Top 10 Throwback Caps in the MLB
Baseball is a game that revels in its own history and tradition. Some would say to a fault, considering the reluctance to implement replay and other changes. However, there is no denying that fans love to celebrate the fanfare of teams past. Nowhere is this more evident than the growing popularity of the “throwback” industry. Throwback (or retro) can celebrate teams from as long ago as the turn of the century, like the Boston Beaneaters, Philadelphia Athletics, and Cleveland Blues. It can also mean wearing a logo and colors that have been discontinued as recently as 2011, like Florida Marlins gear (now the Miami Marlins). In any case, retro jerseys and caps are in vogue because fans don’t want to look like band-wagoners. Instead they want to demonstrate how deep their love for their club actually goes. On the other hand, some of us are just baseball enthusiasts and would rather delve into baseball lore than buy a Yankees lid in every color to match every pair of shoes. So, without further ado, I give you my “Top 10 Throwback Baseball Caps”.
Although this cap only became a “throwback” in 2011 when the Marlins moved into their state-of-the-art stadium, Marlins’ Park, it has enjoyed a frenzy of popularity already. Along with the change in scenery, the Marlins also changed their name to the Miami Marlins, to better represent the almost-downtown locale of the new stadium. The Marlins’ new logo is a convoluted assortment of black, red-orange, silver, blue, yellow, and white that portrays a featureless swordfish jumping over a giant multi-colored “M”. The designers of the new logo clearly went overboard by trying to be so new and cutting-edge that they made an eyesore of an insignia. The old logo, on the other hand, was fresh and unique. The teal, black, and silver color scheme with a detailed marlin wrapped around a capital “F” has always unmistakably represented the Marlins, aka “The Fish”.
Even though this cap was game-worn as recently as 1996, it is immediately recognizable for not only sports fans, but for a whole generation that grew up watching The Angels in the Outfield. The Angels of late have gotten a little bit obnoxious with their constant name changes. From the Los Angeles Angels to the California Angels to the Anaheim Angels, and now the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. There hasn’t been a name change that was botched this badly since Prince attempted to change his name to that weird fancy letter “P” and everyone just had to call him “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” because they couldn’t pronounce it. This cap reminds us all of a simpler time when we only had to say 2 words instead of an entire sentence when we referenced the Angels.
During the 50′s, before Cincinnati was home of the dominant Reds teams that were known as “The Big Red Machine”, variations of Mr. Redlegs adorned caps and jerseys for roughly six years. Amid the communist “red scare” that swept the nation, the Reds organization felt like they needed to make a change in name and logo. At first, they attempted to add blue to the color scheme to distance themselves from communist sympathizers, but eventually, they had to scrap the name “Reds” in exchange for “Redlegs”. Along with a change in name came the introduction of Mr. Redlegs, who was essentially a caricature with a baseball for a head, a red-and-white-striped pillbox hat, and a mustache that embodied the Americanism of baseball greats like Rollie Fingers. It may sound ridiculous to us in 2012, but the reality is that the Reds were in serious jeopardy of alienating their patriotic fan base. One could argue that they are still, to this day, intent on confirming their own patriotism, evidenced by the naming of their new stadium in 2003 the “Great American Ballpark”.
Unless you are a Brewers fan, you might not have noticed that the logo consists of a stylized “M” and “B”, standing for Milwaukee and Brewers respectively. It’s not easy to create an effective logo for the nickname “Brewers”, so give credit to Milwaukee for incorporating the “MB” in a way that is both subliminal and aesthetically pleasing. Throughout baseball history, the “powers that be” have been very careful to further encourage the rampant consumption of alcoholic beverages. For example, Busch Stadium in St. Louis was originally named after the Cardinals owner, August ‘Gussie’ Busch and not the beer. However, because Gussie wanted to use the stadium as a marketing ploy, he found a loophole that enabled him to start a new line of beer that carried his namesake. The Brewers, like many teams before them, derived their nickname from a unique aspect of the surrounding community in order to gain interest and pride from fans. While a frosty mug overflowing with draft beer might have been a very unique team logo, the club had to be wary of glamorizing the act of drinking alcohol. All that being said, this throwback cap insignia from the ’70′s and 80′s is iconic for Brewers’ fans and mildly amusing for the rest of baseball.
Long before the interlocked LA logo became a mainstay in sports and fashion, there was a baseball club in Brooklyn, New York, nicknamed the Trolley Dodgers. The Trolley Dodgers, so named because of the influx of streetcars in the borough of Brooklyn, soon shortened their name to the Dodgers. The Dodgers spent most of their time in Brooklyn competing with the New York Giants for the favor of baseball fanatics in New York. The Brooklyn team often felt like they were playing second fiddle to the Giants, who played in the glamorous Polo Grounds at the north end of Manhattan. Despite this perceived lack of respect from the locals, the Brooklyn Dodgers sustained reasonable success during the 1940′s and 1950′s before they packed up and moved to Los Angeles in 1957. Ironically, that same year the Giants, in whose shadow they’d lived for so long, also bolted for the west coast where they found a home in San Francisco and the rivalry remained intact. Baseball fans everywhere recognize this logo as the insignia that adorned the crown of Jackie Robinson, the man credited with breaking the color barrier in professional baseball.
