Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Story Behind the Hounds

*This is the first in a series of special Hounds 5 year anniversary articles

I get asked frequently, "What is the story behind the Hounds? Why Hounds? And what's with the orange socks?" These are all good questions, and now is a good time to answer them once and for all. 

It was late summer 2008. Myself, Amy, Wink, and Pat were on another team that frustrated the heck out of us that summer. The manager was spineless and the ballclub was in disarray. We decided to form a breakaway team for the Fall 2008 season (Pat took some convincing and did not join until the following year). Yours truly would be at the helm of this new team, and we needed a new identity. 

The colors were chosen fairly easily: Orange from one of the colors of our original team (also conveniently a color of the New York Mets), and navy blue picked from a color of that other New York baseball team. This way all NY baseball fans would be represented. The team name would be more difficult, as many ideas both silly and not were bandied about. Finally, one night while hanging out at home with Clara, she said, "What about The Unleashed?" I nodded in approval as that was the first name that really called to me. It needed some tweaking though, it sounded incomplete. "The Unleashed what", I thought to myself. Then it came to me– memories of hearing Mr. Burns shout "release the hounds!" on The Simpsons jumped into my mind. It was perfect– and came to personify the relentless type of ballclub that we would turn out to be. Now a logo was needed, as I knew no team is complete without their symbol to rally around. A rough sketch was rendered, and from there it was modified to its final version. The logo was an instant success and it was now time to select a uniform.

The Hounds logo was originally thought of as too intricate to be put on the team jersey, so management decided to go with something simpler for the uniform. Simple wordmarks were considered, but the final choice was an interlocking "UH" logo borrowed and tweaked from an old University of Houston logo. The design was rendered in many different colors, until the final navy blue version was finally approved. The design was striking and that, combined with the stellar play of the team, made those navy blue jerseys iconic and representative of a special time.

In 2009, a new Hounds jersey was needed for the weekend version of the team. This time management had a different, lighter look in mind. The plan was to go with a drawing of a hound underneath the Hounds wordmark, but at the last moment, right before the shirts went into production, D.Lo caught a glimpse of the mock-ups and stated that she thought the Mr. Burns logo had to be on the shirt. Management rendered a new mock-up and the end result was indeed superior. Special permission was then obtained from Matt Groening and Fox Television for the printing of these shirts, which have since become collector's items.

In 2010, it was decided that we would invest in higher-quality, pro-style jerseys. We were sad to say goodbye to our navy blues, but we knew they had to be updated to be more durable and functional. This time, a timeless look was chosen– gray jerseys with the lettering and numbers rendered in the Tiffany font. We went with sleeveless jerseys which provide added comfort in the sticky summer months, while also being adaptable for the colder conditions. Countless hours of research were devoted to finding the right material, until finally a hi-tech, breathable and light fabric woven from thousands of recycled water bottles was chosen. The final touches were a small orange number on the front in a subtle nod to the classic uniform of the Dodgers, and an American flag patch on the back. The new jerseys were an instant hit and proved to even be popular with our opponents. They would come to be known as the ultimate Hounds jerseys.

In 2011, management considered changing the Hounds logo. It was thought that a logo change might boost merchandise sales. A few strong designs were considered, but ultimately, management decided to just update the old Mr. Burns logo. The wordmark was updated to be consistent with the wordmark on the team jerseys. It was around this time that the old school Houston Astros "H in a star" logo was incorporated into the team's visual identity.

As for the orange socks, yours truly has always been a fan of flair, and the orange socks really pop. It became a tradition for the whole team to wear them in the playoffs, and they have been a good luck charm for us ever since.