OK. Today we’re onto the American League powder blue review. Lots to get to today. If you missed the senior circuit’s review, click here.
Chicago White Sox: The Pale Hose actually wore three separate and distinct sets of blue uniforms (four, if you want to believe Ricko). The first two, however, were quite similar, worn from 1964 through 1968. For the first three years, they sported a block “CHICAGO” in vertically arched black lettering across their chest, and for the final two years, a script “Chicago” in blue with “White Sox” spelled out in the tail under Chicago. Caps were black for three years, blue in the final two, and the stirrups changed slightly. In addition, the 1967-’68 set had uniform numbers on the front, while the earlier set had TV numbers. The third set of blue uniforms were worn from 1971 through 1975 and were actually quite similar to their 1967-68 predecessors in that they basically replaced the blue with red (but returned to TV numbers). All piping and stirrups, plus the cap, which had been blue before, were red (mirroring the red of the home uniforms of this period). Bonus question: Was this uniform, worn in 1969 an 1970, powder blue? It’s a question that has been posed on the boards before but has never been sufficiently solved — if it were blue, it’s a VERY light shade of blue. What do you think?
RP: So I’ll begin with the 1964-66 White Sox. They were seen as “interesting” and a “typical Bill Veeck gimmick” by most, but in truth they looked pretty good. Better after the switch from black hats, etc., to navy, especially the ’67-68 version. Now, as to the “red hat” era that began in ’71, I realize the jury is pretty much split, but I liked them. That may be prejudiced some by the fact that I always liked Dick Allen and Jay Johnstone, and they both wore that uni (also both wore the Phillies powder blues) and by the fact then when they were introduced, red adidas came as part of the package. Colored cleats had arrived in MLB. Grade: B
ME: The White Sox, in general, get the Powder Blue for Powder Blue’s Sake award. The first powder blues, the block Chicago and especially the script Chicago with WHITE SOX in the tail, looked really good, but would have looked equally good on gray bases. And those socks…wow. I don’t want to say anything good about them, because Mr. Lukas could do that for me, more lustily. If the South Side Blues ended here, they’d get Grade: B+. But then along came those godforsaken bright red Frankenjerseys on the powder blue. Yikes, that’s REALLY hurting my eyes. Since the Sox went through so many identity crises before my lifetime, I’ll give this a “temporary insanity” mulligan and save it from the city cellar (and, by result, the big league cellar). Grade: D+
PH: Count me as among those who particularly liked the early powder blues (especially when the script Chicago was introduced), since, well, it’s blue on blue. It’s not too
obnoxious deep a powder blue (since it’s either cotton or wool flannel, and not polyester), but it’s blue alright. I need to give out two separate grades once again, and the 1960’s blue gets a nice solid mark. Grade: B+ Once the Sox went to the red on blue, however, it instantly became a nightmare. Much like the Cardinals and Phillies, the powder blue doesn’t ‘react’ well with the red. Maybe because it’s not a dark blue, or maybe because the solid red on the pastel offends my sensibilities, the look was … just … not … good. With the red on blue — Grade: D
Kansas City Royals: One of the “longest tenured” powder blue-wearing teams, Kansas City also had two distinct “phases” of their uniform: From 1973 through 1982 the Royals sported a block “KANSAS CITY” in vertically arched lettering across their chest. A knit pullover jersey and sansabelt pants, these uniforms featured thin blue and white piping on the sleeves, and thicker blue and white stretch material at the waist, with blue stirrups and undersleeves. From 1983 through 1991 the Royals sported a script white “Royals” across their chest, minimal sleeve striping (also blue and white), dropping the sansabelt & pullovers for botton down jerseys and belts. Blue shoes were worn with both uniform sets.
ME: The Royals look good in powder blue. That being said, one of the good-looking teams has to be overrated. Unfortunately, I give the “overrated” tag to Kansas City. (Rick and Phil, please don’t shoot me.) After four years of looking fine in gray, they made their blue debut with their vertically arched KANSAS CITY tops. This variation gets all of my little dislike for the Kansas City blue look. In all the pictures I’ve been able to find, the powder blue just looks too light. There is no contrast between the blue base and the white lettering, so it looks sort of half-baked to me, and it’s prone to the problems the Angels, Braves, and Rays have with their respective softball tops. That’s not good company. Add the fact that it’s a pullover, and this top looks too much like a basketball warm-up shirt. Grade: B- Those jerseys left a lot of room for improvement, and the Royals really nailed it with the button-down powders, as seen on Bo Jackson. That powder blue base really got richer, and hey, what do we have here? Why, it’s a team wordmark in white, and I can see it! It’s a great look, but it’s not my favorite. (That honor goes to the Phillies, as discussed yesterday.) However, it’s good enough for me to give it a Grade: A. And on a more-than-slightly related note, the Royals’ home alternate top (wouldn’t you know, it’s powder blue too) is the best “softball top” in the Majors today, and there is no argument on that one.
