By Bryan Redemske
As a Cubs fan, I often find myself on the wrong of end futility-related jokes, where losses are explained as, “Hey, it’s the Cubs. Of course they’re going to lose.” As such, I tend to avoid crowing too much about winning streaks being in first place, because despite the Cubs’ current fortunes, this always follows: “Yeah, but they’ve sucked for the last hundred years.”
Well, not quite — more like the last 62 years — but we’ll let that go for now. Why? Because in those hundred years, the Cubs have been at the forefront of uniform innovation. Why bother with winning when you can look good? OK, actually I’d rather have the wins. But here’s a quick rundown of firsts from our North Side friends:
1937: First full-zippered jersey.
1940: First vest.
1941: First powder blue uniform. They were abandoned after two years.
1978: First white pinstripes on powder blue. Actually, this is nothing to be proud of. (And yes, I know that link isn’t from 1978. The shoulder patch is wrong and Lee Smith didn’t debut until 1980. It’s just a scary picture.)
Setting aside those dubious firsts — especially the last two — the Cubs are actually one of the more interestingly attired teams in the majors. At first glance, it doesn’t seem to be the case — the Cubs have had pinstripes forever and have a seemingly plain road uniform.
Consider these items:
• Road pants: The little Cubs logo has been on the left hip since the current roadies debuted in 1997.
• Road jerseys: There are only four teams in the majors that use different colors for letters and numbers on the backs of their jerseys — the Braves, Diamondbacks, Nationals (alts only) and Cubs. The Cubs use it only for the road jerseys (f’ing Jim Edmonds …).
See, there’s a lot more there than just pinstripes and plain road grays, much like there’s more to the team’s history than the gigantic gap between World Series titles. For example, the Cubs are one of two teams with 10,000 franchise wins. And the Cubs do have 16 pennants. And the back-to-back World Series titles.
But still, there’s always someone fixated on the drought. I have no stats for that person, only this: Shut up.
Editor’s Note: Paul here. Regarding the trademark symbol on the home jersey, several people, including Bryan, have noted that the Cubs’ logo is derived from the Chicago Athletic Association’s logo and suggested that the trademark symbol is required by the CAA. That sounds reasonable, but I’m not so sure it’s accurate. According to this page, the Cubs adopted the CAA’s logo in 1915, when P.K. Wrigley, who was a CAA member, bought the team. Now, I’m pretty sure the “®” symbol didn’t exist in 1915, and I’ve been unable to determine when it debuted (Anthony Verna, do you know?), but I’m fairly certain it existed well before 1983, which is about when the symbol started appearing on the Cubs’ jerseys. Also, the Cubs’ cap logo is a much closer copy of the CAA mark, yet the cap logo has never had a trademark symbol. (As an aside, I attended a big group dinner last night and found myself sitting next to a trademark attorney, so I explained this whole situation to him. His response: “No other team uses the symbol? They all should!”)
I suspect the CAA has nothing to do with the trademark symbol. My hunch: At some point the Cubs’ uni manufacturer (which was Wilson throughout the 1980s) got a new chest patch supplier and provided them with a piece of flat art of the team’s logo. That logo sheet must have had the trademark symbol, which then got incorporated into the resulting patches, and each successive supplier has just copied the specs.
Of course, you’d think we could just ask the Cubs and/or the CAA. I tried the former approach several years ago and got nowhere. But I didn’t know about the CAA connection back then, so yesterday I called the CAA — and learned that they shut their doors last summer and are currently in the process of dissolving their corporate structure. But they still have a shell of an operation running, and I left messages for several people. Hope to have more on this soon.
Speaking of the Cubs, I’ll be taking a much more detailed look at them next week on ESPN. I’ll be covering everything Bryan touched upon here and plenty more (including one astonishing historical detail we’ve never discussed here — I just discovered it myself yesterday). It’ll be a lot like the survey of Cowboys quirks that I did last fall. Think of Bryan’s entry today a warm-up for the more in-depth treatment to come next week.
And as long as we’re on a Cubbie roll here, yesterday’s throwback game, which found the Cubs and Braves wearing 1948 attire, was a hoot. Yes, they got a bunch of things wrong (the Cubs’ version of the wishbone-C logo never had a white outline, and both teams should have been wearing zippered jerseys instead of button-fronts, and the Cubs had the wrong shade of blue, and, and, and…), but the whole thing was still a pleasure to watch. More, please.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Oregon Senator Gordon Smith is using a very Oregon University-ish typeface for his political campaign. Further details here (with thanks to Travis McGuire). … Last three grafs of this story suggest that the Braves’ blue alternate jerseys might be a jinx (courtesy of Gary Moore). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Paul LoDuca, on a rehab assignment, has been wearing a Columbus uni with his Nats helmet. … Black Fives prexy Claude Johnson is auctioning off a really cool jersey for Kevin Garnett’s charity. Details here. … There was a disputed play in Wednesday night’s Mets/Diamondbacks game, when Arizon’s Mark Reynolds claimed he’d been hit in the foot by a pitch. The ump ruled he didn’t try to get out of the way, but here’s the interesting uni-related point: The old shoe polish test wouldn’t work, because it turns out that the Diamondbacks don’t use shoe polish. According to a radio report I heard yesterday, the D-backs use “a special kind of shoe” that doesn’t take polish. Frankly, given all the different shoe contracts that players have, I find it hard to believe that there’d be a team-wide standard regarding shoe material, but I’ll look into this. … Camilo Villegas really needs a new belt (blame Ian Wright). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Nashua Pride player Vinny Pennell has a clever way of displaying his initials on his helmet. … FNOB alert: Ron Moore of the Cardinals (good catch by Charles Dettmann). … Good info about the helmets used for The Express here (with thanks to Billy Ramirez). … Several readers noted that when Nick Lidstrom was awarded the Norris Trophy last night, the kid presenting him the trophy was wearing a jersey with “LiNdstrom” (not “Lidstrom”) on the back. Gary Bettman probably had nothing to do with this, but let’s blame it on him anyway, because it’s easier that way. … Fun look at L.A. Kings mustaches here (big thanks to Will Leslie).