Designing a team logo should be easy, shouldn’t it? Draw the animal, historical tough guy, profession or object that represents the team. Add a letter or symbol to represent the region: a D for Detroit, an arch for St. Louis, a star for Texas or sunny colors for Florida. Frame it in a circle, cap or football shape, and it’s ready to be printed on a million pennants and T-shirts.
Yet somehow, logos go wrong. Very wrong. Early logos had no predecessors to draw from and can look quaint and ridiculous to modern eyes. Recent logos are so carefully crafted by marketing gurus that they can look like stock-market symbols. In the decades in between, teams have proudly displayed emblems that were silly, ugly, cheaply produced and poorly drawn. For every iconic Cowboys star or Yankees bat-and-top-hat, there have been hundreds of logos that appear to have been scribbled on a cocktail napkin by the team owner’s mistress, or cobbled together by the best correspondence art school graduate that World Hockey Association money could afford.
Let’s take a tour of the crazy corners and bizarre trends in logo history. We will leave colleges, the baseball minor leagues, and international teams alone — if some town of 15,000 wants to name its team the “Anthracite Ferrets,” who are we to judge? — and we will stick to the “major” leagues in most cases. From sloppiness to political incorrectness to outright lunacy, we have a vast palette to choose from.
(Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net, an online museum of thousands of logos, uniforms, insignia and other promotional materials, was an essential resource for this article, and unless otherwise noted is credited with each of these logos.)
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