Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mitchell & Ness Caps: The Best Throwbacks Ever Made?

For a period of at least a few years, the Mitchell & Ness Nostalgia Co. made what appears to have been the most accurate throwback caps ever made. Until a year or so ago, I didn’t even know they existed! Where were they hiding?

Mitchell & Ness had two different cap manufacturers (under private label) before losing their license to make MLB caps in 2003. The first maker was the Roman Pro Cap Company, who made throwback caps on their own for years but fell into financial difficulties after the 1994 strike. I will focus on these versions. The second maker was American Needle. Their versions of Mitchell & Ness caps still exist today as their own “Deep Dish” series.

Although Mitchell & Ness caps were made by Roman, their only similarity to Roman’s own caps was the embroidery (and leather sweatbands for the caps that called for them). Extra steps were made to have the caps look and feel like the real caps made by Tim McAuliffe & KM Pro, the companies that Roman provided the original embroidery designs for.

The detail and craftsmanship is incredible. For caps based on styles made before the 1970s, satin under-visor fabric and taping is used. Most caps made in the mid-1950s and after didn’t have satin under the visor but it’s a nice touch. The manufacturer’s tag is made to look like a KM Pro tag (some versions have the long tag used in jerseys), which is a nice detail. If the original zig-zag backing had been replicated and if the size had been stamped on the sweatband, it would be very hard to tell the difference between a Mitchell & Ness cap and a Tim McAuliffe/KM Pro cap.

With "KM Pro" style tag

Close up of KM Pro style tag

"Jersey" style tag

For the caps based on 70s caps and later, they are designed to look more like New Era caps. Take the early 80s Padres “taco bell” caps for example. The original Roman version was quite different to the New Era version. The New Era version is what the team used on the field. Mitchell & Ness changed Roman’s piping down the side of the bell to zig-zag stitching and the logo was made flatter and the inside color changed to black. Not even New Era themselves have made a reproduction as accurate as this one. Another great cap is the Phillies 1981 St. Patrick’s Day cap. There was no satin used inside the more recent-style caps, which is my only major complaint because satin taping was used all the way until the late 80s.

What led to the end of the relationship Mitchell & Ness and Roman is a mystery. Roman left the professional sports industry altogether and is now a custom embroidery company called “Apparel 2000”. I have asked representatives of both companies about their relationship but they were no help. All I know is it’s a tragedy that we can’t buy caps of this quality and accuracy anymore.

Roman version

American Needle version

Roman version

American Needle version

These Mitchell & Ness caps are quite scarce today. If you are lucky, you can find the occasional one on eBay, but some might hurt your wallet (I saw a 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers cap sell for $100+). However, a large cache of Mitchell & Ness caps have shown up at The Captain's Vintage Clothing, an online store. Be wary that they have both the Roman and American Needle versions of some caps. Also, they have many rare caps in very large sizes, so if you wear size 7 7/8, 8, and LARGER, you’re in luck! Just click below the banner.

The Captain's Vintage -

If you have any of these caps or know anything about them, feel free to share something in the comments section!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The San Diego Padres "Taco Bell" Caps (Part 4)

The saga continues in my never ending quest to find every single variation of this cap!

I have stated previously that the Roman Pro Cap Company never made "Cooperstown Collection" versions of the early 80s cap. Fortunately, I was proven wrong when the only one I've ever seen popped up on eBay a couple of months ago. It was in horrible condition, but the price was right and I got it back into shape. It is nearly 100% identical to the original Roman Pro version. The only difference is the piping down the sides which is slightly larger.

I previously owned a 1970s Padres adjustable "snapback" cap made by New Era. It was unworn, unfortunately the visor was broken and some of the fabric on the back was ripped. Remembering that New Era will repair unworn caps regardless of age (see past blog posts), I mailed it in asking if they can not only fix it, but also turn it into a fitted cap. This is the result; a rather interesting one-of-a-kind vintage/new hybrid. Everything is new except the yellow front panel and button. New Era did an excellent job. I'm very happy with the result. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Team Cap History: Los Angeles/California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

I have spent the past several weeks researching the Angels cap history and it proved to be rather interesting. If I am missing anything email me and I'll add it in. Response may be slow since I will be out of town until Monday. Ironically enough, I will be in Anaheim. A special thanks goes to Rob Loeffler and his website "Rob L's Baseball Memorabilia (". Let's go!

