If baseball is the national pastime, then the humble baseball cap is its logo. Children run all summer under sweat-stained bills, office workers toss on ballcaps as they flee to catch mid-day games and every superhero knows you need a cap to blend in with the crowd. It’s a shorthand for baseball — and an even better way to cover a bald patch.
While caps weren’t worn at the dawn of the game — baseball players originally wore straw hats — they’ve been the essential uniform element since long before anyone reading this was born. So that makes us ask the question: Which cap is the best in each team’s history?
We’ll be choosing the best one that has seen the field for a regular-season game (so, no specialty or BP caps here, no matter how sharp they are) for each club. We’ll choose them mostly on an aesthetic basis, but I won’t lie: Sometimes winning a World Series or having a generational talent don the cap helps them out. (We’ll also be mostly ignoring very slight stylistic tweaks. The current Orioles smiling bird may not be the exact same one that they wore in the ’70s, but they’re pretty close.)
And yes, if you’re getting angry while reading this, I did choose your least favorite cap on purpose.
Blue Jays: The original (1976-88)
I may be an apologist for the uniforms they wore during the Roger Clemens era, when the caps featured a large, bright red maple leaf, but there’s a reason the team is rocking its original logo these days. That’s because their first caps, with the old-school blue jay housed inside a baseball, were perfect. And check out the nearly bleached feathers on the original blue jay — Sisqo approved. That was dyed a few shades darker in time for their World Series run.
Orioles: The cartoon bird (1966-74, 2012-present)
While I love the regal “realistic” bird logo that the team first used when it moved to Baltimore and again wore from 1989 until the goofy, smiling version came back in 2012, there’s really no topping the friendliest bird this side of “Sesame Street.”
Rays: The fauxback (2012-18)
With apologies to the gloriously ’90s gradient logo the team wore when it broke into the league, the Rays’ best caps of that era never made it to the field. In 1995, the team released its earliest logo and caps, featuring a ray on a purple and black ballcap that was changed before the team’s inaugural season in 1998.
So, we’ll go with the ingeniously creative cap the Rays wore to celebrate Turn Back the Clock. Sure, the look is heavily indebted to the Padres’ early-’80s uniforms, but it’s the kind of creative fun that teams without a long history should give themselves license to do more often.
Red Sox: The B (1979-present)
There have been a few minor style tweaks over the years since this cap debuted in 1936, but the one the Red Sox are wearing these days sure feels like it’s been around since the team came into existence. A close second is the red cap with the navy bills the team wore in the mid-’70s.
Yankees: The icon (1922-present)
It’s arguably the most iconic sports logo in the world. There’s simply no other option … despite the beauty of the red and blue pinstriped cap they wore in 1915.
Indians: The Naps (1910-14)
Forget the block C — no matter how sharp it is — and forget that period when the team’s caps looked an awful lot like its cross-state rival. The best look was when the club was known as the Naps and rocked a very modern, not to mention very tiny, little white ‘c’ on their hats.
Royals: The classic (1969-present)
Save for an unfortunate dalliance with black and the fun powder blue caps they wore from 2012-15, there’s a reason why the Royals haven’t changed their look since they entered the league: It works.
Tigers: The Old English D (1934-present)
The Tigers know you don’t mess with perfection. The orange and navy road version is nice, but nothing compares with the crisp white letter of the home cap. If it’s good enough for Magnum P.I., it’s good enough for me.
Twins: The Twin Cities (2010-18)
Ever since moving to Minnesota to become the Twins, the team has kept a remarkably consistent look. They have the Twin Cities cap in navy and red (and a navy cap with a red bill), and the World Series-winning headpiece with the underlined M from the ’90s. Both are great, but I’m partial to the navy and red Twin Cities version. How many teams have cap logos that represent two cities, with neither of them named?
White Sox: The red outline (1951-63)
For all the various styles and colors — red, black, even blue — the White Sox have pretty consistently kept “SOX” front and center. So, while the current look is one of the most popular among people who aren’t even baseball fans, I have to give points to the unique lettering style and outline from the 1951 caps. Considering these lasted about the length of Minnie Miñoso’s first two stints with the team, I think it’s safe to call them “Minnie’s Caps.”
Angels: The Big A (1972-89)
The Angels have used many different cap logos over the years — always searching for the elusive right way to put a halo on their chapeaus. The original caps had a halo on top that essentially traced the wearer’s scalp. That didn’t quite work. They’ve experimented with lower-case letters, thicker halos and their current caps have a halo, too. But nothing touches the simplicity of a red sans serif A with a simple yellow halo.
Astros: Orange caps (1971-82, 2013-16)
The ’90s kid in me wants to pick the extremely flashy gold-and-navy star that guys like Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio made famous, but you can’t top the orange cap with a blue star. There’s a reason why the team brought them back in 2013.
Athletics: Kelly and gold (1971-82)
How many big league teams do you know that wear green and yellow, the most fantastic color scheme in the world? Exactly: Only one.
