Branch Rickey Created the Cardinals Uniforms, Then Nearly Scrapped the Dodgers Script Uniforms.


Baseball executive Branch Rickey is, of course, famous for his role in signing Jackie Robinson to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers. But he also famous for adding the "birds on bat" to the uniforms of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Rickey, then Cardinals Vice President and General Manager, was invited to speak at the Men's Fellowship Club of the Ferguson (Missouri) Presbyterian Church on February 16, 1921. Congregant Allie May Schmidt was tasked with creating table decorations for the event. Her decorations that night—cardboard cutouts of red cardinal birds, perched atop twigs made out of string—inspired Rickey.

Rickey then commissioned Allie May's father, Edward H. Schmidt—head of the art department at the Woodward and Tiernan Printing Co—to create artwork for the Cardinals' uniforms. The rest is history. The two "birds on bat" have graced the St. Louis uniforms ever since then, with the exceptions of 1927 (when a single bird on bat celebrated the team's World Series championship of 1926) and 1956, when the birds disappeared for a single season.

Fast forward to January 1943. Branch Rickey is the new President and GM of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He convenes a press conference in his office. After addressing a number of topics, he brings up that of the Dodgers uniforms.

"... I would like to have insignia adopted for the boys to wear on their uniforms. You know I designed the two cardinals mounted on a bat which the St. Louis club wears."

Rickey offered a lifetime pass to Ebbets Field  for the winning entry. Nothing came of the contest, and the Dodgers continued to use their familiar script lettering, first adopted in 1938 by his predecessor, Larry MacPhail.

Here are the details, replete with snarky era-specific sportswriter talk.