Good Saturday morning, Uni Watchers. I hope everyone has had a good week. To my fellow readers from the Carolinas up through Maine, I hope everyone makes it safely though TS Ophelia (whether it’s already hit you or you’re up next). Gonna be a soggy weekend for us.
Anyhoo. I’ve got a couple things to say about today’s post: First…Don’t Shoot The Messenger. Today’s guest author, Walter Helfer, has definitely taken a shot at the elephant in the room: ads on baseball uniforms — but not in the way you’re used to. It is still (and will always be), Uni Watch policy to vigorously oppose ads on uniforms (or anywhere they don’t belong — such as on public buildings or school buses). But ads are here to stay, unfortunately, so Walter has decided to grade this year’s crop of ads besmirching MLB unis. That’s not to say Walter is in favor of uni ads — he’s just got a different perspective than most of us.
We’d love to have your thoughts on this as well — after you’ve read Walter’s bit — so please do that and let’s keep the discussion in the comments civil and polite. Again, we’re certainly NOT advocating in any way for the ads chosen by the MLB clubs who have
sold their very souls to the devil solicited them. Nor do we believe they should even appear on those uniforms. But since they’re there already…
I’ll let Walter take it from here (all artwork by Walter Helfer).
Baseball Uni Ads: Threat … or Menace?
by Walter Helfer
I’ve had to endure my share of setbacks in my 60-odd years on this planet: In 1965, it was announced the New York World’s Fair was shutting down. In 1969, Chevrolet stopped making the Corvair. In 1976, Bachman-Turner Overdrive put out their worst album. In 2023, I learned my favorite comic strip was being written by a racist shit-heel … and baseball teams began putting advertiser patches on the sleeves of their uniforms.
It’s not an exaggeration to say the onset of ads rent our world, and signaled a breach of our little sports oasis. We like to think of our favorite hockey/football/basketball/baseball teams as relics of a happier time when franchises were not reduced to “revenue streams.”
But my perspective (as always) was different. I have always appreciated a well-designed logo, not only in the insignias found in sports, but in all media. In fact, it was my love of advertising that opened the door to sports, with its clean graphics and symbols. TV stations, petroleum companies, supermarkets, automakers, furniture builders, et. al. have a record of using crests and wordmarks that are well-designed and pleasing to the eye. You can maintain these trademarks belong in other media, and that is your right. But, bear with me: if you were born in 2010 or later, this is the way baseball appears in your mind’s eye.
The ads went down a little easier for me by being embroidered. In a way that allowed it to dovetail a little better with baseball’s choice of fabrics, and looks so much better than cheap printing. Also, some teams have a face for radio (ahem, Diamondbacks, Marlins) and an ad could scarcely hurt. This isn’t basketball where people are fighting over a tiny strap of real estate; things have room to breathe on a baseball jersey.
I recommend anybody to check out the Logo Lounge books, the books of Yasaburo Kawayama and Peter Wildbur, and to Google Paul Rand, Saul Bass, and Paula Scher. Like many of life’s pleasures, logo design flourished in the 1970s.
I will judge each ad on its own merits, how well it suits the uniform, and recommend a classier, prettier ad for each team. You will notice some of these advertisers no longer exist, but fondly-remembered ads are the foundation of this piece, and show unexpected joy in a world packed with visual stimuli.
I rather like the FBM insignia for its Cypress Tree … and I like the ad because it removes a superfluous roundel from the uniform. I realize this will be a bone of contention: just because the team designed it DOES NOT mean it belongs there. The extra color makes it look more fun than the original.
Original Logo: C. Presentation on Uniform: B. Preferred Alternative: The amusement park down the street? Maybe you’ve heard of it?
Putting an ad on the tequila sunrise pullovers would have been an act of vandalism, but we’re decades beyond that. Houston’s uniforms are boring and overly dark. The cheerful OXY patch lightens the gloom. I defy anybody to say the Astros’ own uniform patch has anything on the advertisement, and would be better left off.
Original Logo: B. Presentation on Uniform: B. Recommended Alternative: Too many to mention; Gulf, Texaco, Sinclair, NASA, etc.
There are precious few logos as attractive as the Blue Jays’ own. At least TD Banks’ is simple, bold, and adds an attractive shade of green.
Original Logo: B. Presentation on the Uniform: B. Recommended Alternative: The CBC logo, preferably the splashy 1974 version.
Realizing their corporate logo was lacking in refinement, Quikrete opted for the direct approach, depicting one of its products for its sleeve patch. It’s colorful and surprisingly effective, even if it reminds me of the Monty Python sketch where Ron Obvious attempts to jump the English Channel carrying “half a hundred weight of their bricks because they pay all the bills.”
Original Logo: D. Presentation on Uniform: B. Recommended Alternative: With Coca Cola literally down the street, it’s not even up for debate.
A late addition to this list. It isn’t particularly great, but it’s better than either of the Brewers’ uniform patches. Maybe Northwest Mutual should have limited its contribution to the Corinthian column symbol.
Original Logo: B. Presentation on Uniform: C. Preferred Alternative: Take your pick; the Milwaukee Museum of Art, or their cute summerfest logo.
Appropriately, the year they besmirched their classic uniform with a crappy ad, they spent a year in the basement. Karma? You bet! St. Louis is known as a city where where famous businesses leave, such as Anheuser-Busch, TWA, McDonnell Douglas, the NFL, et al. Stifel is weak sauce.
