Sports logos have always been a fascinating subject. How do you exemplify your team, your fans, and your geographic location? How do you do it in a way that looks cool? How do you build an identity?
Moreover, how do you do it all over again? Alternate logos are less often used than their primary counterparts, and some parts may be recycled to fit an organic theme by the team – but they still have to show the same characteristics that show off the main brand. It’s a second chance for the team to resonate with fans and build an impression.
As such, many fans aren’t entirely aware of other teams’ alternate logos, since they’re more generally focused on forming connections with fans in a regional sense.
I decided to rank these alternate logos on varying factors – execution, coolness, historical context, and so forth.
Also, special shoutout to Chris Creamer, who keeps an extensive database of logos and their usage over at sportslogos.net. All of the logos seen below are from their website.
30 – Cleveland Indians
Cleveland is on record saying they’ll rename/rebrand their team as early as 2022, but would continue to use the Indians name and brand through 2021.
Although Chief Wahoo has not graced Cleveland uniforms since 2019, the team still sells merchandise with the logo and still officially lists it as their alternate logo.
Not exactly the thorough social change that was similarly exhibited by the Washington Football Team. Do better, Cleveland.
29 – Philadelphia Phillies
Currently, the Phillies don’t have an official alternate logo. This Phillies logo was last officially used in 2018, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen it before. First introduced in 1998, it looks like was created a little too late. The swooping baseball gives major 90s vibes and probably belongs in a bygone era.
28 – Detroit Tigers
Like Philly, Detroit technically hasn’t had an alternate logo since 2013, at which point they had this clever logo with a tiger crawling through the Olde English D. Since then, not much in the front of eye-catching style.
I’m all for keeping things simple in the name of tradition, but I don’t think many people would list Detroit in their ‘top 5’ of storied franchises. As far as logos with an actual Tiger, you have this alternate that has remained on a shelf for a few years, or the zonked out Tiger from the 1920s. Detroit would do well to bring this logo back, or at the very least, come up with something striking and new.
27 – San Francisco Giants
Another logo that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before. San Francisco first introduced this logo back in 2015.
Props to the Giants for trying to exhibit the Golden Gate Bridge, which would be cool done right, but this logo is just too busy to work well. There’s too much orange and the wordmark blends terribly with the bridge.
26 – Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates would be another good candidate for a bridge logo. Steel City, with the Clemente Bridge backdropped beautifully on the Allegheny River directly behind PNC park?
Unfortunately, Pittsburgh’s alternate logo is this uninspired crest from 2010. Bonus points for implementing the Pirates’ font, but the big white circle enveloping the majority of the crest is devoid of anything great… kind of like Pittsburgh’s current roster.
25 – Washington Nationals
Washington’s alternate is their DC patch, which is kind of cool in terms of a jersey patch, but consider the fact that they had this logo earlier in their history with more 3D effects and shadowing, and this one looks bland by comparison.
Plus, there’s so much more you could do with an alternate logo – bald eagles, the Capitol building, heck, maybe even one of the Presidents that they run races with. The Frisco RoughRiders made Teddy Roosevelt into a cool icon, why shouldn’t the Nationals?
24 – Chicago White Sox
You’ve probably seen this logo used off and on as a patch on Chicago’s alternate black jerseys since 1990.
It’s a white sock on a black baseball diamond. I mean, there’s not much else you can do because technically it’s correct. Regardless, it’s not entirely mesmerizing.
23 – New York Mets
The Mets’ alternate logo is their word font, and was first officially used in 2014. It’s a step up from their old alternate, which is the same as their main logo only black. The black jerseys worked, the black alternate logo did not. Still, it’s just a font.
22 – Houston Astros
The Astros decided to, strangely, cut off all associations with space-related illustrations back in 2013 in favor of more Western themes.
Houston’s alternate logo is basically the crest if you just lopped off the outside circle with text. It’s decent, but doesn’t add any extra flair on top of the normal logo. It’s just a different version of the normal logo.
21 – Kansas City Royals
The Royals alternate is just a combination of their main logo and their script, the modern versions of which have both been around since 2002, but it works in a good way. A few points deducted for creativity, but bonus points for rounding out the regal feel.
20 – Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have had pretty much the same logos ever since they moved to Los Angeles in time for the 1958 season, but it wasn’t until 2012 that this logo was designated as the alternate logo in favor of the iconic ‘LA’ used on their caps.
To the eye, this logo has a ton of white space. But coupled with the Dodgers stylistic choices throughout their history, it works. Basic, yet bold.
19 – Seattle Mariners
The Mariners used navy and yellow as their primary colors from their inception in 1977 up until a rebrand in 1993. Then in 2015, Seattle decided to take their current logo and give them the original franchise coloring to form their alternate logo.
Seattle hasn’t had much for new logos since the turn of the millennium, but it’s still a nice callback to their prior history.
