied by what was described as “a loud snap.” Plan B went into effect as the flag was then “mounted over one of the liquor stores in right-center.”)

The design was amended when the Sox won the 1917 World Series and was used until the death of owner Charles Comiskey in 1931. The original concept for the logo—a championship charm—was abandoned, as was the Mercury wing (although the wing was restored in the late 1950s as a nod to the “Go-Go Sox, the 1959 American League champions.”

1906_1917 WHITE SOX

There is evidence that the Chicago Cubs, who lost the 1906 Series to their crosstown rivals, planned to wear a celebratory sleeve patch as well in 1907. The November 24, 1906 edition of Sporting Life noted that a new emblem designed by Cubs owner Charles W. Murphy would “probably be sewed on the right sleeve of the players next year.” It never happened.

The next team to celebrate a championship with a special uniform was the 1921 Cleveland Indians. They failed to repeat, as did the next club to boast of their title status, the 1927 St Louis Cardinals.

1921 INDIANS_1927 CARDINALS

Maybe that’s why no other club decided to salute a championship season on their uniforms for another 50+ years. The 1981 Phillies commemorated their Series win of the previous fall with appropriately-designated warmups, but not on their uniforms.

1984 ORIOLES ANNIVERSARY LOGOFinally, in 1984, the Baltimore Orioles decided to combine two noteworthy events into one celebratory sleeve patch. Their World Series victory of the previous season was featured, along with a nod to the club’s 30th anniversary. This would mark the last time that a defending champion would acknowledge their bragging rights on their uniforms for another 20 years.

The 2004 Florida Marlins inaugurated a new era by wearing a commemorative “World Series Champions” sleeve patch all season long. The 2005 Boston Red Sox trotted out special uniforms for their home opener at Fenway Park, featuring gold trim and a one-day commemorative sleeve patch. The 2006 White Sox wore a champions patch at home that season. The 2007 Cardinals continued the gold-trimmed tradition for their home opener, along with special patches on their home jerseys all year long, a scenario that the Philadelphia Phillies followed two years later.

The 2011 Giants opted for gold trim for the home opener, along with a season-long sleeve patch worn both at home and on the road. The 2012 Cardinals did likewise. The Giants wore special gold-trimmed caps and jerseys for the 2013 Opening Day ring ceremony, and sported a commemorative sleeve patch all season long.

Finally, in 2014, the Red Sox broke out the gold trim (and requisite patch) for their ring ceremony—and that was the extent of their sartorial celebration.

WORLD-SERIES-CHAMPIONS

Which brings us back to the 2015 Giants. Should they go the route of a uniform celebration, their challenge will be to do what every single team that similarly amplified their status has been unable to do—repeat as World Series champions.

Five Historical Logo & Uniform Facts About the World Series

1) The 1907 Chicago Cubs wore alternate uniforms for Game 1 of the World Series that they were forced to abandon the next day.

1907 WORLD SERIES CUBS UNIFORMSThe Cubs, en route to winning the first of their back-to-back World Series championships, opted to wear special uniforms for Game 1 of the World Series at home against the Detroit Tigers. They featured pinstripes—a World Series first—and, even more noteworthy, they were gray. For a home game. Against a road team with similarly gray uniforms.

The Chicago Tribune noted that:

The Cubs were at work in new travel uniforms of gray. They started last year in the home uniform of white. Superstition cuts some ice with athletes and that is the reason for the switch. Clad in gray the Cubs felt they would not be at home to the Tigers, or something like that.

Also from the Tribune:

The fact that both teams were gray suits was confusing to the majority of the spectators, some of whom never had seen a major league game before and found it difficult to distinguish the players at all times.

Baseball’s ruling organization, the National Commission, forced the Cubs to switch back to their usual white home uniforms for Game 2:

1907 CUBS WORLD SERIES UNIFORMS

2) The most colorful World Series? I vote for 1979.

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles went seven games that year in a baseball technicolor extravaganza for the ages. Just look at the matchups:

3) Alternate uniforms worn in a World Series—first and most recent:

The first alternate uniforms ever worn in a World Series were those of John McGraw’s black-clad New York Giants in the first game of the 1905 World Series. Most recently, the St. Louis Cardinals donned their cream-colored alternate “St. Louis” jerseys for Game 3 of the 2013 World Series.

1905_2013 WORLD SERIES

4) The first official World Series logo was used in 1978:

1978-WORLD-SERIES-LOGOThe first official logo for the World Series was created for the 1978 edition, part of a major marketing push in connection with the 75th anniversary celebration of the Fall Classic. The logo was utilized on game tickets and in the official program, and was incorporated into a range of souvenirs. The “75th” was changed to “76th” the following year and was then replaced by an entirely new logo, which was used from 1980-86.

