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

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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

The Baltimore Orioles Cartoon Bird Batting Helmet Logos

Studying pictures of  the Orioles cartoon bird helmet logos from the ’60’s-’80’s, you’ll notice a lot of inconsistency.  Although I don’t have nearly as much information and examples about the helmets as I did the caps, I think I may have discovered the reason for these inconsistencies.  It’s because the logos seem to be painted or maybe stenciled onto the helmets.  Some even appear to be hand painted.

The painted logos ranged from really good:

To really bad:

Looks like they let a local kindergarten class paint these things!

Here’s Eddie Murray’s Topps rookie card with a painted logo on his helmet:

I’m not certain exactly when, but later on, the Orioles helmets would be affixed with a decal of the logo, which would be used through the 1988 (final year of the Cartoon Bird) season:

Obviously, this decal would solve the problem of the early inconsistencies with the painted helmet logos.

Notice that it’s similar to, but not quite the same as any of the cap logos in my previous article.

Here’s a later card of Eddie Murray with the decal helmet:

Catcher Matt Wieters would use the white paneled Cartoon Bird logo helmet during the 2011 season behind the plate as his catchers helmet:

This is the best picture I could find, but it seems to be most similar to the 1966 cap logo, but maybe just a little stretched out:

Or maybe they just used this version from the Orioles style guide:

That’s about all I know of the helmet logos.  I assume the 2012 helmets will have the new version of the Cartoon Bird stuck to them.

Just for fun, here’s the whole dang family!

Again, special thanks to:

Parkway Pastimes

Awesome Orioles collection, where I found the game-used helmet and cap images used in this blog.

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

The Forgotten Birds: A Study of the Baltimore Orioles Cartoon Bird Cap Logos

My favorite team, The Baltimore Orioles!  They haven’t had a winning season since 1997, so lately I’ve shifted my attention to my favorite logo of all time, The Cartoon Bird. That friendly, smiling, feathered chap that perched atop the Orioles caps from 1966-1988.  But don’t let his friendly smirk and soft feathers fool you, he will show no mercy.

The Cartoon Bird logo has 19 out of 23 winning seasons.  That includes 7 trips to the ALCS, 6 pennants and 3 World Series championships. Not to mention, the Orioles were the winningest team in all of baseball during that span.

Here’s a good visual breakdown:

OK, enough with Baltimore’s long gone winning baseball history, lets get to the actual cap and its famous logo:

First the 1966-1974 cap:

This is a Mike Cuellar game-used cap, made by Wilson (Wilson caps were manufactured by New Era).

Here’s a ’74 Topps Paul Blair card wearing the same cap:

The logo above is the most commonly seen on caps from that era, however, other logos have shown up on this cap:

This is Mark Belanger’s cap.  I haven’t seen any pictures of actual players wearing this cap.  The subtle differences between the two logos might be because this one was made by the KM Pro Cap Company, but both Wilson and KM Pro apparently had their embroidery supplied under private label by The Roman Art Embroidery Corp., so who knows?

And here’s yet another variation:

Made by Wilson, this is 1st base coach George Staller’s game used cap from 1970.  I’ve never seen any cards or pictures from ’66-’74 with this logo either.

Here’s one more variation of the Cartoon Logo on the black crowned cap:

Also made by Wilson, it’s another Mike Cullar game used.  I’ve seen this version of the bird on pictures of the Orioles from 1974.

You can see it on this Jim Palmer card from the 1975 Topps set.  The O’s had made the switch to the white panel caps in ’75, so the actual picture was most likely taken during the  ’74 season or maybe ’75 Spring Training:

So here we have 4 distinct, different versions of the Cartoon Bird on the ’66-’74 cap:

(Click here for what may be the very first Cartoon Bird cap logo.)

All of ’66-’74 game-used caps I’ve come across have been made by Wilson, but then there’s that one I found from KM Pro.

I’d like to know exactly when Wilson and KM Pro had the rights to manufacture Orioles hats during these years, and whether or not they were exclusive back then.

Moving on to 1975, the Orioles added white panels to the front of their hat:

Notice the black stitching around the white panel.  Also, if you look closely at the logo, you’ll realize that it’s basically an enhanced version of the logo on the black crowned ’74 cap.   This logo is bigger overall, the features are slightly larger and the whole thing is angled up more, making his beak point higher.  Made of 100% Nylon, these were manufactured by the AJD Cap Company, based at the time in Richmond, Virginia.

The one and only Brooks Robinson:

They also had an alternate orange paneled cap that they used through 1976, with a similar logo design:

This is Tommy Harper’s 1976 game-used cap, also made by AJD.

Slightly smaller than the previous logo, this logo was also featured on the white panel caps.  In fact, it’s the same exact logo design as the ’74 logo with a black outline added.

Here’s Reggie Jackson sporting it in 1976:

And here’s another variation of the same cap with the larger logo and a black button on top:

Looking at these logos side by side, you can see that they’re all basically the same design:

Going by my Topps baseball card references, these two logos would stay on the white paneled cap on through to about 1978.

