Sunday, August 12, 2012

Q&A: Dunedin Blue Jays Community Relations Coordinator Vincent Caffiero

(This post originally appeared on Bus Leagues

A few weeks ago, I wrote about what I thought was one of the more interesting promotions in the Florida State League this year, the Dunedin Blue Jays "Turn Back the Clock Night". After writing the post, I decided to contact the Dunedin team and ask about the promotion, how it came to be, and how it went.

Big thanks to Craig Dunham for setting this up and many thanks to Vincent Caffiero for being so kind as to answer our questions.

Bus Leagues Baseball: How did the idea originate? Was it though the Dunedin Blue Jays, the Dunedin Historical Society, or a combination of both?

Vincent Caffiero: This idea came about through the Dunedin Blue Jays. Obviously throwback uniforms are something that everybody does. We just wanted to do our own twist on the promotion. The Dunedin Historical Society was asked later on in the process if they wanted to be involved. It was a no brainer, as the Historical Society already hosts vintage baseball games. Additionally, their director, Vinnie Luisi, is a big time baseball historian. He even wrote "New York Yankees: The First 25 Years" and "Baseball in Tampa Bay".

BLB: Was this the first turn back the clock night in Dunedin Blue Jays history? What was done to prepare for it?

VC: I’ve only been here since January, so I wasn’t sure if the Dunedin Blue Jays have done a throwback night before. They have been here since ’77 and have done many promotions! To prepare, I did some research through the historical society, and read up on the uniforms of the time. Some of the staff spent an entire week having fun with some of the slang of the period. You couldn’t go 15 minutes without hearing someone tell a “dame,” about being “the bee’s knees."

BLB: I am very curious as to why 1929, as there was no Dunedin team or Florida State League at the time, nor any Blue Jays.

VC: 1929 was chosen because it’s smack-daddy in the middle of some of the biggest moments in professional baseball history. We wanted to pay homage to the golden era of baseball. I wanted to pick a year where Ty Cobb and the dead-ball era were still relevant, but on their way out. I wanted a year where the greats of the golden age like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were still relevant. Finally, I felt it important to include a year in which the Negro Leagues were really gaining ground. The whole point of this night was to get people talking about baseball history, so I wanted a year that was inclusive.

It was less important to include the professional baseball history of the city of Dunedin, because there wasn’t any. Another factor, was that the Tampa Bay Rays have done a very good job of “throwing back,” to a lot of the great minor league teams in the Tampa Bay area. That approach has been tapped out. Also, on a practical level, it is much more difficult to get the license of actual teams of the period. It is a process that we wanted to avoid, in exchange for artistic and logistical freedom.

BLB: What did the Dunedin Blue Jays staff change to fit in to the theme of the night? Was anything done differently?

VC: Luckily for us, in 1929 baseball parks were using PA Systems, so we didn’t have to cut out the Public Address announcer. We changed all of the music, and even gave the players walk up songs from the likes of Cab Calloway and the Piccadilly Players. We had 25 cent Crack Jack, which is probably a bit expensive for 1929, but we did have to take some artistic liberties! Fans also played Bingo which was actually invented in 1929. The staff also dressed in period attire. We had a lot of fun with this night, and it showed!

BLB: Who made the uniforms? What were the influences used?

VC: I designed the uniforms to look much like those of the period. This meant simple and elegant. We opted to remove the piping from the sleeves and had just royal piping down the buttons. The hat had a white crown and blue bill to fit the look of a 1929 uniform. I used the 1930’s Homestead Grays as one of our biggest uniform inspirations. I knew that the uniforms couldn’t be authentically wool or flannel because of the heat, so we went with a normal modern material. Uniform Express produced the uniforms, and they did a great job!

BLB: I saw pictures of the staff in 1920s era clothing. Was that found locally or through the same provider of the uniforms?

VC: These clothes were a hodgepodge of thrift store and modern store finds. Men’s fashion has not changed much in 100 years. The main difference is that in 1929 a man was expected to where a hat and suite almost everyone he went- including the baseball park. Southern summers were so hot, that men would often ditch the coat and wear knickerbockers instead of full pants. Nonetheless, long sleeves and high socks still covered almost all exposed skin.

BLB: Who designed the flyer? That was very impressive.

VC: Thank you! I happened to be the one behind the flyer. I took an actual 20’s baseball postcard/advertisement and fit in all of our relevant information. It was fun to make and really turned out nice. It wasn’t your typical stiff, impact lettering over a bright background-type of modern baseball flyer. I hate those.

BLB: Did you contact any other teams who have done turn back the clock nights? Did they provide any advice?

VC: I did use other throwback nights as inspiration, but did not specifically contact any of them. The Tampa Bay Rays are a great example of marketing that always keeps their “Turn Back The Clock Nights,” fresh and unique. I was lucky enough to be working with their organization last year during their “Tampa Smokers” night.

BLB: Do you see the Dunedin Blue Jays making more trips to the past in the future?

VC: Unfortunately the team lost the game that night. I can’t imagine the players and staff being on board for another 1929 night, as I imagine the uniforms were a source of blame. Baseball has got to be the most superstitious games on the planet. However, I can see the Dunedin Blue Jays having fun with alternate uniforms honoring baseball’s rich history in future seasons. Fans were able to take home some really neat autographed jerseys, while raising over $2,500 for the Dunedin Historical Society. The night was a success, so I’m sure we’d like to do this again!

(Photo from the Dunedin Blue Jays Facebook page taken by Charles Gehring.)