Monday, July 26, 2010

The Seattle Pilots

It's time to discuss one of the most infamous caps of all time: the 1969 Seattle Pilots! As most of us know, the team existed for one season and then in 1970 became the Milwaukee Brewers. The Seattle Pilots may have existed for one season, but they had three different caps.

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:
Top: Authentic New Era 1969 Pilots cap with 8 rows of visor stitching.
Bottom: 1970s reproduction with no visor stitching.

Here is KM Pro's version.
Top: Close-up of KM Pro 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!
Left: KM Pro version. Right: Roman Pro version.

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!!!
1969 ORIGINALS - Left: KM Pro version. Right: New Era version.

8 comments:

  1. Great cap and uniforms. The 60s' produced the Expos' tri-colored cap, the L.A. Angels' halo cap, the KC/Oakland A's caps and uniforms, not to mention powder blue roadies.

    Sadly, no original Pilots' uniforms exist.

    Enjoy the blog!

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  2. Paul, this is a great site! My new favorite! I have a blog on cornbeltbaseball.com called "The Cap Geek," which merely aspires to be what your blog is.

    I DO have a Roman Pilots cap. I'd love to make a trade with you, if you're willing -- and have a size 7 1/4 to 7 3/8 cap!

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  3. Thanks! What are you looking for? I'll see what I can do.

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  4. Would you be willing to part with one of your many Mission bell Padres, Paul? I'm big on wearing my caps, but I take care of them, too. I happen to have a couple throwback Padre caps made by Roman/Mitchell & Ness, one a 1978 and the other a 1984. The '78 was actually one made for the Padres to wear in a TBTC game -- no manufacturer logo inside or anything! I'd love to have one of the Padres caps with the wool crown/synthetic front.

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  5. FYI, Paul: My Pilots cap post:
    http://cornbeltbaseball.com/?p=4291

    And an interview with the guys who design all sorts of minor league logos, Plan B Branding, in which we discuss the Pilots cap briefly:
    http://cornbeltbaseball.com/?p=6185

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  6. I will go through my Padres caps and see if there are any I can bear to part with. If I can't, would you be willing to offer me a price for the Pilots cap?

    Also, I would LOVE to have pictures of your Padres caps you speak of.

    Please email me at insomniac186@yahoo.com so we can discuss things further.

    Thanks!

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  7. Nice blog. I love your New Era caps. Do you also have 5950 hat?

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  8. Good article. One mistake though, the American Needle version isn't really inaccurate. Look at these photos of Pilot players. Notice Dooley Womack......
    http://www.sportsecyclopedia.com/al/pastsea/pilots.html

    His version is the same as American Needle.

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