Sunday, January 29, 2012

2004-2005 Toronto Blue Jays Home Cap

The Toronto Blue Jays have been a team with an identity crisis ever since the infamous 1994 Players Strike which effectively canceled the remainder of the season. The two-time defending World Champion Blue Jays had lost a lot of community support much as the rest of the teams in the sport had seen, and the team went in a drastic direction and decided to mix up their uniform and logo scheme in order to attempt to bring interest back into the team and the game as a whole. Their identity crisis was evidently capped by four main uniform and logo reformations before finally settling on their 2012 designs, but the uniforms that made the most drastic change began in 2004 with the “J-Bird” logo.

The J-Bird logo was introduced in the 2004 season and two new caps were introduced, shown here is the Home Cap which was worn from 2004-2005, this cap is only available in the 100% Wool style and utilizes a graphite base for both the crown and the brim of the cap. This cap was quickly retired however and replaced with the black version of the cap which was previously worn as the Away Cap. The bright logo on the front of the cap beams out quite well and doesn't clash that much with the base colour of the cap, something that can't be said about the former Away now Home Cap.

This new Toronto Blue Jays “J-Bird” logo is seemingly one of the more popular caps in regards to cap sales or style, regardless of the team's actual fanbase or following. This logo includes a stylized slanted “J” which is of flat embroidery and is stitched in a manner to attempt to give it depth without raising by using white accented with silver stitching. The script on the logo is shelled with a black outline which allows the the blue jay's “action post” beak and head beaming out of it the curve of the slanted script. The bird's embroidery is rather unimpressive due to its lack of real depth through the motion of stitching, it only takes advantage of better stitching when looking at the top of the bird's head in order to create different levels of feathers through angling the stitching one way and then conflicting it in another. The entire pictorial and script logo is surrounded with a thick blue outline which is seemingly the same colour choice as the bird itself and this outline is itself surrounded by a thin white outline of its own.

The use of the multiple outlines upon outlines is an interesting design choice, but the colour choices are extremely unimpressive since their colour palette appeared to be extremely limited. The Toronto Blue Jays made a bold move by removing the “Blue” from Blue Jays, but attempting to slide it in anywhere they can really doesn't justify the fact that they dismantled 27 years of team history which involved around the Blue Jay and the Canadian Maple Leaf.

The rear batterman logo on the cap implores the use silver stitching accompanied by the blue stitching, the colour choices work seemingly well for the cap due to the base colour now being grey it reflects the silver stitching quite nicely. The accented blue stitching is an unfortunate last-ditch effort to attempt to keep the colour blue into the Blue Jays logo and colour scheme which can be said for the entire tenure of the 2004-2011 Blue Jays uniforms as a whole.

I purchased this cap in Toronto while visiting in 2005 so I was really excited to pick up this cap since this was my first time out of the United States and I thought that this cap would be a great souvenir to take back to the United States with me. This cap was really fresh when it came out but it didn't exactly age too well when true Blue Jays fans were put into the equation, but the real eye opener to the organization was when the throwbacks were worn and the reception they received because of it, and it was then these caps were thought of as having a limited lifetime. The fact that this grey cap has been retired since 2005 will make it difficult to find for anyone, especially since it was such a popular cap with the popular culture, but reproductions are not that hard to find especially when companies like HatClub and MyFitteds strive to supply accurate reproductions. Any fans of the Black version of this cap may have a little luck finding it currently due to its recent retirement, but if you want these caps you better get them before they're gone.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cleveland Indians Road/Alternate

The Cleveland Indians have had a long history involving their logo of Chief Wahoo which is a caricature of a Native American which originated as a shoulder patch in 1928 but was not worn on the cap until 1954-1957 before it was used primarily starting with the 1986 season. Chief Wahoo has been a deep part of the Cleveland Indians' team history, but its presence has not been perceived well by a portion of the Native American population which has lead to several protests which started on opening day of the infamous 1994 season.

Prior to the use of Chief Wahoo in any incarnation, the Cleveland Indians wore simple blue caps with a block style white “C” located on the front panels, and starting with the 2008 season the Cleveland Indians began to wear a cap similar to the original, but reported by the Indians' president the decision was not to combat the possible racism expressed by the logo, but was to help the team's image by not wearing the logo primarily on the road and to give the fans a cap option if they were not comfortable wearing the Chief Wahoo logo.

