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When Is an Anniversary Patch Not an Anniversary Patch?

The 49ers unveiled a 70th-anniversary patch yesterday (see above; further info here). It’s a muddled design that’s part of a muddled category of patches, and we’re going to look at that category today.

First, a quick primer: There’s a difference between an anniversary and an ordinal. An anniversary is the same as a birthday — you celebrate it at the conclusion of the numbered year in question. Example: When you turned 10 years old, you celebrated your 10th birthday, which was also the 10th anniversary of your birth. An ordinal is always one number ahead of the anniversary. Example: On your 10th birthday, you began your 11th year.

Generally speaking, our culture celebrates anniversaries, not ordinals. Let’s say your parents got married in 1986. That means last year, in 2015, they marked their 29th wedding anniversary and they began their 30th year of marriage. But did they have a big blowout party to mark the start of that 30th year? Of course not — they’ll wait until this year and have big party to celebrate their 30th anniversary (which will also mark the start of their 31st year of marriage, but nobody cares about that because our culture tends to celebrate anniversaries, not ordinals).

Sports teams used to routinely celebrate anniversaries, too. For example, Yankee Stadium opened in 1923, so in 1973 the Yankees wore a 50th-anniversary patch for the ballpark (the first stadium-anniversary patch in sports history, don’tcha know). If they had wanted to celebrate the ordinal, they would have worn a 50th-season patch in 1972, but they didn’t do that because our culture celebrates anniversaries, not ordinals.

But at some point things started shifting. Some teams — not all of them, but just enough to make things confusing — began celebrating ordinals instead of anniversaries. The Montreal Expos, for example, played their first season in 1969, so their 25th anniversary was in 1994. But they didn’t wear a patch that year — instead, they wore it in 1993, which was their 25th season (but their 24th anniversary):

Even more confusingly, some teams have used the term “anniversary” inaccurately. In 1986, for example, the Mets wore a “25th anniversary” patch:

But 1986 was not the Mets’ 25th anniversary; it was their 25th season (and therefore their 24th anniversary). Their 25th anniversary didn’t come until 1987. (As a footnote, this inaccurate patch is included on the ’86 throwback that the Mets will be wearing this season. So the throwback has an accurate reproduction of the inaccurate patch. Nice!)

Some teams have even been inconsistent regarding whether they celebrate the anniversary or the ordinal. In 1993, for example, the Royals — just like the Expos — wore a 25th-season patch. Sixteen years later, in 2009, they wore a 40th-anniversary patch:

So that first Royals patch commemorated the ordinal; the second one marked the anniversary. Come on, people, make up your minds!

I strongly, strongly prefer anniversary patches, not ordinal patches — in part because of our cultural predisposition toward celebrating anniversaries, but also because anniversary patches look better and feel better. To see what I mean, let’s start by taking a look at these logos:

Now compare that set of logos to this next set:

The first set, obviously, celebrates ordinals, while the second set celebrates anniversaries. And as you can see, there’s a nice symmetry to the date ranges in the anniversary logos — the two years always end in the same numeral. That feels so much better, so much more intuitively right, than the date ranges in the ordinal logos.

Also, if you take the earlier date on the anniversary patches and then add the big anniversary number, you get the later date. Again, this makes intuitive sense. But if you try that same thing with the ordinal patches, it doesn’t add up. Example: The Expos’ 25th-season patch shows a date range of 1969 to 1993. But if you add 1969 and 25, you get 1994 — which is why they would’ve been better off going with a 25th-anniversary patch, not a 25th-season patch.

But sometimes the math isn’t what it seems to be. For example, take a look at this patch:

At first glance, that looks like a 20th-anniversary patch. But it’s not: The Canucks’ first season was 1970-71, but they wore that patch in 1989-90, which means it was a 20th-season patch, not a 20th-anniversary patch. Basically, they cheated with the dates because NHL seasons cross over two calendar years — they used the first year of their first season and the last year of their 20th season (which was actually their 19th-anniversary season). There are lots of similar examples among NHL and NBA teams. And the situation with the NHL is even more confusing because the entire 2004-05 season was wiped out by the lockout.

