After years of protest and argument, the Cleveland Indians baseball team management has decided to retire “Chief Wahoo,” the team logo. The name Indians will stay, but the baseball team will stop using the grinning caricature image of an Indian on their uniforms after the 2018 baseball season. Since 1947, when he was introduced, many Cleveland Indians fans have had an attachment to “The Chief” and his place in the history of the team. Many others feel it is insensitive, even offensive, and no longer appropriate for use. But baseball memorabilia collectors search for the past versions of Chief Wahoo.
The Cleveland team is not giving up the Chief Wahoo trademark and will keep merchandising rights to prevent others from adopting or misusing it. The team will continue to sell merchandise with the Chief Wahoo logo at the stadium souvenir shop and other retail stores, but not on the Major League Baseball website.
The Chief Wahoo logo has been used in many different forms since it became the Cleveland team’s official logo in 1947. Here’s a timeline to help date memorabilia showing Chief Wahoo.
Before 1928 – The Cleveland Indians had only used the blue letter “C” as a logo or spelled out Cleveland.
1928-1946 – The team used various line drawings of an Indian’s heads in a variety of headdresses from three feathers to full chief’s feathers.
1947 – Asked by the Cleveland Indians owner to create a new logo for the team, the company that designed patches for Cleveland’s police and fire departments came up with a cartoon-like image of a smiling Indian with yellow skin and a prominent nose with black outlining. The image was used on home and away shirts.
1951 – The logo was redesigned with red skin, triangular eyes, black hair and a smaller nose. He wore one feather and had black outlines. This head was used alone and with full body versions.
1951-1958 – Chief Wahoo was used on baseball caps. It returned to caps in 1986 but with a white outline.
1952 – The name Chief Wahoo was made official, even though it had been used years before.
1973 – The team’s ownership changed and there were other depictions of Chief Wahoo. Some showed the character swinging a bat. His nose was smaller, his body became thinner, and he was eventually drawn as a right-handed batter. This image is no longer used by the team.
1977 – A new computer-programmed scoreboard installed at the Indians’ stadium was able to display animated versions of Chief Wahoo.
1980 – The outlines on Chief Wahoo were changed from black to blue.
2005 – The team partnered with a candy maker to produce a Chief Wahoo chocolate bar.
Sports logos are often updated and modernized. Collectors like to hunt for items with older or obscure symbols and logos. So, like him or hate him, Chief Wahoo will become a collectible to look out for. See the 1948 Wahoo ceramic bank that sold for $265 here.