This text was first published on pastimepinstripes.tumblr.com on April 25, 2016 as part of an English project at McDaniel College. It has been edited for its purposes on this blog and can be read in its entirety and original form by clicking here. To learn more about Pastime Pinstripes, please read our post “The Grain of the Game Announces New Blog Features.”
The Lehigh Valley IronPigs of Minor League Baseball’s International League are one of the most revolutionary teams. From ballpark food to some of the more terrifying mascots around, they have it all. But the true genius of their revolution lies in their uniforms and the brand behind them.
After relocating from Ottawa where the team was known as the Lynx, the IronPigs ball club quickly developed deep roots at CocaCola Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The Triple-A affiliate of the nearby Philadelphia Phillies, the team saw easy success during a time when their parent club dominated MLB’s National League East Division. Success for the ‘Pigs came in two forms, merchandise sales and ballpark sellouts. Setting records or near records in both the categories each year of their existence, it is without a doubt a fact that fans love their bacon, or their steel.
The name “IronPigs” plays into the area’s historical steel industry, most notably shown with the nearby Bethlehem Steel Stacks. Accompanying Bethlehem and the ballpark location of Allentown, Easton, Pennsylvania is also included in the “Lehigh Valley” location name.
When the ‘Pigs first arrived in their Pennsylvania town in 2008 they did so in style. Donning five full uniform sets, the team was specially outfitted for every home, road, Saturday, and Sunday game, and even batting practice. As seen in the graphic from the team’s official website, “ironpigsbaseball.com,” their five unique looks not only featured five different uniforms, but five different hats as well. As a baseball hat enthusiast, the team’s unveiling of uniforms was one of the greatest days that year.
The five uniform sets helped the IronPigs become the leading team in jerseys and logos, with four different hat logos (five including backgrounds), two different wordmarks (three including backgrounds), and two different chest logos (albeit one of them the same as two of the cap logos).
Having family ties to the Lehigh Valley I became an instant fan of the ‘Pigs ever since I was given a glow-in-the-dark logo ball for Christmas in 2008. Upon my first visit to CocaCola Park in the summer of 2013, I ran into the team clubhouse shop the instant my ticket was scanned. In the store I found myself overwhelmed by all the options for what to buy. Unsure of whether or not I wanted a classic “pig head” logo on a red or blue hat (home or batting practice), I ended up picking the Sunday alternate“I with a pigtail” hat, with the interlocking “LV” road cap falling in a close second. The Saturday alternate never came into consideration, me being a fan of caps with as much color as possible. The only appreciation I did have for the Saturday cap was the fact that it pays homage to a cap used by the Ottawa Lynx, a neat fact pointed out by user “AstroBull21″ on the sportslogos.net boards .
The instant fan I was of just about every aspect of the IronPigs’ logos and uniforms, I had plans to return to CocaCola park every summer (or every time I visited the area to see family) and buy another ‘Pigs cap so eventually I would have their entire collection as part of my collection (I have a rule about buying caps in person after a rather sour incident with an Amazon order).
It being just my luck, I awoke one morning to read an article posted on sportslogos.net that the IronPigs were adopting new “Bacon-Themed” uniforms for the 2014 season . While I’m always a fan of an unveiling, I was horrified that I wouldn’t be able to complete my goal of collecting the other four ‘Pigs caps. However, I now had a different five caps on my list of caps to collect, and held an “extinct” cap in my collection.
The new uniforms featured about as much bacon as should be involved in baseball. The fan-favoriteSaturday home alternate featured a red uniform base with a “’Pigs” wordmark, underlined with a strip of bacon, and a cap with a gray base and blue brim, featuring a strip of bacon with “IronPigs” written in “bacon grease” for the cap logo. While I loved the jersey, the cap is still to this day one of my least favorite in all of baseball, mainly due to the unconventional logo.
One of my favorite uniform sets, and a hat that was on my “to collect” list until I finally acquired it last November, is the Friday home alternate. Featuring an all-black palate (cap, jersey, pants, and all), the alternate look pays tribute to the steel industry of Bethlehem, as mentioned earlier. The main tribute is found in the “molten red” pighead cap logo.
