Saturday, July 31, 2010

Poll Results/That 70s Ballcap Blog

The results of the first Ballcap Blog poll "In what decade was your favorite ballcap used?" are in: We have a tie between the 1960s and 70s. However, because the 70s was in the lead for most of the time the poll was up, I have decided to make this next blog a tribute to the caps of the 70s.

"That 70s Ballcap Blog"

Let’s enjoy some of the more flashy, outlandish, and unforgettable ballcaps from the 1970s, shall we?


Feel free to crank up the volume and enjoy “That 70s Song (In The Street)” by Cheap Trick, which was the theme song for the sitcom “That 70s Show”, and enjoy the blog.


1971 saw the California Angles with this interesting one-year design.


Who could forget the "kelley green" caps of the Oakland A’s, the most dominating team of that decade?


I once saw an MLB commercial a few years back where someone said “If baseball can survive Astros uniforms, baseball can survive anything.” I guess they were right!


This Atlanta Braves cap was immortalized by Hank Aaron when he hit his 715th home run in 1974.


The Milwaukee Brewers added more color to their road uniforms by adding a yellow front panel to their caps.


The San Francisco giants wore more traditional-looking uniforms for most of the 70s and finally gave in to the more flamboyant designs and colors in 1977. By 1983, they had gone back to more plain uniforms.


Who could forget the Seattle Mariners plain, yet striking pitchfork logo?


The San Diego Padres bell caps were my favorites. But you knew that. ‘Nuff said…


In 1976 five National League clubs celebrated the “Senior Circuit’s” 100th anniversary by adopting the “Pillbox” caps. For the Pittsburgh Pirates it stuck, and they kept it for 10 years! It’s easily one of the most popular baseball caps of all time. Willie Stargell would award teammates with "Stargell Stars" on their caps for excellent plays on the field.


I love this Boston Red Sox cap. Who can forget Carlton Fisk’s dramatic home run in the 1975 World Series while wearing the helmet version of this cap?


I don’t have a clue why the White Sox shifted to red as their main color for a few years in the 70s. I have seen many people ignorant of this cap’s history call it a Red Sox cap. Gee, I wonder why?

What was your favorite 70s ballcap? Discuss in the comments!

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.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Company Profile: The Roman Pro Cap Company

In the days before exclusive licensing, many different companies competed to make various parts of a ball players' uniform. Many different companies made on-field ballcaps before New Era was granted exclusive license for ballcaps in 1994. As time goes by, information on the now-defunct companies that used to make ballcaps gets lost. As a tribute to those companies, I will post profiles full of company information I have gathered from various sources once and a while. First I will begin with the Roman Pro Cap Company.

Roman Manufacturing Corp. was started in 1936 by Larry & Olga Mazzola creating monogramming for fine linens, handkerchiefs, towels, fur coat linings and more.During the early years the company name was changed to The Roman Art Embroidery Corp.



They developed many clients in the sporting goods manufacturing industry and became a major source of embroidered logos for the uniforms of the professional sports teams. The Boston, Mass. based Tim McAuliffe Inc., founded in 1896, used Roman’s embroidery for their caps and uniforms. By 1969, McAullife no longer made caps. That was handed over to the KM Pro Cap Company. All teams until expansion in the 1960s used KM Pro caps at one time or another. After expansion Roman did the embroidery for more than half of the new clubs. Roman didn’t just supply embroidery for McAuliffe/KM Pro; they also supplied the embroidery under private label for Wilson (Wilson caps were manufactured by New Era).



In the late 1970s the KM Pro Company closed its doors. Due to the major loss of business, it was decided that Roman should start manufacturing their own baseball caps. Roman Pro Cap Company was created. Several teams used Roman-made caps but they had few remaining MLB customers by the early 1980s. Around that time, Roman began remaking old style caps, commonly known as "throwbacks." They were advertised in sports magazines and were available via mail order. Roman became the first licensed cap company to make the old style caps, and were the first company to carry the "Cooperstown Collection" label. Most of Roman's caps featured 100% accurate embroidered logos as they had archived all of their embroidery patterns (New Era did NOT archive their embroidery).



