TV logos…the advertising for sporting goods suppliers generated by those sleeve and neck insignias has been a staple for the Big Three for close to 20 years. The Shirt examines the history of these in MLB, the NFL and the NBA.
For actual MLB game jerseys, 1987 was the inaugural season of TV logos, made possible by then-Commissioner Peter Ueberroth striking a first-ever contract for an official MLB uniform supplier, in this case, Rawlings. Subsequent contracts were arranged with Russell and Majestic on the MLB level.
For BP jerseys, the uniform supplier had carte blanche to use them on BP attire they produced, and, in 1990, a separate BP jersey deal with Majestic allowed them to similarly advertise on the sleeves of their pregame shirts, as well.
In MLB, certain suppliers since 1987 have made jerseys for teams and/or individual players outside the existing contract. Several clubs (Braves, White Sox, Blue Jays, etc.) ordered their threads from Wilson, so, being that they weren’t part of the deal, no Wilson “W’s” were seen on MLB jerseys. The same holds true for Goodman and/or Victory jerseys (Nolan Ryan, Astros, 1990-91 Padres home, mid-’90s Astros home/road Bagwell and Biggio). Jerseys from these suppliers can be spotted by the absence of a right sleeve TV logo. This also holds true for Rawlings gamers issued between the two deals they had with the sport, and would include 1992-99 Cardinals gamers, most Pirates game duds, 1992-94 Dodgers, and most of Barry Bonds’ 1990s Giants jerseys, along with teammates he influenced during that time frame. All of these will be sans the Rawlings script or the oval R sleeve logo.
The contracts in MLB have been as follows:
1987-91, 2000-02 Rawlings
2000-pres. (game); 1990-pres. (BP) Majestic.
Other notes related:
Minor league apparel is not similarly limited in use of sleeve logos…any supplier of a farm team can use a logo. The mid-late 1990s Orioles have farm teams that use black mesh Rawlings jerseys with the Rawlings logo on the left sleeve. Less studious collectors and authenticators have identified these as Baltimore BP jerseys…if they are of 1992-99 origins, and have a sleeve logo for Rawlings, they are NOT.
Turn Back the Clock MLB unies are subjected to restrictions on TV logo use. Majestic versions carry the mountain-peak logo, but throwbacks from companies like AIS, Mitchell and Ness, and the like do not.
The TV logos, by and large, were affixed to right sleeves from 1987-99, moving over to the left sleeve in 2000. A few transitional jerseys, most frequently found with smaller budget teams (Expos, Twins, for example) may still use the right sleeve location post-1999.
TV logos on applicable vest jerseys were on the back of the neck until the addition in that location to all jerseys of the MLB logo in 2000 spring training. From 2001-04, no vests featured the logos. In 2005, Majestic placed the logo over the left arm hole on vest tops.
The accepted beginning of NFL TV logos was in 1990, when all suppliers dealing with the NFL were given the OK. A really unusual one is the MacGregor-Sand Knit TV logo seen on a handful of 1990 Packers jerseys, as M/S-K was soon to meet it’s demise. Other 1990 suppliers included Wilson, Russell, Champion, and Apex. Keep in mind, logo-less jerseys may exist in 1990 and shortly thereafter, based on the recycling of jerseys that most NFL teams engage in to at least some degree. Also legitimately practiced by NFL clubs is affixing a current supplier logo over the previous supplier’s insignia, i.e., a 1998 Starter Eagles gamer used in 1999 with Puma emblems covering the Starter S*.
In later seasons, newer companies would enter the fray, and bring their ad icons accordingly: Reebok (1994-97); Nike (1996-2000), Starter (1992-98), Logo Athletic (1998 only); Adidas (1998-2001); Puma (1999-2000) and a different Reebok logo (2001-present).
The concept, however, was birthed before the general custom was adopted in 1990. Sporadic 1985-89 Champion jerseys (such as a handful of Denver pieces worn by John Elway) sported the Champion “C”, as did their uniforms made for many USFL teams in the 1983-85 pro league.
The only pro jerseys one will see with TV logos are the Olympic and World Championship jerseys worn by Team USA and the like. For the USA Olympic entries, Champion will have their C on 1992, 1996 and 2000 Summer Games tops, while the 2004 versions will have the Reebok logo.
NBA game jerseys, perhaps due to the lack of overall fabric, have never used TV logos, though a tail logo for ACICS can be found on the early-1980s Warriors gamers they produced. A recently viewed Pistons warm-up top by ACICS also carried the logo. By and large, however, TV logos and the NBA became one in the 1992-93 season, when the Champion C first made its appearance on team-issued warm-up tops, warm-up pants, shooting shirts and the like. Subsequent practice attire logos have been used by Nike, Puma, Starter, and Adidas.
This is the 20th Anniversary of the first widespread use of TV logos (MLB), and it’s a concept that isn’t going to leave us anytime soon.