Cleveland Baseball History In Logos

This is part two of a series that will be coming out throughout the next week. It will cover the history of the Cleveland Indians name and logo, then the arguments for and against both. This article will cover the ever changing logos throughout the history or Cleveland baseball, starting in 1899.

People may find Chief Wahoo offensive now, but he certainly has come a long way. Take a look at where the Indians logo started and how it changed along the way:

  • Prior to 1899: Team names weren't official and the Cleveland baseball team was called by many names (Forest Citys, Blues, Infants and Spiders), but never had an official logo other than the letter 'C' prior to joining the American League.
  • 1901-1927: In a spur of creativity, the Blues, Bronchos, Naps and Indians used a slur of C's to represent the team. Here is a sampling of those with their first year of use. 

C's

  • 1928-1932: The Indians finally got a logo in the late 1920's as part of the modernization of baseball. The first caricature used to represent the Indians was a crude drawing in black and red. In 1929, this was much further advanced to include a full headdress of white feathers. The lines were cleaner and the face more majestic. The profile view with a red chief was similar to the current Washington Redskins logo.

Chiefs

  • 1933-1945: The logo then changed from red to yellow and from semi-realistic to cartoon. Chief Wahoo was still a chief with a full headdress, but the logo was too complicated and still crudely drawn.
  • 1946-1950: This was the first professional looking logo, just considering the clean lines and highly contrasting colors. It is obviously an early incarnation of what would become the modern Wahoo, with just a different color scheme. The face was turned toward the viewer for the first time, rather than in the profile and the nose was overly exaggerated because of this.
  • 1951-1972: In 1951, the modern Chief Wahoo was created, but he didn't stick around forever. There were always different angles used and sometimes a full body was added, but this is the chief that everybody knows. The skin color changed for a final time from yellow to red. In general, the logo looks less goofy than the previous incarnation with a straight feather and straighter teeth. The nose and cheeks are smaller and rounder and the pony-tail has been removed. The extreme triangle eyes also show that this is a caricature and not a portrait.

Modern Chiefs

  • 1973-1979: The 70's were a crazy time that almost everyone except Rick Manning would like to forget. Chief Wahoo grew a body and grabbed a bat as the Indians dressed in bright red and blue. The font on the front of jerseys changed to a more primitive typeface, away from the block or script C's of the past.
  • 1980-2001: Luckily, the madness ended as soon as the 80's began and the Indians went back to wearing white at home and Chief Wahoo returned to the 1951 version. Stripes were added and removed, but in general, things stayed pretty consistent through the end of the century.
  • 2002-2007: This was a big transition time for the Tribe as there was a lot less Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez and a lot more Matt Lawton. The Indians took advantage to re-brand the team and started the elimination of Chief Wahoo whether they admitted it or not. For the first time in almost 30 years the Indians wore caps that didn't have Wahoo on them, opting for the script I instead. When they did wear the Chief on their jerseys or hats, it was a smaller version that was outlined with silver.

Current

  • 2008-Present: The Indians went through another rebranding in 2008, in an effort to make fans forget that they just traded C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez. While the script 'I' still existed in some forms, it was replaced on the hats by the block 'C', a throwback to the 1903 logo. Chief Wahoo lost his silver lining and went back to the 1951 style, but appeared in fewer places than ever. While even the 2002 batting practice uniforms featured the Chief prominently on their hats, a generally banning of the Chief from the new Spring Training facilities in Goodyear, Arizona has kept him off buildings, jerseys and caps.

If the past is any indication, the current style will last a few more years before being replaced by something new when the roster turns over again (likely around 2017). Mark Shapiro and the Indians front office continue to claim that the Indians are not even thinking about removing Chief Wahoo from existence, they are certainly doing a good job making the transition easier. By slowly shrinking him and removing the logo from one place or another to be replaced by letters, it is making the idea of a Wahoo-less world more palatable for die-hard Indians fans who grew up loving the mascot.

As time goes on, the next generation of Indians fans will relate more with the block 'C' logo, because that is what they grew up with. Within the next two decades, it will be easy for the team to completely remove the Chief from anything team related without alienating their entire fan base. Whether they will be allowed to do this on their own or will be forced to ahead of schedule by popular demand or the next MLB commissioner is yet to be known.

Thanks to SportsLogos.net for the logos featured in this article.

Joseph Coblitz

About Joseph Coblitz

Joseph is the primary writer and editor of BurningRiverBaseball.com and has been since it's inception in 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and currently resides in Goodyear, Arizona the Spring Training home of the Cleveland Indians.

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