Column: The Dodgers should embrace villainy — and Villains Barber Shop’s merchandise

Anthony Madrid is the owner of Villains Barber Shop in South Gate that sells baseball caps with the shop's name on it.
Anthony Madrid is the owner of Villains Barber Shop in South Gate that sells baseball caps with the shop’s name on it.
(Michael Blackshire / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers are getting another City Connect outfit on June 17, and we have an idea.

The team had not even reported to spring training when Mookie Betts said every game against the Dodgers this season would be “the other team’s World Series.” The pitcher they faced on opening day, Miles Mikolas of the St. Louis Cardinals, derided the Dodgers for playing “checkbook baseball.” And, after Bobby Miller shut out the Cardinals over six innings in the first start of his first full season in the major leagues, a St. Louis writer dryly said he “fully expected” the Dodgers would sign Miller to a 10-year contract the very next day.

The Dodgers’ billion-dollar spending spree last winter has made them villains outside Southern California. They could embrace that notoriety, with an all-black City Connect “Villains” outfit.


That is not in the works, but you would be forgiven if you might have thought otherwise after watching a spring training broadcast, in which the camera briefly focused on a fan wearing a cap that read “VILLAINS,” with the middle “LA” in interlocking letters that look just like the ones on the Dodgers’ cap.

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The camera shot was picked up on social media, and determined fans scrambled to find out where they could get one of those caps.

The answer is a barber shop in South Gate, called Villains, with this motto: “We make bad guys look good.”

“The hat came about because I’m a Dodger fan,” said shop owner Anthony Madrid, who said he opened the shop in 2013. “You live anywhere in L.A., anywhere in California, you are going to be a Dodger fan.”

Anywhere in California?

“Even in San Francisco,” he said. “You’d be surprised.”

The cap is not new. Madrid said he has sold “a dozen here, a dozen there” over the years, then a couple hundred or so after that TV shot this spring.

He said the interlocking LA letters on his cap are not exactly the same as the ones on the Dodgers cap, but they are so similar that I asked him if he had ever heard from the Dodgers.

The logo of Villa's Tacos in Highland Park.
The logo of Villa’s Tacos, which resembles the Dodgers’ soaring baseball logo, with “Villa’s Tacos” in place of “Dodgers” and a taco in place of a baseball.
(Bill Shaikin / Los Angeles Times)

He had not, he said. He mentioned Villa’s Tacos in Highland Park, where the logo resembles the Dodgers’ soaring baseball logo, with “Villa’s Tacos” in place of “Dodgers” and a taco in place of a baseball.

I found Victor Villa, the chef and owner, at the grill the other day. He led his staff in a chant before the shop opened — “Villa’s Tacos, on three!” — and he personally welcomed the customers already waiting in line.

Villa said he, too, had heard nothing from the Dodgers over the years. He did say he had just opened a second shop, at historic Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles.


“We want to go into Dodger Stadium,” Villa said.

Please do. Villa’s is a two-time winner of the annual L.A. Taco “Taco Madness” competition, and Dodger Stadium desperately needs to take two pages out of the Petco Park playbook: better food, and more partnerships with local restaurants so that Dodger Stadium reflects the best of L.A. on and off the field. Shake Shack is fine, but it’s also New York.

Victor Villa is the owner of Villa's Tacos in Highland Park.
(Shelby Moore / For The Times)

On behalf of its teams, Major League Baseball retains lawyers who zealously protect trademarks. The Dodgers and the league could argue that Madrid and Villa are using team logos without permission to do so.

You can slap a Dodgers logo on anything from Elmo posters and Mickey Mouse pins to wrestling belts and skull pins, provided you negotiate an agreement. However, a company that does not enforce its trademarks risks losing them.

The Dodgers declined to comment.

I even asked Madrid if he would prefer I not write this column, just in case it led to any trouble.

As Ruth Lester waited for her food from a concession stand at Petco Park, she peeked at the adjacent stand.

May 28, 2019

“I wouldn’t mind working with the Dodgers,” Madrid said. “If they would want to, I am more than open to working with them. I hope the Dodgers can see this and say, ‘Hey, this is a good idea. Let’s talk to this guy.’ ”


He would like to make one thing perfectly clear: He does not consider the Dodgers to be villains.

“Everybody has a chance to spend that money,” Madrid said. “They could pay the luxury tax if they want to. The Dodgers talk the talk, and they back it up. They see a ball coming in, they take a swing — and, honestly, the last few years, they have been hitting home runs.”

The Dodgers could hit another, if they could find a way to work with these two small businesses, active in their communities and eager to celebrate their hometown team, not alienate it. The Dodgers can protect their interests while embracing the proprietors of a local barber shop and taco shop, neither of whom is trying to be a villain.