The 1994 players strike which shut down the retail business for all MLB-related goods for the year. Roman had made commitments to vendors for new equipment and MLB would not vary from its contract which forced the company into bankruptcy. The company recovered shortly thereafter and was then sold to a venture group who proceeded to lose its business and ultimately shut it down. Roman also made caps under Mitchell & Ness for a time in the 90s. In early 200-s Roman was resurrected and the company decided to further develop their custom digitizing and embroidery division. The company then became known as Apparel 2000 LLC. They are no longer affiliated with professional sports, including Major League Baseball, and likely never will be again (I was told by a company representative "...unless they are granted exclusive license for 100 years."). Their embroidery patterns are still in their archives but are not available to the public.



Some of the teams that wore Roman caps on the field were the Boston Red Sox, Montreal Expos, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, & Houston Astros. There are probably a few others. The Milwaukee Brewers were Roman's most loyal customer, which wore Roman caps into the mid 80s.

Roman caps were also used on-field for "turn back the clock games", since that is the only time when exclusive licensing does not apply. However, I have noticed people as well as memorabilia companies trying to sell Roman throwback caps as authentic vintage game used caps. Consider yourself warned!


A selection of caps from my Roman cap collection.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The San Diego Padres "Taco Bell" Caps

Hey baseball fans,

I will begin my first real blog by talking about my favorite caps of all time: the San Diego Padres “taco bell” caps of the 1970s and 80s. Take warning that this will be a long read; however, future blogs most likely won’t be this long. These caps are my favorites. I have tried to find out everything about them, so please bear with me and I promise you will learn lots of interesting facts.

First of all, most people think there are two versions of the Padres “taco bell” caps: the 1974 to 1979 version, and the 1980 to 1984 version which added orange outlines and eyelets. However, there are many different versions and variations made by three different companies and multiple reproductions.

First off, why are they called “taco bell” caps? Well, take a look at the yellow front panel of the cap. Modern-day remakes of these caps make it simply in the shape of a triangle, which is very inaccurate. If you look at the original caps straight on, the front panel is in the shape of a bell.



Why a bell? It has to do with the California Missions. If you don’t know what they are here is what Wikipedia says:

“The Spanish missions in California comprise a series of religious and military outposts established by Spanish Catholics of the Franciscan Order between 1769 and 1823 to spread the Christian faith among the local Native Americans. The missions represented the first major effort by Europeans to colonize the Pacific Coast region, and gave Spain a valuable toehold in the frontier land. The settlers introduced European livestock, fruits, vegetables, and industry into the California region; however, the Spanish occupation of California also brought with it serious negative consequences to the Native American populations with whom the missionaries came in contact. In the end, the mission had mixed results in its objective to convert, educate, and "civilize" the indigenous population and transforming the natives into Spanish colonial citizens. Today, the missions are among the state's oldest structures and the most-visited historic monuments.”

Long story short, the Padres team is named after the padres (Spanish for “fathers”) of the missions, and the missions all had bells. The taco bell nickname comes from the Taco Bell restaurant logo of the 80s which had basically the same colors as the Padres.

The Padres actually didn’t start using the “bell” design during the 1974 season like most believe. It actually began in 1972, and they were used for Sunday home games. However, they weren’t exactly identical to the versions that most people know. The “bell” was actually much larger, reaching all the way to the side panels of the cap. Here is a 1972 picture of the Padres then-manager and well-known character of baseball, Don Zimmer, wearing the famous “mustard yellow” uniform.



