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The best and worst Wisconsin sports logos


In lieu of announcing a No. 1 draft pick last Wednesday, the Bucks unveiled something that will probably get a lot more attention than second-round selection David Noel, at least initially: a new logo!

By now, all Bucks fans have seen the red and green version of an angry-looking Bango staring out at friends and foes alike. Since it's basically the same logo with a new color scheme, opinions have ranged from slightly good (at least they lost the purple) to rather bad (in red and green, Bango now looks like a Christmas elf).

But such are the hazards of brand identity in the sports world. In this day and age, there's not much logo continuity -- think the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, etc. And the more a team fiddles with a logo in pursuit of merchandise sales, the more likely they are to design a stinker every now and again.

That reality is reflected in the historical designs amid Wisconsin sporting logos. And experimentation is not limited to the pro ranks, as any Marquette University alumni knows. In all, our local sporting logo crop is pretty strong, with some lousy ones tossed in every decade or so for good measure. The best and worst follow.

The Best

Bucky Badger1. Bucky Badger: I can just hear all the MU grads bemoaning this one, but my top selection is not meant to be controversial. Frankly, it's tough to argue with the strident, timeless nature of Bucky Badger. He's confident, well-attired (you can't beat red on black fur), well-groomed (note the impeccable claw length) and has the posture of a determined winner. The phrase, "Blank 'em Bucky!" simply rolls off one's tongue while glimpsing this particular Badger.

In the Big 10, I think only the Iowa Hawkeye is even remotely as interesting as Bucky, and perhaps the Michigan State Spartan deserves a mention for his burliness. Michigan might have cool football helmets, but its actual Wolverine logo is far from intimidating. And what is the deal with the Ohio State Buckeye? An entire season of Brent Musberger's blather couldn't explain that one to me.

Green Bay Packers2. Green Bay Packers: At No. 2, a choice we can all agree on: the classic "G" of the Green Bay Packers. Beautiful in its stark simplicity, this green and white logo has symbolized the team since the early 1960s. Imagine that thing on an all-yellow helmet, and you can practically smell the brats and see the long lines for the parking lot port-a-potty. Or is it the other way around?

Why not No. 1? It's a fair question. If you ranked this No. 1 in your own personal list of Wisconsin sports logos, I wouldn't quibble. But to me, the only thing it lacks is personification. Bucky isn't a person, per se, but he feels like something an opponent has to contend with, not just a symbol. But ask me in October and I might feel differently (assuming Ahman Green is fully healthy).

Beer Barrel Man3. Beer Barrel Man: Recently, there's been quite a debate about whether or not the Brewers should return to a previous logo. I think they should, but it's not the Ball and Glove I crave -- it's Beer Barrel Man, the standard bearer of the Crew for much of the 1970s. How great is this guy? It's a man made out of a beer barrel swinging a bat. Think about that for one second. Is there a more perfect embodiment of team, nickname and city than Beer Barrel Man?

Is he a tad portly? I'll grant you that, but look at the bat speed this guy is generating. He could be a right-handed John Kruk. What's up with the nose? Not sure, but that might he his tap. When I look at this logo, I think of Gorman Thomas slamming into an outfield wall and then slamming down a few Schlitz in the clubhouse afterwards. And as a Brewers fan, there are a lot worse things a logo could conjure than that.

Ball and Glove/MB4. Ball and Glove/MB: OK, here it is: the Ball and Glove/MB logo which the Brewers made famous throughout the 1980s. This insignia is back with a vengeance, both on the field for Sunday games at Miller Park, and in sporting apparel outlets across the city. For clever design, it rates right up there with Beer Barrel Man, perhaps trumping him with its inclusion of the team's initials. Ranking it fourth is not meant to degrade it; it's sort of like saying the White Sox are only the second-best team in the A.L. Central right now. True enough, but damn good nonetheless.


Spinning Ball Buck5. Spinning Ball Buck: I admit to some romanticism here. On the face of it, the Bango with the spinning basketball isn't a great logo, and it even hearkens back to some of the cheesier '70s fare that permeated the American Basketball Association. For instance, what's up with the high school glee club sweater? But this logo witnessed a championship in Milwaukee and also a string of great teams under Don Nelson in the 1980s. It brings to mind Brian Winters and Sidney Moncrief, Marques Johnson and the 11,052-seats in the old MECCA. Basically, this logo benefits from its era.

Honorable Mention: In the interests of space, I'll quickly surmise my next five favorites below. In order: Milwaukee Admirals (retired), UWM Panthers, Admirals (current), Brewers (current) and Marquette Golden Eagles (early 2000s).

Old Admirals
UWM
Current Admirals
Current Brewers
MU

I was never much of a minor league hockey guy, but both the retired and current version of the Admirals logo are well done. And there's something about that short seaman on skates that I particularly enjoy. Now that the UWM men's hoops team has emerged, so has the school's logo. I like the current Brew Crew insignia -- it's clean, has a classic feel and is far from embarrassing; it's just not as good as the previous ones. And MU's logo from before the whole "gold" fiasco is not bad, either; I'm lukewarm on it because I'm lukewarm on the nickname. It is an intimidating looking bird, though.

The Worst

Brewers mid-90s1. Mid-'90s Brewers: The Law of Associativity isn't just a math property -- it goes for logos and their teams, too, as we've already seen. And this diamond/bat thing is associated with some truly lousy Brewers clubs. Of course, this 1990s logo (it reigned from 1994-'99) was bad in its own right. The colors are terrible, especially coming off the popularity of the blue-and-yellow ball and glove. When I look at this thing, I think of Jerry Royster. OK, so Royster didn't manage the team until 2002; they were made for each other, regardless.


