If you can’t see the slideshow above, click here
The Dodgers unveiled new batting helmets for their home opener yesterday. The matte finish is nothing new, of course (the entire N.L. west has now gone matte), but the “LA” logos on the helmets are definitely worth a closer look. They’re raised off of the helmet shell, and were produced by a 3D printer. The slideshow above provides a good sense of how it looked.
I had an exclusive on this story — you can get the basics in this ESPN piece, which was posted just as yesterday’s Dodgers/D-backs game got started. If you haven’t read it already, I strongly recommend starting there before going any further or commenting.
Here are a few details I didn’t include in the ESPN piece:
• To my surprise, Dodgers equipment manager Mitch Poole told me he intends to have the team’s catchers use the raised logos on their catching helmets. That seems like asking for trouble, because the horizontal strap of a catcher’s mask will constantly be rubbing against the raised logo. At the very least, it’ll get dirty; at worst, it’ll come loose. Why not use a flat decal for the catchers (or no logo at all)? But Poole said he wants to try it with the raised logo. I think that will end badly, although it appeared to hold up fine yesterday:
• Poole said one of his biggest issues with teams using matte helmets is that they’re still using their old shiny logo decals, creating what he views as a matte/glossy conflict. The Dodgers’ director of graphic design, Ross Yoshida, told me he feels the same way. So one of their big priorities with this project was to make sure the finish of the raised logos matches the matte finish of the new helmets.
• At one point the Dodgers were considering using the matte helmets with the 3D logos at home, and sticking with the glossy helmets and standard logo decals on the road. Ultimately, though, they decided to use just one set of helmets.
• As we’ve discussed before, the Dodgers actually have three distinct “LA” logos — the one on their cap (which has soft, somewhat rounded serifs), the one in the MLB Style Guide (which has crisp slab serifs), and the one on their helmet (which is wider than the one in the Style Guide). The Dodgers considered using the cap version, with its softer edges, for the new raised helmet logo. In the end, though, they stuck with the helmet version. So the new mark is a 3D version of what they’ve been wearing on their helmets for nearly half a century.
• My story mentioned that the raised logos on football nose bumpers are made from rubber and cast from molds, while the Dodgers are using plastic logos produced on a 3D printer. Some further background on that: The Dodgers considered going with rubber, but cutting a steel mold turned out to be fairly expensive. If the plastic logos look good and are well-received, the team may spring for a mold and go with rubber logos in the future. But for now they’ll stick with the 3D-printed plastic because it’s less costly. (You might think, as I did, that an organization like the Los Angeles Dodgers wouldn’t have a problem spending a few extra thousand dollars on a project like this. But as it was explained to me, “We all have our budgets to stay within,” and that was that.)
• Pro Helmet Decals, the vendor that provided the raised logos, is the same company that supplies the Mets’ raised orange helmet squatchees. The company’s owner, David Sulecki, initially thought the same process used to make the little orange domes could also be used to create the Dodgers’ raised lettering, but he ran into two problems: (1) That process only allows for a glossy finish, not the matte finish that the Dodgers wanted. (2) The “LA” wouldn’t have projected out far enough to provide a good three-dimensional effect. So he scrapped that idea.
• After Sulecki had the logos 3D-printed, he had to apply adhesive backing to them. If the logos had been flat, he could have run them through a machine that would have applied the adhesive, but he couldn’t do that because the logos are curved. Instead, he had to put a rectangular sheet of 3M adhesive over each logo and then use an X-Acto knife to hand-trim the sheet along the edges of the logo (which is why you can see the 3M logo on the back of each helmet logo) — a seriously painstaking process when you multiply it by many dozens of logos. He said it was a tremendous pain in the butt.
• It was Sulecki who first tipped me off about this project, in mid-March, but he swore me to secrecy. Everyone involved eventually agreed to let me do a story as long as it didn’t run before yesterday’s gametime, because they didn’t want to ruin the surprise, and of course I was fine with that. Poole promised me an exclusive, which was great, although I was still worried I’d get scooped if some beat reporter saw the helmets lying around the Dodgers’ clubhouse an hour or two before the game and then tweeted a photo of them. Fortunately, that didn’t happen.
• If you watched Ken Burns’s new Jackie Robinson documentary, you may have noticed that the Dodgers appeared to have a raised helmet decal on a matte helmet back in 1956:
— Steve Humphries (@stevenhumphries) April 13, 2016
That helmet was flocked, of course. The logo was probably felt, which was common on flocked helmets back in the day:
Were the Dodgers consciously mimicking the flocked/felt look with their new helmets? If so, nobody involved mentioned that to me.
