Talking Baseball

Your weekday baseball fix. Some days.

Posted by Dave on Saturday, March 13, 2004

All Great Baseball Minds Like to Argue…About Hats!

Let's be honest, we all love baseball - but what would baseball be without hats?! Nothing would differentiate players from different teams! It would be sheer chaos on the diamond! Okay, that's a bit melodramatic, but hats have had a timeless presence in baseball. Originally, they were designed to help shield the sun from the eyes of fielders. They have developed into far more than mere shade-producers. The insignias upon them are the strongest symbols we have of each of our favorite teams. Hats emblematize all that is right and all that is wrong with the franchise - they are a gateway to previous memories and future aspirations. Hats are an integral part of baseball.

Hats are also a statement of character and statement of fashion. It's no coincidence that all the "gamers" have hats in miserable condition - they're all hardcore, just like their hats. Their hat symbolizes their work ethic and tenacity on and off the field. Trot Nixon, Steve Kline, and Eric Gagne are just a few of the names that come to mind that have absolutely squalid lids - all play with abnormal ferocity and desire. Pedro changes his hats regularly and has a new one nearly every start - the changes in hats show his superstition in general. With respect to us normal folks, the kind that can only dream of taking a field where the bases gleam and the grass is aromatic, hats are a statement of both character and fashion. First, if you own a specific hat, chances are good that you're a fan of that team. Second, how do you wear your hat? Is it curved slightly? Is it generally forwards, or backwards? All are statements about your mood and personality. Chances are, if I need to be alert, I need more of my vision so I'll turn it backwards. People with more extreme curves tend to be more intense people, as well (just an observation). In addition, hats are nice fashionable items. The particular color on your head helps compliment your current attire and adds synergy to your wardrobe. Lacking color with your white shirt and jeans? Spice it up with a green A's hat. Missing just the right color to compliment your navy sweater and khakis? You can always grab your red Twins hat.

Now that I've reaffirmed what we all already knew - that hats are awesome - what makes particular hats particularly awesome? Well, this is by no means an exact science; everyone has different preferences when it comes to the delicate decision of what are personally approved toppers. Clearly, a large portion of a hat's attractiveness stems from your affinity (or utter lack of it) for the team you're representing on your dome. It's difficult, for me, to wear an Expos hat. Putting aside the objective fact that the Expos hats are ugly, I have no ties or connection with the Expos organization or its players. The only reason I'd ever wear one is in tribute to them for affording us the service of the incomparable Pedro. It's far more difficult for me to wear a Yankees hat. As a Red Sox fan, the Yankees represent all that is oppositional and antithetic to the Red Sox. Because we've been rivals for so long, you couldn't force a hat forged by the Evil Empire even if you lowered onto my head with a vice or rack. The karmatic disequilibrium would prohibit my hat from ever cementing itself on my scalp. Obviousl, this connectedness with the team of the hat you're wearing is fan-specific - clearly it's a large portion, but it's just a subjective element clouding the objective quality of hats. Hey, even if I was a Diamondbacks devotee, I'd acknowledge that my team's topper was hideous from the get-go.

So what contributes to the objective quality of hats? I was tempted just to formulate my opinion independent of all others, but I felt it would be a better representation if I supplemented my opinion with my more style-conscious friends. Drumroll please? And now, for the criteria of hat importance:

Simplicity: 35%
Symmetry: 25%
Colors: 25%
Lasting Appeal: 10%
Nostalgia: 5%

Each hat I'm about to review will get a rating, 1-10, with respect to each category. This means that each hat has a possible Hat Rating score of 10 (that is, if they can muster a 10 in each category - a seemingly unthinkable feat). This rubric for rating hats is clearly debatable, but I feel it's the best representation for a lid's overall quality. Why does simplicity trump all other categories? What would you say the ratio of baseball hats to all other major sports? I would argue that the ratio is 1:1, or perhaps even much greater. Baseball has a lot of fans, but I suspect that there are just as many passionate admirers of the NFL and NBA. So why the dearth of NFL, NBA, and NHL hats? The lack of simplicity.

The Nuggets hat has a giant mountain with Nuggets in gold lettering superimposed upon it. In addition, it has about 5 colors. Not to mention, the insignia is downright ostentatious it's so large. Simple? No. A cool hat? Certainly not. How about the Seahawks?