Are you following all of this?

Now, finally, let’s turn our attention to the 49ers, beginning with a bit of history. In 1986 and ’96, they wore anniversary patches:

Ten years later, in 2006, they wore a 60th-anniversary patch, but they confused the issue by including the word “Seasons” in the design, making it seem like a 60th-season patch instead of an anniversary patch:

Technically speaking, that last patch was wrong. If you count all the seasons in the date range — 1946 through 2006 — you get 61 seasons, not 60.

And now we have their latest patch — the one that was unveiled yesterday. Numerically speaking, it’s an anniversary patch, because 2016 will mark the Niners’ 70th anniversary. But look what they’ve done:

Now they’ve switched from “Seasons” to “Years”? Come on, man — how many different ways can one franchise celebrate its decennial anniversaries? (Yes, it’s true, I just wanted to use the word “decennial” there.)

The “Years” trope isn’t unprecedented — several teams have done it. The problem is that they’ve sometimes done it while celebrating an anniversary, as seen here:

And sometimes “Years” has been used while celebrating an ordinal, as seen in this next patch design:

What a mess! Look, it’s really simple: Only celebrate anniversaries, not ordinals, and stop using “Seasons” and “Years” on patches, the end.

• • • • •

Design contest reminder: In case you missed it last week, I’m running an ESPN contest to redesign the Detroit Lions. The deadline is tomorrow evening. Full details here.

• • • • •

Click to enlarge

Collector’s Corner
By Brinke Guthrie

If You’re Asken More In ’68, It’s Kenmore.” That’s the slogan (and spelling) on one of the buttons in this Sears set, which also includes one that says “Sears, Your Headquarters for N.F.L. Merchandise.” Truer words were never spoken. If they sold that one by itself, I’d buy it.

Now on to the rest of this week’s picks:

• This week’s edition of Collector’s Corner is brought to you by Stroh’s, of course. This was a bar countertop sign, and you could tear off a copy of the “TV-Football” schedule. Are the times all Eastern? Which networks?

• Here’s another beer promo sign, this time for the Baltimore Colts and National (So Good You Can Taste It) Beer. Could that be Ray Berry on the front there?

• Check out this 1970s Miami Dolphins/IHOP placemat. “Take this place mat to the game and have the players autograph it.” Don’t think they nailed the helmet logo, either. Since it’s an NFLPA item, most likely didn’t have the rights.

• My very first wearable pro sports logo item, right here; this 1970 Vikings hoody from Sears. (Got the matching PJs at the same time, too.) Why the Vikings, when I lived in Louisville, just 100 miles from the Bengals? I liked the helmet design. I Got Itâ„¢, even when I was 10. (I also had a Chiefs pennant from a Bengals game. Same rationale there, too.)

• Here we have one of those 1970s Acrometal plaques, this time for the short-lived Minnesota Fighting Saints of the WHA.

• Fairly basic design to this 1970s Buffalo Bills rain poncho. It seems the Bills helmet is displayed in a white background resembling The Shield.

• I certainly do remember this design: The Reds were not shy about displaying their many championship banners in the 1970s — this one is on a glass dish celebrating the 1975 Series title. And as we all know, they weren’t finished yet!

• Always wondered why the Vikings were shown in their white road uniforms, as opposed to the classic purple, in this great 1970s poster. After all, would Dave Boss have painted the Cowboys in blasphemous blue? (Acutally, yes he would’ve.)

• This Rawlings Packers jersey from the 1970s has an NFL shield on the sleeve, and is now what you’d call “distressed.”

• Very rarely ever see a Pat Patriot helmet plaque on eBay, but here it is.

