Sunday, December 30, 2012

An In-Progress History of the "B" Logo

The Red Sox "B" cap insignia, as displayed by Ted Williams in 1939, is arguably the most enduring logo for the franchise.  It was adopted well before the Hanging Sox, but where exactly did the B originate?  I've been wondering about that, and after browsing through some old photos I think I've finally pinned it down.

Old baseball uniforms had a heavy focus on Olde English lettering, a legacy that lives to this day on Detroit Tigers' uniforms.  Back at the turn of last century, Olde English lettering was used by a few teams: Boston Americans, Boston Beaneaters, Brooklyn Superbas, and the Detroit Tigers.  Besides the Americans -- who later renamed themselves to the Red Sox after the Beaneaters, who were once the Red Stockings before becoming the Braves, decided not to wear red stockings with their uniform in 1908 -- all of the teams using Olde English lettering were in the National League.  But this was the first decade of the 1900s, the upstart American League had just formed and they wanted to differentiate themselves from the Senior Circuit.  Both leagues had teams in New York, Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia, so unlike today when most cities only have one team, both leagues were competing for the same fans.

Uniform fashion became one method the American League used to separate themselves from the older league. In 1903,  the Chicago White Stockings and New York Highlanders used uniforms with a style of lettering that still exists in the current Red Sox  logo:

Note the "pointy" styling of the letters, a departure from the familiar Olde English that featured grand, curvy letters like one would see in newspapers. 

But it didn't take long for this fashion of lettering to migrate to the National League.  In 1906, the Cincinnati Reds came out with a new uniform that looks similar to what they wear today:

Take note of the empty space in the bridge of Cincinnati's "C".  They kept this hollow space for their 1908 uniforms, but they increased the height of their logo for that season:

Cincinnati is the city that originally used the name "Red Stockings" for a team, before the Cincinnati Red Stockings disbanded and moved to Boston, becoming the Boston Red Stockings in 1871.  Boston's first professional baseball team went through numerous name changes: Red Stockings, Red Caps, Beaneaters, Doves, Rustlers, Braves, Bees, and Braves again.  In 1908, the then-Doves removed red from the uniform color scheme, a decision the Americans reacted to quickly by renaming themselves to the Red Sox.  For a historian who doesn't have access to primary sources for Americans/Red Sox ownership during the time period of 1907-1908, it would seem that Boston's American League team, the one that we all love and cheer for now, ripped off much of their crosstown National League rival's identity.  

Coincidentally, the last time the then-Doves were a good team was when they called themselves the Red Stockings and Red Caps.  Talk about smart marketing and giving yourself the identity of being a winner -- the fact that the Americans won the World Series in 1903 and a pennant in 1904 also helped give them a reputation for winning. 

While Boston's National League franchise was still named the Doves, they took a liking to the lettering trend in American League uniforms that was spreading into the National League -- particularly Cincinnati's interpretation of this new styling for uniforms.  The Doves went with a red coloring scheme again and wore these threads in 1908:

Take a closer look at the B logo, worn by the Doves' shortstop Bill Dahlen in 1908:

The Doves' B logo looks mighty similar to the logo worn by Ted Williams in 1939, doesn't it?  With the hollow space in the middle of the backbone, you have the logo that Cincinnati would have used if their city's name started with a "B".  

Even though the Boston Americans changed their name to the Red Sox in 1908, developing an identity with that franchise name that we know today, they didn't use the B logo as a part of their uniform until adopting a new cap in 1933:

The Doves, for their part, changed their name to the Braves in 1912, won a pennant in 1914, then had a couple more decades of failure.  Placing an aging Babe Ruth on their roster in 1934 didn't help the team's fortunes, so they tried another name change: They became the Boston Bees in 1936.  In 1937, they even added the B back to their uniforms with this rather ugly color scheme: 

The Bees' uniform looks like a ripoff of uniforms that Brooklyn wore before they became the Dodgers. Maybe they thought that ripping off a team's uniform was a tried and true strategy since the Red Sox did it to them.  But, after letting New York purchase Babe Ruth from them before the 1920 season, the Red Sox hadn't experienced much luck for a while, either. 

The Red Sox streak of bad luck would last until 2004, but the Bees' luck would turn around after renaming themselves back to the Braves in 1941 and adopting their own, now familiar, style in 1946:

The Braves finally ended a 43 year world championship drought in 1957, winning the World Series as the Milwaukee Braves.  Upon receiving their first Major League franchise, Milwaukee only had to wait four years to enjoy a World Series title.  Boston had to wait 86 years between World Series titles -- and for 35 of those years, Boston had two baseball teams.  That's a combined 121 seasons of baseball in Boston before seeing another World Series title.  While that sounds torturous for baseball fans, it's certainly better than enduring the combined 176 seasons Chicago waited between the titles for the White Sox, from 1917 - 2005.  

The Cubs had a chance to end this streak before it started, just a year later in 1918, but they lost the World Series to the Red Sox in six games.  If the Cubs had the clairvoyance to see a baseball scandal on the horizon in 1919, perhaps they would have waited a couple seasons to steal part of their crosstown rival's identity to change their own luck. If my memory serves me right, I recall that -- just like the Doves in 1907 -- the Chicago White Sox also changed the color of their stockings by the end of 1919. 

As for the B, adopting this Boston Doves design didn't help the Red Sox win for a few decades.  Quite a few decades, actually...  But if I find out any more information about its origins, I'll let you know. 

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