I’m picking up on a trend. In the past, Throwback Thursdays have been somewhat biased towards the 1970′s… (well, except for all those ridiculously -old-school-turn-of-the-century-baseball-is-a-gentlemans-sport-origins postings) and …today is no different. The 70′s was an excellent time to watch baseball, if you weren’t taking hallucinogenic drugs (drugs are bad) or disco-dancing (also bad, worse maybe).
And of all years of the 70′s, 1977 was, sensu stricto, the best year. Not only did it boast the release of John Travolta’s gem Saturday Night Fever, but the year is particularly noted for the birth of what I very seriously refer to as The Two Greatest Sports Logos Of All Time.
Why does my opinion count? Because you’re still reading my article. I might add that I was an art major in college… for like a semester until I decided I hated having a social life and that I wanted to look at very very small things under microscopes while wearing a lab coat because lab coats make you look cooler… which gives me great authority.
For what it’s worth, I believe a full appreciation for a sports logo only comes when you actually try to design one yourself. Try to design one yourself, and fail horribly at it.
I did that once.
I entered a contest. It was fun at first. To pretend: I thought maybe it would be The One that broke me into The Industy- if there is such an Industry- of Uniform Creation and Critique. I would work in the Major League Baseball Office of Uniform Design and Color Selection with my name on a plaque on the door that read: Elise Myers, Namer of Colors and Designer of Good Things.
I was a little proud of my design for this contest. I even might have sent a copy of it home to my mother, who is herself a designer. She might have thought about posting it on her fridge. I was proud, yes. Because I was so, so clever.
But then I saw everyone else’s entries. And I just felt stupid. Everyone else had professional-looking things that used fancy software and boasted look-at-me-I’m-an-art-major-without-a-job-and-nothing-better-to-work-on-all-day. Mine was submitted in colored pencil. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. I felt like a five-year-old. I was twenty-one at the time, and desperately trying to prove it. If you really want to see that one… it’s floating around the googles somewhere still. It’s really not that bad. It’s just not that good, either.
In 1977, Tom Meindel, a graduate student in art at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, also entered a contest.
A logo-creating contest, for a little baseball club in the Midwest called the Milwaukee Brewers. Meindel submitted his design, a clever composition you’re familiar with- an “m” and “b” united to form a baseball glove with a ball.
For colors, Meindel selected the rich blue already in use by the club, and chose to add a gold hue, which I will argue was inspired by his Eau Clarian alma mater- nicknamed, interestingly enough, The Blugolds. I made an attempt to consult with my friend, also an alum of University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, about the nature of a Blugold, but he was unreachable for comment. Or he doesn’t know and conveniently couldn’t tell me.
In 1978, Meindel’s logo was unveiled to the public. It was a hit, and still is to this day, 34 seasons later, is a popular choice for admirers of well designed stuff, and people from Wisconsin when they’re not wearing cheeseheads, and those who romanticize summer days with their dad at Miller Park. Despite the team’s switch in 1994 to the “crossed-bats” logo, and in 2004 to the current “M and barley” logo, fans still flock to the flashback-favorite, Meindel’s ball and glove.
And what for all this fame and glory that comes along with winning such a contest? Meindel collected a one-time prize of $2,000 for handing over his design to the Crew for mass production. And now, no one really even knows his name. And now, Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver), is the most popular thing to come from the great state of Wisconsin since, uhhh, cheese. Obviously.
Dreams do come true. I’ll keep working on mine.
Do you have a favorite baseball tradition? Is there a particular ghost of baseball past you would like to revisit? Ever wonder why they do what they do, and when they started doing it? If you have a suggestion, question, or submission for Throwback Thursday, contact Elise by tweeting @Elise_Myers.