Wow, no symmetry, but it also lacks simplicity. It's a large bird with lots of colors. Pretty ostentatious again. Want a truly repulsive hat?

God, so many colors, so little symmetry, and so little simplicity. It's a freaking Native American for crying out loud. It's not even politically correct(man, do you become acquainted with the nuances of what's PC quickly at Bates)!

As you can tell, a lot of these criteria are heavily intertwined and difficult to prize apart, but I'll do my best. Symmetry adds to aesthetic beauty because it's naturally pleasing to see it. The reason we find the opposite sex (or the sex we're attracted too (gotta keep up the PC-ness)) attractive is larglely due to their facial and body symmetry. Logically, this extends to all aspects of aesthetics, including hats. While vertical symmetry (Old-style Houston Astros hat) trumps horizontal symmetry (Boston Red Sox), both types are important. Colors are also important - no one would want to wear a puke-colored hat and combinations of the correct colors add a singular appeal to specific hats. Lasting appeal reflects the staying power of the insignia and the timelessness of it. People more easily identify with the history of the Red Sox through its B than through the history of the Broncos through its Bronco. The Bronco truncates Elway's career into his Super Bowl victories and his years as the best Two Minute Drill Sargeant To Never Have Won The Big One (if you forgot that emblem, I couldn't blame you, it was a bronco neighing inside an orange D). Nostalgia is similar to Lasting Appeal - but it's more a measure of how well we can recall the deadball years or years of the Complete Game Throwing Pitcher of our national pasttime through the hat and symbol.

At long last, I'm going to start rating the hats. I've decided, especially after this lengthy introduction and description of the methodology (the preceding paragraphs could comprise an entire post with respect to their content), that I'm only going to discuss the majority of the NL hats in this post. I may discuss multiple hats per team, but, for the most part, I'll stick to one hat per team. Teams with multiple notable hats (The Cubs come to mind) will receive the extra analysis they deserve. At the end of the American League hats (they're coming last because I'm sure most of our readers are AL junkies due to the concentrated support of the writers (though, I may add, we at Talking Baseball distribute our subjects pretty uniformly across the league)), I'll come up with a master list. I can't wait to see the results and I already have an idea of what the leaderboard (I can't believe I just borrowed a golf term) will look like.

I'll start with the NL East, and the team that never seems to lose, the Atlanta Braves:

Simplicity - 8: This hat's nice and simple. Not too flashy, not too many colors. The font the A is in is actually a bit weird for my tastes, that's the only reason that this gets a boot down from a higher number. I may add that there is a threshold of simplicity - you don't want hats to be too simple. Blank hats are the most simple, but clearly they're too simple. The Braves hat straddles the line well - it's simple, but not too simple
Symmetry - 5: Clearly the hat is not all that symmetrical, but most A's are. Also, compared to many lids, this hat has a fair amount of symmetry. Clearly there aren't a whole lot of insignias with much symmetry, so you don't need a ton of symmetry to net yourself a decent score in this department.
Colors - 7: A nice blend of white and navy blue. I could've chosen an Atlanta hat with red bill, but I'm slightly opposed to hats with different colored bills and uppers (the thing that covers the majority of your head (I made up that word for the sake of discussing these hats)). Clearly there are no good or bad colors, it's mostly which colors you combine in making a hat. If the colors have a lot of synergy, then a hat will receive a good score in this department. Blue and white is a nice combination, and it goes with lots of clothing, but it's pretty standard - many other teams have that combination.
Lasting Appeal - 8: The Braves switched from a lower-case "a" awhile back, and I think his insignia is an appreciable improvement. For most of us, this symbol is the only symbol we've known for the Braves, so it has quite a bit of lasting appeal.
Nostalgia - 8: During the Braves' glory years in the 90s they were wearing this hat. Whenever I see a Braves hat, I can easily imagine Glavine, Avery, or Smoltz wearing it, glaring in at the catcher.

Overall Hat Rating: 7

How do those Metropolitans stack up?
Simplicity - 8: A nice intertwined NY, similar to that of the Yankees and the Giants that preceded them. Nothing too flashy, the font of the NY is a little busy, but not too much so
Symmetry - 7: The Y has some symmetry and the N has some kind of weird folding symmetry as well. I don't know what kind of symmetry it is, maybe a math major.
Colors - 7: Good complimentary colors - blue and orange. For some reason, I think the colors are just off. I think it's because the blue is a lighter blue and the orange is a darker orange - for that reason it has an odd sort of clashing.
Lasting Appeal - 7: The Mets have a nice, classy, timeless symbol.
Nostalgia - 7: In assigning points to this score, I now realize that all I was doing, really, was rating the history of the franchise under the hat. With that said, the Miracle Mets will never be forgotten and neither will be the cap they wore. There also was that absolutely exhilirating Subway Series...yeah...

