Thursday, March 20, 2014
In what seems like a thousand years ago, during the summer of 1989 I was working in a garment factory in Passaic, N.J. On a lunch break I was reading Sports Illustrated and happened on an article about a company in upstate New York called Cooperstown Ballcap Company who was recreating classic baseball caps, just like the ones made from the 1860's through World War II. I was smitten with the beautiful wool caps with felt logos, with the soft crown and leather sweatbands. I WANTED one of those caps, but they were about twice the amount one of those adjustable mesh caps cost, and being in art school, I couldn't justify spending that much bread on a cap. But I WANTED one of those caps!
In a rare moment of business acumen, I wrote a letter to the owner, Will Arlt up in Cooperstown and offered to do illustrations for his catalogue in exchange for ballcaps. Much to my surprise Will accepted and I've been proud to call him a friend ever since. I'll never forget opening the box that held my first Cooperstown Ballcap - it was a 1944 St. Louis Browns cap and I loved it. The crown molded to the shape of my head and after a few months the brim became soft and pliable. It looked just like the caps depicted in my baseball history books. It was perfect. Today I have dozens of Will's ballcaps and I never wore a modern cap again. Over the years Cooperstown Ballcap developed a following of ballcap purists and aficionados - one guy even came up with a website devoted to fans showing off their favorite Cooperstown Ballcap!
Will closed Cooperstown Ballcap Company about 7 years ago and knew the world had lost the greatest cap manufacturer of all-time. I was distraught at the horror of resigning myself to having to wear those cheap and boxy modern jobs or substandard "retro" caps that jersey companies put out. Then one night over drinks at the Formosa Cafe in Hollywood, Will disclosed he was starting a new company: IDEAL CAP COMPANY. Not only would he produce those beautiful ballcaps again, but other interesting styles as well. I immediately signed on to design the logo and illustrate the caps on the website, and after a few years of preparation and inventory building, Will launched Ideal.
As you know, I'm a stickler for accuracy in my illustrations, and over the years Will has been a font of information when it came to researching obscure caps - he simply knows more about vintage baseball caps and their insignia than anyone else in the world. Sometimes when I'm trying to decide what uniform to depict a player in, I'll go to Will's website or one of his old catalogues and see which headgear is the most interesting, and that's exactly what I did when I was working on a full page illustration of Leon Day for my book. Day played almost exclusively with the Newark Eagles and I wanted to illustrate him on that team. Since the Eagles had a few different caps over Day's 10 years with the club, I went to one of Will's old catalogues to pick a good looking cap - I chose the 1937 Newark Eagles cap. It's a striking design that typifies the great style Blackball teams possessed back in the day. After seeing that cap, I couldn't picture ol' Leon in anything else.
When I shared the illustration of Leon with Will, he like it so much he decided to include the '37 Newark Eagles cap in his inventory of hats he offers. It's the "Cap of the Month" for March and you can see it (and own one!) HERE.
Now, over the past 4 years I've gotten quite a few lucrative offers to advertise on my site, all of which I turned down; I wanted the Infinite Baseball Card Set to be pure and good, clean fun. So I want to make it clear that this isn't some shill ad disguised as a blog post - I get nothing from Ideal Cap and simply wanted to share what I believe is the most unique and beautiful baseball caps in the world. I highly recommend picking one out (and that's a hard thing to do!) and wearing it proudly - you'll never wear one of those modern hard-hats again!
Click the logo to see Will's caps (and tell him what a great logo design it is - I designed it!)
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
The most recent illustration I've completed for my upcoming book is of Hall of Famer John Henry Lloyd. Lloyd was Blackball's premier shortstop and hitter from the first years of the 20th century into the 1920's. Lloyd played against and was watched by Big Leaguers like Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner, all of whom declared him major league star quality. In fact, the story goes that when Honus Wagner was told by a sportswriter that Lloyd was called "The Black Honus Wagner" he responded that he was honored that he was compared to so fine a ballplayer. As the best and most famous ballplayer outside the major leagues, Lloyd once said "wherever the money was, that's where I was". As such, the great shortstop played on an impressive array of ball clubs throughout his 30 year career. When I sat down to draw a card of Lloyd, I knew I wanted to depict him in a classic batting stance as would have been seen had he been on an actual early 1900's tobacco card like Cobb or Wagner.
However, since he changed teams so often in pursuit of the biggest pay check, what club to portray him as playing for turned out to be the hardest part. I narrowed it down to the two teams he received the most of his notoriety with: the New York Lincoln Giants and the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants. Lloyd played for the Bacharachs off and on from 1919 to 1932 and their home town of Atlantic City is where he remained after his playing days ended. There is a Pop Henry Lloyd baseball field there today and he is one of AC's honored citizens to this day. Plus, their uniforms were pretty snazzy as can be seen in card A. The other team he is most associated with is the New York Lincoln Giants. Lloyd played for the Lincolns during the earlier part of his career and I illustrated him in 2 styles of Lincoln uniform. The first one is B and is the 1911. It's a neat dark blue with red lettering. The second Lincoln ensemble is C and represents the 1915-1920 team.
So, unable to decide which one to go with, I thought I'd let visitors to this site choose... just put your preference in the comments section below this post and whichever garners the most votes will be the one I put into the book!