So where do we begin? How about 1968. Joe Schultz is announced as the manager of the Pilots. Here he is wearing a prototype cap, the first time the world saw a Pilots cap. This is the only image I could find, and who knows if any exist out there today. It's probably one of, if not the rarest post-war baseball caps out there. I have no idea what company made it, but my guess would be the KM Pro Cap Company. The cap is royal blue in color with a gold stylized "S", a gold band across the bottom of the front panel, and the "scrambled eggs" on the bill just like a airline pilot's cap.
Were reproductions ever made? Yes! The recently-defunct Cooperstown Ballcap Company made them and I was lucky enough to find an image. Probably not 100% accurate but that's all there is.
So the 1969 spring training rolls around and instead of the fanciness of the prototype that Schultz was wearing, the Pilots show up in plain blue caps with the gold block "S". The high crown suggests it was made by New Era. Cooperstown Ballcap Company made reproductions until they ceased operations. No photos to be found of those, but here is a nice spring training photo courtesy of "Steve's Baseball Photography Pages".
So now we come to the regular season. Turns out, the Pilots used both KM Pro AND New Era as cap makers. I have found authentic game used caps of both kinds. One common mistake in remakes today is the scrambled eggs on the bill. They actually resemble stalks of wheat, not actual scrambled eggs.
Let's take a look at New Era's version:
Bottom: 1970s reproduction with no visor stitching.
Here is KM Pro's version.
Bottom: KM Pro cap with original cardboard liner and plastic bag.
It was recently discovered by Clint, owner of procaprepair.com, that Wilson also provided Pilots caps. It is believed that they were provided for the 1970 spring training. They were clearly manufactured by New Era under private label for Wilson.
Now onto the reproductions!
The most sought-after reproduction is the Roman Pro Cap Company. Roman was KM Pro's successor, and their caps were 100% accurate embroidery-wise, as KM Pro had archived all of their embroidery. They very rarely show up for sale because nobody wants to get rid of them!
Another company competing in remakes of old-time caps (throwbacks) was Twins Enterprise, who once offered a half-decent version in the 80s (probably until early 90s).
Now to the remakes currently available. Here we have the version by good ol' American Needle. The "S" is done well, but that's about it! Look at those scrambled eggs! Not exactly accurate. It is available almost anywhere online.
You think that's bad? New Era joined the throwback market in the mid 90s when Roman went under. Apparently, something went wrong. Way wrong. I can't see how this happened, but take a look:
How did the "S" and the gold band get so small!?!
Are you done laughing? No? Well, pull yourself together so we can wrap this up. New Era finally got their stuff together and actually made a good reproduction, one of the better ones they have made compared to others. This the best on the market today. However, they lack the visor stitching and the latest versions have the wheat stalks at the front of the visor. You can get these at many places online, or just go to mickeysplace.com or a low-profile version from minorleagues.com.
BE WARNED!!! Bad people are looking for suckers. Many eBay sellers have sold phony authentic Pilots caps and Many online auction houses have been fooled into selling phonies due to lack of information about cap manufacturers. If you ever see Pilots caps being sold as game used or team issued, make sure they are NOT made by Roman Pro (the company didn't exist until 1977) or NOT a New Era version that lacks visor stitching. THEY ARE NOT 1969 ORIGINALS!!!