One of the fun things about graphic design is that it’s relevant in nearly all walks of life, so as a Graphic Design Blogger (scientific name, Nerdus goatium), I can draw on my life as a baseball fan (Geekii statisticaticus) for inspiration, and Shea can write about his status as a fashion critic (Dorkella seersuckerii). I have taken advantage of this by writing frequently about baseball logos and uniforms in the past, and here I go again.
The Bird is the Word
I was recently in the city of Baltimore, where it turns out there has been a Major League Baseball team since 1954. (Who knew?) The Orioles have had an identity crisis that has lasted nearly six decades. They have alternated between a cartoon Baltimore oriole (actual scientific name: Icterus galbula) and what looks like an illustration from one of those Audubon bird books Shea reads to his kids at night. The tubby cartoon bird pictured above (who looks suspiciously like CC Sabathia, in my opinion) was used from 1966 to 1988.
One of my earlier baseball logo posts was called “The Era of the Clever Logo.” The cartoon Oriole, which I like a lot, is from that same time period. It’s not exactly clever, but it reflects a certain amount of joy about the game. The scientific illustration that serves as the Orioles logo now would be the primary example in a post called “The Era of the Generic, Nonthreatening, Small Icterid Blackbird Logo.” It’s a lovely illustration, but it goes a long way to explaining why Camden Yards in Baltimore is one of the quietest stadiums you’ll ever visit. Fans are afraid of disturbing the wildlife.
In 1966, the Orioles logo was an adorable nerd bird (not to be confused with Shea, a bird nerd), who was all smiles and ready to keep score with a giant novelty pencil. In 1967, that bird morphed into an angry, muscle-bound baseball player with a swollen head, not unlike Barry Bonds in the 1990s. I like the bird nerd, and wish the Orioles had given him more of a chance.
I realize that I’m picking on the Orioles here, but they beat my Phillies in the 1983 World Series when I was 10 years old, so I’m still a little bitter. One of my grammar pet peeves is the use of an apostrophe to pluralize. However, there are some style guides (albeit not many) that suggest that an apostrophe can be used to pluralize in some situations to avoid confusion, as with numbers (1980’s) or capital letters (RBI’s). My personal feeling is that these style guides should be burned, but let’s just say for argument’s sake that there are instances where pluralizing with an apostrophe is okay (blech).
The Orioles occasionally use an alternate logo with a script “O’s,” in the same vein as the Oakland A’s (or Oakland As). The problem is that in the Orioles logo, the apostrophe is going the wrong way. I’m fairly certain that the Orioles are the only sports team—or perhaps professional organization of any kind—that pluralizes with a single opening quotation mark. And it fills me with rage.
I’m glad they haven’t had a winning season in 14 years.
After my first post about baseball logos,
“The Good, the Bad, and the ‘I Don’t Get It,'” Friend of IBD and San Francisco Giant fan Ira Bletz complained that I identified Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers logos as classic, time-tested successes, while leaving out his team’s interlocking SF, which has been in use since the team moved from New York in 1958. (Not coincidentally, the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers rank 1, 2, and 3 in terms of merchandise sales.)
In my defense, that post was written in 2009, before many people knew there was a Major League Baseball team in San Francisco (yes, I’ve used that joke twice in this post). Even after they won the World Series last year, the Giants have not been able to crack the top 10 in merchandise sales, according to an article on Bay Area Banter.
To Ira’s point, though, interlocking letters are indeed a classic construction for MLB logos, used with varying degrees of success and consistency by a number of teams, including (from left), the St. Louis Cardinals (since 1940), the New York Mets (originally the old New York Giants’ logo, since 1908), the Colorado Rockies (since 1993), and the San Diego Padres (since 1969). Though, to be honest, I’m not sure the Rockies totally get it. All of the other interlocking-letter logos are for teams that play in cities whose names are two words. Maybe CR stands for Colo Rado.
To the San Francisco Giants’ credit, I like that they continue to use the same colors and type styles (right, above) as their New York predecessors (left, above). To their discredit, their pitchers will bean you on the backside if they feel that you’re beating them too badly.
Finally, if you’re into the history and variations of sports logos, you should check out Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos, where I got all of the images and date information for this post.