By Andy Tarnoff Publisher Published Jun 29, 2005 at 5:46 AM

{image1} If you've been clamoring for a return to the Milwaukee Brewers old "ball and glove" logo ever since the team abandoned it before the 1994 season, you might want to make a point to attend Friday's game against the Pirates.

If you go, you'll be participating in a giant, yet informal, focus group for the Brewers, who want to know if fans prefer the old logo to the current one.

"We'll try to have some fun with it because there's a lot of passion on either side," says Brewers Executive Vice President of Business Operations Rick Schlesinger.

When fans pass through the turnstiles Friday, signs will point them to ushers, who will give out free shirts bearing their favorite marque -- either the blue and gold, intertwined "m" and "b" logo that the team used from 1978 to 1993, or the cursive "M" atop a sprig of barley that the team introduced in 2000.

During the game, members of the "Brew Crew" promotions squad will give fans wearing the shirts autographed balls from either current players or members of the '78-'93 squads.

But while this is one of the first public acknowledgements of many fans' desire to return to the logo the Brewers sported during their glory years, the team's front office isn't oblivious to a gradual rise in interest.

"I've noticed both in e-mails and in polls that there's a lot of appeal to the old logo," admits Schlesinger. "It's a topic of fan discussion. It's clear that it's not just a small minority, and it's not just a temporary nostalgia."

However, Schlesinger says that Friday's promotion is just part of the process. "We also have done, and continue to do, more scientific polling," he says.

When conducted a poll last April asking readers, "Should the Brewers bring back the old 'ball and glove' logo?" an overwhelming 74.8 percent said "yes." A more recent poll in October showed that OMC readers thought the Brewers were the Wisconsin team most in the need of a logo overhaul, too.

But Schlesinger says the Brewers want to understand not only fan preference, but the basis for that preference.

"The old logo does hearken back to a time when the Brewers were successful on the field. It reminds fans of when the Brewers were good. Having said that, the Brewers will get back to those days, and the appeal (of the current logo) will rise as the team's fortunes do, too."

From a marketing perspective, Schlesinger says merchandise with the old logo sells very well, but overall, items with the current logo actually sell better.

"But that is partially because we offer more with the new logo," says Schlesinger. "Nationally, the old logo has sold very well."

Still, Schlesinger says that the team must proceed cautiously, as changing a logo completely is both expensive and is a public relations challenge.

"My mission is to do the research and determine how we can address the fans who want the old logo, but I'm very sensitive to changing logos too frequently and losing the branding (that comes with it)."

However, Schlesinger stresses that a logo switch isn't about making money, and a change can be gradual. "It wouldn't be monetary -- it would be to address fans," he says.

If formal and informal focus groups point toward a willingness to go "old school," Schlesinger says the Brewers could partially introduce the logo, perhaps in the form of alternate or batting practice uniforms.

"We don't have to go all or nothing," says Schlesinger. "A number of teams have alternate uniforms that are stylistically different, but I'm not aware of any who use different logos. We could be the first."

The logo in question was designed by then University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire student Tom Meindel in 1977. OMC caught up with Meindel last spring to talk about the creation process, which was through a contest featuring a $2,000 prize.

"I was a cash poor student, struggling to get by," says Meindel, who now works designing signs in Eugene, Ore. "So I started sketching out ideas, but nothing seemed to work."

Finally, Meindel struck blue and gold.

"I took a lower-case 'm' and put it on a lower-case 'b'," says Meindel, who was 29 at the time. "I used (the fonts) Cooper and Souvenir, and it reminded me of a baseball glove."

"(When I saw it), I went 'wow,' something rang true. It had a double connotation."

The original design actually more closely resembled the fonts he used, says Meindel. "Someone has scrunched it up a little bit."

For the logo's color scheme, he stuck with the blue the team was already using, but opted for a deeper gold for the second hue.

And the rest is history. The Brewers went to the World Series in 1982 with the ball and glove logo. It was also the marque the team wore during their last winning season 13 years ago in 1992.

Still, don't expect the Brewers to ditch that cursive "M" any time in the near future, and Schlesinger says the team isn't gradually sneaking it back into service -- even though a recent Miller Park scoreboard graphic portrayed the current logo in the old blue and gold colors.

"There wasn't any subtle message; we were just playing with the color scheme," says Schlesinger. "It's fair to say that we're looking to see if there are ways to integrate the old logo, but I don't see a scenario where we abandon our current logo."

If you feel strongly about either logo, go to the game Friday, or let Brewers management know by using the talkback feature below this article -- we'll pass along the comments.

Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.

Before launching in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.

Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.