18 – Texas Rangers
Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the size of the letters in this logo. With the change to a new ballpark full of fans seemingly slated for 2020, the Rangers decided to add a new alternate logo to celebrate a new era of Texas baseball. Then Covid-19 happened and Rangers fans were temporarily robbed of the fanfare involved with opening a new stadium.
Regardless, Texas prides itself on being its own entity worthy of respect, and well, this logo represents that pretty darn well.
17 – Boston Red Sox
In 2009, Boston decided to swap their main logo, which is the crest pictured here, for a more simplified pair of the Red Sox on their own. The crest changed the ‘Boston’ font at the top to match the ‘Red Sox’ portion at the bottom, and I think it looks much cleaner as a result.
You can chalk the change up to modernity and minimalist approaches, but I’m fine with the crest being relegated to an alternate. Maybe it’s just me, but I associate this logo with Boston’s 2004 championship run. If anything it keeps the association with that title in a kind of time capsule, which is neat.
16 – Los Angeles Angels
To many, this crest looks fairly normal. But the color placements and use of white space in this crest is truly sublime. The red in the outer circle grabs your attention, draws your vision to read the important parts (team name, year established, etc), and then your focus turns inward to the main attraction.
While some teams may also use some form of baseball stitching in their crest – which the Angels tried for exactly two years and ultimately did without it – the focus is really well kept in the center.
In short, the Angels made a good change back in 2012. But I would say most fans are still clamoring for something new with Angel’s wings.
15 – Baltimore Orioles
After the Orioles decided against their logo being too lifelike and going back to their caricature roots, they’ve sported the modern Cartoon Bird as their main logo since 2012.
But before that, they reintroduced the Cartoon Bird as their official alternate logo back in 2009. It gives off a remarkably 60s cartoon vibe with the Bird loading up a swing destined for the fences. In any case, the fans must have liked the callback, since the Orioles won their first title back in 1966. Here’s to hoping that throwback mojo works out for their future title endeavors.
14 – Miami Marlins
The Marlins have gone through their fair share of identity issues over the last few decades, but this new addition from 2019 is very sleek. I just wish there was a bit more of a separation between the Marlin and the ‘M’ to really make it stand out.
You know what their best addition was with this logo though? Getting rid of that dang sculpture.
13 – San Diego Padres
The Padres have had some version of the Swinging Friar ever since the 1969 season, but the most recent logo seen here was adopted in 2020. Perfect timing with the resurgent “Slam Diego” team that we saw make the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
There’s another version that is just the friar in the same position, but personally, this version with the yellow crest as a backdrop works really well.
12 – Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays as we know them today were changed over from the ‘Devil’ Rays back in 2008, which shifted focus to a ray of sunshine rather than a floppy stingray. One could say the sunburst you see inside the Rays wordmark is the true alternate logo, but Devil Ray was recolored to fit the new color scheme and has been an official alternate since 2008 as well.
Yes, it’s the sunshine state, but not having a stingray logo? It wouldn’t make Tampa fan’s flappy parts feel very flappy indeed.
11 – Toronto Blue Jays
Remember the new-school Jays logos from 2004-2011? Well hey, I thought they were cool, at least.
Toronto decided to go back to their championship roots by refreshing their logo best associated with their back-to-back titles in 1992-1993, and that’s been their main logo since 2012. There have been a few back-and-forth changes about whether to include the text of ‘Toronto Blue Jays,’ the baseball stitching, and what to do about the crest, but the one constant has been the Blue Jay face with a maple leaf emblazoned next to it, and those are the parts that matter most.
10 – New York Yankees
There’s some discussion to be had about this logo being the primary or the alternate, but the fact remains that the Yankees don’t have many logos to choose from because they don’t need to. The Yankees are as iconic as it comes, and I would argue that the ‘NY’ wordmark is much more historic than the bat and cap.
With such a storied franchise, any subtle changes to the logo are sure to face scrutiny, but when the Yankees landed on this final change back in 1968, it’s been aces ever since.
9 – Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers have four new alternate logos as of 2020, but these two are the main contenders.
First there’s the shoulder patch, which is an ‘M’ on top of the State of Wisconsin and a brick pattern. Definitely pops out more to the eye than their old outline of Wisconsin.
Second, the Brewers brought back an updated version of the Barrelman, which served as their first logo from around 1965 to 1977. I don’t see how you can top the Brewers’ main logo with the glove and ball forming an M and B, but having a mascot made out of a beer barrel is pretty top notch too.
8 – Arizona Diamondbacks
You like alternates? Arizona does too. Back in 2016, the Diamondbacks introduced six new different uniforms to choose from when they take the field.