Whereas Chief Wahoo is worn primarily at home this new New Era cap was designed and worn starting in the 2008 season as a Home Alternate, but starting with the 2011 season this cap was retired for Home Alternate use and was then used primarily as the Away cap and Chief Wahoo was then the alternate. This cap is a base Navy Blue which is surprisingly darker than the traditional Heather Grey in which they wear as a home with a scarlet brim or the away alternate which is solid Heather Grey.

The reason that the caps use two different colour blues is a mystery to me, but the choices may have had something to do with the focus of the main logo through the background choice, and this can be noted in some of the original Chief Wahoo caps using an almost-black material that made the logo really pop out with its flat embroidery, but the lighter colour allows it to blend in slightly better. The darker Navy used on this Away/Alternate cap most likely utilized the darker colour to compliment the raised embroidery to give the stylized “C” the powerful look it required without any kind of outline, much like the correlation between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees cap script.

This Cleveland Indians New Era cap is designed with a stylized block “C” logo that is embroidered in scarlet stitching. This raised embroidery is thick and powerful which allows itself to become the dominant element of the cap through the process of putting the focus on the central script while using modest colour choices which compliment the team's dominant scheme which have been used somewhat exclusively since the team was named the Indians in 1915. By looking back to the teams roots of the very early years, the team has effectively made a throwback cap while at the same time modernizing it much like the Toronto Blue Jays recently did, but through using script rather than a pictorial logo.

The rear batterman logo falls into the category of “navy blue and red” which allows the logo to be a direct copy of the traditional MLB logo rather than the team's designers having the opportunity to be relatively creative by using colours that do not necessarily reflect the primary colours of the team. The logo on the back of this cap does fit in very well with the design of the cap by using a subtle design in a powerful way.

When the Cleveland Indians began to wear this cap as an alternate Home cap in 2008, it was a little frustrating to me due to the fact that being a baseball fan I am extremely against any real kind of change to teams or a change that would remove any historical aspect, and I assumed this logo was made to slowly phase out the Chief Wahoo logo. The basic fact about the Chief Wahoo logo is that it wasn't up until fairly recently in baseball history that they began to use it exclusively on their caps, but looking back at older baseball cards of mine I began to recall the stylized “C” logo which looked like Native American text in itself, and after a little more research I was able to discover that the “C” logos have dominated the team's cap throughout its history.

Whether the new “C” Logos replace the old Chief Wahoo logo is fine with me at the time being, but that being said I would prefer to see the Chief Wahoo logo stay within the team's uniform through the Home Cap, and Alternate cap, or the use of a shoulder patch as it was originally intended. When it comes down to it the logo in itself can easily be seen as being racist when looking at it without the filter we all might have, the caricature look does exaggerate some elements of the Native American but does not do it in a malicious manner. The best way to really make a good correlation would be the Atlanta Braves who no longer use their Native American caricatures but still heavily use Native American elements.

Looking at the Indians' Chief Wahoo logo while comparing it to dozens of other caps worn in the minor leagues, it is hard to see why the logo would be considered racist due to the level of caricatures used throughout the design process. Polls state that 91% of Native Americans approve or don't mind the Chief Wahoo or Washington Redskins team names or logos, but does that make it right? Or should lumberjacks nationwide all be offended by the Williamsport Crosscutters' logo?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

St. Louis Cardinals Alternate

The St. Louis Cardinals are baseballs most recent Champions by defeating the Texas Rangers in a compelling 7-Game series that will be remembered as one of the best played series in recent memory. The St. Louis Cardinals are one of the most storied franchises in the National League which were created in 1882 as the St. Louis Brown Stockings, but switched their name to the Cardinals a decade later in 1892. The Cardinals have been the most successful National League team when involved in the World Series, attending 18 times and winning 11 of them, two out of three in the past decade to cap that.