Original Logo: F. Presentation on Uniform: D (They added red) Recommended Alternative: The company that didn’t leave: Eveready.
Admission: I like practically nothing about Arizona’s uniforms, except for the kiss of turquoise on the home jerseys. The Avnet patch is actually the best-looking thing on the jersey, certainly a cut above the snake-head-&-baseball patch. Advertisers know how to make things punchy and don’t fall for baroque tricks that trip up sports franchises. Arizona pushed back and got Avnet to trim the big black square away.
Original Logo: C. Presentation on uniform: B. Recommended Alternative: Though Avnet is a Phoenix-based firm, I want to see the FedEx/Kinko’s snowflake with its beautiful secondary color scheme, so close to the D-backs’ original colorway of purple, turquoise and copper.
This is a case of familiarity breeding contempt. The year they moved to PacBell (Oracle) Park, they introduced tasty buff-colored uniforms inspired by the Willie Mays era. Over time, they cluttered the suits with extra patches, superfluous piping, black (and orange) alternates, and a naff City Connect outfit. Things have descended so badly, the Cruise patch is the best-looking part of the uniform.
Original Logo: D. Presentation on the uniform: B. Recommended Alternative: Either one of the Transamerica logos; the people who built the pyramid.
By the way, I appreciate the presence of local businesses representing their home teams, and only when I see a visual epiphany do I step outside the custom. Marathon is yet another petroleum company with a GREAT logo (Mobil, Getty, Flying A)
Original Logo: B Presentation on Uniform: B. Recommended Alternative: National Museum of the American Indian. Because of the history of this team and its previous identity, I think Cleveland should show some humility and draw attention to the plight of the American Indian. Donating the space on the sleeve would be a good place to start.
I don’t like their uniforms (even though they have bright coral in their palette) and I don’t think their advertising partners, ADT, do either. Their patch completely overwhelms the uniform, and the team should have insisted ADT adopt the Miami color scheme. However, the way it dominates the black jersey says less about ADT than it does about the jersey.
Original Logo: D. Presentation on Uniform: F. Recommended Alternative: Starkist Tuna. Charlie the Tuna was just born for a job like this.
The N.Y.M.B.C. deserves credit for for demanding a pound of flesh from its partner, improving the ad in the process. New York Presbyterian Hospital presented the team with a huge white square that was 80% dead space. Steve Cohen insisted on a patch that wasn’t red & white, the colors of the hated Phillies. The resulting rectangle was more colorful and much trimmer.
Original Logo: D. Presentation on Uniform: B. Recommended Alternative: Unicef. Remember, the UN is a New York Institution. And the Mets should pay THEM for the privilege,
Krogers’ logo is well-designed, but it looks a little ropy and washed out on the Cincinnati jersey. They would have been better advised to go with the colrful and more-chunky Krogers’ filling stations’ logo.
Original Logo: B. Presentation on uniform: D. Recommended Alternative: I am looking at my Crosley record player as I write this, for those committed to local businesses.
I’ve always been enamored of circles arranged in a honeycomb pattern, an Mass Mutual makes the “M” in this fashion. Their logo ought to be more colorful; red couldn’t hurt. I like the ad patch better than the crossed socks on the grey jersey, which I see as superfluous.
Original Logo: B. Presentation on Uniform: B. Recommended Alternative: Three Good Ones: Mutual Life Assurance, the creators of the happy face; Newbury Comics, whose “toothhead” is a riff on said smily face; and the Citgo triangle.
The ad on San Diego’s uniform is a product of the Golden Age of Design. It was designed by Morton Goldsboro; I place it in a pantheon containing the Herman Miller insignia and the Westinghouse “W”. You can question its being on a baseball uniform; you CANNOT deny its beauty.
Original Logo: A. Presentation on Uniform: C. Recommended Alternative: How about Northrup Grumman, a San Diego concern. Motorola is headquartered in Chicago.
Meijer is a chain of Michigan supermarkets having a red wordmark with blue circles dotting the “i” and “j”. Detroit insisted on Meijer adopting the Tiger color scheme, subtracting most of the joy.
Original Logo: C. Presentation on uniform: F. Recommended Alternative: Are you old enough to remember the “Put a Tiger In Your Tank” Esso commercials? The friendly tiger cartoon was a recognizable Esso trademark, having sufficient change from Tony the Frosted Flakes Tiger and the baseball team’s insignia.
Who is Cornelius Vander Starr? Trivia contests from now until forever are going to explain he is the first person to have his surname appear on a (unmemorialed) Yankee uniform. Not Gehrig, Ruth, Mantle, Jeter nor Rivera. At least (and this is a stretch, believe you me) Starr Insurance’s colors are navy and white and require no tweaking. The Yankees threw paint on the Mona Lisa.
Original Logo: D. Presentation on Uniform: Left back. Recommended Alternative: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. A highbrow establishment should stick with highbrow partners.
The takeaway from this year’s experiment with sleeve patches is that legacy franchises have a lot more to lose than teams born of expansion. It says a lot that the Bronx Bombers have determined the name “Yankee Stadium” has more value than, say, “Coca Cola Stadium”. I wish they’d shown the same restraint with their jerseys; a reputation is a hard thing to recover.
OK readers…what say you?