Orioles AJD Cap Restoration

Certain collectors may not agree with this decision, but I’ve decided to clean up my mid ’70’s game-used AJD cap.  It will ruin the game-used aspect of the cap, but I don’t care.  What’s most important to me is the cap itself, and I want mine in the newest, cleanest condition possible.


As you can see, this cap has had some heavy use.


Looks like maybe a little sun damage, as well.


The headband is filthy.


There’s that number 16 again.  In my previous article, I narrowed it down to belonging to either Tony Muser or Scott McGregor.  I happened upon a later Scott McGregor game-used cap online and the size was 7 1/2, way bigger than this cap, which is probably a 7 1/8.  So unless Scotty’s adult head grew around 3 hat sizes in just a few years, this has to be Muser’s cap.

Thanks Tony, fantastic hat.  It really sets off your ’70’s style mustache and sideburns combo!


I would never attempt this with a wool cap, but AJD made these caps with 100% double-knit Nylon, which will not shrink, so I’m going to go ahead and soak it in cold water mixed with Oxi Clean.


Just a scoop full of Oxi Clean mixed in a sink full of cold water.


Moment of truth, in it goes!


Bird bath!


Just look at that dingy water!  A mixture of Tony Muser’s dried sweat as well as dirt from the AL ballparks of the ’70’s.  Memorial Stadium, Comiskey Park, Tiger Stadium, just to name a few… Long since gone, but never forgotten.  Just think, all that baseball history in my bathroom sink!


I let the cap soak for several hours.


Then a quick wash with a little laundry detergent and a clean water rinse.


It’s looking pretty good so far.  To get its original shape back, I’ll let it dry on a Nu-Cap cap shaper.


Nu-Cap is basically a heavy-duty hat-shaped balloon that you pump up to restore the shape of an old cap.


It should also help with the light wrinkles in the front panels.


Here’s the bottom view.


Looks like Tony Muser’s number 16 has faded significantly.

View of the top.


I just noticed there are no vent holes in the black panels.

We’ll let it sit to dry overnight.


24 hours later:


Not bad!  I was hoping the front panels would come out a nice bright, gleaming white.  But due to irreversible sun damage, it’s more of an off-white cream color.  Definitely looks better than it did though.  Check out the before/after:

ajd compare front

All that dirt and sweat washed away.

AJD Side compare

The black panels came out perfect.  This is probably how they looked the day this cap shipped from the AJD factory down in Richmond, Virginia:

ajd back compare

The inside of the cap and headband turned out great.  Not too happy with how the under-brim came out though:

ajd inside compare

Looks like maybe the water-soaked rubberized cardboard inside of the visor fused with the fabric as the cap set out to dry, causing the discoloration.

All the dirt stains are gone, but you can see a similar discoloration on the top of the visor:


The visor  looks like it’s still wet, but it’s actually completely dry.  Still has good flex though.

Behind the front panels is a major improvement:

ajd inside panel compare

Tags are brightened up:

ajd tag comparison

Finally a close-up of the logo:

ajd logo comparison

Besides the visor issue, I’m really happy with how this restoration turned out.  Not bad at all for a 40 year old cap!


Here’s the AJD cap along side a couple of its on-field, white panel younger brothers.  The mid-80’s New Era and the current 2012-present New Era.





Jump Back ’75: Orioles AJD Cap!

After years of diligent searching, I finally got my hands on an Orioles AJD cap!


Ok, so it’s a little dingy, and the logo’s outline is slightly faded, but I just had to get one of these in my hands for once!


This was the Orioles first white panel cap, which made it’s debut in 1975.


These caps were never sold at retail, so the only way someone would be able to obtain one back then was from the Orioles themselves.

Note the number 16 written on the under-brim.  That narrows it down to belonging to two possible players — First baseman Tony Muser:


Muser played for the Orioles from 1975-1977, which are the exact years AJD supplied this cap to the Orioles.


The other player who wore the number 16 during this time period was Pitcher Scott McGregor:


McGregor joined the Orioles in 1976, but didn’t start wearing #16 until the 1978 season after Muser had left.


By 1978, most of the Orioles had ditched AJD and switched over to Roman Pro’s version of the white panel Cartoon Bird cap.  However, there’s a possibility some leftover AJD’s could have made it up to 1978 Spring Training at least.