Overall Hat Rating: 7.35

How about everyone's favorite World Series contender, the Phillies?
Simplicity - 8.5: This old-timey hat has a nice simple P and is only two colors. The baseball in the P is a nice touch.
Symmetry - 5: Not particularly symmetrical, but not particularly assymetric either - 5's the standard for the hats that aren't encroaching on assymetry.
Colors - 8: I'm a big fan of the maroon and white. If you're a guy, chances are you don't own much maroon, so it's not going to contradict your outfit of choice. It'll go well with most dark jackets and/or jeans.
Lasting Appeal - 7: The Phillies did away with this insignia awhile back, so it can only have so much lasting appeal. But it's a nice little hat, to be sure.
Nostalgia - 7: Remember Mike Schmidt? Of course you do with this hat.

Overall Hat Rating: 7.275

Simplicity - 4: One of the uglier hats around, the Florida Marlins really need to figure out a better insignia. I mean, I liked Old Man and the Sea as much as the next guy, but c'mon. That ugly fish draped over the F really is unappealing.
Symmetry - 3: What symmetry? F doesn't have any symmetry, and the marlin that's clothing it only enhances the asymmetry.
Colors - 3: Black and...teal?! Gross, no self-respecting individual ever wears teal. I challenge you to find an article of clothing that contains teal. You won't find it.
Lasting Appeal - 3: Yeah, they were an expansion team when I was following baseball and their hat sucks - lasting appeal? I think not.
Nostalgia - 8: You can't argue with their World Series success, whether it was garnered through money (1997) or luck (2003). It's too bad they had to celebrate looking like fools with their lids.

Overall Hat Rating: 3.6

Simplicity - 4: At least it's just one letter (it is a letter, right?), but what the hell is going on with it? Truthfully, I just realized it was an M, but it's a major stretch. I actually thought it said "lb" for the longest time. The Montreal Pounds, way to go.
Symmetry - 5: They could've been a contender...M's such a nice, symmetric letter. Too bad they had to bastardize it.
Colors - 8: They're nice colors, red, white, blue, and a light blue background...but...it's hard to rate this generously when the hat sucks so much.
Lasting Appeal - 3: Just waiting for the move, folks.
Nostalgia - 2: Well, they might have won in the strike-shortened season. Maybe...

Overall Hat Rating: 5.05

NL Central:

Simplicity - 9: The Cubbies have multiple good-looking hats, and I probably could include more than two, but this post has stretched on long enough as it is. This is really classic hat, and its red C is immediately identifiable with the Cubs. Two colors, not too flashy, a generally awesome hat.
Symmetry - 8.5: Solid horizontal symmetry here.
Colors - 8.5: Great combination of colors here - blue and red are both primary colors and as a consequence they're visually appealing.
Lasting Appeal - 9: Cubs fans are hardcore, and wearing the Big Red C signifies an intimate connection with baseball through your fanship.
Nostalgia - 9: The Cubs insignia is a solid reminder of the years of heartache.

Overall Hat Rating: 8.75

Simplicity - 9.5: The little cub is quite descriptive as an insignia. The only reason this doesn't get a 10 is because it's not immediately apparent that you're a Cub fan if you wear this hat.
Symmetry - 5: Nothing doing.
Colors - 7: If you're going to be unimaginitive, you can't get much more than a 7. But there's nothing wrong with navy and white.
Lasting Appeal - 5: The Cub isn't nearly as recognizable as the C, and as such, I can't give it too high a score.
Nostalgia - 3: When did they wear this?

