Saturday, December 24, 2011

Did ANNCO make New Era's caps in 1988?

Back in the old days, New Era made caps for Wilson Sporting Goods under private labeling. After New Era nearly wiped them out as a major competitor, Wilson switched over to having ANNCO (American Needle and Novelty Company, now American Needle) make their caps. In the past ANNCO made the cheap felt souvenir caps that were sold at stadiums. By the time Wilson changed to ANNCO, Wilson was only supplying caps to the Phillies. Around this time, ANNCO made pro model caps under their own label for the Mets. However, the Mets expert I spoke with doesn't believe they were used on the field.

The early caps made by ANNCO for Wilson used cloth sweatbands similar to KM Pro's cloth sweatbands. New Era's Wilson caps also featured the same sweatbands, as the sweatbands and embroidery were originally added by a 3rd party.

Early 80s Phillies Wilson cap (made by ANNCO)



Later on, the sweatbands became one-sided like New Era's.
Mid 80s Phillies Wilson cap (made by ANNCO)



The Mets caps were made with a different type of buckram and didn't resemble a basket weave like the Phillies caps. Also notice the raised embroidery on the Mets logo that resembles a modern New Era. (photos courtesy of Steven August)



From the introduction of the 5950 cap in the 1950s until 1987, New Era's caps were manufactured the exact same way with their own machinery with the exception of a few minor changes here and there. In 1988, New Era and their main competitor Sports Specialties launched the "Diamond Collection". Other on-field apparel makers also carried the label. That year, the 5950 underwent a major redesign. The structure and profile all changed. Inside the cap, satin taping and leather sweatbands were phased out (leather would be available for umpire caps for another 20 years). I personally own one New Era cap from 1988, but it's structure is nearly 100% identical to ANNCO caps.

California Angels New Era cap showing the old-style construction used until 1987



1988 California Angels New Era cap



Notice how similar the inside of the cap looks when compared to the Wilson and ANNCO caps above.

In 1989, New Era went back to their old machinery. The only major change was the sweatband, which lost the liner around the edge. Satin taping returned, along with the "Lot/Price" size tag.



In 1990, New Era's cap design changed again, but that's another story that will continue in my next post.

So do you think that ANNCO made New Era's caps under private label in 1988 or are there just a few similarities? There are a few differences though, such as the button size and the way the visors are stitched. But also, why would New Era go back to their original machinery in 1989? Teething problems with the new machinery? I've also noticed that many of New Era's Cooperstown Collection caps have the exact same logo embroidery designs as ANNCO's original Cooperstown caps. Express your opinion in the comments section!

Happy Holidays everyone!

Friday, December 9, 2011

(Mis?)Adventures In DIY Cap Repair

A couple of weeks ago, I received what should have been the crown jewel of my collection: A genuine 1969 Seattle Pilots cap made by New Era. While the crown of the cap was in perfect condition, there were some problems. All of them had to do with the visor.


Like many caps its age, it suffers from what has become the bane of my existence: a cracked visor board. Actually, it wasn't cracked. It had completely crumbled. Most of the visor board pieces came in an envelope. The seam that kept the visor fabric together had ripped open, and the pieces came out. The other problem was the embroidered wheat stalks on the visor. The thread literally disintegrated. Some of it was already gone by the time it arrived, and the rest rubbed off when I touched it.


I knew that with a little work, I could get the cap into somewhat presentable condition. Luckily, New Era's Pilots caps did not have seams across the visor. There is only a seam between the blue top and green underside. I sacrificed a visor from an old worn-out cap, slid it inside, and glued it back together with fabric glue. It's not perfect, and there are a few patches of dried glue where I missed my mark, but it looks OK. I emailed every embroiderer in town to see if they could re-do the wheat stalk embroidery, but unfortunately no one can do it because the embroidery had been done prior to the assembly of the cap. I figured the next best thing was to find patches on eBay. There were no wheat stalks that were close the original design, so I bought military and airline-style "scrambled egg" wheat stalk patches that were the closest to looking like the original. I then glued them to the visor.


While it isn't perfectly aligned (the visor and crown weren't perfectly aligned to begin with), I placed them exactly on the outlines of where the original embroidery was. It's not the real deal anymore, but I am satisfied with what I was able to do.

If anyone has an intact New Era Seattle Pilots cap, I'm still looking to buy one. In the meantime, I've got a KM Pro version on it's way to me as I write this.

Coming soon: My adventures with the New Era "Re-Cap" kit.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mysterious Vintage Caps!