While their main logo having the bridge of the ‘A’ form a tongue is pretty dang clever, it makes total sense for the Diamondbacks to have an actual snakehead for one of their logos. While the snake forming the ‘D‘ from 2007 was incredibly good, the other snakehead formed out of letters was not.
Personally I’m still debating whether the teal color works with the Sonora Red, but I digress.
7 – Chicago Cubs
I’ve always liked the walking Cub logo. It bridges the gap between too much realism and too cartoony.
Looking at Chicago’s logo history, it seems like they’ve been trying to find to hash out the best match possible over the course of the last half century. First there was the front-facing bear from 1979 to 1993, it was adjusted into another version which didn’t work out well, and after a few more years, the angry walking cub was born in 1997. It’s carried on ever since.
6 – Colorado Rockies
Remarkably, the Rockies have kept the same two logos since their inception in 1993. However, in 2017, they decided to flip-flop the two from their main and alternate logo designations.
The mountain range logo is easily the better of the two, especially with the fact the Rockies highlight the mile-high seats at Coors Field in a special purple color. Colorado has always embraced their namesake, which means regardless of its place as the main or alternate logo, the range logo is always to be cherished.
5 – Atlanta Braves
Thankfully, the Braves have gone away from the likes of Chief-Noc-A-Homa since the late 1980s. Atlanta added this logo in place of their iconic ‘A’ back in 2012.
There’s been a lot of controversy about the tomahawk chop that has been seen at Braves games – but not so much the tomahawk logo. See, the Braves have had the tomahawks grace their logos and uniforms since 1987. Braves fans however, didn’t start doing the chop until 1991. Deion Sanders happened to join the Braves that season, and the chop followed him from his time at Florida State, where Seminoles fans did a similar gimmick.
The chop no doubt is racist, but because it’s a disrespectful caricature and appropriation of Native American culture. The tomahawk itself, meanwhile, can also be used as a ceremonial symbol of peace – or “burying” the hatchet. Its usage depends heavily on context, and that’s why the logo itself isn’t heavily scrutinized. Additionally, the Chicago Blackhawks use a tomahawk logo similar to Atlanta’s that many deem acceptable.
So aside from the discussion about tomahawks, Atlanta’s crest here is very well done as far as crests go. They have two things going for them – one being the fact they’ve been around since 1876 and can show off the fact they’re one of the most historic teams in baseball, the other being that they added some POP to the crest itself.
Most teams would stick their main logo in the middle of the crest, add their team name and year established, and call it a day. Not the Braves. They throw some 3D-effects at you instead with the tomahawk usage. It’s fierce and commanding, and demands the viewer to respect them as an entity.
4 – St. Louis Cardinals
Okay, so it’s basically the same cardinal on a bat you see on the Cardinals’ jerseys, flipped vertically, but still. It’s a freaking cardinal on a bat and it looks amazing. You don’t change something that’s been working for nearly 100 years.
3 – Cincinnati Reds
Mr. Red was first brought to the forefront in 1953 and has been an integral part of Reds history. While he went mustache-less for the better half of a century, Mr. Red was reintroduced with the addition of ‘Mr. Redlegs’ as a retro-inpsired mascot back in 2007, and the mustachioed version of Mr. Red has graced Cincinnati logos ever since.
Having a mascot as a logo is interesting in the fact that it’s fairly unique in Major League Baseball. The Reds took it a step further by adding some action to their mascot, yet it still looks crisp and official. The Mets would be good to maybe steal a page from the Reds.
2 – Minnesota Twins
It’s hard to exemplify a team nickname like the ‘Twins’, but illustrator Ray Barton did it exceptionally. He commissioned the iconic piece for $15 back in 1961, with characters Minnie and St. Paul shaking hands across the Mississippi River.
The Twins have used the logo interchangeably throughout their history since, but made it their centerpiece at Target Field back in 2010. Whenever a home run is hit, the pair shake hands in center field as lights flicker and fireworks boom.
Minnesota most recently updated Minnie and St. Paul in 2015, when they changed the outline from yellow to ‘Kasota Gold’ to better represent their changes in team colors. Still not entirely sure the gold color matches the rest of their palette, but that’s a story for another time.
1 – Oakland Athletics
Most people wouldn’t associate Oakland with the circus. So why a big elephant balancing on top of a baseball?
The answer to that lies all the way back in 1902, when the A’s were in Philadelphia. Rival New York Giants manager John McGraw called the Athletics “white elephants,” for their penchant to purchasing big contracts at the time. The moniker was used as a rallying cry of sorts throughout franchise history and finally, in 1997, the club introduced ‘Stomper’ the elephant as their mascot.
Stomper was also immortalized as the club’s alternate logo back in 1988. I don’t know about you, but an elephant balancing on top of a baseball seems pretty athletic to me. Definitely unique for something that might be hard to conceptualize otherwise.
(Main photo credit: Milwaukee Brewers Ballclub)