If I were forced to bet I’d say this was Muser’s cap, but who knows?  I’ll have to do some more research and find out what size caps those guys wore.

My favorite detail about this cap is AJD’s version of the Cartoon Bird logo.  The logo design is based on the logo first featured on the 1974 black-crowned Wilson caps:


According to the authoritative mlbcollectors.com, this logo was designed by Roman Art & Embroidery and manufactured by American Needle.

Initially, AJD would use this exact same logo patch from ’74 and slap it onto their white and alternate orange panel caps in ’75:

original ajd

Soon after, AJD (Roman?) would tweak details of this design, as well as add a thick orange outline:


Big, bold, and proud.  This logo totally embodies the mid ‘7o’s!  I like to think of this as an enhanced version of the previous ’74 logo.

The AJD logo is a patch, as well.  Take a look behind the front panels:


That thick, orange outline serves two purposes.  One, it secures the patch to the cap, and two, it covers up the rough edges of the black material that the logo is embroidered upon.

Notice in the previous logo that the rough edges show, creating a thin, black outline.


Here’s a close-up of the tags:


Double knit Nylon… Only in the ’70’s, baby!

Here’s the faded size tag along side a readable example in near-mint condition:

AJD size tag

Unfortunately this particular cap fits way too tight on me.  My hat size is 7 1/4, so this one has to be at the most a 7 1/8, possibly even as small as a 7.

AJD Cap Corporation was located just a little over 2 hours down the road from Baltimore, Maryland, in Richmond, Virginia.  The company was started by Irving Joel in 1960.  The Orioles would be the only team they manufactured on-field Major League caps for.  AJD supplied caps for the Orioles from 1975-1976, but as stated previously, they can be seen on players at least up to 1977.

Here are all four of the Orioles AJD cap variations:

ajd all

The Orioles AJD cap has become somewhat of a holy grail for me.  It’s great to finally own one and see it up close, but hopefully I’ll come across one that actually fits me someday!


Orioles 1966 TBTC Cap: NEW ERA FAIL

The Orioles will be donning their 1966 uniforms this weekend to commemerate the 50th anniversary of their first championship season:

Mets v Orioles

(This picture is from 1970, but these are the same uniforms they wore in ’66.)

I wondered whether New Era would make a special cap for this game or just try to pass the current road cap off as the ’66 cap:

current road

Or maybe they’d fall back on the the Cartoon Bird logo they used to slap on every previous TBTC cap no matter what year it represented:


I was happy to hear that New Era was going to release a new cap for this occasion.  Would they use the correct logo?  I was doubtful, but a simple “orioles 1966 cap” Google search brings up the actual ’66 cap as the first image:


Here’s what New Era came up with:



Not a bad looking cap, it even has the classic green under-brim, but come on!  As stated above, they have super easy access to the correct ’66 logo.  Even the premier logo website sportslogos.net features the correct logos now.  What’s the point of designing a new logo if it’s not historically accurate?  How hard can it be to put out an exact match?

Real vs fake:

fake real compare

Here’s a comparison of a logo I found from one of the Orioles’ past style guides:

66 compare

Though not perfect, I’d take this logo over the one they settled on.  Besides the shape of the button on top of the cap, and the slightly drooped bill, this one almost gets it right.

Sorry New Era, I realize no one else will care or even notice, but I’m not buying it.  I don’t expect a full redesign of your 5950 cap, but at least slap the correct logo on there!  I’m going to hold out for your 1975 TBTC cap, which I know you’ll get exactly right!





Baltimore Orioles Cartoon Bird Logo – Perfected

I recently received an email from graphic designer and fellow student of the Cartoon Bird, John Adsit, asking for permission to use some of the content I’ve chronicled in my articles.  He had created his own version of the Cartoon Bird and was preparing a logo proposal to send to the Orioles front office. I of course said yes, but must admit I was a bit hesitant after seeing another “improved” version floating around the internet that was a far cry from the logos of the 60s, 70s and 80s.  Besides, I didn’t necessesarily find anything wrong with the current logo and thought it was fine as is.  However, after seeing Adsit’s version, my feelings quickly changed.

