KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Royals’ familiar, crown-themed logo might have been a psychedelic cow instead.
Well, at least one Hallmark artist tried that in 1968, when the American League expansion team asked the company, based here since it was founded in 1910, to come up with a logo.
Most popular baseball stories
Hallmark held a company-wide contest that drew 21 entries, including the winner, by Shannon Manning, that is similar to the one still in use by the World Series champions.
It features a four-pointed crown, one fewer than Hallmark’s. The two visible local institutions have been tied closely ever since.
But Hallmark’s connections to baseball go back long before the Royals or their American League predecessors, the Kansas City Athletics, who played here from 1955 to 1967.
That was evident Monday during a visit to the Hallmark Visitors Center adjacent to its corporate headquarters.
In-house historian Samantha Bradbeer pulled baseball-themed greeting cards and other items from the vast archives maintained by the company.
Among them were a photo of company founder J.C. Hall pitching at the annual picnic, which began in 1921 and often featured a team of married men against single men.
Eventually more company games evolved, complete with elaborately maintained statistics, flannel uniforms and Hallmark letter jackets.
The importance of baseball both internally and externally is reflected in an array of baseball-themed cards that date to the early 1930s.
That was the era in which Dizzy Dean, then pitching across the state for the Cardinals, became one of the first people to sign a licensing deal with the company. He brought along his brother and teammate, Daffy, as evidenced by a 1935 get-well card — with an inside pop-up of Dizzy in motion — that reads:
“Dizzy Dean’s a famous guy, Daffy Dean is, too . . . because they got right in and pitched! And pulled their teammates through. So here’s your chance to make a hit because I’ll think it’s swell. If you’ll pitch-in this very day and start in getting well.”
Another Dean brothers-themed card goes like this: “I’m so Daffy over you that I’m as Dizzy as can be, so there ain’t no use Dean-nyin that you’ve made a hit with me!”
Among the other gems: a birthday card for a brother from 1949 that features a small baseball made of wood and a Father’s Day card from 1965 that features Charlie Brown on the cover, wearing his baseball mitt.
Peanuts is one of Hallmark’s oldest licensing partners, along with Disney, whose founder, Walt Disney, spent some of his youth in Kansas City. He was a friend of Hall, who advised him on an early design of Mickey Mouse.
Jaci Twidwell, a Hallmark spokeswoman, said of Hall, “He saved everything.” Hence the need to rotate public exhibits because there is far too much to show at one time. The most precious of the rest resides nearby in a temperature-controlled facility.
Some of the baseball-themed materials entered the public display area last year and might soon again, thanks to the Royals fever that has gripped this area.
“Every time they win a World Series, we’re happy to put up another exhibit,” company spokesman Ron Worley joked.
Naturally, Hallmark is pleased to sell its products to fans of any major-league team, but the company’s bonds with the hometown Royals are powerful.
Next up in the baseball-related product line is the first Itty Bitty — that’s a plush toy, sort of a miniature Beanie Baby — to feature either a sports figure or a non-fiction person and in this case both: Royals catcher and World Series MVP Salvador Perez. It is due out in July.
Hey, you can’t beat success. Those Dean brothers cards from 1935? That was the year after his Cardinals won the World Series. Just like Perez’s Royals.