This magazine features comes from the mind of fitted collector PAUL CARR. Paul offers in-depth analysis, reviews, and comparisons of official Major League Baseball caps, on his blog ballcapblog.blogspot.com.Born and raised in San Jose, California, his love for caps began at the age of 9. The man is a Cubs fan at heart, however his favorite cap of all time is the San Diego Padres 1984 season. His collection currently weighs in at over 200. Several of his prized pieces include out of production vintage caps from ROMAN, KM, and SPORTS SPECIALTIES. Here in his own words, is a brief unauthorized history of the KM PRO baseball cap company. Enjoy.
A man named Tim McAuliffe ran a sporting goods company , TIM MCAULIFFE, INC. in the Boston area that was founded in 1896 and sold everything from shoestrings to gymnasium equipment. He also provided uniforms (caps, jerseys, pants, etc.) to professional baseball teams. In the mid 1930s, McAuliffe introduced the first modern-style cap with stiff buckram behind the front panels (about twenty years before the New Era 59Fifty). The first team to wear them was the Boston Braves. In the industry, it was known as the "McAuliffe Cap". Around this time, NEW ERA had just joined the professional baseball cap market.
In the 1950s McAuliffe was providing 12 of the 16 MLB teams with their on-field caps, and made caps for Wilson under private label in a joint-venture with New Era. Even as an elderly man in the 1950s, Mr. McAuliffe could be seen in team clubhouses measuring player's heads and fitting them for caps. In the mid-50s, McAulife partnered with a man named Jacob Kaufman and operated as the "The Leslie Company".
At that time, theTim McAuliffe, Inc. name was on the tag and "KM Pro" (for Kaufman-McAuliffe) was stamped on the sweatband. In 1968, McAuliffe Inc. decided to focus only on jerseys, which were being made under private label by Stall & Dean. By the start of the 1969 season, the McAuliffe name was gone from caps, with KM Pro now on the main tag. KM Pro continued on for a few more years before falling to its competition after the 1976 season.
There was an auction where all of the KM/Leslie cap manufacturing equipment was sold. New Era bought some of the equipment (and even made Mets caps with KM specs for a brief period). Some equipment was also purchased by Roman Art, Inc (the company that embroidered KM's cap logos). An individual named Harold Aronson purchased some equipment as well. The auction of the KM/Leslie equipment immediately gave birth to two new cap companies. Roman Art, Inc. began making caps as the "Roman Pro Cap Company", and Mr. Aronson founded "Devon Professional Cap".
Roman Pro Cap Company was able to retain former KM Pro customers for a few years after, but by 1983, only the Milwaukee Brewers remained a customer. Since Roman had archived the embroidery designs of MLB cap logos from decades past, they began making reproductions of on-field caps from the past, most with logos that were 100% accurate to the originals. By 1986, Roman was no longer using the original "McAuliffe Cap" pattern and went for a more contemporary shape.
In the late 80s, Roman became the first sports apparel company to carry the "Cooperstown Collection" label. Roman enjoyed great success with the retro caps until the 1994 strike, which took a financial toll on the company. The company was taken over by a venture group and then made caps in an effort combined with EBBET FIELD FLANNELS and MICHELL & NESS. EFF's cap pattern was used, which is a copy of the "McAuliffe Cap" pattern.
Roman provided the embroidery, and they were then sold under the Mitchell & Ness name. Not long after, Roman left the professional sports business and is now an embroidery-only company, operating under the name "Apparel 2000". Bob Mazzola, a descendent of the founders of Roman Art, Inc. still runs the company.