After looking through Adsit’s logo proposal, I must say, I was positively impressed!  His logo is the perfect representation of all the logos from 1966-1988 and a clear improvement on the current cartoon bird.  His presentation does a superb job of illustrating how much thought he put into the design, as well.  Pouring over each detail, he points out the imperfections of the current logo by comparing it to the logos of the past and executes these changes flawlessly in his own version.

So, without further ado, I give you the perfected Cartoon Bird logo:

Orioles Cartoon Bird logo redesign by John Adsit

Compared to the current logo:

Comparison of current Orioles logo with the redesign by John Adsit

So how is this the perfect representation of the cartoon bird?  The changes are very subtle so if you missed them on first glance, don’t beat yourself up.  There are three big changes that I feel make this logo successful.

First, the Cap:

Adsit’s redesign is really just a combination of all of the past cartoon bird designs, focusing on the most prevalent logos with the longest tenures:

longest tenured orioles

From top-left to bottom-right: Cap Logo 1966-1973, Cap Logo 1979-1988, Helmet Logo 1966-1988, Team Logo 1966-1991

The result is a new cap that looks like this

Cap Redesign by John Adsit

as opposed to this

Current cap design

The differences here are pretty obvious.  The redesigned cap is less round, featuring a bill that flips up like the old logos used to do.  The flipped up bill just makes things more fun somehow.  With everything laid out in this way, its obvious that the current logo’s cap design falls short in accurately representing the logos of the past in this area.

Second, the Eyes:

Take a look a this collection of logos from 1966-1988:


One thing all of them have in common is that the pupils are very close to the bottom left corner of the eyeball.  The current logo features pupils directly in the middle-left side of the eyeball.  Adsit’s redesigned version corrects this problem by moving the pupils closer to the corner.  It also features enlarged pupils mimicking some of the logos from the late 70s and making them more proportional to the overall size of the eyes.  The result is an eye design that makes it look more like the bird is looking directly at you:

eye design comparsion

Third, the Outline:

This might be the most subtle of the three, but the current logo’s outline is a lot thicker than it needs to be.  When looking back at the three cap/helmet logos with the longest track records, you see that their outlines are a lot thinner.  Adsit’s redesign fixes this problem, bringing more of the focus back to the logo design itself.  This comparison of the ’66-’73 cap logo, the current logo, and John’s redesign does a good job of pointing out just how overly thick the current logo’s outline is:

Outline Comparison

A Timeless Representation

These changes together with other small alterations make for a most accurate representation of the cartoon bird logo.  With so many iterations of the cartoon bird, it’s no surprise that the first attempt to create an all-encompassing logo would fall short in perfecting a few of the details.  However, in my opinion, graphic designer John Adsit has created the perfect version of the Cartoon Bird logo.  He just nails it and knocks it out of the park.  I’m especially impressed that he’s not trying to put his own personal stamp on the logo, just subtle changes that make perfect sense.  Everything is still familiar and total respect is given to the logos of the past.  He just wants the Orioles to have the perfect logo, and so do I!

Not sure what the politics and process are of getting a new design through to an MLB team, but it would be absolutely fantastic to see John’s logo make it onto the official caps in the next year or two.  Let’s face it, the Cartoon Bird logo has gone through so many versions over the years (as the 1989 Orioles once said) “why nOt?!”

If you feel as enthusiastic about this logo as me, spread the word!  Share this post with your friends or write the O’s yourself if you feel so inclined.  You can check out John Adsit’s logo proposal on his website here.  Good luck, John!


Baltimore Orioles 1966 Cartoon Bird Cap – A Closer Look

I recently acquired a fine specimen of the team-issued cap the Orioles wore starting in 1966:


Made under private label by New Era for Wilson Sporting Goods.  There may have been a prototype before this cap, but this was definitely the first mass-produced cap featuring the famous Cartoon Bird logo, which was most likely supplied by Roman Embroidery.


They would wear this cap virtually exclusively through the 1973 season.  I’m sure a few of these were worn into 1974, but by then other cap companies were getting into the mix, trying to gain exclusive license with the Orioles, until they finally ditched the all black crown and switched to the white and orange panel AJD caps in 1975.


It’s great to finally have one of these in my hands, as I can really take a close look at it and scrutinize every detail.

