Friday, April 18, 2008

Fleer Baseball Cloth Patches - Seattle Pilots

Even though the Pilots only existed for 1 year, they actually had patches produced for both 1969 and 1970. The reason they had patches in 1970 is most likely due to the fact that it wasn't until the very end of Spring Training in 1970 that Bud Selig was able to buy the team and move them to Milwaukee.

There are 2 versions of the City / Logo patch due to color variations. The patch on the left has a lighter shade of blue for the City, and a red captains wheel whereas the patch on the right has a darker shade of blue and a burgundy wheel:

The patch on the left is the earlier version.

For the Cap / Team Name, the differences are much more striking:

Does anyone have any pictures with the Pilots wearing orange? I don't think so. That's because they never did. This is the 1969 patch which shows a color combination the Pilots never used. I'm guessing that in late 1968 when Fleer needed the artwork for the patches the expansion Pilots were still getting things finalized and had not settled on the ultimate team colors which are seen on the 1970 patch:

We saw this same orange / blue color combination on the 1969 Fleer 3D Baseball Trophy Plaques:

Only in this case, the "S" is orange on a blue cap as opposed to the patch above which had a blue "S" against an orange background.

For those of you who are interested in learning more about the Major League team that only lasted one year, I recommend the book I just finished reading entitled "1969 Seattle Pilots: Major League Baseball's One-Year Team":

The book gives the background of how the team came into existence, a day by day account of the team's ups and downs during the 1969 season, and details of why the team ran into financial troubles which precipitated the move to Milwaukee.

A few interesting items I came across:

1) We can thank A's owner Charley Finley for the AL expansion in 1969. The AL originally had plans to expand in 1971 but because the A's moved from Kansas City in 1968 significant political pressure was put on MLB from a Missouri Senator to get a team back in KC immediately. To avoid having MLB's antitrust exemption reviewed, MLB agreed to move up the expansion timetable to 1969.

2)While on the surface the accelerated expansion would appear to have been good for Seattle, it probably caused them to end up losing the team at the end of their first season because they didn't have enough time to get everything properly prepared.

For example, even though the local paper shown above announced "Seattle Goes Big League", the Pilots weren't able to get a local TV contract for the 1969 season, which cost them both in terms of exposure to potential fans, as well as revenue that they were not able to realize.

3) One of the conditions of Seattle getting the team was that the city would begin construction of a domed stadium before Dec 31, 1970. The team's opening day program even had an artist's conception of what the stadium would look like:

However, if this condition was not met, MLB reserved the right to move the team. While the domed stadium project would eventually become the Kingdome and would allow Seattle to gain an NFL team and later the Mariners,

at the time the team ran into a number of issues with the city and almost no progress was made on the domed stadium in 1969 .

This was one of MLB's main concerns during the AL Winter Meetings in late 1969 which opened the door to the possiblity of moving the team. By the end of 1969 a site for the stadium had not even been decided upon, so it was clear there was no way construction would begin by the end of 1970.

4) The Pilots actually played a game in Milwaukee in 1969. Talk about foreshadowing! The Pilots lost to the White Sox 8-3 in Milwaukee on June 16, 1969.

In 1969 Milwaukee was trying to make a case they could still support baseball after the Braves left, so Bud Selig worked out a deal to have the White Sox play 11 "home" games in County Stadium. The White Sox went along with the plan as this would give them some leverage to get some stadium concessions from the City of Chicago. As you can see from the above program from 1969 which has the Pilots logo as well as the Brewers logo, Bud Selig already had a team name and logo ready to go.

5) With the team having run out of money by the end of the 1969 season and no domed stadium on the horizon, MLB was forced to have the team sold to Bud Selig and move it to Milwaukee. There were attempts to try to work out a way to get a local Seattle ownership group together to buy the team to keep in in Seattle which MLB apparently supported, but given how much debt the team had taken on, no buyers were willing to put together a deal. That is why the process drug on through the 1970 Spring Training.

6) To give you an idea of how much an 11th hour type of situation it was regarding the movement of the team, the moving truck with the team's equipment heading back from Spring Training in Tempe, AZ had to sit and wait in Utah until it was decided whether they were to take the equipment back to Seattle, or head to Milwaukee. Hence this is likely why Fleer and Topps were still referring to the team as the Pilots for their 1970 sets:

7) As a result of the move, the city of Seattle filed an anti-trust lawsuit against MLB in 1970 which dragged on until 1976 when the AL agreed to award a new team to Seattle for the 1977 season which is how the Mariners came into existence.

There is quite a bit of other interesting information in the book as well. If you have any interest in baseball from this time period, its a fun read.

For some additional insight into what it was like playing on that Pilots team, pick up Jim Bouton's "Ball Four":

Jim spent part of the 1969 season on the Pilots and has some great stories to tell!
The Seattle Pilots are a great "one-hit wonder" that have a special place in baseball history due to their unique situation.


regina said...

Thanks for the great information on the Pilots! Keep up the research. an
avid Seattle fan.

lhg39 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lhg39 said...

I wish there was more info out there on the Pilots. Those caps and jerseys are classic!

Unknown said...

I have a color poster of Don Muncher printed by T.C.G. (number 17 of 24). IT is 9" by ~9.5" Any info?