We all know that one of the problems with button-front jerseys is that sometimes a letter ends up being cut in half as it sits astride the placket, and sometimes those two halves don’t quite align. And we also know there’s the additional problem of “extra” letters suddenly appearing.
But today I want to talk about another problem with button-fronts — something so simple it seems really obvious, but I don’t think we’ve discussed it before. And here it is: If you’re using standardized, roughly equally sized letters, and if you don’t split a letter in half across the placket, you’re sometimes left with a badly lopsided chest insignia that feels unbalanced and uncentered, with the resulting wordmark leaning to one side.
Here’s a really simple example from a vintage jersey I found on eBay (click to enlarge):
As you can see, they put the “A” in the middle, centered right on the placket. But that meant they had to put two letters on one side of the “A” and only one letter on the other side. They tried to make up for it by adding more space between the “M” and the “A” (which doesn’t look so hot), but the word still feels lopsided and off-center, leaning heavily to one side (which looks even worse).
Obviously, this is a fairly primitive lettering job. Something like that could never happen with a big league jersey, right?
Wrong — as you’ll see in a minute.
Before I get to some specific MLB examples, I want to set the ground rules here. We’re not going to talk about scripts, because it’s easy to manipulate a script so it feels centered. We’re also not going to talk about chest marks that feature letters of multiple sizes and weights — again, it’s easy to manipulate that kind of typography so it feels balanced.
Instead, we’re going to focus on jerseys that, like the eBay example, use standardized, all-caps, radially arched lettering, usually with an even number of letters. The examples I’m about to show you are things we’ve all been looking at for years, and in many cases I suspect we’ve just gotten used to their lopsidedness without thinking much about it. But I warn you — once you start looking for it, you’ll find it. And once you find it, it sticks out like a sore thumb. You can’t unsee it!
Ready? Here we go.
1. Houston Astros, home and alternate jerseys. This one has been bugging me since the day it was unveiled. Take a look at how lopsided this is (click first photo to enlarge):
The “R” is at the midpoint, with three letters on one side of it and two on the other, the insignia is practically sliding off to the player’s right (our left). A mess. They could solve this by rotating everything clockwise and splitting the “T,” but that would cause letter-splitting problems. Another solution, of course, would be to go with a pullover instead of a button-front.
2. Boston Red Sox, road and navy alternate jerseys. Boston’s home jersey is simple, because you have three letters on each side of the placket with a space in between — perfect symmetry. But the jerseys with “Boston” on the chest are trickier (click to enlarge):
Here we have the “T” centered on the placket with two letters on one side and three on the other. Just like with the Astros, the insignia is weighted too heavily toward the player’s right (our left). The solution, which they’ve opted not to pursue, would be to split the “S.”
(It’s worth noting, incidentally, that the Bosox have sometimes put the “S” in the center, instead of the “T,” which makes the lettering lopsided in the other direction but still doesn’t solve the problem.)
3. San Francisco Giants, home jersey. The Giants’ chest lettering is classic, old-school and beautiful, right? True enough, but it’s also lopsided (click to enlarge):
This time the “N” is centered with three letters on one side and two on the other. Granted, one of those three letters on the more heavily weighted side is an “I,” which doesn’t take up much space, but the insignia still leans too hard to that side.
4. New York Yankees, road jersey. I can already hear the howls of disbelief — “The Yankees? There’s a flaw in the Yankees’ uniform?” Sho’ nuf. See for yourself (click to enlarge):
This is a weird one because the lopsidedness is completely avoidable. As you can see, they basically put the blank space in the center, with three letters on one side (“New”) and four on the other (“York”). This one has a much easier solution: Just rotate everything slightly counter-clockwise, and then the only “letter” that you’re splitting in half is the blank space — no problem. Which happens to be exactly what the Mets do (click to enlarge):
That’s much better than the Yanks’ version. So the next time someone tells you the Yankees do everything better than the Mets, don’t just say, “Hel-lo, The Mets are nine games over .500 and in first place, and the Yanks are six games under and in last place!” (although that’s certainly fun to say, so go ahead and say it). Also be sure to say, “The Mets do a waaaay better job of centering their road jersey lettering than the Yankees do!”
Update: It has been pointed out in today’s comments that all of the Yankees photos I showed are from previous years, and that the Yanks have actually fixed this problem for 2016, rotating the lettering a bit counter-clockwise and ending up with something very similar to what the Mets are doing:
Good for them! Problem solved. (But they’re still in last place.)
