Fontrunning, Or The World Series Aesthetic Affray

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With a few big, well-branded exceptions, all baseball, as Tip O’Neill once said about politics, is local. There are people in a couple of metropolitan areas that are extremely excited about the World Series, and die-hards and ex-pats elsewhere who are not far behind. But, for the most part, the World Series match-up between the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals is a regional skirmish with a national audience eavesdropping on it. This is a lot of eavesdroppers -- national ratings for the playoffs have been decent thus far -- but, for example, they haven’t even been close to the numbers for the soon-to-be-canceled “Bad Judge,” let alone big college football matchups like Notre Dame-FSU.

This takes nothing away from the two Wild Card teams that have made it this far. They’re fun, and fun to watch. It’s just that we most of us haven’t watched them much So how to pick a team? You could root based on All-Stars like Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, James Shields, and Alex Gordon, although most of the playoffs has thus far been about which bullpens have pitched best. You could root based on relative payroll if you’re the kind of person who roots for capital over labor, as every dime that doesn’t go to the millionaire players fattens the pockets of the billionaire owners whose teams provide them with tax shelters and play in stadiums they didn’t pay for. You could root for the supposedly All-American ideal of the ‘underdog,’ but it’s hard to put much stock in a culture that loves underdogs and eats at chain restaurants, shops at big-box stores, derides the Occupy movement, and lets the banks off the hook for robbing us blind. And, where sports are concerned, what’s so wrong with cheering for greatness anyway? Any of these will work, but we can do better.

There’s a simpler way to pick a team in this World Series, one uniquely suited to making sense of the colorful blur on your screen when it’s 1am and the top of the 7th inning. We could always pick our October team of choice by picking either the Royals’ or Giants’ uniforms. With all due respect to Paul Lukas of Uni-watch, here’s an aesthetic ranking of the two clubs.

2. Kansas City Royals

The average baseball fan is 55 years old, but even a young man’s eyes would easily confuse the Royals for the Dodgers. Besides L.A., their jersey’s script wordmark underlined with a tail is so generic as to be shared by the Orioles, Nationals, A’s, Twins, and every third softball team in the country. Their descending “K-C” cap logo isn’t nearly as interesting as the interlocking letters once used by the Kansas City Monarchs and A’s, nor do their cap’s script letters match their jersey’s lettering.

And while the Royals may have been named for a livestock show and not a monarchy, their imagery plays up a regal, not bovine, theme. “Royals” is a name evocative of resplendence and decadence; think King Louis VIV’s jet black curly mane or King George III’s all-gold everything. Yet they eschew any hint of flair in their design and color scheme. Compare their staid brand to the Sacramento Kings’ purple jousting lances, or the L.A. Kings’ baseball-appropriate home plate crest, or to the King of all Kingly logos—the Cincinnati Royals’ goofily grinning basketball with an American map for a toupee. There’s nothing offensive about the team’s look, it’s just that it’s as bland as their history since 1985. 

1. San Francisco Giants

The City of San Francisco’s sole remaining pro team kept most of their design elements when they fled Manhattan, in what stands as one of this country’s greatest sporting crimes. If America’s sporting industry were truly capitalist, the successful Pacific Coast League of the mid-20th century would have had the freedom to become the third “major league” instead of being driven back to being a feeder league by the antitrust-exempt A.L. and N.L. (The PCL was home to the San Francisco Seals and Hollywood Stars, names far more appropriate and locally endearing than the stolen Giants and Dodgers monikers.)

In any event, the Giants unique color combo, shared only with the Cincinnati Bengals, Princeton Tigers, and Philadelphia Flyers -- well, and this website -- works well because a little bit of orange’s severity looks great when tempered with black. After experimenting with a ballooned Times New Roman font in the Will “The Thrill” Clark era the Giants turned to a thicker version of the unique peglegged/Pittsburgh-esque font used during the team’s last years on Coogan’s Bluff and first few in Candlestick. But they erred when they changed the cap logo to match. The bottom of the “F” looks too Pirate-y, though it’s still an improvement over the half-serif/half-sans mess they used until the early 90s. Like the Dodgers they’ve approximated the jersey wordmark of their Gotham predecessors but didn’t bother trying to keep their cap style the same. Which is a shame because they would have been better off maintaining the soft curling edges of the “N” and “Y” that the Mets inherited for their interlocking “S” and “F.” The PCL San Francisco Seals used that style, and it’s far more pleasant than the intense, hard-edged letters on the caps worn by the current boys by the bay.

Despite their half-hearted attempts at being true to the New York roots, the Giants still look far superior to their World Series foes based solely on colors alone. Like the city they represent, the team chooses an out-there look over the ordinary. They deserve our aesthetic appreciation for that. Whether that’s enough to make you stand up and cheer is a different question.

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