Every few seasons Major League Baseball has all thirty teams come out with new batting practice hats. Why? Because it's something new to sell at the ballpark, I suppose. I was at Progressive Field near the end of the season, and the 2012 edition was on a pretty extreme sale, so they must have known new ones were on the way. ESPN's Paul Lukas is something of a sports uniform expert, and he's got the scoop on all of the new MLB lids. Here is Cleveland's new BP cap:
What do you think?
Lukas observes that the Indians seem unsure whether its navy blue or red that's their primary color. I happen to prefer when they use red lettering on a navy background, and I don't really like the new look. Short of creating a new logo though, or bringing in a white or grey cap (neither of which look very good, in my opinion), there are a limited number of options.
Lukas calls the block "C" logo "way too generic," but the font used on Indians' hats for decades is now more closely associated with the Cincinnati Reds (and the NFL's Chicago Bears) and there are only so many reasonable ways to print a "C." I think the current version has simple elegance that's attractive and given time, it will feel as though it's always been around. I was never crazy about the cursive "I" logo, but it could have been brought back for BP, if they wanted something more unique from game hats (where the block "C" is becoming more and more prominent as the organizations seems to be (slowly) moving away from Chief Wahoo.
On a related note, Atlanta decided to use their old "Screaming Indian" logo on their new caps, which hasn't really been featured since 1989, a decision that was met with great derision around the interwebs earlier today. I imagine most Tribe fans have taken part in at least one discussion or argument about the use of Native American iconography, especially because as depictions of native peoples go, Chief Wahoo is pretty inflammatory.
I "checked in" with former Indians' owner Bill Veeck* on Twitter. He bought the team in 1946. Until that time, the team had rarely featured Native American imagery. A sleeve patch existed on some versions of the jersey between 1928 and 1938, but it was more along the lines of the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks' logo, something closer to a portrait than a caricature. Chief Wahoo was created in 1947.
* Bill Veeck died over 25 years ago (as pointed out in the comments). His Twitter account is run by someone well versed on Veeck's life, but not, of course, by the man himself. The quote below may or may not reflect the views of Bill Veeck, had he lived to the age of 98 to chat with me on Twitter.
Veeck told me he:
"Wanted something fun and cartoony. Times were different." - Bill Veeck
Veeck also said he was surprised by the Braves' new caps. I am too, because Atlanta has avoided using that logo for most of the last 23 years, even pulling a patch from sleeves of throwback jerseys they wore regularly last season. It seems odd that they would invite controversy and criticism over something as otherwise insignificant as their batting practice look.
Most of the talk today around the new caps has centered on those Atlanta lids, but of course there were 29 others. Among the new looks, I'm fond of the Astros', because it's close to the look they had when I was a child, and I'm up for just about anything that takes me back to 1980's baseball. I also like the caps for the Mets and Reds, because I think incorporating mascots is a fun choice (if only the Phillies would follow suit and put the Phantic on theirs...). I don't like the Dodgers' new look, because their cap should always be blue. The Rangers' looks overly busy with the state flag covering the logo (we get it guys, you're from Texas), and the Rays' looks silly to me, but what can be expected from a team named after sunshine?
In a month that saw some serious changes to what the Tribe will look like in 2013, the hats they wear for a couple hours a day are small potatoes, but there they are, all the same.