Original Braves2. Original Milwaukee Braves: Warning -- if you think John Bolton is perfect for the U.N. or that CBS News is ruining America, you may not like this choice, as it's a tad PC. But looking at this one today, it's fairly ridiculous that it ever made it past the conception stage. I'm imagining the following scene at a Milwaukee-area design firm in the early '50s -- Art Director to his boss: "How about this? It's an old, haggard-looking Native American whose skin is redder than a tomato." Creative Director: "I like it! Now let's go have a scotch in my office and then duck out early for lunch. Grace! Hold my calls!"


Previous Bucks3. 1990s Bucks: It's no wonder that the Bucks finally changed it, but it is strange that it took them so long. Why on earth did they go with purple? Was a seventh-grade girl with a crush on her home-room teacher in charge of the early design mockups?

Little-known fact about this version: if you zoom in to about 500 percent on the "U" in Bucks, you can actually see the faint outline of Todd Day missing a 22-foot jumper.

Braves 574. Milwaukee Braves (1957-'66): I must admit, part of me looks at this logo and thinks "Now that's a classic." But that's just because I grew up with its memory and the similar design of the old Cleveland Indians logo. It makes me think of 1978 Topps baseball cards, for whatever reason. But that set stopped appreciating in value around 1989, as did the wisdom that led to this design. Even Atlanta abandoned this one by 1990. The whooping laugh/war cry/cough of the Brave in question probably cemented its demise.


MU Warriors5. Marquette Warriors: I can hear the angry comments as I write this. But remember, the fifth-worst logo is just one away from Honorable Mention on the best list. This doesn't raise some of the PC concerns that other Native American logos have (a previous version, where a cartoonish Native American swiped a tomahawk across the word "Warriors," was much worse). It's just not that amazing, though it does have a certain dignity to it. One can imagine that our Warrior has just skinned whatever it is on his head and is taking a moment to relax by watching the NCAA Tournament selection show, which may explain the profile (the 9 seed in the San Diego subregional explains the glum look).

Now, if we were rating uniforms, those classic '70s versions that Al McGuire took to a National Championship (with the team name printed just above the waist rather than across the chest) would rank near the top of any list. Of course, that's another article entirely.

Thanks to sportslogos.net for providing most of these logos.

Talkbacks

TosaJimBob | July 31, 2007 at 3:43 p.m. (report)

WAIT!!! You forgot the very worst "new" logo....the Milwaukee Admirals....a cartoon character rip-off!!! That designer should give the Admirals their money back.

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OMCreader | July 30, 2006 at 6:35 p.m. (report)

Michael Joyce said: Great article.....brings back many memories while growing up in the 60's in Milwaukee. How about the bumble bee Marquette uniforms? On Wisconsin!

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OMCreader | July 24, 2006 at 8:07 p.m. (report)

kevrob said: Mad v. MKE: I can understand how, as a grad of both MU and UW, you want everyone to show the love, but that's not reasonable for most of us. I'm a Marquette grad, and a transplant from out-of-state. I didn't grow up rooting for guys in cardinal. All The University Of The Government of Wisconsin means to me is a giant leach attached to my bank account. Rooting for Bucky is like rooting for the State Legislature and all its expensive bureaucracy. They oughta privatize the place, anyway. :) I liked the "First Warrior" logo. I attended MU during the glory days, and when we won the NCAA in 1977 there wasn't a logo, per se. The school had ditched the awful "Willie Wampum" image a few years earlier, and didn't get around to replacing it until after the championship year. I'm also from New York. I'm sure when the Yankees' logo was introduced, there were curmudgeons grumbling, "Look at that. They just copied the Giants' crossed NY. Sure, they changed the font, but it's the same thing, really. No originality." What makes the Yanks insignia iconic is all the championships attached to it, just like the Packers' G. The Mets' NY is the old Giants' logo, with the Giant's orange letters on a Dodger blue background, to represent both strains of the area's National League fans. One of my favorite teams, the NY Islanders, has an awful logo: a map of Long Island, with an "NY" above it - the Y forming a hockey stick crossing the map, and the word "Islanders" sweeping under the map, in an ugly font. All this is contained in a circle. It's crowded, hard to read, and overliteral. Isles fans love it, though, `cause the team won 4 Stanley Cups while wesring it. We revolted when a snake-oil-salesman of a new owner trued to replace it with a trendy new device featuring a macintosh-wearing fisherman. Ranger fans would chant "We want fishsticks" when they saw it. Oh, yeah, the team was about the worst in the NFL at the time. The moral of the story: winning makes a even an ugly logo beautiful. The recently changed Golden Eagles logo was a lox. For one, it was usually colored blue, not gold. Alums like me avoided it like the plague, and I'm sure one reason the administration replaced it with the crossed MU crest was at least in part an effort to increase sales of MU gear.

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OMCreader | July 19, 2006 at 10:16 p.m. (report)

Jeff said: I'm a logo guy, so I have to comment. The Packer G is simple and identifyable. And Georgia & Grambling had to get permission from the Packers to use it starting in the late 60s. I've heard fromothers who had not realized the Brewers old logo was an M & B also, it's clever, no matter what part of the state you're in. The current M on the cap with the barley under it is nice, a more modern version of the old block M from the Braves days. And for those who don't think the glove is clever, is the motion W clever? Is the G clever? No, they're simple & identifyable, which is what a logo creator hopes to accomplish. Man law? Man law!

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OMCreader | July 12, 2006 at 8:58 a.m. (report)

riprock said: The New York Yankee logo is the best because it has a timelessness to it... besides being an aesthetically pleasing design, it's never been tampered with. CLASSIC.

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