“My Story Is Complete”: Our Chat with Jerry Dior

Jerry Dior MLB Logo Creator

The creator of the iconic Major League Baseball logo has died. Jerry Dior passed away last month at the age of 82 following a battle with cancer in his New Jersey home.

We were fortunate enough to have Jerry call and write to us from time-to-time, he was extremely passionate about the role he played in the history of sports design and was always happy to talk about it. Getting to know Jerry Dior was certainly one of the highlights of doing this gig.

While we never got the chance to meet face-to-face (plans were made to get together in New York about three years ago but unfortunately our schedules never synched up), I did interview him once via e-mail to talk about how he got into design, his work on the logo, and life since the design.

From September 2012, here’s my chat with Jerry Dior:

Chris Creamer: What inspired you to enter the world of graphic design?
Jerry Dior: I was always interested in art, even as a young boy. I began as an illustrator. By chance I was hired by Sandgren & Murtha when they saw my illustration portfolio. It was there that I became a graphic designer.

CC: Why do you think you were approached to design this logo?
JD: I was approached to do the MLB logo [in 1968] because I had just finished a project and I was available.

CC: How long did it take? Were there many revisions?
JD: It took me approximately a half day. There were no revisions once my design was chosen by MLB at the client meeting.

CC: Any alternate concepts for this logo that you created that you could share or describe?
JD: There were no alternate concepts for the design except a few different colour choices. MLB chose the red, white, and blue.

Harmon Killebrew wearing the MLB 100th anniversary patch in 1969
Harmon Killebrew wearing the MLB 100th anniversary patch in 1969

CC: What guidance did MLB give you, if any, on this project?
JD: There were specific criteria for the design: if I used a figure it had to be non descript; it was for the 100th anniversary of Major League Baseball to be used for one year; it could be any baseball player at any position.

CC: So, for the last time, it’s not Harmon Killebrew?
JD: The logo is a graphic design based on the criteria requested by MLB. It is a nondescript design that represents any player in baseball.

CC: Can you describe the design from your perspective?
JD: The design is a simple graphic design. I chose the silhouette because I felt it was simple and easy to reproduce.

Jerry's initial design was used as the 100th anniversary logo for Major League Baseball
Jerry’s initial design was used as the 100th anniversary logo for Major League Baseball

CC: Were you satisfied with the outcome? Were there other designs you came up with that you preferred to the one they chose?
JD: I was surprised that my design was chosen because at the Sandgren & Murtha internal conference meeting it was never a favourite. There was another design done by a colleague that they preferred. Fortunately, at the last minute they decided to take all the designs for the presentation at MLB. It was Bowie Kuhn who chose my design and the rest is history. When Alan Siegel, the project manager returned from the meeting and told me my design was chosen I was really overwhelmed.

CC: I know you’re a Yankees fan now but were you a baseball fan at the time you designed this logo? Did that help fuel any passion toward your design?
JD: I have always been a baseball fan. Originally I was a Brooklyn Dodger fan. I really loved that team. When they moved to LA I was devastated. My interest in the game was not the same. Eventually I became a Yankee fan even though the feelings are not the same as when I routed for the Dodgers. I really like baseball.

CC: This logo has certainly inspired other league logos, the NBA and WNBA come to mind, how do you feel about that?
JD: I am flattered. The greatest form of flattery is imitation. David Davis who wrote my story for the Wall Street Journal helped me understand that the MLB logo has hundreds of derivatives. It’s great to know that all of these other logos began with mine. [editors note — Sandgren & Murtha also designed the NBA logo]

CC: What do you make about the past controversy surrounding the creation of this logo that another man has claimed he designed the logo?
JD: That was a very difficult time for me. David Davis told me about his claim. I knew it was bogus but there was nothing I could do at that time and since David had thoroughly researched my story he knew that he was not the designer of the MLB logo. Another sports writer from ESPN contacted me after my story ran on the WSJ site. He found him and confronted him, he admitted that he was not the designer.

Jerry's MLB logo design on the back of Derek Jeter's cap and jersey in 2014
Jerry’s MLB logo design on the back of Derek Jeter’s cap and jersey in 2014

CC: Does the feeling of seeing this logo everywhere, on the back of the hat on the man in front of you in line, on t-shirts, jerseys, ever change? Do you find yourself not even noticing it anymore by this point?
JD: I like seeing the logo and I get a kick out of seeing how many different ways it’s used when I’m watching a ballgame on TV.

CC: Is there any other work you’ve done that we might recognize?
JD: This is the only design project I worked on in my 50 year career that has survived untouched. All my other designs have been redone or no longer exist. It’s impossible to share all the illustrations and designs I created.

CC: Can you still freehand draw this logo?
JD: I can still draw the logo even though I’m 80 years old.

CC: Do you get many signature requests? The most famous and timeless league logo in all of sports must be hugely popular with sports designers.
JD: I have received lots of fan mail since my story appeared on line. I particularly enjoy hearing from young baseball fans who write to me.

CC: And finally, ever get a chance to throw out that first pitch at a big league ball game?
JD: I’ve never thrown out the first ball at a game. However, I was celebrated at home plate at both Yankee Stadium and Citi Field in 2009 when Major League Baseball recognized me as the designer of the MLB logo. Now that the National Baseball Hall of Fame has recognized me I feel like my story is complete.

And what a story it was. Thank you, Jerry.