While the current version, with a darker shade of green, looks nice, it was at its best when it was a bright and playful Kelly green.
Mariners: The Ken Griffey Jr. special (1993-2003, 2012-present)
The Mariners may not have a bad cap in their history. From the marine flag-inspired early designs to their current stylized S, they’ve all been pretty sharp. Even their worst cap — the bright blue and yellow one with a very plain S — became much cooler because it was featured on the famous Griffey rookie card.
But none of those can touch the navy cap with the teal brim. It screams the ’90s. Close your eyes and you can picture Junior wearing it with his bill flipped backward.
Rangers: Big red (1994-99, 2009-present)
Texas has had only two styles of caps in its history: Its first featured a “T” that looked like you’re going to start playing a double-sided game of hangman, and now there’s the contemporary look with a slightly different version of the letter.
I prefer the current style. After that, it’s merely a preference of colorways: Since few teams wear a bright red cap, I’ll side with that one, though the new powder blue one is pretty sharp.
Braves: Little “a” (1972-80)
This cap is made all the better by the jerseys, but it’s not only a tremendous and unique cap, but it’s also what Hank Aaron was wearing when he hit No. 715. That earns a few bonus points.
Marlins: Teal and black (1993-95)
Did you know that you can time travel back to the ’90s simply by looking at this cap? Shockingly, the Marlins wore this look for only two years, but it made an impact that is still felt today by every nostalgia-obsessed youth of the ’90s.
Mets: The classic (1962-1992)
There’s a reason why the team hasn’t stopped wearing this cap after all these years — even when it unfortunately embraced a black lid in the early aughts. Hey, who hasn’t made an unfortunate style choice in their lives?
The team made a slight alteration, adding an orange button atop the cap in 1993. While that’s not a huge change, I prefer the simplicity of the original version.
Nationals: Expos pinwheel (1969-91)
The Nationals have some nice caps in their short history — and there’s a great hat with the Capitol on it that they unveiled last year which could soon take top billing — but you really can’t top the Expos caps. There’s a reason why every baseball nerd in the world has one of these in their collection.
Phillies: Burgundy and white (1971-91, 2019-present)
As much as I love the current Phillies caps with the team’s playful letterform, burgundy is another color woefully underused in American sports (and probably overused in English soccer). Add in the it-screams-the-’70s logo and you’ve got a cap that surely wasn’t as beloved in its heyday as it is now.
Brewers: Ball-in-glove (1978-85)
There simply is no other answer than the ball-in-glove. The fans know it and the team knows it, making it their all-the-time cap again last season — though this time with a darker shade of blue. The best version is the brilliantly, blindingly bright blue-and-yellow they unveiled in the late ’70s.
And because everyone has that moment when they realize it: The logo hides an “M” and “B” for Milwaukee Brewers inside.
Cardinals: Outline-free StL (1940-55)
The Cardinals are another team with an unimpeachable ballcap. It’s why the logo they wear today is really not all that different from the first one they wore in 1900. So, while the bird-on-cap is nice, it’s a little overkill when they already have birds on the uniform.
So, we’ll give the nod to the 1940-55 cap when the team didn’t add a drop shadow or any outline to the logo. The red letters on navy just pop.
Cubs: The bear with the bat (1914)
Pirates: The pillbox (1976-86)
If it’s good enough for Willie Stargell, it’s good enough for me. The yellow version is divine, but the black one is sharp enough that you could (and should) wear it to a wedding.
Reds: Pinstriped cap (1958-60, 93-98)
You really can’t go wrong with the standard red cap the team has worn for almost its entire history, but there’s something so sharp about the pinstriped caps. Since the best Reds uniforms are mostly white with touches of red, I like a top that matches that.
D-backs: The purple (1998-2006, 2016-present)
Not only is this the cap that saw the D-backs take home a World Series in their infancy as an organization, but it’s one of the boldest and strangest caps in baseball history. More purple, please!
Dodgers: LA (1958-present)
Unless you want to include a brief period when the team had an alternate cap with a silver brim, there’s no other option. Like with fried eggs, sometimes you can’t improve on simplicity.
Giants: Black and orange forever (1958-present)
While the Giants have played around a little more than the Dodgers have, adding a sharp orange brim alternate cap in the rotation, you can’t mess with the look they established back when they played in the Polo Grounds.
Padres: Yellow-paneled (1980-84)
While the Padres started wearing their split-front yellow-panel caps in 1972, they added a touch of orange in 1980. Paired with the distinctive brown uniforms and lower-case font, there’s a case to be made that the Padres could have stopped changing uniforms then and still have been years in front of the rest of the league in 2020.
Rockies: All-purple (2017-present)
I’ll keep hammering the point home if I have to: more purple. It makes sense for the Rockies, too — after all, the team uses the royal shade for “purple mountains majesty.”