After experimenting with a couple of different cap designs, the Padres went back to their original brown cap with the yellow interlocked “SD” logo for the 1973 season. The 1974 season saw the debut of the first true “bell” cap which they used through the 1979 season and 1980 spring training (from what I can tell). Both New Era and the now-defunct KM Pro Cap Company made the earlier Padres caps but so far I haven't been able to find out which brand they used on-field. However, I am 100% sure that New Era was the only maker for the taco bell caps in the 1970s. New Era’s caps were unique in the fact that on (almost) all caps, the front panels were made of nylon instead of wool if the front panel was a different color. Teams like the Blue Jays, Expos, Brewers, etc. all had nylon front panels. The Padres bell was no exception. At first, the caps featured the old-school amenities, such as satin taping and horsehair backing under the front panels. By the late 70s they had changed to the black taping and (then) regular style backing. The sweatbands also came in a wide variety. Leather was the standard back then, and the Padres used a couple of different types of leather. Most New Era caps had a smooth type of leather but two of my caps each have different kinds of leather that look more like strips of beef jerky. My one cloth-banded cap uses a more thin kind of cloth band, which must affect the size because mine is a 7 1/4 but fits more like 7 3/8.

Here is my personal collection of 70s caps:


First cap: adjustable spring training style. Second cap: Game used in 1976 by pitcher Alan Foster. Third, Fourth, and Fifth caps are non-game issued, the last two are mint condition.


1976 game used cap by pitcher Alan Foster displaying the early style satin taping and horsehair backing.

Beginning in the 1980 season, the Padres had orange “highlights” added to the caps and thus created the most popular variation of this cap. The top button, the eyelets, and the stitching along the outside of the bell were made orange, and an orange outline was made around the interlocked “SD.” The interlocked “SD” color was also changed to black.



Most people think there is only one version of this cap made for on-field use. Actually, there are two different versions that New Era made. During the 1984 season, the interlocked “SD” was reduced in size, and less stitching was used on the outer area of the bell. I first noticed this while reading an article about former Padres manager Dick Williams and pitcher Goose Gossage, who were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008. Here are the photos of Williams and Gossage that I saw.


See the difference?

While I said that New Era made two different versions, that doesn’t mean that it didn’t stop at two. Remember that back in those days there were other ballcap manufacturers, and they made their own versions of caps for every team regardless of whether that team was using their brand or not. While that wasn’t the case with the 70s taco bell caps (to this day I have not seen any other makers’ version of the cap), at least two other companies made their own versions of the 80s version: the Roman Pro Cap Company (KM Pro Cap Company's successor) and Sports Specialties Corp., both of whom were trying to take business away from New Era.


My personal collection: First cap: Sports Specialties version, Second cap: Roman version, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth caps: New Era 1984 versions.

Roman Pro’s version is strikingly different than the New Era versions. Right away you may notice that the bell is more triangular, and stitching on the outside of the bell is more solid. The bell’s fabric is a different material other than wool but it seems too smooth and shiny to be nylon, but it might be. The interlocked “SD” is more square in shape with sharper edges, is brown instead of black, and hey wait a minute… it’s not even interlocked! The “SD” is overlapped instead. Roman’s version appears to be the prototype for all the poor reproductions made today.



The Sports Specialties version was sold exclusively at the stadium’s fan shop, or so I have been told by a couple of different people. Oddly though, the seller of my cap told me that it was game used. From what I can tell, the Padres always used New Era and didn’t use Sports Specialties until the late 80s. Maybe they tried them out during spring training? Who knows. Anyway, the logo on the Sports Specialties version looks much like the 1984 New Era version, only it is brown like the Roman version. Another difference is the “D” on the “SD”, the outline where it interlocks with the bottom of the “S” is done in a different way. The stitching on the outside of the bell is solid like the Roman version as well, just thinner. The bell itself is more of the correct shape and is made of wool like the rest of the cap. All in all, the Sports Specialties version is almost a combination of the New Era and Roman versions.



Unfortunately, after Padres owner Ray Kroc died in 1984 and the Padres got creamed by the Detroit Tigers in that year’s World Series, the team made a drastic change in appearance, and one of the most interesting (THE most interesting in my mind) baseball caps of all time became a part of baseball’s past.

