The Pittsburgh Pirates have a long history. As such, they’ve implemented many different logos and uniforms throughout the years – some of which have been completely novel, while others were simply slight variations of past models.
What I hope to do here is compile a list of the following: Determine the best primary logo of all-time, the best alternate logo, the best cap logo, the best jersey logo, and the best uniform. For almost everything I included in this article, I used this webpage, Sports Logos. Feel free to peruse the same site and let me know which ones you prefer.
Best Primary Logo
Since 1900, the Pirates have unveiled 13 different logos. For the first third of the century, they mostly implemented different iterations of the “P,” which, though donned on the caps the entire time, didn’t make its official, full-time resurgence as the primary logo until 2014.
There are a few strong contenders in this category. The modern-day gold “P” is a quality, simplistic design which harkens back to the team’s earliest years.
I’ve also got quite an admiration for the interlocked “PBC” (Pittsburgh Baseball Club) logo that was used for a brief time in 1908-1909. That logo lives on in the club level at PNC Park.
But the best primary logo the team has ever implemented, and I think many of you will agree, was the realistic pirate inside a gold rectangle, which was used between 1967-1986. There was a hunger from the fanbase to return the team to this style of imagery, but the franchise opted to not go in that direction. Instead, the recent redesign speaks mostly to the team of the early 90s.
Best Alternate Logo
There aren’t nearly as many options in this category, so I’ll spend a short amount of time on the duds. There’s the cartoonish pirate in the late 50s and early 60s. He was also used as a primary logo, but that logo had “Pirates” written below it and two bats crossed.
The team also tried to use this skull and “cross-bats” on a Jolly Roger in the late 90s and throughout the 2000s, but it doesn’t work well. Like the pudgy pirate, it’s cartoonish and looks as though it belongs in a pirate-themed ride at an amusement park that doesn’t have the rights to “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
The goateed pirate with the bandana and cross-bats has become a mainstay for the club, which still dawns two versions of him on their uniforms (one with red bandana and one with a yellow bandana). There is also a primary version of this logo.
But I would argue that the best alternate is the one which is most elegant: The gold “P” inside a circle, with the words “Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Since 1887” wrapped around the inside of the circle. It is still in use today.
Best Cap Logo
This one is a little tricky. Many of the logos in this arena have been similar for years. The team first went to the “P” approximately as we know it today in 1948. But since then, the club has used 16 variations of the “P” in some form or fashion, whether it be permanently, an attempt at permanence, a specialty uniform, or a gimmick.
The classic gold “P” is timeless and is unlikely to ever be replaced as a mainstay in the near future. But for me, it came down to the current “P” with white outline or the 1970-1975 black “P” with mustard-gold background.
It was difficult for me to go against the former, but that early and mid-70s look was just too attractive. We’ve seen the team return to it in some ways recently. In 2013-2015, they brought the look back for Sunday home games. Then, in 2017, there was a short-lived attempt at a variation with the black “P,” mustard-gold trim, and mustard-brown background.
There’s just nothing like that black “P” and mustard-gold background.
Since this category and the last one is so similar, I’ll make sure to choose a different answer. As with the “Best Cap Logo,” it came down to the same three participants. Under different circumstances I would likely pick the black “P” on mustard-gold again, but for the sake of difference, I’ll choose something else.
It’s hard to go against the gold “P” on black, but I have to give the nod to the gold “P” outlined in white on black. Those crisp hats, with the white making the “P” more prominent, along with the black jerseys with that massive gold “P” emblazoned on the chest, is a thing of beauty. If they ever get tossed aside in the future, that will be a sad day, indeed.
Best Jersey Logo
Let’s be different here. There are plenty of logos that have been found on jerseys throughout the years. There are a few that stand out more in the minds of fans. But I’m going to buck the trend a little bit.
Many of you have likely seen this logo at some point, but you may not have really registered it, and thus forgot about its existence. But in 1922, the Pirates utilized the most sophisticated “P” that the team has ever used. This styling is typical for baseball of the era, and can be found still in use by teams like the Detroit Tigers, and more recently, with the reintroduction of the Cincinnati Reds’ throwback “C.”
There have been some good ones. There’s also been some bad ones, like the 1999 red jersey with the giant pirate face across the chest. Then, in 2007 and 2008, they went back to the red ones with black sleeves, and “Pirates” written across the chest. Red simply doesn’t work in Pittsburgh.
I’m partial to the 2000s sleeveless jerseys with undershirts because that’s mostly what I grew up on. I realize, however, that they aren’t the best. I also liked the 90s script “Pittsburgh” and was hoping they would bring that back at some point, which they’ve now done. As mentioned, the alternate black jersey with the giant gold “P” on the chest is great.
There was a decision to be made between two. First, the home whites that debuted in 1970, according the Pirates’ website, were magnificent, and for a couple years recently we got to see the Pirates wear them again.
But eventually I had to go with my gut. The gold top with black pants was unique and interesting. It’s not something we see much of with regard to teams’ regular uniforms, but the Pirates still employ the look on home Sundays (I haven’t heard that they’re going to scrap them yet, and hopefully it stays that way). It’s the look of the last Pirate team to win a World Series, so there’s a bit of history and nostalgia etched in it. And in a time where many teams are now opting to go with the “louder” throwback looks, it still sticks out among the rest.
This was the highest resolution photo I could find, so I went with it.
Like I said, let me know which ones I got right and which ones I got wrong and what you would’ve chosen instead.