Here’s another cap that also shows up in about ’78:

This is a Doug DeCinces game-used from 1978.  Notice that this logo is the same as the KM Pro logo from above, but the button on the birds cap is black instead of orange, and the whole head is outlined in black.  The similarities between these two logos make sense because this cap is made by the Roman Pro Cap Company (the former embroidery company mentioned above).  They began manufacturing their own caps when KM Pro went out of business.

Here’s Mike Flanagan wearing that cap from the 1979 Topps set:

As I mentioned earlier, the photographs for the Topps cards back then were usually taken the previous year, or during Spring Training of the same year, so I assume they used this hat in 1978.

Around 1979, the Orioles switched to this cap by New Era:

This is Cal Ripken’s cap.  It’s made of  Nylon, with clear nylon stitching,  however,  it’s a much thicker weave than the AJD caps above, which were also made with Nylon.

Here’s Cal wearing it on his 1987 Topps card:

This cap was worn through the 1988 season.  This would be the final Cartoon Bird hat, before they switched to the ornithologically correct Oriole logo in 1989.

Notice that it’s the same logo that’s on George Staller’s 1970 cap, above.

Here are all the logos featured on the paneled caps:

Again, it would help to know exactly when AJD, Roman Pro, and New Era were contracted to make caps for the Orioles during this time, because there seems to be overlap for some years, so it gets a little confusing trying to figure out the exact chronology.

This is the best I can come up with from what I know for sure:

Top-Bottom, L-R:

  1. 1966-1974 – This is the logo you see most often on the black crowned caps.  I think it’s pretty safe to call this one THE ’66-’74 cap logo.  Made by Wilson.
  2. 1974 – This logo seems to show up on the last year of the black crowned caps in ’74.  This same basic design would remain on the caps through the transition to the white and orange panels.   Also made by Wilson.
  3. 1975-1978 – Logo used on both white and orange panel (’75-’76 only) alternate. Made by AJD.
  4. 1975-1976 – Logo used on both white and orange panel (’75-’76 only) alternate. Made by AJD.
  5. 1977-1978 – Made by Roman Pro.
  6. 1979-1988 – Made by New Era.

I’m just not sure where these other two black crown logos would fit in:

I have yet to find any photographs of players wearing these.  Could they have been prototypes or samples of some sort, given out in limited supply?

Here are all the logos together again, for easier comparison:

Except for the top and bottom left, all the logos basically match up with each other.

Who knew there were at least 4 different, distinct variations of this guy over the years?!  I think it’s interesting that all the versions appeared at one time or another on the 1966-1974 black crowned cap, and 3 of the 4 were made by the same manufacturer, canceling out the possibility that the variations were caused by switching companies.

Now, the reason I titled this The Forgotten Birds, is because the only bird people seem to remember nowadays, (if they even realized there were differences in the first place)  is the ’79-’88 bird. All throwback merchandise today only features variations of that particular bird.

For example, here are the best “replica” caps offered at the moment:

First, New Era’s Authentic On-Field, Turn Back the Clock cap, released earlier this season:

And here are the best white and orange panel New Era Cooperstown Collection caps:

They all look like decent caps, but if you’re a stickler for detail, like me, you’ll see that they all have the wrong logos.

Even the white paneled cap, which is almost correct, (for ’79-’88) isn’t exact.  Look at the logos side by side, original on left, replica (featured on all 3 caps) on right:

Some might really consider this nitpicking to the extreme, but the replica logo on the right, while the embroidery is more refined, isn’t quite as round and symmetrical as the original, particularly the line along the bottom left.  Other minor differences include the button on his cap and the eyes.

Even Chris Creamer’s authoritative sportslogos.net  doesn’t have the correct logos:

(The ’66 logo is very close to the actual logo.  The only difference I can notice is the button on top of his cap.  See above for the inaccuracies in the other two logos )

At the very least, these four logos should be represented:

Here are the graphic versions:

Well, that’s pretty much everything I know about the Baltimore Orioles Cartoon Bird cap logos.  The Orioles are bringing back a new version of him on their home and road caps for the 2012 season.  While I haven’t seen it yet, the new version of the Cartoon Bird is reported to be a combination of these two guys:

The unveiling should be later this month, and I can’t wait!  I, for one, am glad to hear that they are designing a new logo, that fits in with the old logos, rather than use an old version that isn’t exactly correct, like they do with the Cooperstown Collection and TBTC “replica” caps, as I’ve pointed out above.

UPDATE:

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 each of the known 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:

Please drop me a line for comments or if you can add any more information.

Click here for my brief article about the Orioles Cartoon Bird helmet logos.

Click here for a recently discovered Orioles Cartoon Bird cap logo.

SPECIAL THANKS TO:

Parkway Pastimes – Awesome Orioles collection, where I found most of the game-used cap images posted above.

Ryan Sullivan of pasteinplace.com for providing his “Lucky Bird” analysis chart.

Matt StrackbeinGraphic Design, Production Artist, Comic Book Creator – For converting the photographed logos into graphic images.

Click here for a brief article about converting  the logos  to graphic images.

The Ballcap Blog  Where I found information about the different cap companies.

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

Clint Farrell of www.ProCapRepair.com, for providing pics of his absolutely pristine AJD caps.

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