Now, I know some of you graphic designers and typography geeks out there are saying, “It’s not as simple as just counting how many letters are on each side! You have to account for letterform weight, kerning, negative spacing for nested letterforms,” blah-blah-blah — yeah, I know. That’s why I mentioned the “I” in the Giants example, and I could have mentioned a few other variables with the other teams. But for the most part, these particular examples really are as simple as counting letters on each side of the center point, because almost all of the letters involved are full-width and don’t allow for nesting. Take another look and you’ll see what I mean.
Some of you may also be saying, “Centered, shmentered. Hell, lots of jersey designs are asymmetrical.” True enough. But that jersey, like many other similar jerseys, is designed to be asymmetrical. Radially arched lettering spread across the chest, however, is designed to be centered. And a lot of MLB jerseys are currently failing that very simple test.
There’s a very simple solution to all of this: Go with pullovers. I’m not necessarily saying they should go with pullovers, but it would definitely solve this particular problem. You could also give your pullover a faux button placket, as some college teams are now doing.
Remember my recent point about the difference between a traditionalist and a classicist? This is a great example of how that distinction can play out. The traditionalist will say, “I don’t care if the lettering is off-center, or if they split one of the letters and the two halves don’t line up. Baseball jerseys should be button-front, the end.” But a classicist will say, “I love button-fronts as long as they work. But if the lettering is messed up, then button-fronts aren’t working. We can — and should — do better.”
(My thanks to reader Jeff Schleicher for recently giving me the kick in the pants to explore this topic, which I’d been meaning to get around to for some time.)
Save the date(s): Several important important dates are coming up on the Uni Watch calendar over the next few weeks:
• Tuesday, May 17: This date will mark the 10th anniversary of the very first post on this here website. A full decade, not bad. As always, we will mark the site’s anniversary by celebrating Purple Amnesty Day — the one day of the year when I accept orders for purple-inclusive membership cards. And just like last year, PAD will feature its own T-shirt, which will be available for this one day only.
• Wednesday, May 25: We’re going to have a Uni Watch gathering here in Brooklyn on this date (exact venue still to be determined). Yes, I realize we usually do the gatherings on weekends, not on school nights, but we had to choose this date because we have a special guest who’ll be in town: SportsLogos.net honcho Chris Creamer. Think of it as a summit meeting. More details on this soon.
• Thursday, May 26: I will be a featured guest this evening as part of Talk Show, a live event in which people with unusual jobs are interviewed in front of a live audience. It’s free and fun. This date is also the 17th anniversary of when the very first Uni Watch column was published in The Village Voice, so I’ll be a particularly celebratory mood. (Yes, two different Uni Watch anniversaries in the space of nine days. Confusing, I know.)
T-Shirt Club ”” LAST CALL: Today is the last day to order the Uni Watch T-Shirt Club’s second release of 2016 — the hockey design — which is available here.
Here’s the base design (which you can click to enlarge), followed by the three shirt color offerings:
The shirt is available here until 11pm Eastern tonight.
Today is also the next-to-last day for the goalie design that we’re offering for sale as a bonus shirt. Here’s the base design, and the three color options:
This shirt is not part of the T-Shirt Club, does not have Club’s jock tag graphic, and neither counts toward nor is required for 2016 “Collect ’Em All” eligibility. It’s just a bonus design that we’re offering for those who want it. You can get it here through tomorrow night.
Click to enlarge
By Brinke Guthrie
Yes, I know we featured a Falcons media guide less than a month ago, but ya know what? Great graphics are great graphics, and it seems the Falcons did pretty well back in the day. This one is from 1970 and has the requisite far-out groovy Peter Max outline effect.
Okay, on to the rest of this week’s picks:
• Here’s an NBA “Bas-Ket” game. Real Basketball In Miniature!
• Great cover on this 1969 Rayduhz/Oilers program.
• Some nice cover art on this 1970 Packers/Giants pre-season game program, too.
• That same year also brought us this rather cool-looking Saints schedule coin. [Simple rule: Anything with Sir Saint on it is pure gold. ”” PL]
• This vintage 1950s Cleveland Browns wall plaque lets you know “It’s fall again, so call again” with Carling Black Label Beer.
• It looks like you could put a Cincinnati Reds window sticker on your car as far back as the 1940s. Never seen one this old before. [And I’ve never seen that particular version of the Reds’ wishbone-C logo. ”” PL]
• An NFL comic book? Yes sir, from 1969.
• Here’s the Official NFL Touch Football Play and Rule Book, also from 1969.
• Got some 1970s NBA mini basketballs that go with those hoop kits from the early 1970s.
• And to wrap up, look at the kids’ faces on this 1980 NFL/Sears ad — those guys came to play.
