birds on the bat

Why the Cardinals removed the birds on the bat from their 1956 uniforms

For 34 of the past 35 years, the birds on the bat had adorned the Cardinals’ jerseys. On February 26, 1956, Cardinals general manager Frank Lane announced that the iconic logo would be missing from their uniforms during the upcoming season.

“We hope the new uniforms will match the new, bold look and attitude of the 1956 Cardinals,” Lane said. “We have striven for a lighter, roomier uniform that will allow for more comfort, greater speed, and greater ability for the players. We hope it will be reflected favorably in the percentages.”[1]

Originally designed by Ms. Allie May Schmidt of the Ferguson Presbyterian Church in 1921, the iconic birds on the bat had been worn on the Cardinals’ uniform almost every year since. However, Lane, nicknamed “Trader” Lane for his penchant for swapping players, didn’t feel limited to making changes to the Cardinals’ roster. Before he traded Bill Virdon and Red Schoendienst away (and tried to trade Stan Musial before owner August A. Busch Jr. put a halt to it), Lane unveiled a new design for the Cardinals’ iconic jerseys.

As the St. Louis Globe-Democrat designed the new design:

Gone are the twin red birds perched on the bat. One has disappeared, the other now is on the left sleeve, brandishing a bat. Across the chest of the ’56 white flannel home suits will be the script word “Cardinals” in Cardinal red on navy blue, and a streamer of red will cross the chest below the letters. Numbers will be red on navy blue and the swashbuckling cardinal on the sleeve also will be in red.

“The only part of the uniform that remains identical with last year are the socks. They will be red, with seven alternating stripes of white, blue, and red. A red belt and red sweatshirt will be worn with the outfit. The familiar blue cap with the red peak also is gone, replaced by a solid blue chapeau with a red button. On the front will be an interlocking “St. L.” in red, trimmed with white.[2]

Later in the article, it described the Cardinals’ new road jerseys:

On the road, the Cardinals will be attired in pearl gray flannels, with the same Cardinal perched on the left sleeve. The left breast will be adorned with a large, interlocking St. L.” The “S” and “t” will be in navy blue with red edging. The “L” will be in red with a blue outline. Numerals – red on navy blue – will be identical with the home suits. The same navy blue cap will be worn on the road, and the belt and sweatshirt also will be navy blue. Road uniform stockings will be blue, with three white stripes edged in a red border.[3]

The single cardinal in a batter stance that was placed on the sleeve came to be known as the “Sluggerbird.” It only appeared on game uniforms in 1956 and has been used as a secondary logo ever since.

A little over a week after the new jerseys were unveiled, an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted that Lane “had heard that some old-timers resented the dropping of the pair of Redbirds astride a bat, hallmark of the Cardinals through their great years.”[4] Lane, however, would not be deterred.

“We’re not taking the color out of the Cardinals or their uniforms,” Lane said. “Wait till you see the uniforms and the men we have in them. I don’t think anybody will be disappointed.”[5]

Lane was wildly mistaken, and 1956 proved to the only year for his new uniform design, as fans were vocal in their disappointment. In 1957, the Cardinals appeared for their season opener with a newly modified birds on the bat logo, which Lane admitted had been reinstated by “popular demand.”[6]

The new uniforms, however, were not quite the same as the original. The bat on which the Cardinals perched was now yellow instead of black. The “C” in “Cardinals” now hooked over the bat and included a swash on the overhang. These updates remained largely consistent for decades, carrying through to the present day.

Enjoy this post? Sign up below and get Cardinals history delivered directly to your inbox!

[1] “Cards Decked Out In New Uniforms,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, February 26, 1956.

[2] “Cards Decked Out In New Uniforms,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, February 26, 1956.

[3] “Cards Decked Out In New Uniforms,” St. Louis Globe-Democrat, February 26, 1956.

[4] “‘Cardinals’ to Be Lettered Across Road Uniforms,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 4, 1956.

[5] “‘Cardinals’ to Be Lettered Across Road Uniforms,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 4, 1956.

[6] Bob Broeg, “Cards Make Early Lead Hold Up, Defeat A’s, 4-2,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 14, 1957.