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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2007-12-17

The End of an Era. Or my take (rant) on the demise of the really cool Press Pin
By Ron Vesely, Chicago White Sox

Photo by Ron Vesely

Photo by Ron Vesely

Ron Vesely's press pin collection.
Press Pins... A brief history lesson takes us back to the 1911 World Series when they were initially introduced as the actual "press credential". Ornate, with many of the early pins also sporting ribbons, they were not considered a gift or media perk back then as they are now. They actually served a purpose- they were required for access to the press box.

In 1938, the Cincinnati Reds produced the first All-Star game press pin, and down the road, the Super Bowl, the Baseball Hall of Fame, the NFL Hall of Fame, the Indy 500 and other major events followed baseball's lead and began producing press pins.

Ever since I began covering major sporting events, the frenzy to obtain a press pin became the center of conversation, if not one's actual physical mission. The hard to obtain 2003 World Series pins were even mentioned in Brad Mangin's Series wrap up (http://www.sportsshooter.com/news/1043). I will shamelessly admit that I used to select my travel departure date to the Super Bowl based on when the media center opened up to make sure I got my pin!! Never mind that I'd have nothing to do (except play golf... not really a bad thing) for three days, but damn straight, I got my pin!

I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that if you were unfortunate enough to get into town during the middle of Super Bowl week, you'd get your credential and all... but no pin. I can't tell you how many times I heard "we're all out". How can that be?? Nowadays, they make thousands of pins! Not like the early days when they made a few hundred. Where are they going? One per person??? Hmmmmm where did they go??

For those who aren't familiar with press pins, most are (were) truly works of art. Many of them sported messages... they might commemorate a club's number of trips to the World Series (the Yankees comes to mind), a club's first trip to the World Series (the Astros, Diamondbacks, and Blue Jays are a few), their ballpark or city (the Cardinals liked to show the Arch, the Giants the Bay Bridge)... you get the idea.

Many of the pins I've come across during the 80's 90's and early 2000's were made by Balfour, Jostens and C&C (many of the recent cool Yankees pins), and most are really unique and beautiful. The Super Bowl XXXII pin from San Diego is an example of this... Sea World, The Murph, sailing... all included in a large, detailed and unique pin. I have even used my sterling silver NFL Super Bowl XXV pin as a tie tack. Check out the detail of Yankee Stadium on their 2003 pin. Many Super Bowl pins were even individually "numbered" on the back. The anticipation on even seeing an events press pins was very real... "Any word on getting a press pin?" "Did you get yours?"

Photo by Ron Vesely

Photo by Ron Vesely

Super Bowl pins from XXV and XXXII. Vesely has used his sterling silver NFL Super Bowl XXV pin as a tie tack.
A favorite story of mine is one where MLB Photos Director of Photography, Rich Pilling, then working for The Sporting News, told me that he wasn't going to be at the 1991 World Series until after Game 3. Rich, of course, has a collection of pins dating back to the 1970's. His office wall is covered with them and he sure didn't want to miss one year, so I was put on high alert to make sure I obtained his pins. Being the trusted one, I thought it would be a good idea to purchase a bogus, street made pin and see if I could pass it off as the real thing. And then there it was, a bizarre, one off "Chop Twins" tomahawk pin purchased in Atlanta. Carefully placed in the real press pin box, I handed it off to Rich. After a close inspection, he looked at me and said "Hmmmmm..... it's really different!" If it wasn't for the fact that I'm a horrible poker player and couldn't keep a straight face, he may still think that pin was the real deal!

Older pins even included the date on them, but that was more cost effective years ago when there weren't eight or more teams "in the post season" competing to get to the finals. Many teams geared up production of their press pins before or early in the post season, only to be disappointed and have the pins sit in a safe, back room, warehouse or are distributed as "phantom" press pins. Later pins rarely had a date on them, their designs changed to having the number of World Series appearances included on them instead so that they could be used later on. Some pins may have been "phantoms" from past close calls, stored away until that team made the main event! But my point is, they were cool!

That is, until now...

It's my understanding that photographers haven't received press pins for a number of years at the Super Bowl... yet some web sites I've found indicate that there have been media pins distributed, even last year. That's some sad news. The real workers (us photogs) just won't see them any more at the Super Bowl. MLB is still distributing World Series and All Star pins, and the clamor to be sure to get one is still a top priority for those in attendance.

But the glitz has worn off, friends! In 2006, both the Tigers and the Cardinals produced press pins, BUT, in an apparent effort to reduce the cost for what has essentially become a press "gift", the pins were massed produced and are flat, painted, made in China, cheap clasp "souvenir style" pins like you'd buy from a vendor at the ball park! The Cardinal and Tigers pins even LOOKED THE SAME! Yikes!!! I couldn't believe what I saw! Another era was ending!! Say it ain't so! The old pins were jewelry quality. These new ones were far from it...

Photo by Ron Vesely

Photo by Ron Vesely

The 2006 pins produced by the Tigers and Cardinals were pretty awful.
I know, boo hoo... does anybody really care? Maybe. Maybe us "old timers" who are at times attached to the sentiment of little things to remind us of the events we have covered. Hey, they're fun to look at as a group, but I originally didn't even want to add the Tigers and Cardinals pins to my collection. The difference was that noticeable.

I held on to hope that this years World Series would be different... back to the "old way". WRONG!!! Although the "Made in China" stamp was missing from the Red Sox pin, it was still prominent on the Rockies pin. And of course they were still stamped instead of cast. I've got to believe the Rockies pin was even quickly modeled after perhaps a 1995 "phantom" (they made the playoffs in 95'). Why do I think that? Because the "World Series" logo on the pin is a very dated, 1990's version! It does state "First World Series", but that logo...

And the Red Sox pin... what a far cry from their 2004 pin. It's extremely difficult to even read the word "Eleventh" across the top. Rectangular, flat and boring. Sigh...

I'm sure that as long as they continue to give out press pins there will be demand for them, but as a photo sage with 23 years of covering pro sports under my belt, I can say with some authority that they sure "ain't what they used to be"!

Another page has been turned in the life novel of our profession... and time marches on. I'm glad I had a chance to experience earning cool press pins in their hey day!

But now it's time for me to spend some time on something truly important, like raking leaves, instead of writing about the quality and artistic merit of current press pins. Hey!! I had to vent to SOMEBODY! Thanks for humoring me with your time.

(Helpful historic information on press pins for this article was found at www.presspins.com)


(Ron Vesely is a Chicago - based freelance photographer. He has been covering sports, primarily baseball and football, since 1985. During this time, he has covered 11 Super Bowls and 16 World Series. You can check out his work at: http://www.vesphoto.com and his SportsShooter.com member page: http://www.sportsshooter.com/ves.)

Related Links:
Vesely's member page

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