Follow Brinke on Twitter: @brinkeguthrie

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The Ticker
By Mike Chamernik

Baseball News: A few people sent this in: Mets reliever Sean Gilmartin explained the proper way he puts on his stirrups. Here’s a step-by-step guide as to how he does it. … Mets closer Jeurys Familia was spotted wearing a pink compression sleeve. Brian Erni thinks it might be in honor of Shannon Forde, a longtime PR staffer who passed away on Friday after a lengthy battle with breast cancer. … Speaking of Familia, he microwaved his glove yesterday. … The Tigers are again holding University Days this year, where they’ll give away Tigers caps in the colors of local schools (from Alex Dewitt). … The Cubs and Royals went blue-vs.-blue yesterday (from reader Anne K). … Also, the Padres and Brewers went navy-vs.-navy, and the Reds and Angels went red-vs.-red. … The Reading Fightins will wear some garish jerseys celebrating 50 years as a Phillies affiliate (from Michael Lipinski). … The Bowie Baysox released their promotional schedule. Dates include Ginger Night and Back Hair Appreciation Night (from Andrew Cosentino). … Orioles minor leaguers played Keio University of Japan this past weekend. Look at the weird kerning on Keio’s jerseys. Here’s another look (from Robert Andrews).

NFL & College Football News: The ’Skins presented Nancy Reagan with a “Just Say No” jersey in 1988. More details here (from Tommy Turner). … Peter Fredrickson and I enjoy the orange-and-brown plaid pants that Browns coaches wore in the 1977 team photo. … Check out the noseguard an unidentified player wore in this 1915 photo (from Nash Villain). … Yesterday was National Cereal Day, so Mike Powers found a box of Randy Moss cereal from back in the day. Moss wore a pseudo-Vikings jersey on the cover. Here’s a good compilation of other athletes who had their own cereals.

Hockey News: McDonald’s held a promotion where the Bruins’ Zdeno Chara met with Canadiens fans, but apparently the company didn’t have NHL rights so all the logos are blurred out. … The Knoxville Ice Bears will wear country-themed jerseys on Saturday.

Basketball News: The Bucks wore white on the road and the Bulls wore red alts at home last night. … A Jayhawks blog reviewed the uniforms Kansas wore this year (from Phil). … The ACC tournament uses conference-branded speakers (from James Gilbert). … Savannah State and Delaware State went gray-vs.-powder blue. Ted Chastain couldn’t tell which team was which. … Two teams played white-vs.-gray in a Mississippi high school playoff game. We really need to make a universal decision as to whether gray is considered white or color. … Georgia held its high school state championships on a court that was the wrong size. The baskets were a foot farther back than they should have been. … College basketball crowds love their giant heads.

Grab Bag: “Found this today,” says Omar Jalife. “Farmacia is pharmacy in english. In Spanish we don’t use apostrophes and instead normally use “de” (of) ”” Paul’s beer: la cerveza de Paul. Most likely, the pharmacy is called Farmacia’s so the apostrophe is ‘correctly’ used. In the end, it is Farmacia Farmacia’s (Pharmacy’s Pharmacy). You can tell because it says Farmacia on the right side of the entrance. Mexico can be weird.” … Reggie Love, President Obama’s former top aide, wrote about how he helped the president learn how to dress (from Brinke). … The logo for Wrestlemania 33 has leaked. … Students are protesting the logo for the Harvard Law School, which is a shield based on the crest of an 18th-century slaveholder. … Someone has ranked all 45 New Zealand Warriors jerseys from over the years. The Warriors are a rugby team (from @Naly_D). … Some people within women’s lacrosse believe that the new standardized protective headgear will lead to more aggressive play, ruining some of the nuances of the game.

Comments (58)

    I don’t think that Yankee Stadium patch could look more “Seventies” if it tried.

    I don’t think that photo of George Brett could look more “George Brett” if it tried.

    Personally, I prefer ordinals, because teams usually hold season-long celebrations with events and patches. Birthdays/anniversaries are one day events that aren’t normally celebrated for long periods of time. I mean, why doesn’t the NFL wait and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl in February 2017 at Super Bowl 51?

    The Super Bowl is a little different — it’s a one-time event that’s always been numbered, and this was the 50th installment of it.

    There’s no reason an anniversary celebration can’t be season-long. You just say it’s your 20th-anniversary season (as opposed to your 20th season) and celebrate it all season long.