Overall Hat Rating: 6.975

Simplicity - 8.5: The Brewers have theirselves a very thoughtfully interesting hat. Honestly, however, it took me a solid 3 years to realize that the glove was really an M and a B. Call me stupid, but a lot of people don't realize it either. The cleverness is great, but being too clever alienates the fans from the true meaning of the symbol.
Symmetry - 7: The m and b have symmetry on their own - together there isn't much. The circular nature of the glove gives a nice symmetric flavor.
Colors - 8.5: I could've chosen the blue glove on the blue hat, but the yellow/tan background is nice. You can wear lots of things with such a diverse tan colored hat.
Lasting Appeal - 9: It's certainly an interesting hat - one of the most applications of baseball to an insignia and location.
Nostalgia - 5: Man, I really miss the days of...uhh...Paul Molitor. By the way, I should add, the new insignia is freaking ugly.

Overall Hat Rating: 8

Simplicity - 8: St. Louis' hat with just the letters is classy. The font's not too busy either. The letters are intertwined nicely, and it's clever how the T is just the right size.
Symmetry - 5: Not egregiously assymetric.
Colors - 8: I'm a big fan of that red and white. Goes with everything because you're generally wearing non-red, non-orange clothing.
Lasting Appeal - 8: The Cardinals have always been an above-average franchise, and they've always had that classy insignia.
Nostalgia - 8: Ozzie Smith doing backflips and Big Mac's run at Maris' record? A fair amount lies behind this symbol/hat.

Overall Hat Rating: 7.25

Simplicity - 9.5: A nice, simple H cleverly superimposed upon an orange star. The Houston Astros were quite smart with the logo, invoking their status as the Lone Star state. An overall great hat, it's no surprise I own it.
Symmetry - 9.5: It doesn't get much more symmetric than this. The entire hat has vertical symmetry, and the H specifically has horizontal symmetry. Heck, even the star has 5 axes of symmetry.
Colors - 9: These colors compliment each other very well. The orange and blue are complimentary colors, and the orange adds just the right amount of spice to flavor of this hat. The white H helps to tone down the difference between the orange of the star and the navy background.
Lasting Appeal - 8: The emblem is outdated, but the overall quality of the hat will never be lost. I was trying to obtain this hat even before The Franchise started mass producing it.
Nostalgia - 5: I guess Ryan's no-hitters were of significance...

Overall Hat Rating: 9

Simplicity - 8: The Cincinatti Reds have a nice hat here. The C is a little pointy at the end, a little too confrontational for my tastes. The insignia is also elongated strangely, like it was yanked apart on a rubber band.
Symmetry - 7.5: Horizontal symmetry - I have no qualms with the aesthetic appeal of this hat. I wish it didn't have a shadow-ish thing, that's a bit strange.
Colors - 8.5: A nice combiation of white, red, and black. Goes with anything.
Lasting Appeal - 8: They've had this hat for awhile, and it's pretty representative of the Reds, I feel (Derek).
Nostalgia - 9: While no one likes Joe Morgan for his comments, no one will forget his stay on the Big Red Machine - partially as a result of this hat.

Overall Hat Rating: 8.05

Simplicity - 7.5: This is just what I'm referring to with a hat being too simple. The Pirates have just a yellow P, wonderful. Nothing is remotely interesting about this hat except for those odd rounded corners of the square part of the P.
Symmetry - 6: I mean, I guess there's some benefit to symmetry simply because the hat is so content-less
Colors - 4: What colors? Yellow and black? Meh.
Lasting Appeal - 8: It's an okay hat, and I'm getting tired of rating hats - this post is long enough - and this is my last hat for today.
Nostalgia - 5: Roberto Clemente's cool. Randall Simon and the inconceivably valued Jack Wilson (check Salary Arb. Part II in the archive by author) are not.

Overall Hat Rating: 6.175

I'm done for now - my fellow Talking Baseball writer Jon is up from Wesleyan (he's on break), and I want to entertain him rather than write. Next time I'll cover AL/NL West teams, and then I'll end with the AL East and AL Central. On the last day, I'll tabulate a leader-board of all the hats and crown the victor. The Astros and Cubs have hats that are tough to beat, so we'll see how the ratings and hats stack up in future posts. Please e-mail me with your thoughts and comments about the rating system and particular hats. As I will post about in the future, your feedback is what encourages us at Talking Baseball to keep writing thoughtful, interesting posts. Commentary and feedback is like blogging currency - consider it as payment for reading our posts. So, if you like or dislike something, drop us a line, we really do want to know what you're thinking/feeling.

Until next time, keep covering your dome with your lid of choice - the baseball season is almost upon us.

### So what do you think? We want to know. | | E-mail us ###