Since 2007, the local baseball team in the collegiate summer-level Prospect League has been called the Springfield Sliders. Today, at 2:17 central time on February 17 smack dab in the middle of the 217 area code, the franchise retired its turtle-based brand of 15 years and announced it would heretofore be the Springfield Lucky HorseShoes.
The team’s new nickname derives from a combination of factors, including the town’s association with Abraham Lincoln, a tradition of rubbing the nose on a bronze bust of the 16th president for good luck, and a calorie-laden sandwich that is particular to the area. The suite of logos, created by Ryan Foose of Fooser Sports Design, features a variety of marks that combine to create a larger narrative.
Taken as a whole, the nickname requires a bit of unpacking. First up, the word “Lucky.”
“The concept behind ‘Lucky’ was, hey how do you tip your hat to Lincoln in a way that’s more unique than the Abes or the Lucky Abes,” said Jamie Toole, who co-owns the team with wrestling Hall of Famer Jeff Jarrett. “The concept behind ‘Lucky’ came from what a cool tradition it is here for folks to rub the nose at Lincoln’s tomb. Tourists from all over the world and local residents will go to the Lincoln tomb and there’s a statue there, and the nose is a different color than the rest of the statue because so many people have come and rubbed his nose.”
The luck associated with rubbing Lincoln’s nose and the anthropomorphized lucky horseshoe featured in the logo are complemented by another lucky charm in the suite of logos: A tertiary logo featuring a stylized Lincoln holding a baseball bat on a penny (heads-up, of course) is the only direct reference to the president in the suite. But it was important to the team that he be included.
“Springfield is the home of Abraham Lincoln, and that is a big, big deal here, for tourism, the Presidential library, Lincoln’s tomb—that Abe Lincoln guy is pretty popular,” Toole said.
Of course, Lincoln had a connection to the sport of baseball as well.
“That’s the Lincoln penny with the baseball bat,” Toole said. “They say Lincoln was a fierce competitor and they played town ball, or some version or variation of baseball back in the day.”
The team plans to use the penny logo as a sleeve patch, and even include a place for pennies in the on-field caps, which players could give to fans.
“We’re carrying that lucky penny with us everywhere we go,” Toole said.
The team was trying to strike a balance of highlighting Springfield’s most famous son without hammering the point home.
“The first word ‘Lucky’ is a direct tip of the hat and acknowledgment of Abraham Lincoln,” Toole said. “But there’s also a little bit of fatigue from the locals, because it’s been in their faces since the time they born. It’s a lot of Lincoln. You drive around town and his face is everywhere.”
That brings us to the second part of the nickname. While the central figure of the identity is an anthropomorphized lucky horseshoe, the “HorseShoes” part of the brand actually comes from a local delicacy: The horseshoe sandwich.
Per Toole, early in the 20th century, a local chef created a dish that was essentially and open-faced sandwich with a slice of Texas toast, a layer of meat, and French fries, all topped with a cheese sauce.
“The horseshoe sandwich is named because on first look, it looked like a horseshoe folded up on the plate,” he said.
The fact that the team’s nickname features actual horseshoes while in fact the term is a reference to a sandwich is something of an inside joke for fans.
“A large majority of people across the country if they see this brand are going to naturally think horses and horseshoes, right?” Toole said. “So it’s sort of fun for the local folks to know that’s not what it means. It’s almost like, if you know, you know.”
This explains both the fact that the horseshoe character is holding a French fry bat (dripping with cheese sauce), and that the suite of logos includes a cheesy script logo that reads simply, “Shoes.”
Another alternate mark highlights Springfield’s area code.
“That was about being the region’s team,” Toole said. “In this 217 area code, we wanted to be this region’s team, and that was a direct tie to the area, to the community. Our Sunday afternoon games will start at 2:17 in the afternoon.”
The HorseShoes will make their debut when the Prospect League’s 2022 season begins in June.