 

 

 

5) The only team to wear checked uniforms during a World Series? The 1916 Brooklyn Dodgers:

1916 PLAID UNIFORMS

Dodgers manager Wilbert Robinson is seen at left, shaking hands with manager Bill Carrigan of the pinstriped Boston Red Sox. Stripes defeated checks, four games to one.

Know Your World Series Visuals—the Birth of the Royals Logo

ROYALS-LOGOThe Kansas City Royals’ crown logo looms high above Kaufman Stadium—standing more than 100″ feet tall—in the form of one of the most recognizable scoreboards in American professional sports. Royals fans, along with millions of baseball fans all over the world, will be constantly reminded of the team’s emblem next week as Kansas City hosts its first World Series in 29 years.

The visual identity of the Royals has remained remarkably consistent since the franchise played its first game in 1969. From the “KC” featured on team caps to the script lettering on the home uniforms, the look of the 2014 World Series Royals bears a very close resemblance to that of their ancestors of 45 years ago.

The task to create the team logo was assigned to Hallmark Cards, based in Kansas City since 1910. They assigned the job to 15 artists. Some of the submissions were predictable, some were progressive, and one in particular was just weird:

ROYALS COW

 

ROYALS HALLMARK

The winning artist was Shannon Manning—a White Sox fan at the time. A package designer at Hallmark, Manning’s now-familiar crown logo embraced the dominant corporate branding style of the late ’60s—a relatively simple visual featuring minimal typography, enclosed within a bold, graphic geometric shape. Contemporary and striking (especially in the context of the world of sports identity at the time,) Manning’s work holds up remarkably well today.

A November 4, 1968 press release from Hallmark provides the following details of the design process:

Last spring, Ewing Kaufman, owner of the American League expansion club, and general manager Cedric Tallis, asked Hallmark to design the emblem and logo for the team—it will appear on uniforms, jackets, stationery and promotional items.

Hallmark assigned 15 artists to the project. The winner was Manning’s design featuring a white “R” and a smaller gold “KC” on a royal blue shield topped by a four-pointed gold crown. The word “Royals” in gold lettering appears below the shield.

It wasn’t easy, however. After the 15 artists submitted their ideas in April, three—Manning, Carl Woods and Peter Smokoroski—were asked to submit variations of their original designs. After studying the second efforts, the Kaufmans decided to go with Manning.

Manning never varied from the basic “R” on the royal blue shield topped by the gold crown. His experimentation came into play on the placement of “KC” and what to do about the loop on the “R.”

His first entry omitted the “KC” and used a red stylized head of a stallion inside the loop. Later, he added “KC” in the upper right-hand corner of the blue shield and put the head of a steer inside the loop. Another version had a steer above the “R” . The loop at various times contained home plate, a baseball and a regal symbol.

But simplicity won out and the Kaufmans selected the “R” with the empty loop.

Manning went on to say that “I wanted a design that was appropriate to the times. We have a 1969 ball club so I wanted to give it a 1969 emblem.”

His original logo has evolved over the years, with “KC” taking over as the focal point of the identity in 2002. The core of the 1969 emblem has remained intact, testament to the solid foundation that he provided nearly half a century ago.

Here is a short interview with Manning in which he discusses the birth of the Royals’ original logo:

The Royals’ uniforms were introduced in February 1969. Taking their cue from Manning’s primary logo, the club’s simple, classy, and classic on-field look has similarly evolved over the past 45 years.

ROYALS FIRST UNIFORMS

The Kansas City Royals, their fans, and their iconic team identity will be featured on baseball’s biggest stage for the first time in decades next week, classy, crowned, and (thankfully) free of bovine imagery.

Frank Cashen, Fresh-Up Freddie, and the Birth of the Orioles Cartoon Bird

ORIOLES CARTOON BIRD

As the Baltimore Orioles power their way through the 2014 postseason, they do so with a logo on their caps that is being embraced by a new generation of fans. The “smiling bird”—or, alternatively, the “cartoon bird”—was originally introduced just in time for franchise’s first World Series victory, in 1966.

This logo was used for 23 seasons, then fell into disuse for another 23 seasons. Its 2012 revival coincided with an Orioles resurgence that finds them one step away from the World Series for the first time in decades.

The current logo is closely based on the original, though not an exact replica. The 1966 origins of the original logo involve legendary baseball executive Frank Cashen, a 7 Up cartoon character named “Fresh-Up Freddie,” Baltimore’s National Brewing Company, and the Orioles’ desire to successfully compete for marketing dollars with the National Football League’s Baltimore Colts.

1954-BALTIMORE-ORIOLES

Some background is required.

