2014 marks the 75th anniversary of the first commemorative sleeve patch to be worn by every Major League Baseball club—the Baseball Centennial patch. All 16 teams—along with Minor League teams—featured the centennial logo on their uniforms.
The myth of Abner Doubleday’s alleged invention of baseball in Cooperstown in 1839 has long been discredited, but the centennial celebration in 1939 featured a sophisticated and extensive marketing campaign. The official dedication of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown took place on June 12 of that year, part of the yearlong festivities.
A National Baseball Centennial Commission was established—located at 247 Park Avenue in New York, right next door to today’s MLB headquarters. Legendary public relations man Steve Hannagan spearheaded the efforts to publicize the celebration. A contest was held to create the official logo—the winner was New York artist Marjori Bennett. Let’s pause to consider the fact that the first logo to be featured on the uniforms of every MLB club in a single year was created by a woman, a noteworthy item given the dynamics of the profession (and America) in 1939.
The official emblem featured a player that looked quite a bit like Yankees star Joe DiMaggio. Although this logo continued to be utilized throughout 1939, sleeve patches were redesigned at some point before the start of the season to incorporate a more generic batter figure.
These patches also featured much larger “1839” and “1939” dates than those on the primary logo.
For reasons that have never been fully explained, the Philadelphia Athletics were the only MLB club to wear a patch with the “DiMaggio batter.”
Another noteworthy exception to uniformity concerns the St. Louis Browns. Every MLB team wore the anniversary logo on their left sleeves—with the exception of the Browns.
St. Louis’ jerseys already featured their primary logo on their left sleeves, so the centennial patch went on the right sleeves—the only MLB club to do so. Additionally, they opted to frame the logo in an orange and brown rectangle, matching their unique sleeve and placket trim.
After 1939, there have been only four other seasons where every MLB club has worn the same logo in the form of a patch:
- 1942—A shield containing the word “HEALTH,” for the WWII-era “Hale America” program,
- 1969—Commemorating the 100th anniversary of professional baseball
- 1994—Commemorating the 125th anniversary of professional baseball
- 1997—Commemorating the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s historic debut.
Additionally, all clubs also wore an American flag patch on the backs of their uniforms after the tragic events of September 11, 2001, right through the final game of that year’s World Series.