By Phil Hecken
The announcement earlier this week that Mark Cuban was going to attempt to crowd source new uniforms for the Mavericks (and which Paul covered very nicely on Tuesday) not only brought reaction from the various professional (and amateur) designers on the board, it also brought back memories of the White Sox design-a-uniform contest back in 1981, which begat these uniforms (which the ChiSox are fauxbacking to this year). But, was that the first ever “design a uniform” contest for a Major League Baseball team?
In the comments that day, my buddy Chance Michaels wrote,
I just realized – there was a fan logo contest before the White Sox. The Brewers held one in 1977 to replace the beer barrel man.
The winner was a student named Tom Meindel, who received $2,000 from the team (almost $7,700 in 2013 dollars). His design, FWIW, was then given to a professional design firm which tweaked it and refined it.
But that can’t be the first one, can it?
As soon as I saw that, I contacted Chance and asked if he’d like to expand upon that comment and do a writeup for Uni Watch. He happily obliged. So, with that setup, I’ll now turn the remainder of this lede over to Mr. Michaels, who will give us all the details on …
The Brewers Fan-Designed Logo Contest of 1977
By Chance Michaels
In the fall of 1977, the Brewers were in a funk.
The team was limping to a 67-95 season, 33 games out of first place. In eight seasons since moving from Seattle, they had never finished above .500. Fan support in Milwaukee was strong, topping a million fans four of the past five seasons (a good record in those days), but patience was wearing thin. Club president Bud Selig needed to shake things up, and nobody was safe. At the end of the season, Selig fired manager Alex Grammas, general manager Jim Baumer, and the team’s logo, the Beer Barrel Man.
The club had been using the Beer Barrel Man as its logo since 1967, years before Milwaukee had a team of its own. The character himself dates back at least as far as 1942, when he was called Owgust and welcomed patrons to old Borchert Field, although the version used by the Brewers made its debut in 1947.
But times change, and late in that 1977 season, the Brewers announced an open contest to let their fans submit designs for the Brewers’ new logo, which would accompany new (team-designed) uniforms.
One of the entrants was a graphic design and art major at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire named Tom Meindel. He heard about the contest from a local television station, and decided to give it a try.
Meindel reportedly came up with the idea for the Ball-in-Glove while bored in a psychology class, sketching in the margins of his notebook. “I remember working with the M and B and I was stuck,” he later recounted. “I wasn’t going anywhere. Then I decided to start using lower case letters. The obvious thinking was to put them side-by-side, but I thought ‘let’s stack it, one on top of the other.’ It was a very crude drawing, but all of a sudden, boom, the light bulb came on. It reminded me of a baseball glove.”
His original design was rougher, more elongated. The baseball had stitching rather than the smooth seam we have today.
He mailed his design to the Brewers’ marketing department, and a couple weeks later was informed that his had been chosen as one of two finalists, chosen from nearly 2,000 entries. The Brewers flew him to Milwaukee to discuss the design with Dick Hearn the team’s vice president in charge of marketing. Meindel’s entry was refined (possibly in-house, possibly by an outside firm), and shortly after Meindel returned to Eau Claire, he received a telephone call from the Brewers informing him that his design had won.
For his creation, Meindel received $2,000, which in 2013 dollars comes to just under $7,700. He put the cash towards the down payment for a house.
Selig’s new-look Brewers experienced an instant turn-around. The 1978 Brewers, with Meindel’s logo on their caps, went 93-69, only 6½ games back of the Yankees in the AL East. Selig himself was named “Major League Executive of the Year” by United Press International, beating out his own GM, Harry Dalton. Times were looking up for the Brewers, and the new logo helped shake off the cobwebs of mediocrity that had hung off the club since 1970.
Everyone knows the rest of the story. The Brewers would win a share of the AL East in 1981 and the American League pennant in 1982, taking the Cardinals to seven games in the World Series and securing a place in Milwaukee’s hearts forever.
But times change, and Meindel’s logo fell out of favor. In 1994, to celebrate the club’s 25th anniversary, the Brewers set it aside in favor of a more serious logo, with darker colors and sharper lines. Still, the BnG remained popular. In 2005, the Brewers were considering reviving Meindel’s logo in some form (we now know that they settled on an alternate uniform). The club held a “fan vote” at Miller Park, where patrons were given the choice between one of two free t-shirts at the turnstyles; the current barley-M or Meindel’s classic. The BnG won convincingly, as 63% of fans chose the classic t-shirt.
