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A Pittsburgh History Mystery

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Paul here, once again pinch-hitting for Phil. Reader Bruce Margulies recently came across a very interesting find: a photo of Willie Stargell wearing a batting helmet with the Pirates’ old “smiling pirate” logo at what appears to be Wrigley Field. I wasn’t aware of the Pirates ever having used this logo on their helmets, so I showed the photo to uni designer Todd Radom (who, by coincidence, wrote a good history of the Pirates’ assorted pirate-centric logos earlier this year), Hall of Fame curator Tom Shieber, and Pirates historian Jerry Wolper, all of whom said they’d never seen it either. I also contacted Pirates spokesman Dan Hart, who said it was news to him as well.

That logo debuted in 1967, and the Pirates wore their flannel vests until the midpoint of the 1970 season, so that’s the time window for the photo. Was this a one-off experiment? A prank? Something else? If you know more, do tell.

That’s all for today. Enjoy the rest of your long weekend and I’ll be back with full-length content tomorrow.

Comments (19)

    I have no idea why they wore it or for how long, but they really should revisit that idea. It looks far better than just a letter P, that’s for sure.

    That’s a great helmet logo, too bad they didn’t go for it. Judging by Willie’s sideburns, it seems most likely that the pic would be from the latter part of the time window, i.e. 1969-70.

    So I’m not 100% sure but I think the guy on his left has a yellow batting helmet on…hope that helps narrow it down.

    Actually i take that back…not sure they ever had a yellow brim…whoops

    I wasn’t aware of this type of batting helmet for the Pirates, and this area of research could well provide other discoveries across MLB.

    I’m inclined to think the debut of a new logo would result in the roll out of changes soon afterwards, so maybe this was 1967. The other late 60s photos I’ve seen have always had the iconic “P” logo. Although this logo never made it on to a uniform, it was featured prominently at Three Rivers Stadium, especially on the scoreboard area. Looking back, the team should have put this pirate on the left jersey sleeve, but that wasn’t as popular in those days.

    There is a photo of Willie and Ralph Liner from the Post Gazette from April 6, 1970 where Willie has almost the exact same sideburns. Looks like opening day at the old Forbes Field. So early 1970 either the late May or July 4th visit to Wrigley. I’m guessing a possible trial balloon for the new flannels that debuted later that season. Instead they went with the mustard caps. I agree that logo would have looked good on the shoulder.

    Interesting stuff here…doesn’t help figuring out the date, but looks like a similar type quest to nail down the date of a highlight. In the comments section, I didn’t know if the comments about the sleeve stripes on the 1970 double knits are true, that they were originally gold on top, white middle and black bottom, and that they flipped the gold (bottom) and black (top) from 1971 on.

    According to Baseball Alamanac at least, the player on the right that most likely appears to be #44 is Carl Taylor who played for the Pirates in 68-69, 71, but only wore #44 is 1969, which also happens to be the season he played the most games of his career.

    Carl Taylor pinch ran in the June 23rd, 1969 at Wrigley, then started in the outfield on June 24th. Then started in the outfield at Wrigley again on September 6th and 7th.

    Stargell was not in the lineup on September 6th, which could possibly narrow it down depending on if this picture is during a game rather than pre-game.

    So, wild ass guess is that it might be from 1969.

    This is clearly at Wrigley Field. It appears that the man standing behind Pops is #44 or #41, which means it would either be a coach or the only player with any number like that during the 1968-1970 window (Carl Taylor). Taylor wore #36 for 1968 until a certain point in 1969, when he switched to #44. That doesn’t mean this is Carl Taylor and could actually be a coach wearing that number.

    The picture is likely from 1970. Frank Oceak was a coach for the Pirates that year and wore #44. Carl Taylor, who wore #44 in previous years, was 6’2″. The man in the picture appears to be shorter than that. The Pirates made 2 trips to Chicago in 1970 before they went to the double-knits, May 26-28 and July 3-5.

    Since we are into wild ass guesses…So the player in the bottom left I think we can all agree has a light colored helmet on, and the same color throughout (not a different brim color), perhaps another concept helmet being worn in pregame? That player is definitely wearing a double digit numbered jersey and most likely has a dark skin complexion. Taking a run down the roster one would guess it to be Matty Alou (#18), especially the way their numbered font goes seems to be the case.

    What I want to know is who made the decision to put that logo on the 2014 Pirates alternate BP hats and were they privy to the (apparent) fact that the logo was used on helmets (hats?) in the past or did they simply think retro logo on current hat = $.

    Could be both of course.

    Has anyone ruled out the possibility of it being a really good Photoshop edit?

    They risk offending pirates all over the world if they put that logo on their lids. Just sayin’

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