    Anniversary celebration should be limited to one day events commemorating a historical accomplishment like anniversary of a player breaking a record or Jackie Robinson Day. A team celebrating its 10th or 20th season can be considered its 10th or 20th (season-long) installment in franchise history. Either way, the tricky part is that franchises are normally born in offseason making it impossible to celebrate that one day during regular season. I agree that’s the whole thing is a mess, but it helps if a franchise is consistent in commemorating these events.

    On a final note, NFL makes it easy by attaching a number to the Super Bowl. What if it wasn’t numbered like the World Series? Would it be celebrated this past season or in 2017?

    I’m with Tom on this one.
    “Anniversary” makes sense when you are celebrating the passing of the years since something occurred (a founding, marriage, birth, etc.)
    Ordinals make sense when each installment is a unique and different existence of the thing – i.e., This is our 50th Super Bowl, 20th Season, 80th playing of the Masters, etc.

    It’s almost like saying “We’ve played 50 years in the league. How about next year (our 51st), we celebrate our 50th anniversary”. Seems a little to late.

    The anniversary/ordinal patch distinction bothered me when the Flyers, Penguins, Kings, and Blues all revealed “50th anniversary” patches to be worn next season. They began play in 1967-68, so the 2016-17 season would be their 50th season, not 50th anniversary. It will actually be their 49th season though when you account for the missed season due to the lockout.

    The post is dated the 7th. I’m guessing by the comments that it was posted today.

    I thought I was the only one who is annoyed by those phoney baloney “seasons” patches. That ’86 Mets patch still bothers me to this day. Nice read. Thank you.

    I must disagree with Paul. I prefer the ordinal celebration (except for the dates not being “even”). I think of an anniversary more as marking a single date than a span of time. Think of it this way: if you were celebrating your 40th anniversary, by the end of that season, you would be much closer to your 41st. It also seems to me that anniversary should coincide with the date of your founding or move to a city, not an entire season. If you celebrate your 40th season, that is an accurate description for the entire season. Seems more accurate and (slightly) less confusing to this sports fan.

    But by the same token, ordinals are celebrating something the team hasn’t actually achieved yet. 20th season? That’s a lie: The team has in fact only played 19. This remains true – the implicit claim of the ordinal remains a lie – until the conclusion of the final game of the season, which happens to be the moment the team takes the patch off its unis.

    MLB and the NHL have both had labor disruptions that have cancelled such significant portions of multiple seasons that at this point any ordinal is even more dishonest. No, you haven’t played that many seasons. You’ve existed as a corporate entity on paper filed in some state registrar’s office for that many seasons. Whoo-freakin-hoo.

    I don’t much care between the two, but I somewhat prefer anniversary celebrations precisely because they honor actual achievement rather than potential future achievement that may not even happen. It’s the difference between honoring a player for being on pace to achieve 100 touchdowns or 3000 hits versus honoring him for catching his 100th touchdown or hitting his 3000th hit.

    To me, the ordinal doesn’t represent the completion of something, merely that you are in the midst of it. If it did represent the completion, then it would just be anniversary anyway. Season implies an extended period of time. You could be at game 1 or game 162, but it is still part of of that same season. Interesting to see the differing perspectives.

    “But by the same token, ordinals are celebrating something the team hasn’t actually achieved yet. 20th season? That’s a lie: The team has in fact only played 19.”

    It’s not a lie, they are playing their 20th season.

    Right: They are playing their twentieth season. Which is another way of saying that they have not yet played twenty whole seasons. So it’s worse than a participation trophy: It’s a participation trophy handed out at the start of the season.

    I can understand having a preference for one or the other, but trying to dismiss or delegitimize one is weak.

    While it could be seen as gratuitous marketing – could teams celebrate both? They could wear a patch to mark their 50th season, AND have a celebration of some sort (fan event, sell t-shirts, give away posters, etc.) to mark the 50th Anniversary of their founding, or the 50th Anniversary of their first game.

    FWIW (and this is really a tangent), the counting of birthdays in other cultures is somewhat different.

