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.
WILSON CAP CODING
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