In all of the hoopla surrounding the Orioles’ uniform unveiling, one slick bit of marketing seems to have gone unnoticed, except for some of us who are amateur uniform watchers, especially of the Baltimore team variety.
The circular patches on the new road and home jerseys have the same orange border that surrounded the old “Swinging Bird” logo used by the club from the 1960s through the 1970s. The outline of the patch is “Baltimore Orioles” on the home and alternate tops and “Orioles Baseball” on the road jerseys.
But, the middle of the patch is what is interesting from a symbolic standpoint. Both patches have a Maryland flag swatch. The familiar black and gold blocks that represent the Calvert Family crest is half of the Maryland flag’s field, but the club chose not to use the city of Baltimore flag, which has only the black and gold field along with the Battle Monument, in the center of the patch.
Yes, the Orioles are the parent club to four minor-league clubs in the state, but if the club wants to re-connect with fans who felt like the organization refused to acknowledge the city of its origin for several years in club logos, uniforms and publications, at least use the right flag to do it — Baltimore’s, not Maryland’s. Remember, yesterday was all about “symbolism” from the club’s perspective, so why get away from the “city” theme in the actual final designs? Also, the city name still does not appear on the official club logo, just “Orioles” with the bird perched atop the word mark. “Baltimore” last appeared on the club’s official logo in 1994.
While we are on the subject of uniforms, the script “Orioles” on the sleeves of the road and “Baltimore” on the sleeves of the alternate black jerseys is overkill. They put the “Swinging Bird” on the dugout jackets, but they could have just put that logo inside of the “Baltimore Orioles” patch, instead of the Maryland flag, for all of the new jersey styles and been done with it. It would have acknowledged the club’s most-distinct historic logo on a modern uniform, and would have kept the road and alternate tops from being visually cluttered.
The caps are fine, in my opinion. I know many fans wanted the “Cartoon Bird” to reappear on the caps, but the ornithologically correct bird has been refined a few times since it came back in 1989. Remember, there is an entire generation of fans who grew up when Cal Ripken Jr. wore the first version of that cap, and that cap logo, in a much cruder form, was the team’s first lid in Baltimore from 1954 until 1962.
The only disappointment is that the “O’s” alternate hat to be worn with the black jerseys remains in the wardrobe closet. That’s where the “Cartoon Bird” cap could have made its semi-permanent reappearance (and sold a lot of new merchandise in the process).
Remember, that the goal of any logo/uniform change is get us, the fans, to feel good about the re-connection and to buy the new products — jerseys and t-shirts with the Baltimore script and new caps — in droves for family and friends just in time for the holidays. Even if you are not buying tickets to see the Orioles play in the new uniforms, the club hopes that the warm feelings of the club’s more successful past given off by the changes will make the cash registers at the Orioles’ team stores sing.
If you are interested in sports uniforms past and present, a great site to visit is: www.uniwatchblog.com. There are some great discussions and information there.
One additional note: I had forgotten that the same style of Maryland patch adorns the Ravens jerseys at the shoulders, except that the Ravens substituted a “B” and “R” where the black/gold and red/white fields repeat on the flag itself.
An important distinction is the Ravens always have used “Baltimore” in the official club logo since they came to the city in 1996, while the Orioles ditched the city name in the official club logo in 1995 in a continuing effort to regionalize the club’s fan base — the city name remains off the logo for 2009.