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Was a Mormon the Model for the MLB Logo?

It's an iconic symbol any fan of baseball knows well—the silhouetted figure of a player up at bat set off by bright red and blue.

But who's the man in the picture?

For years rumors spread that the man in the picture was Harmon Killebrew, the greatest Mormon MLB hitter of all time. These rumors solidified into more that myth as sports broadcasters began sharing it on the air.

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Image from ESPN of an illustration of Harmon Killebrew reversed and the MLB logo.

Harmon Killebrew began his incredible 22-year professional baseball career at 17 years old, ending up in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984. As a 13-time American League All-Star, a six-time American League home run leader, and the 1969 American League MVP (the year just before the logo was unveiled), Killebrew makes a likely candidate.

But Jerry Dior, the generally accepted designer of the logo, told the Wall Street Journal: "That's completely untrue. It's not Harmon Killebrew. It's not anyone in particular."

So where did these rumors begin?

ESPN writer Paul Lukas tracked down Harmon Killebrew and Jerry Dior to get to the bottom of the rumors.

Killebrew told Lukas the reason he believed he was the model for the logo, "I was in the commissioner's office one day in the late 1960s. . . . I walked through the back part of the office, and there was a man sitting at a table. He had a photograph of me in a hitting position, and he had one of those grease pencils that you see at a newspaper, and he was marking that thing up. I said, 'What are you doing with that?' and he said they were going to make a new Major League Baseball logo. I never thought any more about it. And then the logo came out and it did look like me. The only change was the angle of the bat—they changed that to kind of make it fit more into the design."

But after talking with Jerry Dior, Killebrew learned Dior had never been to the commissioner's office, meaning that artist and the logo he created could have been another potential design that never became the official logo.

But Dior concedes Killebrew could have played a part in the inspiration of the logo, telling USA Today he based the logo off of dozens of photos. "I had a bunch of photographs," he said. "I can't swear that [one of them] wasn't Harmon."

Regardless if Killebrew is part of the inspiration of the MLB logo, he is undoubtedly the model for the MLB Players Alumni Association logo. 

Jim Hannan, the group's chairman, told ESPN, "Back when we were getting started, Major League Baseball tried to help us with creating a logo, but we didn't really like what they came up with, so we asked a local graphic artist named James Walczy to work on it. He came back with the sequence of the three silhouettes showing the progression of a swing and said they were based on photos of Harmon. That was perfect for us, because Harmon was very involved in the Alumni Association at the time. So I said to Harmon, 'By the way, we've got our logo, and it's you.'"

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Image from ESPN.

MLB has never officially recognized Jerry Dior as the designer of its logo—which now sits on licensed goods estimated to be worth $3.3 billion in 2007.

But Dior never expected any royalties. "The logo belongs to baseball," he told the Wall Street Journal.

As for Harmon Killebrew, he used his celebrity to promote much more than baseball, remaining a strong example of family values and faith until he died of esophageal cancer in 2011.

Lead image from USA Today.
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