Thursday, July 28, 2016

Gaga for logos.

I confess a strong fondness for the logos of sports teams, especially for teams that are completely defunct. I'm not talking about teams like the Seattle Pilots (fine as their logo was)...


...because they moved to Wisconsin and became the Milwaukee Brewers.

The old "M-B" glove logo was great.

But I'm talking about teams that completely fell apart, sometimes in leagues that completely fell apart. I almost bought a Baltimore Terrapins jersey at Cooperstown once, even though it was far more than I could afford at the time, and that I've only spent about 18 hours in Baltimore in my life, because the logo was cool and the Federal League was kinda cool and the whole thing went to blazes in three years.

See the diamond? See it?

The Chicago Whales were in that league, although their logo doesn't grab me quite as much:

Not sure what's going on there. A bit whaley, though. 

But there were so many leagues and expansion teams and teams that fell apart in our major pro sports over the last century and a half. Speaking of the Windy City, what about the Chicago Stags, cagers who played in the NBA from 1946-1950?

Pretty butch, there, Stags; nice mid-century lettering.
In those days, National Basketball Association teams that couldn't draw didn't always move. Sometimes they just went away. But now, in the big leagues of any sport, once a franchise is created, it never folds. It may move to a different city, may change its name (or sometimes, inappropriately, not--looking at you, Utah [nee New Orleans] Jazz!), but franchises are like Constitutional Amendments; they can't just be erased, they have to be repealed. So to find a really defunct team modern logo takes some looking.

Many logos today don't show you what sport the team actually plays, let alone what league they're in, but that wasn't the case for the Miami Floridians of 1968-1972:

Is that kid orange?
Compare that to the Los Angeles Dons (as in a Spanish nobleman) of the All-American Football Conference:

You sack my father. Prepare to die.
That looks like the label on a bottle of cheap wine.

At least the Memphis Mad Dogs (1995 only) of the Canadian Football League's ill-fated U.S. expansion, looked like they came to beat someone at something.

The U.S. CFL franchises all just dissolved, I believe.

Also dissolved: All the U.S. Football League franchises, including the at-the-time quite popular New Jersey Generals:

Five stars = good general

I can tell you that among the working-class guys in New York and New Jersey, the Generals were a very popular team during their brief 80's run, and I'm not saying that because Donald Trump was the owner for a while. They signed some well-known talent and yet it cost a lot less to go to their games than the NFL's. Plus, they played in the spring, when football fans were in withdrawal. A summary of the sad tale of the USFL collapse can be read here.

The NFL had kind of a Waterloo of its own, in Europe, with the World League of American Football (later NFL Europe). As originally composed the league did have some American teams, like the New York-New Jersey Knights, who had a cool logo. Nothing like the logo for Army's Black Knights, playing just an hour north at West Point.

Have at thee!

I actually did go to a Knights game. The stadium was about a quarter full and they didn't sell beer.

But I almost bought a pricey shirt in the Sports Authority at Penn with this logo:

Fancy a game of gridiron, old thing?

The whole thing cost the NFL millions. As I say, it was the NFL's Waterloo. Although note that none of the WLAF or NFL Europe teams were actually based in Waterloo, or Belgium at all.

(I'm not getting into the XFL today. It makes me wince.)

Speaking of non-American teams: Hockey fans know that in the early years of pro hockey, Western Canada had distinct leagues. Some very good hockey was played out there.

With lousy logos on their sweaters,

The Vancouver Millionaires was not a team composed of millionaires. Ironically, all NHL teams are composed of millionaires now. If the Millionaires had really been rich, they could have gotten a logo that didn't look like it came from Vancouver Junior High. But they did win the Stanley Cup in 1915, so they had that going for them. Still, as with all the major sports in their early days, they had many financial problems, and the Millionaires (also ironically) went bust. They changed their name to the Maroons in 1922, but it didn't help.

And finally, here's one of my favorites:

Rubber soles

The National Industrial Basketball League was not exactly a pro league, but a league formed of company-sponsored employee teams. I get the feeling a lot of these "employees" were just employed to play basketball, because in its heyday, when "the salaries of NBA players and industrial league players were comparable in the 1950s, top-notch players saw little advantage to joining the pros." When the NBA players' salaries began to increase, the NIBL could not compete.

The Akron Goodyear Wingfoots team was sponsored by Goodyear, obviously, but the most successful team in the league was the Bartlesville, Oklahoma Phillips 66ers. But I get a kick (har!) out of the Wingfoots name.

That's a tour of some old sports logos I have enjoyed. Maybe next time we'll look at some crappy logos from teams that still exist!

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