Taking something familiar and making it new is at the heart of many successful internet memes. Maybe that’s why Straight Outta Cooperstown has taken off. The Tumblr cleverly mashes up hip-hop figureheads and baseball classics into an imaginary series of trading cards, which adds up to quite an effective visual gag. So imagine our delight when we learned our friend (and creator of The Social Lights‘ first ever logo) designer Cori Johnson was revealed as part of the pair behind the project.
Johnson and co-worker Zac Milner were joking around as usual at work (an NYC advertising firm) when the idea emerged: the legends of hip-hop superimposed into the world of the ballpark. Baseball references can be found in rappers’ wordplay, and the names of famous players combined with rap-star monikers were rife for making puns. When a mutual friend mentioned he would be headed to Cooperstown for the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, the idea crystalized, and the pair would produce a pack of themed baseball cards to be handed out during the induction weekend. The cards were shared digitally on Tumblr with little fanfare, but the story was picked up by USA Today‘s FTW blog and quickly went viral.
Johnson chose to host the blog on Tumblr, not due to any particular connection to the Tumblr community, but because it was the easiest platform to get up and running quickly. Since then, Tumblr has been supportive, organically tweeting about the project, and featuring it in the Radar section of their app. The resulting attention has led to lots of interest, emails, and accolades from the likes of the A.V. Club and Lil Wayne.
The process for forming the baseball/rap-star hybrids is not particularly easy or straight-forward. While Johnson and Milner share a Google doc for potential ideas, matching preexisting cards to rappers isn’t easy. As Johnson puts it, the challenge lies in uniting two niche audiences – baseball fans and rap fans – that don’t necessarily have a lot of overlap. A successful card wins over both with references and cues that will appeal to baseball fans who don’t know every rapper, and hip-hop heads whose favorite sport isn’t baseball.
But when they nail it, boy do they nail it. While our standout favorites are TI Cobb and Jim Rice Cube, Johnson is most satisfied with their successful placement of 90’s rap godfathers Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. As long as the kingpins of the East Coast/West Coast feud have a place in their project, it’s bound to reverberate with meme fans, regardless of their prior baseball or hip-hop knowledge.