Sunday, March 30, 2014

Opening Day: License plates of baseball's American League East

We make our turn toward home base with a glance at the plate-happy AL East, in this final installment of the Opening Day tribute to license plates.

Boston's own Red Sox make a trip to Baltimore's beautiful Camden Yards to meet the Orioles. The Sox, being not so much a baseball team as a regional way of life, are represented by not one but three states where vehicle registrations are concerned. Massachusetts, at least until this year, offered two different plates for Royal Rooters: the usual Jimmy Fund plate as shown at right, and a less common plate (shown below) for backers of a "Mini Fenway Park" to be built for kids in Quincy. After a decade of fundraising, however, it appears that the Mini Fenway project has fallen through, and the plates must now be swapped out for another option with the RMV. Besides those options for Mass residents, Connecticut and (most recently) Rhode Island denizens can also promote their Sox pride, as shown below. The RI plate in particular is quite pleasing, using the "Green Monster" as its background and the distinctive team font for its state name.
Photo by Dani De Guzman, hosted at PlateShack

Orioles fans in Maryland also have a choice of plates, or at least sort of. The vast majority of O's fans will be able to get the standard plate issued by the team, as shown at left. For the more serious bird backers, however, membership in the invitation-only Oriole Advocates club is required. No real photo of this plate is readily available, otherwise I'd show it to you. (If anyone has a photo of the actual plate, please do share!)

The Toronto Blue Jays cross the border for an evening game with the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night. (Which would make this a Jay-Ray Opening Day, say hey!) Should any Ontario fans make the long drive south, one would hope their vehicles might carry the province's lovely Blue Jays plate. Ontario has been very diligent about keeping the team's logo up to date over the past few years, with the most recent issue marking the team's return to the classic 1977 design in a slightly updated form.

Meanwhile in Tampa, the successful-beyond-expectation Rays have quickly become Florida's premier baseball team, making their plate quite popular even beyond the Bay area. That said, it's a bit on the bland and white side for a club that often plays games in a beautiful pastel blue version of their uniform. Why couldn't that color have made it onto this plate?

Finally, the ever-popular New York Yankees wait until Tuesday night to open their regular season, finding themselves in temperate Houston to taunt the Astros. The state of New York naturally offers a Yankees plate of their own (as seen at right), but they also continue to provide a plate honoring the 2009 World Series Champion team as well. (See below, and note that it's based on the template of the older "Empire Blue" issues rather than the newer "Empire Gold" like the regular plate.) New Jersey also offers a Yankees plate for fans in their state, as shown below.

Thus ends our roundup of Major League Baseball's license plates, as available for 2014 Opening Day. If there's any I might have missed, feel free to let me know in the comments on any of these posts. Now, play ball!

Opening Day: License plates of baseball's American League West

We return, sunset-bound, to see the American League West on our continuing tour of Major League Baseball's Opening Day license plates.

The Texas Rangers host the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday afternoon. The Rangers, like almost every other entity in Texas (and Dallas in particular), would probably prefer to keep their image big and bold with a colorful plate instead of the subdued one they've been saddled with. Despite being knocked out of the playoffs early last season, they remain the top ball club in the state. Granted, that's not saying much when your competition is the Astros, but there you are.

Late on Monday night (at least by east coast standards), the Cleveland Indians will be in Oakland to take on the Athletics. As mentioned previously, California is not yet in the habit of offering pro-team license plates, so the A's will have to wait.

The same is true for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, also bereft of a plate for their fans, as they host the Seattle Mariners. The M's do indeed have a plate offered by the State of Washington, a lovely celebration of 1990s teal and Mount Rainier that was originally introduced to help fund the team's stadium construction budget (hence the tiny interpretation of Safeco Field in the lower left corner).

Despite the fact that MLB tries to get every team to play on the first full day of the season, it usually works out that a couple of teams end up slightly behind the curve. This season, the Houston Astros will host the New York Yankees on Tuesday - a day after most other teams have made their first effort. Being late to the party is not a new phenomenon for the Astros, who seem to be perpetually locked in a rebuilding phase. Similarly late to the party is the State of Texas, which is still offering plates with Houston's old logo script about a year after the team officially switched to a retro design. One wonders if the team's general unpopularity in recent years has forced the state to wait and clear out old stock before redesigning the plate, but that's just speculation on my part.

We'll complete our stretch run next with the AL East.

Opening Day: License plates of baseball's National League East

In our continuing review of Major League Baseball license plates, we move to the National League East. Where previous posts had noted the lack of plate offerings in certain divisions, the NL East gives us way more to look at.