Between the Friday and Saturday alternates, the IronPigs successfully played into both parts of their namesake, actual pigs and the steel industry.
The third look unveiled is the one that specifically made (at the time) my only IronPigs hat extinct. The new Sunday home alternate, as pointed out by Chris Creamer, was “a modern nod to the Philadelphia Phillies teams of the 1980s.” It featured a powder blue pullover jersey with the ‘Pigs “pighead” logo donned on the chest, and a powder blue and red cap with a ‘Pigged out liberty bell cap logo. Perhaps my favorite look of them all, I was finally able to acquire the cap alongside my purchase of the Friday home alternate cap back in November.
These three new looks replaced the original weekend alternate uniform sets and add on a Friday look, accompanying the original home and road uniforms. After the unveiling I was left with now five hats to collect to complete my IronPigs collection, rather than four, and could never complete the purchasing of the original four (in the conventional in-store manner).
Assuming that the ‘Pigs were done with uniform updates, as I mentioned before, I purchased two of their hats back in November (Friday and Sunday) along with a shirt emulating their Saturday ‘Pigs (with the bacon underline) jersey.
As these things go (my purchasing of IronPigs gear that is), In late March sportslogos.net once again broke a story revealing changes to the Lehigh Valley team’s uniform set.
Of course, the shirt that I just bought is no longer available in uniform style. The Saturday “bacon” alternate has now been outfitted with an even bacon-ier wordmark, “Bacon USA.” While the cap and pants remain the same, the jersey also has a sleeve patch of a map of the United States with a bacon strip across the middle and a star showing the location of CocaCola Park. Luckily the bacon cap remained in this update, a huge relief to me.
Another look that got an update was the ‘Pigs away uniform. Once again the red cap stays the same, but the jersey base, rather than the typical gray worn by almost every team on the road, will be one similar to that of the Diamondbacks’ 2016 uniforms, a graphite hue. Although I’ve never considered buying the away red cap, this is one of the few that has stayed the same ever since the first set of uniforms in 2008, and might just be the safest bet for my next purchase.
The ‘Pigs also updated their Friday home alternate look, changing their black pants to the graphite gray, accompanying the original black jersey and black cap, with the “molten red” splash.
As highlighted by sportslogos.net, the ‘Pigs completed the overhaul of their uniforms with a newSunday alternate, once again paying tribute to their parent club’s jerseys of the 1970s and 80s. Just like the 2014 look, the jersey will once again be a pullover with the liberty bell cap (one less for me to buy). The main change here is the “IronPigs” wordmark that directly emulates the script used by the Phillies.
The last update to the IronPigs’ new look is a full-time batting practice jersey. The uniform takes a hat that the ‘Pigs have had in stock for a number of years and gives it a designated use, and adds a navy blue jersey with a “Pigs” script, highlighted by a star above the “i.”
With arguably way too many jerseys in their arsenal, the IronPigs have taken to the field for this 2016 in what may be the best uniform set in the entire game, on par with the majors. One of the details that puts the ‘Pigs so high up is the fact that these new uniforms come from majestic, the supplier of all MLB uniforms. According to ironpigsbaseball.com, the ‘Pigs have reached an agreement with to make their uniforms the first by the company in all of Minor League Baseball. As reported by sportslogos.net, the team has adopted the motto of “If it’s worn in the Bigs, it’s worn by the Pigs.”
The ‘Pigs already hold many of the records for sales of tickets and merchandise in the Minor Leagues, and this new deal with Majestic will surely allow the team to hold true to that nature. While only one new hat has been added, it has moved to the top of my forever lengthening “to buy” list of baseball caps, along with the rest of the ‘Pigs’ collection that I have yet to buy.
While I don’t get a chance to buy ‘Pigs gear that often, I’ll make sure to make an announcement when I do because chances are the team will announce another uniform change, taking out whatever I just bought of their rotation. At this point I don’t expect that I’d be mad about it because with Majestic on board, I think we’re guaranteed to see only fantastic top-notch uniforms out of the Lehigh Valley for years to come.