When the St. Louis Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Orioles in 1954, their first logo was a cartoon bird that was created by Baltimore Sun cartoonist Jim Hartzell. That bird, introduced at a luncheon on January 5, 1954, served as the club’s primary logo until 1963.

Prior to that season, Orioles GM Lee MacPhail oversaw a brand remake which was punctuated by an austere on-field look that included the only instance in a club history that a script “Orioles” was not utilized on the team’s uniforms. A new, aggressive bird was introduced at this time.

Created by illustrator Hal Decker, this bird was never featured on the teams uniforms. Although the original Hartzell bird remained as the club’s official logo in ‘63, it was eliminated altogether the following year. The Decker bird was short-lived—as was the conservative uniform look. MacPhail left Baltimore to join the Commissioner’s office in New York and the club embarked upon a new look for the 1966 season.

These years saw the Orioles become a serious American League pennant contender, but they were still a young franchise at this time, second in the hearts of fans and local advertisers to the NFL’s Baltimore Colts.

National Brewing Company chairman Jerold Hoffberger acquired a controlling interest in the Orioles in June 1965, thus becoming chairman and majority owner. Hoffberger would tab Frank Cashen as Executive Vice President of the team in October of that year. Cashen had previously served as director of advertising for National Brewing, and was brought in, according to Hoffberger, to “sell” the public on the Orioles. In other words, before Frank Cashen became the architect of two World Series champions in Baltimore and one with the New York Mets, he was a marketing guy, brought in to promote the Orioles.

Under his direction, the team contracted Hollywood animation studio Quartet Films—a firm that had been creating characters for the brewer’s advertising campaigns—to create a marketable bird character for the club. Quartet, headed up by animator Stan Walsh, soon gave birth to an enduring brand. While Walsh is often given credit as the artist responsible for this bird, the work was actually done by Paul Carlson, who was art-directed by Walsh.

Cashen explained the process in his book “Winning in Both Leagues:”

…(S)peaking of raising the Orioles’ image, history accepts that Hoffberger first sent me to the club to be VP of marketing, a position that I fully understood after working at National Brewing for four years. Coming with that assignment was a flood of ideas. “How can you change the opinion and impression the average fan had of the Orioles?”

One of my very first thoughts was that the oriole “bird” that was pictured on the front of the official baseball cap, and served as the clubs symbol, was too sedentary. It was supposed to be a small oriole, but it looked to me more like a tiny sparrow. Having just concluded a series of new beer commercials at National, the bulk of them being cartoon related, I had a couple ideas that I wanted to discuss with the Los Angeles advertising crowd. I contacted Stan Walsh, who had done some work for National Brewing. Stan had been a cartoonist for the Walt Disney Studios prior to opting for commercial work, and we had been fairly good friends. In short order Stan sent me examples of aggressive cartoon birds, one of which became the new symbol of the Orioles and was immediately transferred to the 1966 baseball caps.

Quartet Films, located in LA, had previously created animated characters such as Tony the Tiger and the Jolly Green Giant, as well as the Hamm’s Beer bear.

In 1957, while working at Disney, animator/illustrator Carlson created 7 Up spokes-bird Fresh-Up Freddie. The resemblance between Freddie and the Orioles’ cartoon bird is unmistakable:

FREDDIE_ORIOLES

The cartoon Orioles bird was unveiled just in time for the genesis of one of the greatest eras that any franchise has ever experienced. The “smiling bird” served as witness to three World Series championships: 1966, 1970, and 1983. This golden era also saw the team win American League pennants in 1969, 1971, and 1979.

By the late 1980s, it had fallen out of favor.  The 1988 season was the worst in the history of the franchise. The team began the year by going 0-21, and finished the year with a total of 107 losses.

The definitive end of an era of excellence would require a new look on the field. The cartoon bird seemed dated and stale. In 1988, Orioles outfielder Fred Lynn was quoted as saying that the team uniforms were ugly and that the caps were “the worst.” “Look at that goofy bird on it,” Lynn said. “There’s nothing menacing about that bird.”

The Orioles unveiled a their new, ornithologically correct bird on December 14, 1988. Team officials said that they wanted to “get back to a more traditional look,” essentially the same reason cited for the 1963 change.

A series of realistic birds followed the franchise from Memorial Stadium to Camden Yards, and into the new millennium. Finally, in 2012, the cartoon bird was restored. That season the Orioles finished with a winning record for the first time since 1997 and made the playoffs.

Frank Cashen passed away on June 30, 2014, at the age of 88. His legacy as a master builder of championship teams is well-established, but his connection to the Orioles’ beloved cartoon bird has largely been forgotten.

Nothing succeeds like success. The cartoon bird is associated with winning in Baltimore, the most effective marketing tool imaginable for any sports franchise.