Monday, November 06, 2006

Logo History

The off season can get a little boring between the end of the season and the lighting of the hot stove, so let's have some fun today. In the spirit of the Uni Watch, let's have a stroll through the history of the Pirates' logo and uniforms. If you're not into this kind of thing, that's fine. You can just skim through to what you like or skip it entirely. But I'd be lying if I said this stuff didn't fascinate me for no reason whatsoever, so let's take a look at it.

Both the Baseball Hall of Fame's uniform database and Chris Creamer's directory of Pirate logos at start at 1900, so we'll start there. From 1900 through 1935, the Pirates' logo was simply a variety of P's. Some were quite plain, while others were fancy in the Detroit Tigers old English D style. For two years, in 1908 and 1909, they wore a PBC (Pittsburgh Baseball Club I can only assume) monogram. The monogram was worn on the sleeves of the 1909 World Champs, then retired forever. In other years during the time period the Bucs used P's that are much closer to the distinctive P that we're used to today. During this entire time period, the Pirates uniforms were blue and red. That's not really unusual, everyone's uniforms were some form of blue and red back in the day. Anyways, I won't go through every single uniform change the Pirates made in those 36 years (because they made a ton of them), but you can check them all out here.

In 1936 the Pittsburgh Pirates introduced their first non-letter logo. That guy probably looks familiar to you, save the color scheme. He's a rather generic, Blackbeardish Pirate (without the famed smoking beard, of course) that isn't particularly menacing in any way. Neither were the Pirates of that era. They finished over .500 eight times between '36 and '47 when this pioneering Bucco was used, but they didn't reach the World Series once. With no playoffs, that means they really didn't have much success. The uniforms from this era are a little more interesting. Early on the Bucs played with different ways of writing "Pirates" on their home and away uniforms. Back when they used to have "Throwback the Clock" nights at Three Rivers, these were the unis that showed up the most. In '40 they shifted to a zipper front with the Pirate logo discussed above on the chest. Thankfully, these only stuck for two years before they went back to similar templates as the late 30s. Curiously enough, the Pirates tried to be the Brooklyn Dodgers for one year with their all blue and white '47 uniforms. Those look strange.

1948 brought two big changes to Pittsburgh baseball. Most importantly, they changed their colors to the city colors, black and gold. Interestingly enough, they changed their logo to one of the most horrific logos in sports history, this non-black-or-gold monstrosity that looks like a more menacing version of the original Pirate, only drawn by a five year old in crayon. Not surprisingly, the Pirates sucked from 1948 to 1959 when this logo was used. The only other noteworthy event from that time was the chopping of the sleeves from the uniforms in 1957 and hey, those uniforms look familiar (the truly astute will note, however, that the road uniforms read "Pirates" in those days and that the modern Pirates have numbers on the fronts, an addition not first made until 1962). I'm a big fan of that look, but we'll get to that later.

In 1960 the Pirates introduced my all-time favorite team logo, this Popeye-ish looking corsair. I dunno, something about that guy just looks right. It's kind of Skating Penguin-esque and I fail to see how that's a bad thing. The Bucs won the World Series in 1960 with the new logo and kept things the same on the logo front through 1967. As mentioned above, the uniforms stayed the same except for the addition of a number to the uniform front in 1962.

In 1968 the Pirates introduced one of their more famous logos, one that kind of looks like Danny Murtaugh in a Pirate hat. I personally enjoy thinking of this logo as the one of the only members of the 1979 team without a mustache. This is the era where the Bucs started getting crazy on the uniform front. With the move to Three Rivers in 1970 they introduced pullover jerseys with mustard caps. Naturally, the sleeveless look had to go as sleeveless pullovers would've just looked dumb. In 1976 the pillbox caps crept in for the bicentennial, and in 1977 a beautiful disaster struck with the introduction of the (in?)famous mix and match template. On one hand, those things are hideous. On the other hand, can you imagine the '79 Pirates Family wearing anything else? I didn't think so.

Anyways, the 70s ended but the Bucs stubbornly kept the mix and match (toning it down a bit by replacing the garish pinstripe with a plain white uniform) going though the 1984 season. At that point, one of two things happened. Either there was a massive cocaine scandal and the Pirates had to overhaul their uniforms to rehabilitate their look, or I was born and they knew I wasn't going to stand for that mix and match shit well into 1985. Whatever the case, they went to the usual white and grays at that point, strangely keeping the pillbox until 1987. In 1986 the team went back to their first logo, this time with a black and gold color scheme. I would assume this had something to do with the 100th anniversary of the team. Somehow the black and gold make that guy look a little more menacing. They kept the same uniform template for quite a while, making minor tweaks here and there. In 1990 they pulled on a road uniform that didn't read "Pirates" on it for first time since 1953 when they replaced the it with a cursive "Pittsburgh." I won't lie, I kind of liked that look. In '91 they replaced the polyester pullover with a more traditional button down, creating one of the better looks in Pirate history. In 1997 they took two giant steps backward and one step sideways when they added pinstripes and gray caps to the road uniforms and introduced a new logo. The new logo is the one you're used to today, big red bandanna, big sneer, and an eye patch. I really don't mind this logo too much, I like the patch and I think he's sufficiently menacing for a Pirate. Of course there's nothing particularly great about it that stands out and it's the least successful logo in terms of record since that blob-ish Pirate-y thing from the '50s. Somewhere around this time they also introduced a black third uniform which can best be described as "eh." They wore red brimmed caps for a while with the third unis, then switched to yellow brim with a goofy red underbrim. In 2001 with the move to PNC Park they went back to the 1962-1970 uniforms with the vests and numbers on the front. I won't lie, I really like these uniforms a lot. Some teams look stupid in vests, but the something about the plain white and plain gray with the black and gold really looks good to me (pinstripes and vests look stupid). If we never changed uniforms again I'd be happy. They kept the black third uniform until this year and last year they introduced pinstriped Sunday home uniforms, which sucked and were discontinued after this year. They are now rumored to be introducing a red third uniform for 2007, which would be pretty disastrous.