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99 years ago today: The Birds on the Bat make their Cardinals debut

99 years ago today: The Birds on the Bat make their Cardinals debut

Jim Bottomley

Jim Bottomley, donning the new "birds on the bat" Cardinals uniform, is thrown out at the plate in an exhibition game against the Browns in April of 1921. 

A meeting that Cardinals general manager Branch Rickey attended on Feb. 16, 1921, launched one of the most famous logos in professional sports.

Allie May Schmidt, a member of Ferguson Presbyterian Church, took it upon herself to decorate the tables for that day’s baseball discussion. She gathered red carnations — as close to the “cardinal” red as possible — for the centerpiece and wanted to leave gifts around each one for the people around it. Looking out the window she saw a fresh blanket of snow and two bright red birds alight on a shrub’s branch. She connected the Cardinals to the baseball team and began to make the cutouts.

Her father, Edward H. Schmidt, sat at the same table as Rickey during the Men’s Fellowship Club’s meeting, and the two, intrigued by Allie May’s birds, began discussing a symbol for the team. Schmidt ran the art department at St. Louis’ Woodward & Tiernan Printing Co., and he later presented Rickey with several concept drawings.

The twig was replaced by a bat for a solo cardinal to perch, and another sketch had two birds balanced on a bat. In 1922, the team put the first birds and the first bats on their jerseys, at a cost of $3.75 each for 75 uniforms.

The first game to feature the jerseys was on April 8, 1921, an exhibition game against the Browns.

Rickey went to Ferguson for a meeting. He returned with a symbol that has meaning — for generations since and generations to come.

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