Blue Jays: Lump it or like it

The original Toronto Blue Jays logo, as seen on a button.

The Toronto Blue Jays recently unveiled a “new” logo for their organization, one with a strong resemblance to their first, classic logo that served the team from their start in 1977 through the 1996 season.  Public response to this new, retro logo has been mixed, but on balance Blue Jays fans seem to be supportive.  The Blue Jays original logo, seen at right, was designed by Savage Sloan Ltd. in 1976, and unveiled in October of that year.  Toronto’s newspapers reveal little public reaction to the design.  The initial media concern was not over the team’s first logo, but over the name “Blue Jays” itself.

The Globe and Mail announcing the new Blue Jays logo, October 13, 1976.

In the summer of 1976, the team’s owners held a contest to name the new baseball franchise.  Over 25,000 entries were submitted, for a total of about 4,000 different potential names.  Amongst the names mentioned in the Star and the Globe and Mail were: the Toronto Towers, Antelopes, Bears, Beavers, Wildcats, Dingbats, Hippos, Sea Fleas, Tarantulas, Canaries, Owls, Peacocks, Greyhounds, Bulldogs, Airedales, Fighting Turtles, Unicorns, Loons, Hogtowns, the Godfreys (in honour of Metro Chairman Paul Godfrey, who had been instrumental in getting Major League Baseball to put a team in Toronto), the Crombies (in honour of then-mayor David Crombie), Teamsters, Dillingers, Eskimos, Sad Sacks and the Titanics.  Many of the names were apparently suggested to appeal to Labatt and their 45% controlling interest in the team, as other reported suggestions included the Bootleggers and Boozers (“Brewers” was already taken by Milwaukee), and many names including the word “Blue,” likely in reference to the company’s flagship beer: Blue Sox, Blue Shoes, Blue Hats, Blue Bonnets, Blue Bats, Blue Balls (yes, really), Blue Chips, Blue Bloods, Blue Beavers, Blue Birds and yes, “Blue Jays,” although there was no indication that “Blue Jays” was especially likely to win.

The executives of the company picked their favourite, and the winning name was announced in the press on August 13, 1976.  A statement issued by the club said “[The blue jay  is] strong, aggressive and inquisitive and it dares to take on all comers.  It’s down to earth, gutsy and good looking.  We felt the Blue Jay is a true representative of major league baseball in Toronto.”

The Star went with the headline “Blue Jays: Lump it or like it …that’s the name for Toronto’s American League ball club,” hardly an enthusiastic endorsement, and indicative of the mixed reaction to the name.  All the major Toronto newspapers collected public reaction, with the majority of the feedback varying between bemusement to outright fury.  Typical of the negative comments are the words of secretary Jackie Dangelo, who told the Sun: “That’s terrible.  It’s worse than terrible.  It stinks.  It’s pathetic.  I think anything would be better than the Blue Jays.”

The Toronto Star's sports section announces the new baseball team's name, August 13, 1976.

Specific objections the name varied.  Some thought the team should have a name which had something specific to do with Toronto or Canada.  Many seemed to think it was silly to name the team after a bird, despite baseball already having two teams named after birds, the Baltimore Orioles and the St. Louis Cardinals.  Some felt the name didn’t sound very athletic.  Joey Slinger, then a Sun columnist, wrote “it’s not what you might call a terrifically macho name.” 

The Globe and Mail took a strange position, choosing to criticize the blue jay as a bird.  Christie Blatchford wrote that “the species often behaves completely without honor [sic].  One of the blue jay’s most repugnant habits is its fondness for eating the eggs and nestlings of other birds.”   A few days later the Globe and Mail ran the syndicated column of sportswriter Red Smith, which also touched on this point, claiming that “the Blue Jay is a raucous, obstreperous, thieving cannibal who robbs [sic] the nests of smaller birds, eats the eggs, devours the young and then comes around bragging about it.”

Paul Godfrey, who had worked vigorously to bring a baseball team Toronto, said he was “not impressed” with the name, voicing a preference for simply the “Blues.”

The Toronto Sun's opinion of the team's name, August 13, 1976.

Not everyone was against the “Blue Jays.”  The Star spoke to several people who liked the name, and a few letters in favour of the Blue Jays name made the Sun.  Hugh Halliday, who contributed a regular column to the Star on birds, perhaps in response to the Globe and Mail‘s denigration of the species, produced a column in apparent defence of the blue jay.  Halliday wrote “his [a blue jay’s] alleged rascality has not been well-defined.  However, he is smart, clownish, mischievous, amusing and handsome.” 

Another to write in defence of the name was the Sun‘s Trent Frayne, who pointed out that the names of sports teams seldom have much to do with the city they play in.  He wrote “when Connie Smythe swiped the name Maple Leafs from the Toronto ball club, why did he make the leaf blue instead of green?  Who ever heard of a blue maple leaf?  What’s a New York ranger?  A Los Angeles laker? …What kind of name, if we’re examining names, is Phillies?… All I’m saying is that the Toronto Blue Jays is a name that one day will be as much a part of the language as, oh, say, the Chicago White Sox, who, by the way, wear red knitted stockings.”

Frayne appears to have been correct.  Nobody today seems to complain about the Blue Jays name.  And many Blue Jays fans seem to be happy that their team is, once again, wearing blue.

The Globe and Mail: July 28, August, August 14, August 25, October 13, 1976.
Toronto Star: July 28, August 13, August 14, August 16, August 20, 1976.
Toronto Sun: August 13, August 15, 1976.
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