It’s not often in sports that a team’s logo was created before the team even existed. That’s the case of the legendary New York Yankees and their iconic interlocking NY logo. This is the logo that’s worn on their home uniforms and hats. The history of the Yankees logo is about as rich as the history of the team itself.
The design of the logo can be traced back to Tiffany & Co., the legendary jewelry designers. In 1877, Tiffany & Co-designed a medal of valor for the New York City Police Department to be awarded to the first officer shot in the line of duty. Patrolman John McDowell broke up the robbery of a liquor store in the Hell’s Kitchen section of New York City during the early morning hours of January 8th, 1877. McDowell took a pistol shot to the ear but still managed to collar one of the perpetrators. For his efforts, he was awarded the Medal of Valor, the highest award for bravery that the NYPD has ever given. The design of the medal is a silver shield with the image of a woman placing a laurel wreath on a police officer’s head. Above the shield are the interlocking letters NY.
Cool story, but how did it become the logo of the city’s baseball team?
The team that would become the New York Yankees started off life as the Baltimore Orioles. In 1903 the team moved from Baltimore to New York City and took the name “Highlanders”, because they played their games at 168th Street and Broadway, one of the highest points on Manhattan Island. In 1909, after several years and several unsuccessful uniform designs, team owner William Devery decided to “borrow” the interlocking NY logo from the NYPD Medal of Valor. Devery didn’t just happen to come across the medal by chance. Before he was a baseball club owner, Devery was the first NYPD Chief of Police. Sportswriters tired of calling them by their long team name gave them the nickname Yankees. In 1913 the team moved into the Polo Grounds and away from the “high land”, the team made the nickname official and they have been the New York Yankees ever since. The team name may have changed, but the logo remained, and it has remained one of the longest-tenured logos in sports history.
Why Has Their Logo Endured For So Long?
Now that you know the interesting story behind the New York Yankees interlocking NY logo, let’s get to the root of how and why it’s lasted for so long. Most professional sports teams either update or completely revamp their primary logo every 20 years or so. Some of the changes are dramatic, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers going from “Bucco Bruce” to a waving pirate flag. Other changes are less dramatic, like the subtle changes that the Detroit Red Wings have made to their logo over the years. But I can’t think of a single sports logo that has lasted more than 100 years with not a single change.
One reason for the longevity of the interlocking NY is simplicity. With a single glance, you know that the letters are NY. There is nothing fancy to the logo to confuse you, just two simple letters superimposed on each other. The Yankees have long been known for simple uniforms, and their NY logo matches that intent. Yankee uniforms have never had player names on the back, an ode to the team being more important than the individual. Their uniform has always been black pinstripes on white uniforms with the simple interlocking NY logo over the left chest.
Another reason for the logo’s long life span is that the Yankees have always been winners. They have played in the World Series every decade since the 1920s, although they recently ended that streak by failing to reach the Series in the 2010s. They are the winningest team in baseball, winning 27 World Championships. That number is more than twice the total of the next winningest team, the St. Louis Cardinals with 11 Championships. One of the reasons that teams redesign their team uniforms and logos is to keep fans interested in the team when they go through losing spells. That simply doesn’t happen to the New York Yankees and thus, one less reason to redesign their logo.
The most likely reason for keeping the same logo is that there hasn’t been a reason to change it. New York is one of the largest cities in the world, and the Yankees are one of the winningest and most popular sports franchises in the world. The Yankees interlocking NY logo is as universally recognized as the World Trade Center towers were before 9/11, as quintessentially New York as a yellow taxicab.
If the Yankees keep winning, they might keep their interlocking NY logo for another hundred years.
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