Uni Watch history lesson: the wishbone-C

October, 10, 2012
10/10/12
10:15
AM ET
Playbook Wishbone-C UniwatchESPN.com Illustration
The Reds are enjoying a pretty good postseason so far. For some of their players, it's their first taste of the playoffs. For others, it's a return to familiar territory. But for one key component of the Reds, the postseason is old hat -- literally.

Uni Watch is referring to the Reds' logo, colloquially known as the wishbone-C. The Reds first wore it in 1905, and they've worn it in some capacity every season since 1909.

But while the Reds are the MLB team most closely associated with the wishbone-C, they're not the only team to have worn it on the diamond. The Cubs wore it for about 20 years, beginning in 1916; the Indians wore it for 40 years, beginning in 1933; and the Twins have always included it as part of their "TC" logo, which they've worn since the franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961.

And the wishbone-C isn't just a baseball fixture. Over in the NFL, the Bears have been wearing the iconic logo on their helmets since 1962. And way back in the 1920s and ’30s, the Chicago Cardinals -- progenitors of today's Arizona Cardinals -- wore the wishbone-C on their sleeves (a look that the franchise revived on a throwback uni in 1994).

Add it all up and the wishbone-C has been worn by eight World Series champions, one Super Bowl champion, one NFL champion (from the pre-Super Bowl era), 16 pennant winners, three conference champions, 20 division champions and four wild cards. That's a pretty impressive record of achievement. (Yes, Yankees fans -- we know, we know.)

Who first wore the wishbone-C, and who designed it? The Reds appear to be the first professional team to have worn it, but the logo was already in circulation on the college level by the time the Reds adopted it. A page on the University of Chicago's website claims that the school began using the wishbone-style logo in 1898. A team portrait of the school's 1898 football squad backs up this claim. To Uni Watch's knowledge, this is the earliest appearance of the logo we now know as the wishbone-C.

So if the logo was pioneered by the University of Chicago, does the school have any information on who designed it? No, unfortunately. "I looked through some old yearbooks and a few other publications, but I cannot find any reference to the logo's designer," a school spokesman told Uni Watch.

Whoever the designer was, his or her work has spread all over the sports landscape:

• On the college level, the wishbone-C is currently worn by Catawba College in North Carolina; Central College in Iowa; Chapman University in California; Colby College in Maine; Concordia College in Minnesota; Creighton University in Nebraska; and the University of Central Missouri.

• At least three Texas high schools currently use the wishbone-C: Clements High, Connally High and Conroe High.

• Back in the days of the Negro Leagues, the wishbone-C was worn by the Kansas City Monarchs and the Cincinnati Tigers.

• One of the legendary names in sporting goods back in the 1950s and ’60s was Crosthwaite Athletic Supply of San Diego. Guess what it used for its logo.

• The power of the wishbone-C even extends across the ocean to Japan, where the logo is used by the Hiroshima Toyo Carp and Chuo University.

That's a lot of wishbonery out there. (And there's probably more. If you know of other teams using the wishbone, you know what to do.) What accounts for this logo's popularity? Hell, back in the mid-1930s there were three MLB teams wearing it at the same time -- and that's when there were only 16 MLB teams to begin with! Wouldn't you think these teams would want to wear something more original, more unique?

Of course, some wishbone-C designs are unique. Some are a little longer, some are a bit stubbier, and so on, although all of them are recognizably related to the University of Chicago's original design. But one variation in particular seems to have provoked a significant amount of agita in the uni-verse. That would be the Bears' logo, which, as many fans have noticed over the years, is badly asymmetrical. Here's a mock-up that highlights the flaws in the design, but be warned -- once you see it, you can't unsee it.

That mock-up was done by Uni Watch reader Chris Bova. He wondered what a perfectly symmetrical version of the Bears' logo would look like, so he created one. Looks better, doesn’t it?

Bova also determined that the Reds' logo is pretty close to symmetrical, so no revisions are needed there. And speaking of the Reds, they could end up adding to the wishbone-C's championship numbers, depending on how far they go in the playoffs. Stay tuned.

Paul Lukas has never played on a team that wore the wishbone-C (but loves breaking the wishbone on the Thanksgiving turkey). If you liked this column, you'll probably like his daily Uni Watch web site, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.

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