About a week ago, I bought these two old caps on eBay. The seller was no help in figuring out what they are. I have no clue what they are but I'm guessing they may be high school or college caps. Here's two more caps to add to my "Unknown Collection", along with the that duck cap I found. Below are some descriptions along with some detailed photos. If anyone has any clue what they are I would appreciate if you could help me out. Regardless, there are interesting and worth sharing.

The first cap is dark red with an Old English-style embroidered "C". It has a name written in pen on the underside of the visor. It's a well-made pro model with a white leather sweatband made by the Leslie Corporation (Any info on that company is also appreciated!). The construction is identical to a KM Pro cap only it doesn't have the zig-zag buckram behind the front panels. There is no size tag but it may be 7 3/8 or 7 1/2. I'm guessing it's from anywhere between the 40s and 60s. It probably is from the latter era since it's not melton wool.





The second cap is kelley green with a sewn-on felt "B". There is also a number 11 (or a name?) written in pen under the visor, along with a "6" and "4" written on the buckram. There is only a 7 1/4 New Era-type size tag attached to the crumbling leather sweatband. The stitching is also identical to older New Era caps but it looks similar to those old souvenir MLB caps they used to sell. I'm guessing it's from the 30s to the 50s, maybe early 60s at the latest. It looks just like the 1937 Brooklyn Dodgers but I'm sure the "real" ones would have been better quality.




Sunday, October 23, 2011

Oddball Alley: 2000 MLB Umpire Cap

I recently picked up an MLB umpire cap from the year 2000 on eBay.




The MLB logo on the front was only used for the 2000 regular season, which was the first year that the MLB umpires were together in one group. The current MLB umpire logo began use in the 2000 post-season.

The cap features a leather sweatband. Umpires had the option of leather sweatbands through the 2007 season, a full 20 years after players caps lost them. Oddly, the leather is stained and it has rubbed off on the cap enough to show on the outside. I wonder what the season for that is?

If you have a cap you consider to be an "oddball" and would like to have it featured, please email me!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

New eBay Account, Updates

Hey everyone!

I have a new eBay account. My screen name is now "insomniaccaps186". I currently have three caps from my collection on there now so if you are a Reds or Red Sox fan check it out. I will put various caps up for bid on occasion that I have doubles of or no longer want in my collection, so be sure to check once and a while to see if I have anything.

I have various blog projects in the works that I will finish as time allows. If you have any suggestions or ideas of something you would like me to write about, please don't hesitate to comment or email me! Also, if you personally own or have seen any neat or interesting pro-model baseball caps, I would love to see them.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Stiff-Visor Blues/Poll Results

Now that New Era is no longer offering repairs (and I still haven't found a company or person that can do repairs), I've been trying to see if I can find a way to fix visors that are too stiff to bend and are at high risk of breaking. Despite the risk of running some of my caps, I decided to experiment. I held the caps under a faucet and ran water on both sides of the visor until the entire visor was saturated. I was careful to try and get as little water possible on other parts of the cap. Here are the results:

Getting the visors moist DOES make them bendable again. However, older caps go back to being stiff after they dry. Only bend visors of old caps once they are completely saturated. The only reason you should do this to an older cap is to bend a warped/misshaped visor back in to the right shape. However, a few of them became bent out of shape again after drying. Luckily, caps made in the 90s and after seem to be cured and become flexible again. Obviously you must be careful while doing this with older caps (80s and before) and there is always a risk of ruining them, so don't blame me if it happens to you. It appears that running water on the visors doesn't do much to wool fabric the first time, but if you do it again the fabric will begin to warp.

Again, if anyone can find a company or person to repair baseball caps, please contact me.

POLL RESULTS:
The poll showed that pretty much all of you can tell the difference between USA-made and Chinese-made on-field caps. Interestingly enough, there were two people that voted "don't care". If either of you that voted that way are reading this now, I am interested to hear your perspective (you may post in the comments section).

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Differences Between USA-made and Chinese-made New Era Caps

One discussion that keeps coming up between baseball cap enthusiasts is the difference between New Era's USA-made and Chinese-made caps. The 2011 season saw all minor league teams wearing on-field caps made in China, and even some major league caps are being made in China, mostly special events caps. Ironically, from 2010 to 2012 the patriotic "stars & stripes" caps were exclusively Chinese-made. After receiving complaints, patriotic caps were made in the USA again starting in 2013. The spring training/batting practice/occasional regular game "Diamond Era" caps are also being made in China, with exception of the patriotic DE caps.

The differences between USA-made and Chinese-made caps are many. I have been told that New Era has received many complaints about Chinese-made caps regarding quality. I will go over the most noticeable differences and compare photos of USA-made and Chinese-made caps.