The Washington Nationals travel to Queens on Monday, home of the New York Mets. The Nats represent the District of Columbia, of course, but they are also followed in a wider area encompassing much of western Maryland and northern Virginia. Thus, all three jurisdictions offer a plate to honor DC's team. And interestingly, they all appear to have been designed along the same lines with the "curly W" logo at left on a white background, with red lettering for the legends. The DC plate is shown at right. (Note the appearance of "District of Columbia" rather than "Washington, DC" on this plate - the District has recently committed to using their legal name on plates as of this year.) Virginia and Maryland versions appear below.

Meanwhile, the Mets are represented by two jurisdictions as well. New York's own edition is based on the recently introduced "Empire Gold" base, but carries over the general design of the old "Empire Blue" variety. Meanwhile, New Jersey also offers a Mets plate on the usual yellow base, but printed flat rather than embossed like most other NJ plates (though the flat design is now reportedly spreading through the rest of the state's plates as we speak). New York's plate is shown at left, and New Jersey's appears below.

It should also be noted that New York offers a license plate for jilted Brooklyn Dodgers fans, or at least for Brooklynites who wish to "keep the flame alive" in a way. This may be the only instance I'm aware of in which a team that no longer has any presence in a given market is represented by a license plate - you will remember that the Bums moved to Los Angeles and the sunny confines of Chavez Ravine back in 1958. That was well over 60 years ago, which is why it's remarkable that enough people in Brooklyn still care about the loss of the Dodgers to earn a plate commemorating them.

Philadelphia's Phillies take on the Texas Rangers in Arlington on Monday afternoon. As noted with Pittsburgh in the NL Central, Pennsylvania does not offer plates to honor their sports teams. Too bad for Keystone Staters, then, but no problem for the Garden State - western New Jersey, being within the Phils' reach, offers a plate to pick up the slack.

The Atlanta Braves head to their old digs in Milwaukee, now the home of the Brewers, on Monday afternoon. Georgia is fairly prolific with their specialty plates these days, and especially so now that they've redesigned many of them to better fit the new flat printed production method. That said, considering the new level of color and detail that many Georgia plates now offer, this Braves design is fairly subdued.

Finally, the Miami Marlins host the Colorado Rockies on Monday evening. Having recently redesigned everything about themselves - new stadium, new colors, new logos, new uniforms - the Marlins naturally got a new plate from Florida to match. Not everyone is a fan of the new-look Marlins logo and colors, but I think they work well - no other team, save possibly for the Orioles, has truly embraced orange like the Marlins have. Now if they could actually put a competent baseball team together, they'd really have something special. I guess they'll have to settle for good-looking license plates.

Next installment, we'll return to the junior circuit and the wild west.

Opening Day: License plates of baseball's American League Central

After exploring two divisions of the National League, we'll turn to the American League Central in our continuing exploration/celebration of MLB-themed license plates.

Monday afternoon, the Kansas City Royals will take on the Detroit Tigers. Unfortunately, neither of these teams are represented by their respective states (Missouri and Michigan) with a commemorative license plate. For the Royals, this is especially galling considering that the Cardinals are represented - and, no, there's no help across the border either, as Kansas doesn't offer one either.

Later in the evening, the Minnesota Twins travel to Chicago's South Side to tangle with the White Sox. Ball three for the AL Central arrives now, because Minnesota doesn't have a Twinkies plate either. But Illinois comes through, giving Sox fans a beautiful black-and-white issue to match their team's starkness of uniform.

Finally, the Cleveland Indians will find themselves in picturesque Oakland, California on Monday evening for a clash with the Athletics. At about the same time as Ohio refreshed the rest of their plates to match the new "Ohio Pride" design, they switched the Indians' old Chief Wahoo logo out for a more generic "Indians" script logo. This de-emphasis of the insensitive native portrayal has been gradually increasing for the past few seasons, to the point where the team's uniforms now focus more on the block-C design. This plate, in its small way, is an extension of that effort.

We'll journey back to the NL in our next installment, turning to the East.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Opening Day: License plates of baseball's National League Central

Opening day for Major League Baseball starts Sunday night with the Dodgers and Padres, but most teams will toss their first pitch on Monday. That includes much of the National League's Central Division, whose commemorative license plates we'll be exploring here.

The Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates get first crack on Monday. Since Pennsylvania does not offer plates for their pro sports teams, Chicago fans can at least take pride that their state will honor the Cubbies where the "gods of baseball" have yet to do so - at least for the last hundred years or so. This is a clean, well-done plate in the style of Illinois' other plates for sports teams, featuring the Big-C logo and a pinstripe along the top.