The St. Louis Cardinals have always been known for their front jersey logo which consists of a baseball bat with two Cardinal birds perched on both ends, which gives them their nickname “redbirds” or “birds on a bat.” The logo which the cardinals are most known for have been it consistently since 1922 which replaced the interlocking “STL” logo on their jersey front. The generic New Era cap for the Cardinals has consisted of the interlocking “STL” logo, but up until the 2000 season the Cardinals introduced a new New Era cap to go along with their traditional red and blue Home and Away caps, and this new alternate utilizes the famous “Bird on a Bat” logo which the team has been famous for since the early 20's.

This Alternate St. Louis Cardinals New Era cap consists of a Navy Blue crown with a Scarlet Red brim, the choices of colours blend the Cardinals traditional Home and Away caps, but utilize the traditional Alternate Bird on a Bat logo. The cap is worn sparingly throughout the season but is worn as a Home Alternate and does not have a specific jersey to go along with it as most Alternate caps do. Going through the years of alternates through major league baseball, many of them are just as forgettable as this cap, and the reason that it may be is because Major League Teams often rely on script for their caps rather than pictorial representations, so this cap is often ignored or even unknown to many fans outside of the St. Louis Cardinals fandom.

The front logo on the cap consists of the St. Louis Cardinals bird which is perched on the center of a baseball bat pointing to the left. This bird on a bat logo is outlined with quite embroidery which helps it to pop out on the cap slightly more than it might without the embroidery, but the detail of the cap is done quite well especially with the use of layered feather-like raised embroidery with the bird. The raised embroidery is not necessarily raised like a Washington Nationals logo, but uses multiple layers of stitching to create the layers instead of stitching over the compressed foam as most caps do. This cap's lineage through the use of embroidery is most likely stemmed from the famous Orioles bird which was introduced in 1989 but was not perfected until 1998.

The rear batterman logo might be thought of as boring to some, but the batterman logo consists of the Red and Navy blue which both compliment the St. Louis Cardinals colours but at the same time compliment the true colours of the batterman logo. The use of the batterman logo as the original and pure MLB batterman logo makes caps look much better but at the same time it can limit their ability to be unique in their own respects, and this conflict has been most noted in the recent incarnations of the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals On-Field Fitteds.

When I was in Fanzz looking at new New Era caps, I had never even thought of purchasing this hat until I looked at it and thought “wow, I want this.” I've been looking at these caps daily for over a decade now, and I don't know what kept me from viewing this cap and allowing it to have the affect on me as it did two months ago. This New Era cap is definitely one of the coolest caps worn in the Major Leagues, but it unfortunately isn't worn that often On-Field due to the fact that it is an Alternate that may be worn once a homestand. The thing that I love most about the cap is the logo itself on the front, I think that embroidery on the logo looks great and the slightly cartoonish bird looks much sharper than the Baltimore Orioles cap which I have criticized over looking way too realistic, almost as if it was clipped out of the Encyclopedia.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pittsburgh Pirates 40th Anniversary of the 1971 World Series

The 2011 Season quickly became a year to member in Pittsburgh due to the Pirates early success, but their mid-season drop-off continued to have fueled the fire for fan support in the Steel City. Not only were the Pirates relevent for the first time in nearly two decades, but the Pirates were also ready to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the World Series in which they beat the Baltimore Orioles in 7 games thus awarding Roberto Clemente his first and only World Series MVP award.

On June 21, 2011 the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Baltimore Orioles were matched up in Interleague play, this matchup created the perfect opportunity for the Pittsburgh Pirates to create a Turn Back The Clock uniform and New Era cap to commemorate their victorious winning of the 1971 World Series. The Pirates began the game with an opening ceremony which celebrated Hall of Fame Pirate Bill Mazeroski along with Pirates greats Bill Virdon, Gene Alley, Al Oliver, Bob Robertson, Dave Giusti, and Bruce Kison. The seven former players donned the throwbacks which the current players were wearing to celebrate their victory, and emerged from the dugout which allowed the fans of the past and the present to witness the winning history of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Upon seeing this cap the first time I really hated the way it looked, to me it looked extremely bland and boring and just plain ugly, but seeing it more and more made me appreciate it a lot more than that first impression. Giving the cap some real justice, this Pittsburgh Pirates throwback is stunning and the Gold crown with the black script and brim flow fantastic and the colour choices make it one of the most unique caps in the Major Leagues without going out of their way to be unique like the Marlins recently did. When I finally decided that I wanted this cap, I didn't exactly go out of my way to find it, but rather let it come to me through the process of going to the mall all of the time with my girlfriend, I knew eventually one of the Lids we went to would have my size in stock.

