It’s the simplistic creativity of the Milwaukee Brewers’ ball-in-glove logo that has stood the test of time. And it’s all thanks to a UW-Eau Claire art student.
When the Brewers were looking to rebrand in 1977, they didn’t turn to a big professional design firm or focus groups. They asked their fans.
At the time, Milwaukee players were still wearing old Seattle Pilots uniforms–leftovers from when the team changed cities in 1970. The no-longer-”new” team needed a new identity.
The front office decided to give fans a chance to be part of the process and asked for logo submissions. But after sifting through nearly 2,000 of them, they were disappointed. Most featured beer, and they didn’t want that.
Then, they came across a winner.
In a rental home with his wife and two young children, 29-year-old UW-Eau Claire art education major Tom Meindel heard an ad about the contest as he listened to the radio broadcast of the New York Yankees facing the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1977 World Series.
“We were married,” Elaine Meindel recalled. “He went back to college to get a teaching degree. He had this idea.”
Both art majors, Elaine said she and her husband met in a life drawing class and they valued each others’ critiques.
When Tom quietly came out of a room to unveil his design, Elaine said she had a good feeling about it and told him not to change anything.
“I saw it and right away I knew it was going to win because it was such a clever design,” she explained.
The Brewers also knew they had a winner and invited Tom, an Eau Claire Regis High School graduate, to an awards luncheon where they presented him with a $2,000 check.
Tom’s design featured the timeless and iconic ball-in-glove with an “M” and “B” forming the glove.
“The ‘M’ and ‘B’ are a little subliminal, but when people see it, they have that ‘ah’ moment, and I think that adds to the attraction of the logo and the iconic nature of it,” said Rick Schlesinger, president of business operations. “It’s a timeless logo.”
“People to this day say they don’t see it right away,” Elaine said. “That’s why it’s so clever. You have to have an artists’ eye.”
Her husband’s logo became the club’s primary insignia from 1979-1993. In 2006, the Brewers created a “retro Friday” promotion, regularly returning the logo, and it was resurrected more in recent years, including for 52 games in 2019.
While Tom passed away in 2018, his art has lived on.
Elaine said she was introduced to a former player who used to wear the uniform with the original ball-in-glove while at a Brewers 50th anniversary party in 2019.
“I said who is that? My friend, who was with me, said, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe you don’t know who that is’!”
That player was Cecil Cooper from the 1982 World Series lineup.
“He wanted to show me the necklace he had made of the ‘M’ and ‘B!’” Elaine exclaimed.
While the initial $2,000 prize was enough to get the Meindels and their two young children a downpayment on a house in Eau Claire, it didn’t provide much more.
However, Tom did a variety of things after winning. He taught at UW-Stout in Menomonie. He had a design business and painted signs. He even submitted a design for a Milwaukee Bucks logo with an “M” and “B.”
“They turned it down, but it was really cool,” Elaine said.
As for the Brewers, they gave him a license to sell Brewers items and design clothes and paraphernalia.
“For the 1982 American League Championship, he sold belt buckles out of the back of his Ford Falcon.”
Still, no royalties.
“I wish!” Elaine said. “They didn’t do that. I’m sure they made millions and millions off the logo. Everyone thought he was a millionaire, retired someplace! It would have been nice, but that wasn’t the deal. All-in-all, it was still a great experience.”
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