Interviewed by the Register-Guard in his new home of Eugene, Oregon, Meindel was intrigued by the persistence of his design. “For me, the way this thing keeps coming back is almost surreal,” he told the paper. “I wouldn’t compare it with any of the classics, but it has certainly withstood the test of time.”
It sure has. If anything, looking around Miller Park on any given home game makes me think he’s being modest.
Thanks, Chance! Great writeup (as always). Well, folks — two things — how great is that and was this the first ever ‘crowdsourced’ uniform or logo design contest ever held (for any sport)? Even if it wasn’t (or was), it would be great to have a list of them so put on your thinking caps and lets find out!
We have another new set of tweaks, er…concepts today. After discussion with a number of readers, it’s probably more apropos to call most of the reader submissions “concepts” rather than tweaks. So that’s that.
So if you’ve concept for any sport, or just a tweak or wholesale revision, send them my way.
Please do try to keep your descriptions to ~50 words (give or take) per image — if you have three uniform concepts in one image, then obviously, you can go a little over, but no novels, OK? OK!. You guys have usually been good with keeping the descriptions pretty short, and I thank you for that.
Like the colorizations, I’m going to run these as inline pics — click on each one to enlarge.
And so, lets begin:
We begin today with Andy Cusack, who did up a whole batch of ChiSox unis, with a nice throwbacky feel:
I’ve been a White Sox fan my entire life. I think I’m in the same boat as most other Sox fans in that I don’t dislike their current uniforms. But at the same time, they just don’t feel exactly right. There seems to be some disconnect with our glorious mess of a uniform history. The silver and black is just a little too stark for my taste.
Long story short: I created a series of uniforms that both give a nod to different eras of the team’s history (It’s be pretty obvious that each is rooted in a uniform of the past). But they also attempt to tie everything together into something that is at least a little cohesive.
I believe if the White Sox employed a uniform system like this, they wouldn’t have to bring back a past uniform to wear as an alternate as they’ve been doing the past few seasons with the ’59, ’72 and ’83 varieties. And I think they look pretty sharp.
Hope you enjoy these.
Next up is Zachary Schwartzer, who retweaked the new U of Arizona Wildcat football unis:
The U of A football team will be releasing new football uniforms very soon. It’s been confirmed by Greg Byrne on Twitter that there will be 4 different helmets, the 4th being the copper helmet they used last year. Rumors have it there will also be an alternate uniform to match with the copper helmet. Here is my concept for the new U of A uniforms.
We close today with Chris Powers who has added an alternate to the classic Tigers uniforms:
I know the Tigers’ unis are sacred, but I was inspired by all of the orange uniforms that were on display last week. I think this concept turned out quite well even if they’d never be used in a million years. It features a two-color script based on their primary wordmark and other lettering to match. I also included the headspoon that both current jerseys have. Stripes are a callback to the stripes on the 1980s away unis. Also if they’re not careful, they could inadvertently end up as the Tiggers considering where the “G” lands on the placket.
I am especially proud of the sleeve patch I created using the ‘80s design style and the cat from the ‘90s that is used as an alternate logo and by some of their farm teams. It could be used on the away uniforms, but I’d leave the home as-is. Hopefully the patch would bring the blessings of 1984 and not the quagmire of 2003.
And that’s it for today. Back with more next time.
Looks like the 2013 National and American League Batting Practice jerseys have been released for both teams. As in the past, the colors borrow from the colorscheme of the host team, which this year is the Mets, so we have a royal and orange set. Not too bad, as far as softball tops go:
…And on that note, that’s it for today. I prepped this post early Saturday, so apologies if there was any other breaking uniform news on Saturday that I missed. Feel free to break stuff in the comments below. Thanks (as always) to Chance for a fantastic historical lesson. You guys have a great Sunday and a better week, and I’ll catch you next weekend.
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“Obviously the NBA will just retroactively declare that the New Orleans Hornets were always called the Pelicans and were an expansion team, while the Charlotte Hornets simply suspended operations much like the Cleveland Browns, then changed their name to the Bobcats, only to change back. Obviously.”
–(THE) Jeff Provo