The 2011-12 MLB off-season was one of the best in recent memory for new branding with the absolutely superb upgrades in Toronto, Baltimore, and New York.  While nearly all sport logo and uniform changes are traditionally met with a negative response, these three had overwhelmingly positive reviews from the baseball community.

Why all of a sudden did we see such fantastic design decisions made by these clubs?  I like to think that the rise of social media is a main reason. Fans and teams have never been able to interact with each other at the level they are today – teams are hearing what fans are looking for and they are actually listening (for the most part anyways… after all, the Padres still aren’t wearing brown uniforms now are they?)

So here we are, three weeks into the 2012 Major League Baseball campaign and we’ve had plenty of opportunity to see each and every one of the new uniforms in action. This week I’ll be taking a detailed look at one of the star changes for this season, the Baltimore Orioles.

“Anytime you make a change, you have an element of detractors that are cynical as far as why a change is made. But there is nothing behind the change other than a desire to provide fans with a look that we think they like and a look that the ballclub is proud of”, Orioles director of communications Greg Bader to the Baltimore Sun in November.

Baseball fans everywhere loved Baltimore’s off-season changes, the various logos of their new identity are rated at least an 8 out of 10 on SportsLogos.Net.

The biggest move the Orioles made design-wise was the re-introduction and update of their classic cartoon oriole head logo.  The Orioles wore a version of this guy through the most glorious seasons in team history including World Championships in 1966, 1970, and 1983 (as well as several more American League pennants).

We find (the classic cartoon oriole head) has widespread appeal among many demographics, many age groups. … And it’s a logo, it’s a mark, that has a lot more character and personality than the ornithologically correct bird.

- Greg Bader

He’s a little cleaner and balanced now, slimmer than the first version, and is now wearing a modern Orioles team cap instead of a generic blob. They could have created an infinite loop of logos by putting the bird on its own cap but they decided to take it easy and apply the alternate “O’s” cap. You can see the evolution of this logo below:

The media seems to be using this new cap logo above as if it were a “primary logo”. But don’t be fooled, the logo depicting an oriole perched on the team script has been used since 2009 and is still the official primary team logo.

Jim Palmer in 1968 and Cal Ripken, Jr in 1986 wearing the caps that inspired the new Orioles look

Along with the classic cap logo comes the classic cap style, the Orioles become the first team since the 1993 Toronto Blue Jays to wear a cap with a multi-coloured crown.

In addition to the Orioles and Blue Jays, the multi-coloured crown look was used by several teams in the 1970s and 1980s including the Montreal Expos, Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres, and Milwaukee Brewers.

So what happened to that style?  The last team to wear em, those ’93 Jays, ditched the style mid-season claiming it was bad luck and costing the team victories… of course once those lids were gone the team turned things around and ended up winning it all.  So Baltimore, if you hit a funk come August, just ditch the new cap and start planning the parade route!  That’s how these things work right?

This new cap will be worn for home games only and can be paired with both the home and the new home alternate jerseys (more on that later)… in case you forgot what the O’s cap looked like last year, here’s a handy side-by-side . Is it an upgrade? Judge for yourself:

Comparing the change in Baltimore's home cap from 2011 with the new look in 2012

For road games the Orioles have introduced a mono-coloured crown version of the above, instead of white up front it’s just black all around.  The orange bill remains, below you’ll find another side-by-side with 2011 to compare and judge:

Baltimore Orioles road cap changes from 2011 to 2012

While we’re on the topic of the road uniform, the “Baltimore” script that is on the front of the jersey has been changed ever-so slightly. The angle of the script has been lowered, and each letter in “Baltimore” is now the same size rather than gradually getting smaller as it was in 2011. It’s a subtle change but I think it really improves the look of the jersey:

The slight adjustments to Baltimore's road jersey script

Also new for the Orioles in 2012 is an orange alternate jersey, which will only be worn for select home games and will be paired with the aforementioned white-paneled cap. An orange alternate is nothing new for Baltimore but it hasn’t been seen since their inaugural season at Camden Yards back in 1992.

The Orioles join the San Francisco Giants and the Miami Marlins as teams with orange alternates; interestingly as recently as 2009 no team in baseball was wearing an orange alternate.

Baltimore's new orange alternate jerseys

Carrying over from 2011 is the black alternate jersey with “O’s” cap (the same cap worn by their new cap logo), the Orioles will wear this combination for every Friday game, home and away.

Lastly, for this season only, the Orioles are wearing a patch on the sleeve of all of their jerseys which honours the 20th anniversary of their home stadium, Oriole Park at Camden Yards.  The first “modern-retro” stadium in baseball is fast-approaching an age at which you gotta start reconsidering that “modern” description.

Here’s that patch:

Patch worn on sleeves of all O's jerseys in 2012 for the 20th anniversary of Camden Yards

Camden Yards is perhaps most famous for the former B&O Warehouse just beyond the right field fence as well as playing host to Cal Ripken’s record breaking game during his “Ironman” streak. This 20th anniversary patch features two elements of the stadium design, the sign welcoming fans into the ballpark, and the brick wall behind home plate seen during every pitch by television viewers.

Overall I would give an A+ to the Baltimore Orioles for their re-design.  Their fans love it, the sporting world loves it, I love it.

If you’re as nutty for uniform and logo details as this post is, check out Chris’s sports logo and uniform website at SportsLogos.Net.