    In Korea, for instance, *everyone* turns a new age value (e.g., from 38 to 39) on New Years Day. In addition, they use ordinals to number the year.

    Hilts and Kim, (2002), p.228 (quote) “Koreans have a peculiar way of calculating age. When you’re born, you’re already one year old, and then you get another year older when New Year’s Day rolls around. The result is that your hangungnai (한국나이), ‘Korean age’, is usually one to tow years older than your man-nai (만 나이), ‘actual age’. Under-age kids sometimes try to take some advantage of this, but eligibility for drinking, obtaining license etc is determined by your actual age.”


    Funny you put the Astros in as a team that did it right because the Astros one-upped the Mets’ 1986 faux pas the same season. And they played each other in the 1986 NLCS, both with incorrect sleeve patches.


    The Astros have been notorious for celebrating two anniversaries/ordinals. They have noted the Colt .45s’ birth in 1962, then the Astros/Astrodome birth in 1965. And they celebrated ordinals until 2010.


    Regarding the question of gray uniforms being white or color, the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS) considers gray to be an away uniform. A few years back, the NFHS mandated all basketball teams wear white at home. Because of this, gray has started becoming a popular away uniform color. That being said, most gray road uniforms I’ve seen in recent years are a darker shade than that shown in the Mississippi high school tourney game. This is the same reason you no longer see yellow/gold home uniforms at the high school level. Any sporting goods dealer who knows his butt from a hole in the ground won’t sell sell a school a gray or gold uniform to wear at home because of this rule.

    Interesting stuff.

    I’ve played pick-up basketball games where we’d have to bring two shirts, a white and a dark, because we were going to frequently mix up teams. Sure enough, some guys wore gray for the white team, and some wore gray on the color team. Man that was a headache.

    Heh, I have a set of these eight nautically-themed (instead of football) National Beer glasses
    Except mine say “Have a taste of pleasant living” beneath the clipper ship.

    “This week’s edition of Collector’s Corner is brought to you by Stroh’s, of course. This was a bar countertop sign, and you could tear off a copy of the “TV-Football” schedule. Are the times all Eastern? Which networks?” It’s fairly obvious that all times are Eastern and we could pretty accurately guess the networks (NFC road team=CBS, AFC road team=NBC, MNF=ABC). Much simpler times in the 70s.

    Good post. Learned today the difference b/t ordinals (which never heard of until 10 mins ago) and anniversaries. I always try to remember ordinals for players seasons played, i.e. LeBron was drafted in 03, that’s 12 years prior to the beginning of the 15 season, add 1 and there’s 13 years in the league.

    My dad is huge on saying on my birthday, “you’ve just completed your 27th year” on my 27th Bday..btw. He’s all about the ordinals

    I see what you mean, yeah Farmacia’s pharmacy. The point was that it is the equivalent to having a pharmacy named Pharmacy’s, thus Pharmacy’s Pharmacy

    The 49ers missed a real opportunity to celebrate a 49th anniversary in 1995. Why be beholden to decennial celebrations only?

    I’ve always thought being given the number 49 on the Niners to be an honor, though the only one who pops to mind is Bill Ring.

    I know that there are teams that wore first season patches. Are there any teams from any of the leagues that word first anniversary patches? Or any patches for anniversaries celebrating fewer than ten completed seasons?

    Inaugural-season patches are common. I’m not aware of a first-anniversary (or 2nd-season) patch ever having been worn.

    Re Sean Gilmartin’s stirrup method: this is how we wore our stirrups years ago in high school baseball. Always thought the cuff it created kept the dirt out of your socks and pants.

    My hometown OHL team, Saginaw Spirit did the ordinal thing for their 5th season, so a team that first played in 2002-03 season was wearing a 5 year patch during the 2006-07 season. I thought it was pathetic to be wearing a patch when the team was only 4 years old. I think these teams do the ordinal because the average person doesn’t notice the difference and it makes the team seem older, or the marketing teams are too impatient to wait the extra year for the anniversary.

    …or the marketing teams are too impatient to wait the extra year for the anniversary.

    I think that’s a big part of it. They just can’t wait.

