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A History and Ranking of the Cardinals Logo

2022 in the 100th anniversary of Branch Rickey commissioning a new Cardinals logo. The Birds on the Bat have since become one of the most iconic logos in baseball.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals-Workouts Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

A logo is an important part of any team. It’s an emblem that can bring pride in a fanbase and call back to a team’s long history. This is especially true for the St. Louis Cardinals, who are one of the oldest teams in baseball.

Spring Training has just begun, but in this article, I will take a break from writing about stats and roster moves and personnel strategies and instead write on the Cardinals logo, it’s history, and it’s view among modern fans. I’ll get back to the actual baseball on Tuesday.

Shoutout to VEB reader Rachel Perez, who sent me an email a few weeks ago with the idea and a link to a survey in which fans voted for the best and worst logos in baseball. Let’s start with that and work our way backwards.

Most rankings of MLB logos are done individually with one writer giving his or her opinion. However, Quality Logo Products surveyed fans nationwide to come up with their ranking, which gives a more general sense of baseball fans’ opinions.

In this survey the Cardinals ranked 8th. The best logo was given to the Mariners with the A’s coming in second and the Yankees, Dodgers, and Marlins rounding out the top five. Also ahead of the Cardinals were the White Sox in sixth and the Blue Jays in seventh.

One of the most interesting things about the results is that three of the top eight teams are relatively new franchises. Teams like the Yankees, Dodgers, Cardinals, White Sox, and A’s all have plenty of history, but the Marlins, Mariners, and Blue Jays all joined the league in the more recent past. Logos are often pieces of tradition and call back to a team’s history, so I expected the more historic teams to be at the top of the list with most of the newer teams much lower.

I guess a well made logo can overcome a lack of history, which is certainly the case for the Mariners as they have never even won an AL pennant, much less a World Series. Personally, I am a fan of the Mariners’ logo, but I don’t think I would have been able to rank it first because it is simply not as iconic as the logos from the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Yankees.

With that said, let’s take a look at the Cardinals’ official logos throughout team history. Also, the following tweet comes from OldTimeHardball which is a great Twitter account to follow if you enjoy baseball history.

There is tremendous continuity here. Before 1922, there was a heavy focus on St. Louis, but the iconic birds on the bat logo first appeared in 1922 and has been a constant theme to this day. The style has undergone a series of slight changes and the most radical departure from the birds on the bat logo came from 1965-1997 when the team adopted a circular logo with the bird on the bat inside. 1965 also represented a significant change as the team dropped from two birds to one and added yellow, via the bat, as a logo color

Personally, I enjoy seeing the two birds (instead of just the one) on the bat. The Cardinals still display the birds on the bat, not just the bird on the bat, on the uniforms, but the days where that was the official logo are long gone. If/when the team tweaks the logo again, I would enjoy seeing the two birds make a return.

When the two birds first appeared in 1922, it was seen as a bit of a daring move. Here is an excerpt from the the Post Dispatch that year (courtesy of the Todd Radom Design blog), announcing the change.

Fans who gather at Sportsman’s Park for the spring series game tomorrow will receive an eye shock when the new Cardinals uniforms dawn on them. Across the shirt front they will see an emblem that strongly resembles a sample of Aztec picture writing. The Cardinals’ new crest consists of a black war club, oblique, surmounted by two cardinal birds, rampant. It will be by far the gaudiest bit of baseball heraldry that ever dazzled a fan’s eyes. The emblem will be worn on both home and abroad uniforms.

What is now seen as a timeless and classic logo was not always so. The early 1920s were the days of plain logos with city names across players’ chests or simply one letter representing the team. Branch Rickey, of course, was the one who directed this change. After seeing the original design by Allie May Schmidt, which had two Cardinals perched on a twig instead of a bat, he was willing to move forward with a ‘bold’ new logo. The 1922 Post Dispatch had no idea what gaudy could really become. If only they could see modern uniforms.

To be fair, at the time, the Yankees logo, which was only displayed on the sleeve of the players’ jerseys, looked like this.

This is pretty emblematic of logos at the time. Logos and uniforms tended to be conservative and clean without much adornment or creativity. The Cardinals really pushed things forward with their new logo, which was displayed prominently on the uniforms, not just on the sleeves or over the heart.

That is one of the reasons why the design stuck. It was among the first to break the mold of boring and conservative logos, and the national media was more generous than the Post Dispatch in its praise of the new design. The other reason why it stuck is because the Cardinals had so much success. If the team had changed logos and they played awful on the field, it is entirely possible that the logo wouldn’t have stuck.

Since the Cardinals do have a storied history with the second most World Series titles in history (11), the logo became an icon and a symbol of the team’s success. Nobody would dream of a radical departure from the birds on the bat.

For me, history and success are inseparable from a team’s logo. Storied franchises are known by their logos. In a country with no history or interest in baseball, the Yankees logo would still be recognized by some people, but the Mariners logo would not. Now, I know that recognition and best logo are technically separate, but a logo is more than a design. The design of the Mariners logo is great, but the team doesn’t have the history that makes a logo iconic. Because of this, I would rank the Cardinals higher than eighth, though I am a bit biased. Not only is the logo designed well, but it is associated with past greatness and a tradition of winning.

Which Cardinals’ logo is your favorite and where would you rank the Cardinals as compared to other MLB logos? Let me know in the comments.

As you can see from the above tweet, 2022 is the 100 year anniversary of the Cardinals adopting the Birds on the Bat. There is a lot of history in the jerseys that we see every day during the season.

Thanks for reading and thanks again to Rachel Perez for the story idea! I’ll get back to discussing the modern day Cardinals on Tuesday as the competition for places heats up.