Outside of how cool it looks now, in 2012, the one concern of mine was how well does this cap match up to the original caps from 1971. Not being around in 1971 I wasn't able to really say one way or another, but searching the internet I was able to find some images that helped me to decipher this cap from the ones worn four decades ago. Right off of the bat I knew one inaccuracy was going to be apparent, and that's the use of the batterman logo on the rear of the cap, but New Era seemingly loves to place these on their Throwbacks, but I can't complain that they put it on there because they didn't try to hide it the asinine way they botched the 1980's Mariners Throwbacks.

While viewing a picture of the Pirates former manager Danny Murtaugh in the 1971 World Series, we can see that the underbrim is definitely green, but that was something to be expected when looking into caps earlier than the mid-1990's. Being that the rest of the On-Field Fitteds have black underbrims it was more economical for New Era to create the black underbrims for these, being that they would need to obtain the correct Kelly Green material to create the underbrims.

Pittsburgh Pirates starter Steve Blass has a little something to say about the crown colour of the cap though, but skipper Danny Murtaugh disagrees. Going beyond the base colour of the cap, the front logo can be considered to be inaccurate due to the embroidery being raised on this current cap, but did we honestly think that New Era would make the cam with flat embroidery? Based on the two pictures of the ballcaps, did the Pirates wear two different caps? I'm going to go ahead and call this miscue a possibility, but I would really like to know what the caps truly looked like since my baseball card collection doesn't span earlier than the early 1980's.

  • Use of Batterman Logo
  • Black Underbrim
  • Possible base colour inaccuracy

Going beyond the historical aspects of the cap I'm going to look into the quality of the current cap, the Pirates' “P” logo on the front is extremely sharp and is one of the freshest logos in the game, and the colour choices make it really stand out on the cap in the chosen Earth tones. The raised embroidery is done extremely well and matches up perfectly to the current On-Field Fitteds of the Pittsburgh Pirates' basic home cap, which leads me to suspect that New Era handled this as a Fashion Cap Custom as an On-Field Fitted. The fact that New Era didn't even bother to make the logo more accurate to the 1971 version shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, and this is because New Era's quality control doesn't exactly believe in accurate throwbacks and the original logo wasn't that far off of what it currently is today.

The batterman logo on the rear of the cap is an addition that was not on the original cap, but regardless of that the embroidery on the rear looks extremely sharp especially with the colour choice and the embroidery involved due to its cleanliness. The Batterman is accented with the team's current colours of Black and Yellow, but the fact that it is there in the first place would annoy any Pirates fan who wanted an accurate representation of the original Pirates cap. The fact that it is there doesn't bother me though, as I said before, New Era seemed to put more care and attention into this cap than they did the Turn Back The Clock 1980's Mariners cap, the use of blue stitching on the batterman to hide the logo is about as ridiculous as when they try to hide the New Era flag on the side of the Fashion Cap Customs.

This cap will quickly become one of my favourites and will go into my rotation immediately, and that's not something I would have ever suspected when I saw this cap on the shelf the first or even the fifth time I came upon it. The use of the Gold crown makes it extremely unique without being too flashy like the Marlins' Away cap or without being too dull like the Padres' Sunday caps.

Beautiful cap, if you find it, get it before it's gone.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Oakland Athletics Road

Being a fan of the Arizona Diamondbacks, I have found myself half-way rooting for the Oakland Athletics over the past half decade, and the reason is due to the recent trade history that these two teams have had. Over the past several seasons, the Diamondbacks have made many trades and other than the Detroit Tigers, the Oakland Athletics have beefed up their roster with many players from the Diamondbacks starters and farm team players; such as the massive deal that sent Dan Haren to Arizona and Brett Anderson and Carlos Gonzalez to Oakland. Just this past offseason a 5 player swap occurred between the two teams which sent Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow to Arizona, and blue chip prospect Jarrod Parker, along with Collin Cowgill, and Ryan Cook went to Oakland.