    “Peter Fredrickson and I enjoy the orange-and-brown plaid pants that Browns coaches wore in the 1977 team photo.”

    I thought plaid was outdated after about 1975…wish the Browns would return to those exact unis AND NEVER, EVER CHANGE AGAIN!!!

    The Rams are in a very interesting position. This upcoming 2016 season will be their 50th in L.A. It will also be their 80th season overall. I wonder if the team will acknowledge either of these things in any way.

    Even though I generally prefer marking anniversaries, this is a special case which is too perfect to ignore. I hope there will be something done to commemorate the 50th season of the L.A. Rams.

    Funny that we usually celebrate yearly anniversaries, but the way we calculate calendar years is ordinal (e.g. this is the 2016th year of our Lord).

    That’s because there’s no year zero. But when you’re born, you’re zero years old; on your wedding date, your marriage is zero years old; etc.

    In Soccer, normally nobody celebrates ordinal and instead go with the anniversary of the clubs foundation. They chose to celebrate the whole season.
    In Mexico, both America and Atlante are in their centennial (Atlante in April, America in October), but have been celebrating since January.
    I believe the main reason for not going the ordinal way is that there’s relegation and sometimes not all your seasons are in the same level of football. Atlante, for example, has played many years in the second tier of soccer. Also, many of the older teams in Europe had to stop playing during wartime, so it’s not as straightforward as in American sports.

    In the 2005-2006 season, the FA Cup added a 125 to the logo link
    The FA Cup started in the 1871-1872 season, but, due to stoppages during wartime, they lost some years.
    It is a rare example as they have not added any number to this year’s tourney (135th) and I do not know why they choose 125 as a good number to celebrate

    I think it doesn’t hurt anything for a club to celebrate its 20th season (vs. its 20th anniversary the following season), but I do agree that the anniversary logos look better because of the symmetry of years.

    Given the topic at hand, it’s worth repeating, but I think the NHL was pretty stupid to bring out those “50” patches for the expansion six franchises, honoring the date on which the cities were awarded teams 50 years ago. It’s like they couldn’t wait to make something with that number on it. Problem is, because they all began play in the ’67-68 season, and given the aforementioned ’04-05 lockout, they won’t be playing their 50th season until 2017-18, which is when the 50th anniversary would ordinarily occur.

    The major question, then, is would their 50th anniversary actually coincide with their 50th season? Basically, what I’m asking is, when it comes to sports, do you consider an anniversary to be a passing of the calendar year, or of the completion of a season? If it’s the former, then the 50th anniversary and 50th ordinal will coincide. If it’s the latter, then the Expansion Six will be celebrating their 50th anniversaries in 2018-19, which means the NHL is a few seasons premature on the whole “50” business. I can’t recall other teams in other leagues celebrating the year their home city was awarded an expansion franchise.

    The Indy 500 is celebrating its 100th running in 2016, even though it already celebrated the 100th anniversary in 2011 because the first 500 was in 1911. 6 races were canceled because of World Wars I & II.

    And they celebrated the “Centennial Era” for 3 years (2009-11) to correspond to the opening of track in 1909 to the first 500 mile race in 1911.

    Brinke – the great t-shirt shop Homage has a design similar to the Reds plate you linked to – no dates on the flags though. link

    I like teams to celebrate anniversaries so I agree. But I can see the other side too. Good discussion.

    Similarly, it bothers me when championship banners show a two-year overlapping season instead of just the one year it was won.


    Some teams just do it better/”right”!


    Student are upset at the logo for Harvard Law School because the shield is based upon a crest of an 18th century slaveholder. Wow. We should get Japan to get rid of their flag so we won’t be reminded of Pearl Harbor. Or have Texas get a new state flag, because President Kennedy (a Harvard grad) was murdered there.

    Next year the NHL will be celebrating their “centennial”. The league’s first season was 1917-18, therefore making 2017-18 the true centennial. Since the players were picketing all of 2004-05, that season also marks the 100th season in NHL history, making the “centennial” even more fake.

Comments are closed.