Today, we are left with inaccurate knockoffs. Not even New Era can accurately remake them (they blame it on the fact that they “make their caps in a different way now”). The flaws are numerous, including a bell that is way too big. However, New Era has fixed the interlocked “SD” on newer versions to become more accurate, and it is what the Padres use for their “turn back the clock” games. A New Era remake of the 70s version exists but is very hard to find these days. New Era will probably make more available the next time the Padres have a 70s “turn back the clock” game. The only place you can really get the 80s version is at a website called http://www.mickeysplace.com.

1970s version


1984 Version

The only other remake of the 80s version on the market today is made by American Needle, and is apparently based on the Roman version. American Needle did make 70s taco bell caps at one time but no longer does. You can find the 80s version pretty much anywhere online.



The most accurate remake ever made was by Mitchell & Ness, who no longer has the license to make MLB caps. They were made for a brief time when Mitchell & Ness tried to take over the bankrupt Roman Pro Cap Company in the mid 90s. I never knew they even existed until recently. Mitchell & Ness modified Roman’s version to look more like the original New Era version. Although Roman’s “overlapped SD” is still used, the inside color was changed to the correct black. Also, the stitching on the outside of the bell was made more like New Era’s stitching. Unfortunately, these caps are very hard to find. I’ve had better luck finding the originals. I only have found one of these. After Mitchell & Ness changed their cap manufacturing, they made a version identical to the American Needle version. Below is a picture of one of the rare accurate versions (mine is just slightly out of shape, by the way):



Another company that made reproductions was the Cooperstown Ballcap Company, which just recently closed its doors. While I was able to get a 70s taco bell cap, I wasn’t able to get the 80s style. As you can see, it’s not exactly accurate. Turn of the century-style caps were more of Cooperstown Ballcap’s forte.



So there you have it. The full history of the famous Padres “taco bell” caps, which I have been obsessed with since childhood. I hope you enjoyed it! Any suggestions for the next cap I write about are welcome!

Thanks,
Paul Carr

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hello baseball fans!

Hello and welcome to the ballcap blog. In my blogs I will be discussing on-field pro model baseball caps made for on field use, commonly known today as "fitteds." In Major League Baseball today, the New Era Cap Company is the lone company that produces caps for on-field use, and it’s been that way since the 1994 season. Before then, back to the mid-1980s, there were two; New Era and Sports Specialties Corp., which was bought out by Nike later in the 1990s. Before the mid 80s, there were several more. Baseball caps were made by all of the major sporting goods companies: Wilson, Rawlings, MacGregor, Spalding, and more. There were also many other companies no longer with us, such as Tim McAuliffe, Inc, and their successor company, the KM Pro Cap Company, which then shut down in the mid 1970s. Their embroiderer, the Roman Art Embroidery Co., began making caps in KM’s place and started making reproductions of old-style caps, now commonly known as “throwbacks.” The Roman Pro Cap Company then became the first baseball apparel maker to carry the “Cooperstown Collection” label. There were many smaller companies that made on-field caps at one time or another. Companies that went by names such as Crosby, Leslie, and Devon just to name a few.

This blog is a celebration of those companies of the past as well as New Era’s latest ballcaps of today. I will share, analyze, and compare ballcaps from all eras of baseball, most of, if not all, are from my personal collection of over 100 caps and counting. This will include high-quality and detailed pictures. I will post as often as possible, but if a large amount of time goes by without a post please have patience.

Now a little about myself. I live in San Jose, California, the "capital of the Silicon Valley." I currently am the drummer for an indie hard rock band called "Undergone." I have been wearing fitted pro-model caps since the 90s, my first was a Chicago Cubs "road" cap I got when I was 9 years old in 1995. I always collected fitted caps here and there growing up, never too seriously until recently. Now I have started this blog to share my love of these baseball caps. Like I said, I will be sharing photos of my personal collection, but if anyone has any vintage MLB fitted caps they would like to share or have featured please let me know!

My first real post will be coming in the next few days, so keep posted!