The Athletics history of green and gold has been around since day one in Oakland, in 1968. They moved into the Bay Area that year which pushed a little on the Giants territory, making the region the smallest populated to have two baseball teams, but the Oakland Athletics found a good footing in their city winning three consecutive World Series titles in 1972, 1973, and 1974 which made them the only team in MLB history to achieve the status of a Dynasty other than the New York Yankees.

This Oakland Athletics cap is the current On-Field Fitted that is produced, but the coloration has been used by the team ever since the forgettable season of 1994. From the team's formation by moving to Oakland in 1968, they wore their traditional Kelly Green cap with the Gold brim both home and away, but moving towards the 1993 season the team decided to create a specific Away hat, which along with the Home version of the cap that year the darker green was introduced, but the away hat was a base forest green crown and brim with white script. A season later the team made the decision to slightly alter the away caps that they had introduced the season before, the alteration simply replaced the white script with gold which represented the team's colours much better than the previous.

This cap employs the modern Dark Green material as implored by New Era and the stitching on the front is a non-metallic gold thread. The stitching used is very clean and when raised is only done in one layer. The raised embroidery is extremely clean and doesn't have any issues that I have described previously with the Kansas City Royals, and the way the raised embroidery is done makes it especially clean. The raised embroidery uses a rounded finish which really makes it pop off of the cap rather than being relatively flat as some logos can be.

The batterman logo on the rear may have unintentionally derived a throwback to the original Athletics caps by utilising a Kelly Green thread along with the non-metallic gold, by using these two choices of thread the team inadvertently created this throwback by trying to avoid a repetition of colours that might disappear when comparing the batterman logo to the base cap material.

The Oakland Athletics road cap is always one that I have been interested in acquiring, but I do believe that the cap would be much better had it been an original wool cap rather than the modern day 100% On-Field Polyester. I can't really say why I would prefer it in wool over polyester, but there is definitely a mystique about the Wool caps sometimes that the modern day Polyester caps lack. The Old English “A” located on the front of the cap is classic and could never be replaced, but I do believe that the cap would slightly improve if the team would the lower case “s” would be switched to an Old English font rather than the unimpressive Arial font it currently uses.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Kansas City Royals

The Kansas City Royals have always been a team that I have been interested in and their history with me is a particularly interesting one. With the video game Home Run King on the Nintendo GameCube, I would often put on two random teams to play each other while I was preoccupied with something else, and one afternoon I remember picking the Detroit Tigers to play at Kauffman Stadium against the Kansas City Royals. This game was particularly interesting due to the fact that the two computer teams refused to score what-so-ever, and hours later I found myself amazed that the game was into the 27th inning with still no runs scored. I can't recall the way the game ended, but the Kansas City Royals were the team that was victorious, and ever since then I have been interested in following the team to some extent.

The modern day On-Field Fitted for the Kansas City Royals is one of the more simple caps worn by teams in the MLB, and with the retirement of the team's powder blue Alternate, this will be the Royals cap from game 1 to game 162. The cap is a simple base blue with a white button located on the top, along with that the rear batterman logo utilises a bright blue stitching complemented by metallic gold stitching on the right. This cap is one of the more storied ones in regards to expansion teams, this cap has been left relatively unchanged since the team's original formation in 1969 other than the implementation of the batterman logo that all teams eventually were introduced to.

Much like with the more modern New Era 59Fifty caps, the embroidery is raised much higher than it has been in previous years, another alteration in the raised embroidery that I notice when compared to my late 90's Diamond Collection Royals cap is that the attached “K” and “C” have a slight depression between them rather than being a straight connection as noted in the Diamond Collection. This cap was particularly difficult for me to find but it wasn't because of lack of stock, but was due to the tightness of the stitching of the front edges; stitching often would not be tight enough and would droop, so finding the perfect cap was difficult. An interesting fact that I noticed with the quality of stitching on the front of this cap, is that for the first time ever I discovered a cap in which the Chinese embroidery is superior to the American. The cap pictured here is an American cap, but the stitching on a Chinese one that I saw recently had much tighter stitching and there was no sagging of individual threads.