By Mike Chamernik
Baseball News: The Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen wore teammate Starling Marte’s glove last night. Anyone know why? (From @BW628.) … The Braves and Royals will wear “Salute to the Negro Leagues” unis on Sunday (from Phil). … Two Dodgers — Enrique HernÃ¡ndez and AdriÃ¡n GonzÃ¡lez — now have accents on their NOBs. … SportsNation honored Bartolo ColÃ³n’s historic homer with a customized MLB-style logo (from Jorge Cruz). … In a new Geico commercial, Jacob deGrom wears a blank Mets jersey and cap and a pair of pants with the MLB logo covered up (from @mets_stats). … The Modesto Nuts will wear pink tequila sunrise jerseys for Cancer Awareness Night. … Good late-’60s shot of Steve Garvey in his Michigan State uniform. … A San Diego pale ale is styled after the Padres early-’80s uniforms, and it takes its name from Tony Gwynn’s 1994 batting average (from Geoff Lowman). … Speaking of craft beers, a Baltimore brewery named an IPA after Steady Eddie Murray (from Andrew Cosentino). … And more beer! Scott Rogers was at Surly Brewing Co’s beer hall in Minneapolis and found Surly hats in the colors of local sports teams. The brewery’s standard colors are black and red. … Scott Seeger is collecting hats from every team called the Giants. He already has San Francisco, Yomiuri (Japan), and Lotte (Korea), and he’s also going to get a San Jose (Class A) and retro New York Giants cap. Anyone know of any more Giants baseball teams? … Arizona residents can now get charcoal Diamondbacks license plates. … MLB teams will wear “Play Ball” sleeve patches and new BP jerseys this weekend to promote youth baseball and softball. … Two high school notes from Brice Wallace: Bridgeport (W.V.) High has logos on the sides of its helmets, and Bridgeport (Conn.) Central has logos on the backs of its helmets. ”¦ A fan at Coors Field last night wore a Rockies/Avs Frankenjersey. ”¦ Washington State’s shortstop is wearing an interesting mask contraption.
Pro Football News: The Vikings have started to install the turf at their new stadium, and it looks like they’ll once again use their jersey font for the yard markers, which they’ve done before (from Dustin Kalis). … Also, Vikings rookies took portraits with 1990s laser design backgrounds (from Tommy Turner). … Instead of CFL patches, the Montreal Alouettes will wear LCF patches, for Ligue canadienne de football (from 4ccSuperTwinky). … This is a little old, and the sections on the Falcons and Oilers contain some inaccuracies, but if a roundup of one observer’s favorite throwbacks float your boat, there you go (from Eric Wright). ”¦ Steelers teammates DeAngelo Williams and Mike Mitchell talked about the importance of their uniform numbers (from Jerry Wolper).
College Football News: New Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said his team will have new alternates this year (from Kary Klismet). … Reader Johnny V found Crimson Tide sheets in NFL packaging at a Target in Flagstaff, Ariz. … A few people sent this in: Coastal Carolina is now an Under Armour school. … Redditors determined that Washington State has the best logo in college football.
Soccer News: Liverpool has a new home kit (from Moe Kahn). … Here’s Sevilla’s uniforms for the Copa del Rey final. Derek Noll says this is the first time the club has had a jersey advertiser all season. … There’s just a lot going on with Irish soccer uniforms (from George Chilvers). ”¦ Here’s a look at the culture of kit unveilings (from Mark Coale).
Grab Bag: Predators fans got towels at last night’s game, and the upper deck had “Smashville” spelled out (from Tyler Earles). … A Boston Globe writer argued against NBA uniform ads (from Tim Walsh).
… Rickie Fowler’s wardrobe and accessories for this weekend’s Players Championship include some pink. … The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is running a contest to redesign the modern medical bill (from @MU_UK_Fan). … As branding becomes more informal and creative, especially as unique fonts and lowercase words become more prevalent, innocuous words will look like other words when turned upside-down (from James Gilbert). … Maryland’s new driver’s license design includes the state flag and a blue crab (from Andrew Cosentino). … A new book chronicles pro cycling teams’ attire (from Phil). … Reebok has made new blue-and-white shoes to celebrate 68 years of Israel’s independence (from Phil). … Is this real life? Part 1: The National Park System will become more open to corporate donations that could lead to logo displays and naming rights (from Phil). … Is this real life? Part 2: Budweiser is seeking to produce beer labels with “America” in place of the beer’s name. Also, the brewery applied to include phrases like “E Pluribus Unum,” “from the redwood forest to the Gulf stream waters this land was made for you and me,” and “indivisible since 1776” on its packaging. … Mmmm, I love this logo: a bear with two chain saws! It’s from Bear Slashing (great name, too), a Canadian land-clearing equipment company (from reader twin fifty eight). ”¦ Pinkwashing has now extended to the U.S. mint, which will produce a pink coin to promote breast cancer awareness (from Doug Martin).