My example will be the Stockton Ports (Level-A California League Oakland A's affiliate) home cap from the 2011 season. The USA-made cap is my personal cap that I wear, the Chinese-made cap was game used in 2011 by Rashun Dixon, brother of Anthony Dixon of the San Francisco 49ers. Dixon gave it to a boy that I mentor and take with me to games.

USA-made cap.


Chinese-made cap.

The first thing I noticed is the difference in 100% polyester fabric. USA caps have more of a wool feel. Chinese caps feel more like felt or even almost like velvet, as opposed to USA fabric which has more of a traditional wool texture. Chinese caps also tend to have a larger fit than USA caps. When it comes to the visual differences, the first difference is the size of the crown. The larger crown of the Chinese cap has received many complaints, with some describing them looking like Elmer Fudd's hat.

USA-made on left, Chinese-made cap on right.

The next difference is the stitching. Look at the stitching on the visors. USA-made caps have larger holes between the stitches, Chinese caps (usually) have barely noticeable holes. Chinese-made caps also have thicker stitching on the eyelets.

USA-made cap stitching


Chinese-made cap stitching

Next we have the inside. Although there doesn't look like anything is different, the buckram behind the front panels is much stiffer on Chinese-made caps, almost hard plastic-like. The taping is flatter and not as rippled as USA-made caps, and the silver bottom of the button is flat on Chinese-made caps rather than curved.

Inside of the USA-made cap


Inside of the Chinese-made cap

Behind the sweatband, the white "size strip" that keeps the sweatband and crown connected is different. USA-made caps have had this type of strip since 2007 with the introduction of 100% polyerster on-field caps. Chinese-made caps have the crosshatch-patterned fuse seen on USA-made caps in 2006 and before.




Other differences are that the sweatbands are sewn together behind the center New Era tag, whereas the Chinese cap sweatbands are attached off-center behind the size tag. The Chinese visors have a strong rubber smell when new and are also much more stiff and tend to crease in places when you attempt to curve it. Some Chinese caps even have visors that are smaller than normal. A typical New Era visor is 7 3/4 inches in width, while some Chinese caps have a 7 1/4 inch visor.

While on the subject of Chinese caps, I have spoken with the people responsible for ordering Minor League caps about the differences between Chinese and USA made caps. They have to me that New Era offers incentives to order Chinese-made caps, such as higher quantities for lower prices. However, I've noticed that Minor League teams often get a mix of USA and Chinese stock throughout the season depending on how many caps they order and how soon they need them.

How do you feel about Chinese-made on-field caps versus USA-made on-field caps? Can you tell a difference? Is there anything you notice that I didn't mention? Does it matter? I'd love to hear your feedback.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Perils of Finding A Company The Does Repairs

I have spent hours of my time emailing and calling every single cap company that I can think of to find if they will repair caps. I have offered money and free advertising, and the answer from all is a resounding "no".

Here is the list of all the companies that I contacted. If anyone can think of anymore, please let me know.

California Custom Caps - no reply
Bobcat Athletic - no
Ebbets Field Flannels - no reply
Proline - no
Richardson -no reply
(Owner of) Cooperstown Ballcap - no
The Game - no reply
Stall & Dean - email address not functioning
Ninteen47 (Twins Enterprise) - no reply
Graffiti - no
Arizona - no reply
Champion - no

An owner of one of the above cap companies told me that they once tried repairs, but accidentally ruined one of the caps and the owner of it tried to sue them. They explained the process of repairing a cap (which made me more understanding about why New Era decided to stop) and said that it is also an issue of time, and they feel that they would have to charge too much to make it worthwhile. On the plus side, some of the companies that I spoke with had some very interesting information to share with me and events going on behind the scenes that I will write about in the near future.

If anyone wants to call the companies that didn't reply to me via email, they are more than welcome, and let me know what transpires. However, there is a private individual I spoke with that told me that he may try and figure out how to repair broken visors himself. If anything happens with that I will post it here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Era Has Stopped All Cap Repairs

Fellow readers,

New Era would like everyone to know that they have ceased all cap repairs. I spoke to Dan Harrigan (the assistant customer service manager) and he told me that it takes too much time away from production, and they haven't set up a way to charge money for it. All caps that have been shipped in for repairs will be returned un-repaired.