The colour choices of the rear embroidered batterman logo flow very well, using the historical reference of the team's name “royals,” which has nothing to do with royalty but has everything to do with seasonal south Missouri Rodeo, the use of gold is used to represent the ill-faded monarchy that the team has attempted to exploit for the past several decades.

The Kansas City Royals have one of the classiest caps in baseball and this is due to their simplicity and familiarity with the previous generation of players and fans in the Kansas and Missouri area. The cap was definitely worth my money and will definitely be put into my cap rotation, I regret not getting my replacement due to the retirement of my old 6-3/4 Diamond Collection from the late 90's. In general I tend to prefer the 100% wool version of caps, but I tend to prefer the look, style, and feel of this Royals cap in the 100% polyester along with the black underbrim.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

100% Wool Texas Rangers

The loss of Wool Caps for On-Field Fitteds have been crippling to some members of the New Era Cap community, being that contrary to New Era's beliefs the cap's materials do make a difference with the fan base and even certain players. Back in 2007 when New Era switched the On-Field Fitteds from 100% wool to 100% polyester there were quite a few stragglers, and on occasion some players continue to wear Wool caps on the field and many fans are crying for New Era to at least give the option to have the caps be produced in Wool again.

When it comes to the stragglers there are two simple options for them to acquire the caps they want:

1. The first option would be for them to find an original cap that is either new or unused, these can be found on websites like eBay or Mickey's Place, but once sizes are sold out it is nearly impossible for them to be restocked.
2. The other option would be to get some reproductions, the reproductions are often made in China and can have the New Era flag embroidered on the side, but in some more rare cases reproductions can be found without the flags on the side.

Growing up a fan of baseball but not a fan of any specific team I followed Nolan Ryan quite a bit in my younger days, and his final few years helped to cement my fandom in the Texas Rangers organization, but my love of the Rangers barely extended outside of the Ryan years but the fires were rekindled during the 2010 season. After getting a 2010 World Series patch cap in polyester it quickly became one of my favourite caps to wear regardless of the result of the World Series, but the follow that season I began to see myself wearing a majority of Wool caps over Polyester due to the fact that they naturally formed to the head better than the Polyester caps, so the hunt was on. It really didn't take me too long to find the cap I wanted, Minor Leagues Major Dreams luckily had one in my size and in stock, so when the time came I swiped it along with several others that I was looking to add to my collection.

Based on the tags, this Texas Rangers hat most likely is from the 2005-2006 seasons and has the correct domed structure of the front and back panels that are currently worn today, so the depth of the hat is adequate to what I was looking for. The 100% Wool feels great and unhindered by the storage process of the backstock that MLMD had, it was extremely clean and had zero dust or stains, and most importantly it was brand new with the original stickers still in tact. Much like the caps worn today, this New Era is a base dark blue with a red button on top which adds to it's aesthetic value, there many fans might disagree that a red or white button might be necessary arguing that it would possibly be distracting from the front logo embroidery.

The embroidery looks great on the cap, the raised embroidery on the front is one of my favourites since it doesn't merely raise in one single level but is softly rounded on the edges, the stitching is also extremely fresh and doesn't roll off the raised foam like other caps have been known to. The red embroidery on the underside is slightly raised due to multiple thread layers, but does not lay flat like hats in the previous decade have.

The flat embroidery in the back was very important to me and always is when I look to acquire a 100% wool cap or at least with reproductions, but since this cap is a 100% authentic from the last few seasons of Wool caps, the embroidery is flat and very well accomplished. The part of the rear embroidery that I enjoy the best is the choice of colours that have been used, since the Rangers' team colours are all ready red and blue it was an easy decision for the team to choose these to accent the back of their hat, which permits them to use the original MLB logo as should be worn on all caps rather than mixing the personal team colours back there.

This New Era Cap will quickly become one of my favourites that I will wear quite often, but I don't think that it will be enough to retire my 2010 World Series Cap any time soon. I will be watching the Texas Rangers take on the Chicago Cubs this Spring Training on St. Patrick's Day, so the only decision I will have will be which one should I wear? If anyone has the opportunity to get their team's cap in the original 100% Wool, I would definitely recommend it, the Polyester is great but you can't replace the original material that New Era On-Field Caps were.