Now, the big question: Do I like them? I think I do. I’m qualifying that with “I think” because I want to see more of how they look on the field. The initial returns, though, are good. Some observers said the raised logo on the matte background reminded them of fondant on a cake, and I can totally see that comparison based on the photos that ran with my ESPN article. On the field, though, I thought they looked significantly better than that.
I do think they’d be better off going with rubber, however. It would be more flexible, and therefore less prone to chipping or breaking loose. Maybe they’ll end up making that switch eventually.
Meanwhile, about an hour after my ESPN story went up, I heard from Ike Guerrero, the baseball coach at Theodore Roosevelt High School in California, who informed me that his team began using raised helmet logos earlier this year (click to enlarge):
Those logos were supplied by a company called Raised Decals, which operates out of Auburn, Washington. Turns out they’ve worked with a number of teams, including the Washington Huskies (click to enlarge):
Unlike the Dodgers’ logos, the ones created by Raised Decals are made of silicone and cast from molds. I spoke last night with the company’s founder/owner, Joseph Walter, who explained that he has a utility patent on his production technique. He’s sending me some samples, which I’ll share with you once I see them.
In any case, no matter which materials are used, it seems like the phenomenon of raised logos on batting helmets may catch on. Like any trend, it’ll probably be taken too far. For now, though, I kinda like it.
Click to enlarge
As for that other team”¦: The Dodgers weren’t the only team wearing something new yesterday afternoon. Their opponents, the Diamondbacks, wore their road
greys charcoals for the first time. I watched some of this game, and it was just a disaster, especially when the players were against a dark background (click to enlarge):
It’s hard to express how awful they looked. Or at least it’s hard for me. But Rob Lowe, of all people — yes, the actor — got it just about right:
The Diamondback's uniforms make them look like futuristic maintenance men working on a trash truck in space. pic.twitter.com/hZ3eompYvy
— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) April 12, 2016
If Phil ever needs a weekend off — or if I need a day off myself, for that matter — I’m calling Lowe.
Manifest destiny: We are apparently living in the final days of American exceptionalism, as NBA owners are reportedly ready to finally pull the trigger on uniform advertising for the 2017-18 season during a vote taking place later this week. That would bring an end to the Big Four’s longstanding history of going ad-free.
You already know all the obvious reasons why I’m opposed to this, but here’s another one I haven’t mentioned before: As soon as this vote goes through, there’s going to be endless chatter and speculation — some of it serious, some of it “humorous” — about which corporations will be advertising on which teams’ uniforms, and the whole thing will become an exercise in corporate theater, which is the sort of thing in which I have exactly zero interest. Sigh.
Of course, there’s still time for an asteroid to slam into the Earth before the vote is taken — or a few brave NBA owners could decide to do the right thing and vote to safeguard the integrity of the league’s uniforms. I’m pretty sure the asteroid scenario is more plausible.
Although this battle may have been lost, it’s important to keep the contagion from spreading to the other the other Big Four leagues. Or maybe we should start calling them the Big Three, since the NBA has decided to look more like a minor league. Too bad. #NoUniAds
Baseball News: Jackie Robinson Day is the day after tomorrow. All MLB and MiLB uniformed personnel will wear No. 42. ”¦ In a related item: On Friday Jackie’s signed contact with the Brooklyn Dodgers, as well as the contract he signed in 1945 when he joined the Montreal Royals, will be on display at the New-York Historical Society. The documents will be displayed at the NYHS for a limited time before embarking on a U.S. tour. ”¦ Also, UCLA wore Jackie throwbacks last night (thanks, Phil). ”¦ A pair of Arkansas high school teams went light blue vs. light blue the other day (from Ben Schmuck). ”¦ Here’s a shot of Frank Robinson, then with the Reds holding one of his stirrups (from Lance Smith). ”¦ The Omaha Storm Chasers are, uh, see for yourself (from @spomedome). ”¦ Mike Wissman recently contacted the Phillies to complain about the new adjustments to the jersey script and was pleasantly surprised by the response he got: “The person I spoke with (of course I forget his name) was genuinely interested in my feedback. He didn’t get into the why of the move but said they would be evaluating the look over the course of the year and see how that might impact 2017. I referenced