Although the club was only known as the “Colt .45′s” for the two years before the Astrodome opened in 1965, the team’s logo and regalia refuses to die out. Because it is a nickname and logo that so blatantly encourage if not condones violence, it would have probably been forced into retirement sooner than later. However, the oldest Astros fans could tell you all about the two years that games were played in an open-air mosquito haven of a place known simply as “Colt Stadium”. These infamous grounds hold the distinction of being the only baseball stadium to be constructed with the intent of being a temporary home. With such a short history, this era in Houston baseball could easily be overlooked; however, its juxtaposition to the era that followed is what makes the Colt .45′s so unique. Baseball in the hot and humid city of Houston could have been a complete disaster; instead, baseball began to thrive in Houston when the club moved in to the Astrodome, dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. This state-of-the-art structure was the first domed stadium and had an innovative new playing surface known as “astroturf”. The team became known as the Houston Astros and fully embraced the technological culture that surrounded the nearby NASA program. Despite this dramatic change from cowboys and westerns to the space age, fans in Houston refuse to throw out their Colt .45′s garb (much like the plot of Toy Story).
For the biggest baseball enthusiasts, this White Sox’ cap and logo symbolize an era in baseball that was filled with controversy and unsavory practices. Few can forget the “Black Sox Scandal” that rocked the baseball world in the fall of 1919. As the story goes, eight players on the pennant-winning Chicago White Sox team allegedly took bribes to deliberately throw the series. At the time, the Sox seemed destined to destroy any team they were matched up with, and gamblers had set a line that heavily favored Chicago. Many members of the team were disgruntled, mostly due to the tyrannical leadership of the owner, Charles Comiskey, so they had few qualms about taking money out of his pocket, money they believed was owed to them. So why celebrate such a troubling time in baseball? It’s important to keep this event in perspective. At this time, baseball was structured much differently. Players were not allowed to play for any club other than the one with which they had originally signed. Perhaps the players felt they had no legitimate recourse in dealing with heartless owners like Comiskey. Also, this cap should remind us of the great White Sox teams of the early 20th century and all the greats that played at old Comiskey Park like “Shoe-less” Joe Jackson, Ed Walsh, and Clark Griffith.
Perhaps one of the most misunderstood logos in baseball, the “eMb” stands for “Expos Montreal Baseball”. The expos were bought out in 2002 by the remaining 29 MLB owners. By 2005, the Expos moved to Washington DC to be the Washington Nationals, leaving Montreal without a team and making the Toronto Blue Jays the only remaining major league club in Canada. The Expos never had tremendous success in Montreal as they only won one division title back in 1981. However, fans were most disappointed by the 1994 season when there was plenty of optimism surrounding the club, but the strike caused the season to be cut short. While the rest of us can enjoy this logo as one that has become ubiquitous among baseball fans, the representatives in French-Canada feel spurned and are left wondering what could have been if not for the strike of ’94.
2. Pittsburgh Pirates “Pillbox” Not only is the black and yellow synonymous with all things Pittsburgh, but the iconic spiky “P” is immediately recognizable as the Pirates’ long-time cap insignia. A few years before a fairly normal-sized slugger with an average-size head named Barry Bonds played in Pittsburgh, Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, and other all-stars graced the steel city. The pillbox-style hat was made famous by those Pirates teams of the 70′s and 80′s, during which time they won six division titles, two NL pennants, and two World Series titles. These teams were such a close-knit group that they were dubbed “the Family”. They even adopted the disco hit by Sister Sledge “We are Family” as their theme song. To add to this already iconic hat, all-star slugger Willie Stargell would award his teammates with “Stargell’s Stars” when they gave out tremendous baseball effort. Nowadays, a pillbox cap riddled with Stargell’s Stars is a distant, but beloved, memory for die-hard fans in the ‘Burgh.
The Stomper comes in several different colors and variations, but the original Stomper came on to the scene around 1920, well before the Athletics moved across the country. The story goes that a sports writer in Philly was so disgusted with the club that he dubbed them the “White Elephants”. Instead of taking offense, the club embraced the moniker because it gave them a significant chip on their collective shoulders. Years later the club moved to Kansas City and eventually Oakland. “Stomper”, the great white elephant, has come along for the ride, and has changed colors from royal blue to red and blue to just red to burgundy to green and finally to green and yellow. The story of Stomper is so unknown that he is often mistaken for the elephant in the Alabama Crimson Tide logos and has been embraced as such frequently. In any case, Stomper makes the absolute best throwback cap in baseball.
-Written by: Kyle J. Artice 19 Dec. 2012