1961 - 1964

The first Angels cap. The team used Tim McAuliffe/KM Pro caps. I have seen New Era versions but I don't think any were ever used by the team. I *believe* I have seen versions without a halo. 100% accurate reproductions were later made by Roman and Mitchell & Ness, with American Needle offering their own version presently. I'm sure New Era has made them at one time or another but I have been unable to find one.

1965 - 1970

The team stuck with using Tim McAuliffe/KM Pro caps, with some being Leslie/KM Pro caps. This is the only Leslie/KM Cap that I have ever seen. There are New Era versions but again I don't think any were ever used by the team. There is indeed versions without a halo, I'm not sure when they were used but my guess it was in the later years. 100% accurate reproductions were later made by Roman, and just like the previous cap American Needle is offering their own version presently and I'm sure New Era has made them at one time or another but I have been unable to find one.

Tim McAuliffe/KM Pro Version

Tim McAuliffe/KM Pro Version interior

Leslie/KM Pro Version interior tags

New Era Version

New Era Version interior


This one year style was again made by KM Pro (now sans the Tim McAuliffe name). I don't recall seeing a New Era version but I'm sure they exist. 100% accurate reproductions were later made by Roman, with American Needle and New Era offering their own versions presently.

Tim McAuliffe/KM Pro Version

Current New Era reproduction

1972 - 1988

There are many variations to this style. KM Pro made these caps probably until the mid 70s when they went out of business, but the switch to New Era may have been made earlier. New Era appears to have been the main supplier from then on. Sports Specialties and I *believe* Roman made on-field versions but I'm not sure if the team used them at all. 100% accurate reproductions were later made by Roman, with American Needle and New Era offering their own versions presently. There are some interesting differences between the New Era on-field versions. Some appear to have the older, smaller/narrower visors. A 70s new Era version I personally own has the regular size visor. A 1985 - 1986 Bobby Grich game used cap shows that the cap has similar traits to the "snapback" cap's interior design (narrow visor, no lining around the sweatband, and sheer white taping instead of satin).

KM Pro Version

KM Pro Version interior

New Era Version 1, 1975 game used by Nolan Ryan

New Era Version 2, mid/late 1970s from my personal collection

New Era Version 2 interior tags, mid/late 1970s from my personal collection

New Era Version 3 (notice the different embroidery texture), 1983 or 1984 style (game used)

New Era Version 4, 1985 to 1987 style (game used)

New Era Version 4(b), 1985 to 1987 style (game used)

New Era Version 5, 1988 Diamond Collection version from my personal collection

New Era Version 5 interior, 1988 Diamond Collection version from my personal collection

Current New Era reproduction (notice embroidery is 100% identical to the 1985 - 1987 version)

1989 - 1992

Most people don't notice the change in the logo between 1972 and 1992 but the 1990 - 1992 variation has a more fatter, stretched out logo. New Era and Sports Specialties made on-field versions but it appears New Era caps were used most of the time. New Era offers their own version presently, and since it has a logo that was created in the relatively recent past, the reproductions are 100% accurate. Original versions are abundant on eBay.

1993 - 1996

These caps reminds me of my childhood. Remember the movie Angels In The Outfield? A movie with an all-star cast made before most of the cast were all-stars. New Era and Sports Specialties offered on-field versions. Sports Specialties caps would have only been used on-field in 1993 only. This was the first time the Angels had home and road caps. I owned a road version made by Sports Specialties during my childhood. I wish I had held onto it... 100% accurate reproductions are presently made by New Era, you just need to know where to look. Original versions are abundant on eBay.

New Era Home Version

New Era Road Version

1997 - 2001

I always though this was a rather striking logo but apparently not to many people liked it. There were home and "Alternate" versions. New Era of course made these and Sports Specialties *might* have made "unofficial" fitted versions that they made for a while in the mid-to-late 90s. 100% accurate reproductions are presently made by New Era, but again you need to know where to look.

Home/Road version

Alternate Version

2002 - Present

The first season the team wore their present design the won the World Series against the San Francisco Giants. Before all teams switched to polyester caps, the Angels experimented with black fabric under the visor, which is now commonplace. Retail versions had gray under the visor, I'm not sure if the caps with black were sold in retail.

2002 - 2005 style game used

2007 - Present version with sticker