First of all the visor.  Sometimes visors on old caps tend to get stiff over the years and can crack very easily with the slightest bend, but Wilson visors were made of rubberized cardboard, so this one still has excellent flex to it.


The size of the cap is stamped next to the Wilson Professional Cap tag.


Lifting the headband reveals another size stamp underneath, along with the letters DVC.  It turns out DVC is a date code.


For caps manufactured for professional clubs, Wilson stamped a three-letter code inside/underside of the sweatband. This code was used to designate when the caps were manufactured.

First Letter is used to designate the last digit for the year of manufacture:

Second Letter represents the month of manufacture:

Third Letter is always “C” for Cap.

So the three letter code of DVC means my cap was manufactured in May of 1971.  Over 42 years old and a great season for the O’s!


Also under the headband is a tag that says 7 1/8, which is one size smaller than 7 1/4.


A 7 1/8 tag is also found under the front of the headband.

So what size is it?  7 1/4 or 7 1/8??  My head size is 7 1/4 and I will say that this cap is definitely on the snug side, more like a 7 1/8, but that could be from the natural wool shrinkage over the years, so who knows?  A friend of mine has this cap with a size 7 1/8 stamp on the headband and size 7 tag underneath, so I guess maybe it was common for Wilson caps to have two sizes in their caps.  Pretty strange though…


Something else to note is that the logo isn’t embroidered directly onto the cap.  If you look closely, you’ll notice that it’s actually an embroidered patch that is then stitched onto the cap.

It would be great to get one of these patches by itself and stitch it onto a modern-day, blank New Era cap.  Speaking of which, here are some comparison shots of the 1966 Wilson and the 2012 New Era caps:


The ’66 crown is slightly lower and not as full.  Notice the vent holes are higher on the ’12 cap.  The bill and button is more of an orange/red color on the ’66 cap, but the logo embroidery thread seems to be the same shade.  The raised embroidery of the ’12 cap is stitched directly into the cap and is much more refined than the ’66 patch logo.


Both of these caps are size 7 1/4, but the 2012 cap just seems bigger overall.


Finally, since the structure of these caps are so different, I thought it would be interesting to post some side by side fit pic comparisons :

Earlier I wrote that the ’66 cap fit me more like a 7 1/8 than a 7 1/4, so I had to stretch it out a bit with a Hat Jack hat stretcher over night.  The next day the fit was perfect.


Because the crown is lower, it fits closer, as well as higher on the head.  You can see more of my forehead shows with the ’66 cap, while the ’12 cap sits down closer to my eyebrows.

I think both caps look good, and it’s great to finally own an authentic, on-field 1966 Cartoon Bird cap, but overall, I prefer the style, fit and structure of the modern New Era caps.  Now if they could just get the logos right on their Cooperstown caps!

T.L. Lears, August, 2013


Baltimore Orioles 1974 KM Pro Cap Box Opening

Nowadays you can find and purchase the same exact caps the pros wear just about anywhere.  Before the late 80’s/early 90’s, however, the only sure way you could get an official, team-issued baseball cap was by ordering directly from the cap manufacturer.  Just think about how tough it would be to even find out what company manufactured a particular team’s cap, as well as finding their address, before the invention of the internet!

Imagine, if you will, a special postal service that delivers through time.  As long as you have the correct address, you can order anything from the past and it will arrive to you in brand new condition.  What would you order?  Comic books, baseball cards, toys, vintage clothing?

Well, let’s just say I placed an order back to June of 1974, to 31 Beach Street, Boston, Massachusetts; location of the KM Pro Cap company.

This is what arrived at my doorstep:


Opening the box:


The original receipt.  $10 for a pro cap back then!


The cap stays protected in KM Pro’s special hi-tech plastic bag:


First, I’ll show you the underside with KM Pro’s specially designed cardboard insert:



“This insert is only to keep your cap in shape while in stock.  Please remove before wearing.”  Hmmm??  If these inserts were still used in caps today, do you think kids would keep them in, just as some kids keep the size stickers on their bills in 2013?

Just look at this pristine headband:


KM Pro tag and size stamp:


A hidden size tag revealed under the headband:


Baltimore Orioles 1974 KM Pro cap, brand new in 2013:






It’s pretty cool to have a pro cap nearly 40 years old in this condition!

