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The Weird Connection Between ‘The A,’ Dizzy Gillespie, and Tony Bennett

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Atlanta will debut their new City Connect uniforms tomorrow — the 49th anniversary of Henry Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run. The front of the jersey, with its “The A” insignia, reminded longtime reader/contributor Ron Ruelle (the man behind the Brooklyn Branches project) of a design project from early in his career. It’s a fun story — take it away, Ron!

The Story of the “the”

By Ron Ruelle

There are lots of design elements in the Atlanta baseball team’s new City Connect uniform, but I’m particularly interested in the jersey insignia — “The A.” Specifically, I’m interested in the “The.” Some designer spent some time on that, and I should know, because I once had to design another “The,” similar to this one. By coincidence, my story takes place in Atlanta — or, rather, in “the A,” as it is apparently now called. And while my story doesn’t involve Henry Aaron, it does involve Dizzy Gillespie and Tony Bennett, so listen up!

Back in 1989-90, when I was in grad school at the Portfolio Center in Atlanta, I worked for Intersound Records. I designed covers mostly for classical records, but they also had a jazz label and some other niche labels. Anyway, in August of ’89, Dizzy Gillespie recorded something called The Symphony Sessions, which featured him blowin’ his horn along with a symphony orchestra. Our label had the rights to distribute it, so we rushed it into production later that year. It would be one of the last recordings of new material released in Gillespie’s lifetime.

For the record cover, our company acquired the rights to a painting of Dizzy by singer Tony Bennett (who is also a talented painter). Our lead designer was working on the rest of the graphics, but he wanted a handwritten script for the “The” in “The Symphony Sessions.”

That “The” became my assignment. I spent, I kid you not, an entire half-day at work writing the word “The” over and over again with different markers, brushes, calligraphy pens, crayons, whatever was handy. All-caps, script, scratchy, scribbly, weird folk styles, “jazzy” styles, you name it. Remember, this was before Adobe Illustrator was a useful program, before all those lovely script fonts, before the internet.

And yes, I was on the clock the whole time.

Eventually, they combined the “th” from one version and the “e” from another to create the “the.” It’s unfortunate that the text covers so much of the illustration, but still not a terrible cover. Sadly, since I did not get a design credit in the liner notes, this assignment doesn’t show up on my Discogs profile. (But I do have a sweet Dick Tracy record cover illustration from those days listed there). (Update: Someone has now added the credit to my Discogs profile after all!)

So yeah: Dizzy, Tony, and me. And that’s that for the “the.”


I love this story! But I have a major gripe with the typography: For the recording date — August 25th, 1989 — they put the comma after the “5,” instead of after the superscript “TH.” Superscripts often cause problems — it’s usually best to avoid them.

Anyway: Big thanks to Ron for sharing this story with us, and for giving us some fun content to ease us into the weekend!



Substack Reminder

In case you missed it on Thursday, my Premium article this week is an in-depth look at the Yankees’ proposal to stop issuing uniform numbers to coaches and managers (like Rob Thomson and Dusty Baker, shown above). MLB said no to that idea, at least for now, but they’re apparently giving the idea some additional consideration, and the Yanks intend to revisit the topic this winter.

You can read the start of the article here. In order to read the entire thing, you’ll have to subscribe to my Substack (which will also give you access to my full Substack/Bulletin archives). My thanks, as always, for your support!



Can of the Day

We all know that Orchard Park is where the Buffalo Bills’ stadium is. But did you know there used to be a Buffalo company called Orchard Park Foods, with a product line that included Orchard Park Coffee? I didn’t!

I liked these so much that I bought them. They arrived in the mail yesterday, and I’ve already put one of them to use (along with another can recently featured here on Uni Watch):

• • • • •

That’ll do it for me for this week, unless there’s breaking news later today. Enjoy Phil’s weekend content, have a great Easter, and I’ll see you back here on Monday. Peace. — Paul

Comments (27)

    The ability to easily condense or extend lettering was a new thing at the time, and designers did indeed go nuts with it.

    I’ll plead ignorance. Does any man, woman or child refer to Atlanta as “The A”?

    Unrelated, but Angels fans called/call rhe stadium “The Big A” despite the naming rights changes.

    Not me, but it seems “The ATL” is a popular way the kids today to refer to Atlanta. Much better than “Hotlanta” which is disdained by residents (there are so few true Atlanta natives). A few years ago Braves social media quit using the hashtag #ChopOn and started using #ForTheA – not sure if this answers your question, but perhaps the Braves hashtag was part of the genesis of “TheA”.

    Not as bad as “The CLE” (“see ell ee” not “clee”). Nothing like taking a two-syllable name and “shortening” it to four syllables. My eyes roll every time I hear it.
    But yeah, “the Land” is pretty bad.
    I’m Still Calling It Cleveland.

    Maybe it’ll catch on like “The Lou” has in St Louis. Ugh, I hate that “The Lou” has caught on. It’s so dumb.

    I feel the same way about Cincinnati being reduced to “The ‘Nati”.
    I’m sure that I’m in the minority about this but, oh well, I’m an outsider anyway.

    I’ve decided that I’m not a fan of ordinals for dates. August 25, 1989 works just fine. No need for a “th” in the first place, superscript or not.

    Adding it makes it easier to do a computer search, though, e.g., looking for “25th” vs looking for “25” in a large file filled with numbers and dates, but if saving 2 characters will help legibility, climate change or even OCD, then there is no wrong way to eat a Reese’s peanut butter cup.

    Hi Paul, what is the difference between the red and blue lettered versions of your great Orchard Park cans? Different beans? Or did they just switch company colors after some years?

    A Discogs user named “jazzfestus” added Ron’s credit on the Dizzy Gillespie album

    Pretty sure “For the A” was the hashtag used to replace Chop On.

    I’m not super well versed in Atlanta history but have never heard anyone refer to it as “The A” other than that

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