Who is to blame? Well, that would probably be yours truly. Some people that sent their caps in apparently referenced me and my blog, saying that they found out about it that way. Of course, I had no idea that so many people would be sending caps in for repairs, and I also had no idea that so many people were reading my blog! And to top it off, I'm not the only one that has blogged about it. I have sent several batches of caps in for repairs, completely unaware that it was a burden to New Era. After all, I had been told that repairing broken visors was "an easy fix". Had I known otherwise, I probably wouldn't have blogged about it. When Mr. Harrigan informed me that they would no longer do repairs, he was somewhat terse with me, and made me feel as if I had worn out my welcome with him. My last batch of repaired caps arrived shortly thereafter, and included a letter from him repeating what we had discussed on the phone.

A friend of mine with a large collection of caps including a few in need of repairs called New Era yesterday to ask about repairs. A customer service rep told him: "No we do not do that. We are not geared up for repairing caps. Who did you hear this from, a guy in California on the internet? We asked him to remove that information from his website. We did a couple for him as a favor but my boss has told me to return any hats sent to us for repairs after that".

So there you have it. Obviously, the "guy in California on the internet" is me. They never asked me to remove anything, by the way, so I'm putting it out there that they will no longer do repairs.

If anyone has any luck finding another company that will repair caps, please let me know, even if they charge a price.


Sincerely,
" A guy in California on the internet"

Sunday, August 21, 2011

ID this cap!

Hey everyone!

Sorry for the lack of updates, but things have been crazy in my personal life this summer. Luckily, the craziness has died down and things are pretty much back to normal, so I should have some new articles coming soon. I have some things that I am working on. Right now, I just need your help to solve a mystery!

I recently found this cap at a local thrift store. It's a vintage 100% nylon New Era cap that appears to be from the 70s. It features a logo of a duck's head, with a green crown and yellow visor. My first thought was that this was a Oregon Ducks cap, but I can't find any evidence of them ever using this logo. I figure it has to be a college or minor league team, since the cap is a fitted pro model.



Thanks,
Paul

Friday, July 8, 2011

Multiple Turn Back The Clock Game Caps Now Available In Polyester

Aside from the Angels "Flashback Friday" caps that were released recently, multiple caps for this season's "Turn Back The Clock" games have been released in the modern 100% polyester "Cool Base" style. Availability varies, and they can be found at hatlclub.com, ecapcity.com, and the mlb.com shop. Here are the caps that have been released to the general public thus far:

Tampa Bay Rays as the 1940s "Tampa Bay Smokers"

1940s St. Louis Cardinals

Los Angeles Dodgers as the 1940s "Brooklyn Dodgers"

Early 1980s Seattle Mariners

Washington Nationals as 1930s "Washington Senators"

1970s Atlanta Braves, made for the "Civil Rights Game"

1930s San Diego Padres "Pacific Coast League"

1970s/80s Philadelphia Phillies

Early 1970s Pittsburgh Pirates

Kansas City Royals (I can't find any further information, any help is appreciated)

1960s Baltimore Orioles

More caps are expected to be released throughout the season, I will post any more caps that are released here on the Ballcap Blog. Certain Turn Back The Clock caps haven't been released to retail (yet), such as the 1918 caps that the Cubs and Red Sox wore, and the 80s Padres "Taco Bell" cap.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Angels "Flashback Friday" Caps Coming to Retail



"Hat Club" announced today via their Facebook page the arrival of the four Angels "Flashback Friday" caps to their retail locations.

What is shocking to me is the fact that they went with the 100% polyester "performace" caps rather than wool models normally used for "Turn Back The Clock" games. Does anyone have these yet? I'd love some detailed pictures!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Two Different New Era Cap Machines?

Early on in my collecting, I noticed there are two distinct styles of vintage New Era caps. Here are two examples of the exact same caps for two different teams. First we have the mid to late 1970s San Diego Padres caps. Then we have a pair of Chicago Cubs caps circa 1985 - 1987.

The easiest way to tell the difference between the two styles is the visor. Notice the first cap in both pictures features a more "squared-off" visor. The second style has the more rounded edges like New Era caps of today.




Let's talk about the insides. Style "one" on the left has transparent taping and backing behind the front panels. Style "two" on the right has satin taping and more opaque backing.




Another difference is the embroidery. The 70s versions have somewhat of a difference, but on the 80s versions the difference is less drastic. Style one has much flatter embroidery. On style two, the logos are bulkier.




The are other differences as well. I have noticed on style one caps made in the 70s, there is no liner around the sweatband. However, they seem to have been added in the 80s. Also, the oldest New Era caps that I have seen have similar traits to style one. Most adjustable (snapback and velcro) New Era caps, even in recent years, also have many similar traits to style one as well. I'm certain that after New Era received new cap making machines in the late 80s, the cap machines for style one were retained for making adjustable caps, as caps with the same characteristics (usually the visor shape) are still seen today.

What do you think?