New Stuff – Cut from a Similar Cloth.

Welcome back,
To that same old place that you laughed about.

Well the names have all changed since you hung around,
But those dreams have remained and they’re turned around.

The Cincinnati Reds kicked off their off season with the unveiling of some new uniforms last Friday. One thing about these uniforms is that they try and reach to the past and grab some of the style the Reds possessed in prior eras, strangely enough both eras were marked with more incidents of losing then winning, but let’s not pick nits. Enquirer writer John Erardi informed us that the Reds in the 1890’s would display the new uniform in a store window; this attempt also was intended to create a buzz about the upcoming season and maybe sell some tickets, or at least some dreams. This all was the reason for the stage show the other evening with a strutting Mr. Red and the new uniform displayed under the lights.

Reds owner Bob Castellini was behind the uniform change, and if it is indeed a season long job it looks as though Castellini was prepared with marketing data the minute he took over Carl’s office. But seriously, who doesn’t love uniforms more then the guys that don’t have to wear them? Sidney Weil owned the Reds for a shorter time then most Reds owners, but was able to get on the field in the knickers of his beloved Reds almost immediately after he took over.

I don’t think Bob sees himself as the same sort, so instead he went to remake the image of the Reds from his youth.

Remember when you were 14 years old?

Remember the stuff you loved?

The stuff you might have thought as being “too cool”?

Bob must.

In 1953 the Reds decided to change the teams name from “Reds” to “Red Legs” This change was noted by several of the larger newspapers in the country.

Now it’s true that the Reds were once known as the Red Stockings, but that was in their pre league existence. In fact the Enquire refers to the cities entry as the “Reds” in an article about opening day in the inaugural season (1876) for the National League. This practice continued in the majority of the vernacular that surrounding the game for the next 75 years. In fact a search in a database of major newspapers prior to 1953 only reveals the use of the name Cincinnati Redlegs” a grand total of 51 times, the first time in the Chicago Tribune in 1909. The Sporting News, which was known as “The Bible of Baseball” began publication in 1886, and the first time the Reds are referred to as the Redlegs is in 1936. The writer is also the Cincinnati Post’s baseball editor Tom Swope; a man who wrote about the Reds from 1915 to 1956 (Earl Lawson eventually replaced him as the stringer for TSN and the most respected writer following the Reds.) Swope’s use was likely more a local nickname then a national one, however that all changed in 1953. After the name change the Redlegs could be found in the same search over the next 8 years found the use of Cincinnati Redlegs a total of 4023 times.

In 1959 the Reds decided switch the name back to Reds, the communists we’re still in power, but the Reds cared less about the association and Reds GM Gabe Paul and Owner Powell Crosley obviously felt that they had the right to change their mind on the issue.

From 1962 on the name “Redlegs” was found in relation to the Reds only 149 times in the name search, the last reference to the Reds as being the Redlegs in TSN was oddly enough in the obituary of ex Red Larry Kopf in 1986.

The odd part was Larry was always a Red, but never a Redleg.

Or was he?

Back to the name change, for seven years the Cincinnati team name was the Redlegs, starting in 1953, which would be around the time that current the Reds owner was just beginning his teen existence.

Also of note is that in 1953 the most famous “Red Stocking” Harry Wright was elected to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Two years later the Reds paid homage to the bygone romantic Victorian era of the 19th century, this was done when the Reds introduced a new secondary logo to the teams’ brand.

This logo was named “Mr. Redleg” and was placed on the 1955 and 1956 Uniforms

For the 1955 season the logo was only placed on the left sleeve of both the home and the road uniform.

As the 1956 season started Bob Castellini was in the neighborhood of 16 years old. Also coming of age that year was the long dormant Cincinnati Reds, the 1956 team is one of the Reds most successful Reds teams that didn’t win anything. Much of this historic popularity falls on the fact that team was a slugging outfit that fell short of winning anything significant, also the team sported Mr. Red Leg on the chest of another set of the newly designed uniforms. Ones that sported vests, which ironically is the same style that is leaving the Reds clubhouse this season.

The following year Mr. Red disappeared off the local nines uniforms and lingered in the background as the teams secondary logo, briefly making an appearance as the Reds main Logo in 1960, for the sum total of one season.

1960 was and has been the only season in team history that the main brand of the Reds (a large wishbone “C” which had (and would again later) encased the name “Reds”) was not the team’s primary logo. Following the 1960 season the name Reds again appeared on the Reds logo and the wishbone C returned, this also marked the first appearance of black in the logo.

After that Mr. Redleg remained a secondary symbol, lurking in the background, an image now as familiar to the Reds as the coke bottle image is to Coca Cola, yet not as powerful as wishbone “C” just as the script lettering that spells out Coca Cola surpasses the bottle as the key imagery of that particular brand. But the future didn’t look good for Mr. Redleg in conservative Cincinnati, and when Bob Howsam arrived on the scene in 1967 he recognized this.

Almost cut my hair
Happened just the other day
It’s gettin’ kind of long
I could’ve said it was in my way

A year after Howsam arrived he cleaned up the hairy face of Mr. Redleg and changed him to fit the image that he was instilling in the Reds, the Reds that would become the Big Red Machine, a team marked by their lack of tolerance for long hair or altered appearances. By 1972 The Reds had incorporated the secondary brand symbol with the primary brand and produced the running man and the wishbone C as the main logo.

The addition of the running Mr. Red to the wishbone C helped mark the change from the Older Crosley Field to the newer and more futuristic Riverfront Stadium, the change was further marked by the teams increased team speed (the team increased stolen bases from 59 in 1971 to 140 in 1972.) The Mr. Red running man disappeared after the 1993 season and once again the primary team logo once again became the wishbone C, without a hint of the running man as anything more then a secondary logo. He was to reappear in 1999 with a new look, sporting the reintroduced “vest style” uniform (with pinstripes) running to the left, a direction the prior Mr. Red running man was running from.

So here we sit today once again the Reds brand shifts under the weight of a franchise that has a deep history and a plain, yet malleable nickname that has enable them to mix and match odd brand characters, name combinations and even simple graphic design.

One things for sure the dark shadowing of the new font is too heavy for my taste, creating an illusion of 3 dimensional space on an actual 3 dimensional being is a bit too much for my taste, but that’s my one complaint about the new duds trotted out by the Reds.

I’m just glad to see Mr. Redleg.

It’s been awhile.

Take us somewhere good.

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