the topic being on Uni Watch and he even pulled the site up while talking with me. He said one thing the team likes about the new script is that the blue stars are much more prominent, as they had gotten smaller over the years. He then asked my opinion of the new red alternate (I told him I thought it was a little too much red for me but appreciated the introduction of something new). He seemed to be actually listening to what I had to say and in the course of our chat described himself as a uni geek as well.” ”¦ If you like green and gold as much as I do, you’ll love this tequila sunrise design being worn by SUNY-Oswego (big thanks to @jaytothefuture). ”¦ Braves OF Mallex Smith had to leave Monday night’s game after his helmet came off and gouged his forehead during a stolen base attempt. ”¦ When All Games Are Special, No Games Are Special Dept.: The Royals have received permission from MLB to wear their gold-trimmed championship uniforms, which they wore for the first two games of the season, for Friday home games, wheee! ”¦ The Lehigh Valley IronPigs are going a step further on Jackie Day by wearing a big “42” on the side of their cap (from Bill Madison). ”¦ Tigers C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who normally wears two batting gloves, wore only one yesterday, which had the bonus effect of exposing the neon press-ons on his signal-calling hand (from Jason Whitt). ”¦ The Buffalo Bisons’ mascot, Buster, has a new team-colored glove (from Zach Polvino). ”¦ Paul Rudd showed up at Rich Eisen’s studio yesterday in a Royals uni. Note that it had no number on the front but 42 on the back (from Jesse Gavin). ”¦ Speaking of raised/textured headwear logos, check out these new caps for the Hannibal Cavemen. ”¦ Great story about a nonprofit that collects used baseball equipment and distributes it to needy youth programs (from Andy King). ”¦ Interesting to see that Alabama, of all schools, has a jersey with a Blue Jays-esque font (from Dustin Semore). ”¦ Remember, the Diamond Uniform Database continues to track what each MLB team is wearing every day.
NFL News: The Chiefs have a group of former players called the Chiefs Ambassadors, who do public/goodwill appearances in the community. Several of them recently appeared at the University of Kansas Hospital wearing Chiefs jerseys with big honking ad patches. “I work at the hospital, and this is the first time I recall the players wearing jerseys with ads on them,” says Ron Baker. Douchebags.
Hockey News: Longtime Uni Watch reader/pal Teebz, who runs the excellent Hockey Blog in Canada site, is running his annual NHL playoff pool. Enter now for your chance at what Teebz describes as “some decent prizes”! ”¦ Did you know hockey players often trade sticks? They do! “It’s mostly done in private, and there is an understood class system,” says Ted Bloss. ”¦ Good article on goalie mask artist David Gunnarsson (from Erikk Hokenson)
NBA News: The Suns have purchased the D-League’s Bakersfield Jam and will move the team to Arizona, where it will be known as Northern Arizona Suns (from Conrad Burry). ”¦ Lots of good photos in this feature about the Rockets’ stay at a Portland hotel (thanks, Mike). ”¦ Here’s a comparison of Kobe Bryant’s career stats while wearing No. 8 vs. No. 24 (from Daniel Donell).
College Hoops News: Here’s a good find by Tim Calloway: If you go to the 11th page of this PDF, you’ll see what the NC State student newspaper wrote about the school’s infamous unitards back when they debuted in 1989. According to the article, “several other universities, such as Georgetown and Syracuse, may follow suit.” As I wrote yesterday, for now we only have confirmation for one other school having worn the unitards — Oklahoma State. I’m pursuing a lead on another school, however — stay tuned.
Soccer News: The Daily Mail ran a story on the 10 worst soccer team logos, and one of the teams responded by listing its 10 worst newspaper logos (from Anthony Emerson). ”¦ New alternate kit and mascot for the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Grab Bag: Singer Erykah Badu took some heat after voicing her opinion on New Zealand schoolgirl uniforms. ”¦ A New Mexico firefighter is under investigation after a photo surfaced showing his wife breast-feeding their child while wearing his uniform. ”¦ New logo for U. of Buffalo athletics (from Mike Monaghan). ”¦ Lakeland College in Wisconsin is becoming Lakeland University and has a new logo (from Brian Kerhin). ”¦ Here’s an article on six schools whose team names have religious roots. ”¦ New Balance is coming out with a 3D-printed sneaker (from Andrew Cosentino). ”¦ Here are the Indy car liveries for the Long Beach Grand Prix (from Tim Dunn). ”¦ New uniforms for the Canadian Olympic team (thanks, Phil). ”¦ New logo and slogan for Stockton, California. ”¦ Domino’s “Pizza” has come out with a pair of box designs that mimic the company’s logo.