Later in the day, the Atlanta Braves visit their former home in Milwaukee to tangle with the Brewers. The Brew Crew are notable for offering not just one, but two plates to honor their nine. One version features the team's current logo style, and is rendered in the current color scheme of royal blue and old gold.

However, long-time fans and/or traditionalists may prefer the second option, which uses the old "m-b" logo and a bright blue/yellow theme in keeping with the team's old look from the 1970s and 1980s. Of the two choices, I have to say that I rather like this one better - not just because I tend to prefer the old logo and colors, but because it also makes for a more effective license plate. See how the yellow makes the legends "pop" off the blue background?

Finally, the St. Louis Cardinals travel to the Queen City for a tilt against the Cincinnati Reds, in a divisional match-up between two of the league's most storied and successful franchises. Missouri offers a somewhat subdued plate for Cards backers, featuring a stoic cardinal perched in his usual place on a bat. Honestly, it seems fairly similar in layout to the Brewers plates above, but one could wish for a bit more color.

As for the Reds, Ohio offers a plate that is broadly similar to the rest of the state's specialty plate choices, featuring the characteristic "C" logo and the "Reds on Radio" legend at the bottom - which is effectively an ad for the Cincinnati Reds Radio Network. Nearly every other Ohio sports plate just carries the team name on the bottom, so why they got a special call-out, I'm not sure. (If anyone knows why, please fill me in and I'll report back.)

Coming up next: our first visit to MLB's junior circuit.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Opening Day: License plates of baseball's National League West

If you don't count last week's "Australian Experiment" between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, Major League Baseball's Opening Day happens this weekend with a Sunday night match between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. In honor of baseball's return, I'll spend the next several days giving you all a tour through the world of MLB-themed license plates.

Now, normally, this is where I would show you a picture of the available license plates for these two storied franchises - except that there are none, because the State of California has not yet deemed any of its professional sports teams to be worthy of a specialty tag. Too bad.

So we'll move on, then. The ever-rebuilding Colorado Rockies take on the swampy mess that is the Miami Marlins on Monday night, in a battle of two franchises that entered the league at the very same time in 1993. Florida has offered Marlins plates for a good while, but Colorado has only recently begun issuing plates for the pinstriped purple faithful. Featuring the state's usual mountain-outline style, but rendered in purple with the iconic "CR" logo at the center, it's a good-looking plate that benefits the team's charity operations. It's also worth noting that this is one of Colorado's few plates in which the font for the lower legend differs from the standard block style used on most other specialty issues.

Photo by Jack McGee at PlateShack
Later that same evening, the San Francisco Giants - who, like their SoCal brethren, also remain plateless - head into the desert to take on the Arizona Diamondbacks. It's a good thing for the Rockies that Arizona decided to adjust their color scheme a few years ago, otherwise it might have had a lot more purple in it as well. As it is, this issue makes good use of the team's desert-themed hues. Note that the pictured plate has an embossed serial; most of the Diamondbacks plates on the road now carry a flat serial instead.

More to come, with a trip through the NL Central on the way.

News: ALPCA selects Michigan's Mackinac optional issue as Best Plate of 2013

Photo by ALPCA
From a worthy field of twelve finalists, the membership of the Automobile License Plate Collectors Association (ALPCA) has voted Michigan's optional Mackinac Bridge plate as the Best Plate of 2013.

The new Mackinac plate was introduced in January of last year as part of a wider refresh of Michigan's licensing designs, all of which now include the state's "Pure Michigan" tourism slogan as a prominent feature. This winning effort improves on its predecessors by combining high visibility of the serial number with a bright and bold graphic - ALPCA members are urged to vote for the design that best exemplifies both criteria.

ALPCA is the first and largest group of license plate collectors and enthusiasts in the world, founded in the United States in 1954 and currently supported by over 2,500 dues-paying members. The Best Plate competition has been held annually since 1970, and the 2013 edition marks the first time that plates from outside the United States and Canada have been eligible for nominations.

Michigan's Department of State, the entity responsible for vehicle licensing in the state, will be presented the award by ALPCA President Greg Gibson later this year. Stay tuned for more details.

Just like Montana's old plates...

Image by Jack McGee, and hosted by PlateShack
...I've returned.

Sure, I took the last year off from this blog. My apologies to the two of you who read it. But in my defense, I moved, got married, and am now about to embark on a move halfway across these United States of ours - to Beautiful Ohio, Birthplace of Aviation.

I have lots to write about in regards to vehicular registration these days, so keep your plate-spotting eyes on this page and join the fun.