T.L.Lears, March, 2013


Baltimore Orioles 2013 Batting Practice Cap

Just thought I’d do a quick post on the new Orioles batting practice cap:


Beautiful orange panel, directly inspired by the 1975-1976 alternate:


Excellent move on the Orioles part to bring back a rare cap from the 1970’s and update it with the current logo and new materials.

Comparison of the home/road and BP cap logo:


The Orioles 2013 Authentic, On-Field cap lineup is pretty much perfect!




T.L.Lears, March, 2013


The Rarest of Birds: A New Orioles Logo Joins the Flock

I recently acquired a book reprinting all of  the Orioles team-issued postcards from 1954 to present day.  These cards are a great reference for cap logos because the majority of them are head shots, so the logo detail can be easily studied.  Everything in these sets seems to match up with what I’ve previously put together about the Cartoon Bird cap logo chronology, except for these two cards in the ’66 set:

These were the only two cards in ’66 the set with this logo.  All the rest had what I consider the 1966 cap logo.

The thing is, this “new” logo was familiar to me.  I knew I had seen it somewhere else before:

Yup, that’s the same logo alright.  This logo looks so out of place on this Jim Palmer card, I had dismissed it as one of Topps’ weird airbrush jobs which they were known for from time to time:

Topps would usually do this if a player had been traded after they had already taken the picture, but there’s no real reason for the Orioles to airbrush their own team postcards, so this confirmed to me that this was indeed an actual cap logo.   Once again, I started scrutinizing over Orioles Topps cards:

These are are all Topps cards, 1967-1970, respectively.  It’s funny how you can’t not notice something once you’re aware of it.

So here’s my theory on this “new” logo.  It looks as if it’s a silk-screened, flat, satin patch.  I don’t think it’s embroidered.  This accounts for the strange way it photographs (compared to the embroidered logo) on the old cards.

original bird caps

What I’m thinking is this was the very first Cartoon Bird cap logo, a sort of prototype that they slapped on the caps and issued in limited supply, most likely during ’66 Spring Training.   Then soon after (or maybe even simultaneously) Wilson put out their newly refined, embroidered logo caps, and that’s pretty much what they stuck with on through to ’73-’74.  Of course a few of the players would continue to wear this cap for the next year or two, as MLB cap regulations weren’t as strict back then, especially for a nearly identical cap.


frank first bird

So I think it’s safe to say that this is the rarest of Orioles caps and logos.  I would love to see a close up shot of this actual cap.  Here’s the graphic image of the logo:

This turned out to be the most difficult logo to replicate, as we didn’t have the nice big image files to work with that were available for the other logos.

Welcome back to the flock!

Once again, special thanks to Matt Strackbein for taking time away from his busy graphic design job to graphically render these logos!

T.L.Lears, October, 2012

Baltimore Orioles Cartoon Bird Cap Logos

My long time friend, graphic design artist and comic book creator, Matt Strackbein, took it upon himself to convert the Forgotten Cartoon Bird logos from photographs to graphic images, and he did an absolutely fantastic job!  Feast your eyes, folks:

Baltimore Orioles cap logo 1966 (click here for more info)

Baltimore Orioles cap logo 1966-1973

Baltimore Orioles cap logo exact years unknown (sometime between 1966-1974)

Baltimore Orioles cap logo 1974

Baltimore Orioles cap logo 1975-1977 (note that this is the same design as the previous logo.  The black outline is visible against the orange background.

Baltimore Orioles cap logo 1975-1977 (this is a similar design to the previous two logos, slightly enlarged with enhanced features)

Baltimore Orioles cap logo 1978 (very similar in design to the 3rd logo listed on this page, with added black outline and orange color deleted from cap button)

Baltimore Orioles cap logo 1979-1988 (this logo also showed up previously on the ’66-’74 black crowned cap, exact years unknown)

Baltimore Orioles helmet logo 1966-1988

Baltimore Orioles cap/helmet logo 2012-


logo 2012

Here are Matt’s thoughts on the project:

When taking on a project like this one, recreating decades old logo art with modern day software, you quickly realize a few things right away. Most obvious is the fact that the logos were likely created by hand, whether actually drawn by hand or rendered by hand for decals, embroidery, screen print etc.

Therefore nothing is exact…no perfect curves, straight lines or angles, and so, much of the re-creation process becomes interpretive. Small decisions are made along the way with lots of editing afterwards, in a constant struggle between “making it look right” and “making it look good”. These decisions are left to the individual doing the work and the outcome could change from person to person.
So one must embrace the essence of the original logo art, and try to capture that spirit in the end. I personally like the “crude” aspects of the old logos from the 60s and 70s, but my modern day software (Adobe Illustrator) can’t help but make everything look polished and neat. I have cut out rubylith masks by hand with a knife before, and while I am thankful those days in graphic design are behind us (it was not easy), I still appreciate the compromises that were made over the years to get the best results possible. And so when I say I wanted to maintain a degree of “crudeness” what I actually mean is I did not want to sacrifice or completely hide the various by-hand-individuality that has traveled through time with the actual logo art.
Basically, my effort to restore these logos was more a task to preserve the secret legacy of each one, the craftsman who took part in their various renderings and uses, more than a task at recreating them exactly as they were. And, above all, I sacrificed my own personal art style, and relied only on technique and skill in order to get as close as possible to the original artwork I was presented with as resources (decals & embroidery mostly).
I record these thoughts, because they are important to me as a commercial artist, and also because my appreciation for the history of graphic design increases a bit more with every job. Great pains have been taken to bring colorful characters and images into the world, in this case the Oriole Bird, and those images have made every single one of us joyful to one degree or another. So why not show equal effort in restoring them?
One other note in regards to the Orioles’ logos from one to the next…never, as far as I could tell, did elements repeat. Meaning I do not think anyone ever borrowed from a previous version, and must have started their design process over entirely each time. The shape of the eyes is always different, as is the space between them. The angle of the head is sometimes tilted, sometimes not. The brim of the cap changed often too, and is more representational than illustrative. That said, it is obvious that it is the same character throughout the years…the same Bird. Same expression, same smile, same tuft of hair in the back, and same profile. 
From a distance such comparisons may be lost on us, but when you’re in close, as I was during this task, you see the subtle differences as easily as the large ones. Apparently, the logo designs were handled differently each time, with some hint of the artist or artists individuality peeking through, and I for one find that fascinating.
                              Matt Strackbein — June, 2012
All of the known variations of the official, on-field Orioles Cartoon Bird cap and helmet  logos.  Which one is your favorite?
All information compiled by T.L.Lears 2012

The Bird Is Back: The Orioles New Cartoon Bird Logo

It’s been 23 (mostly losing) seasons of this:

1989-2011 Ornithologically Correct Bird cap logos

I’ve never particularly had a problem with the different variations of the realistic bird cap logos. When it was introduced, the Orioles had just been through a few losing seasons, including their worst in 1988, so I think at the time, (1989) putting a new version of the realistic bird on their caps was a refreshing change. That’s right around the time I started seriously following baseball and I remember being very excited about that hat. In fact, it was my first authentic, on-field cap. I think that cap logo also fit in well with the Birds moving to Camden Yards in ’92.

That said, if the realistic bird ever makes its way back onto the caps again, I think it should be as an alternate only. The Cartoon Bird has proven himself as THE classic Orioles logo. I’m glad to see him back, and hope he’s here to stay!

First the new home cap:

Who would have thought that the Orioles would not only bring back the Cartoon Bird, but the ’75-’88 white panel too! Bonus! The white panel cap is a unique look to current day MLB cap styles, and now that the Orioles are the only team sporting them, I think they really have a chance to own this look!

The new logo looks even better in its raised, embroidered form:

Here are Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy, proudly wearing their new caps:

The new road cap:

Reminiscent of the ’66-’74 caps.

Adam Jones, stylin’:

Of course I’m biased, but this has got to be the best looking uniform set in MLB right now!

They even brought back their orange alternate jersey! Double bonus!

Here are variations of the Cartoon Bird for chronological comparison:

The new logo really fits in perfectly with the past logos.

And here’s the entire Cartoon Bird family!

Here are all the variations in graphic form, including a ’66 rarity and the ’66-’88 helmet logo:

Which one is your favorite?

Special thanks to Neal, for providing “The Bird Is Back” banner.

All information written and compiled by T.L.Lears 2011