PH: Absolutely, positively, my favorite of the powder blues. Of course, royal blue (they’re the Royals, get it?) and powder blue, plus only white, are a great combination in my mind. Whether it was the original sansabelt poly-blends, or the later button down’s and belts, this was the perfect powder blue uniform. I don’t think they could have improved it even by adding a small royal blue outline around the white numbers and letters. It worked just fine without it, thank you very much. Best of the baby blues, baby. Grade: A+
RP: Ah, the Royals. For my money they got it right. I know some lament the white-only lettering but I gotta say, it looked SO cool in person. Just a gutsy move, trusting the new intensity of powder blue doubleknit compared to the preceding era of poly blends and flannel to make the white letter and numbers pop. Head-and-shoulders the best of all the powder blues. They used it only as a road color, meaning they treated the same as if were gray, and they did it beautifully. (Totally as an aside… if the Royals had waited just two years longer to return to gray, or had George Brett retired two years earlier, he would likely have been the only post WWII Hall of Fame player to have played his entire career without ever wearing a gray uniform). Grade: A
Milwaukee Brewers: Moving along, the Brewers went through three or four phases of powder blue, the first was from 1970 through 1971, when they wore powder blues with yellow lettering “borrowed” from the Seattle Pilots (who moved to Milwaukee following their very short stint in Seattle). By 1972, they had adopted more of their “own” identity, keeping a blue-outlined yellow block “BREWERS” font from 1972 through 1977 (first with a blue cap and white sanitaries, followed by a two-tone yellow/gold cap and yellow sanitaries). Hammerin’ Hank wore this uniform set. Then, from 1978 through 1984, the Brewers adopted a script “Milwaukee,” in blue outlined in yellow gold, kept the two-tone cap, and returned to white sanitaries. Except for 1970-71, all of their uniform sets had blue shoes, sansabelts and pullovers. The 78-81 uniforms featured blue and gold piping down the pant legs, and an equal-width stretch belt and sleeve hem, also in blue and gold.
PH: Yet another uniset I really like. That’s because the ONLY color that goes with powder blue besides royal blue is yellow gold. Now, the Crew had the misfortune of spending not one, but two full seasons wearing the old Pilots uniforms (more on them later), both for their homes and their road uniforms (did they really “borrow” the two lower case “e’s” right from the Seattle unis?) Nevertheless, they were blessed with having good colors. I actually like their second generation uniforms (with blue cap and white sanis) the least, and despite the garish appearance of the yellow sani era, I prefer them the most. But they had their most success in the ball in glove, script Milwaukee era unis and those rank up there as well. Very good, but not great. Grade: B+
RP: The Brewers are an example of what just seems to be some kind of visual rule … powder blue works best in concert with royal blue better than with any other color. I guess we could call it “spectrumally sound” or something. Even the years when they farted around with yellow-gold sanitaries and yellow-gold softcaps (even yellow gold stripes on their adidas and Pumas) it just kinda worked. Grade: C
ME: They started off with the Seattle Pilots’ uniforms, obliterated some nice details, ended with Pilots’ skeletons with Brewers’ wordmarks, and passed themselves off as a different team. Grade: 0%, a symbolic measure for openly uni plagiarizing. The Brewers finally got their own uniforms with the vertically arched lettering “BREWERS” wordmark, which looks OK by itself, but the yellow cap panel is annoying and the yellow sanitaries show why they cannot go outside the Oakland Athletics’ clubhouse. Grade: B. But it gets better. From 1978 on, they lost the yellow sanitaries and got themselves a gorgeous script Milwaukee wordmark for their fronts. Add the ingenious logo (which took me a LONG time to see the MB inside the ball glove), and I’m ready to officially wash their hands of the old Seattle Pilots’ blood. Grade: A-, and only a stupid yellow front cap panel away from making it a Milwaukee/Kansas City coin flip for Best of the DH League.
Minnesota Twins: Interestingly enough, the Minnesota Twins wore powder blue for 14 years, from 1973 through 1986, and the uniform basically remained unchanged for all 14 years of use. Red letters and numbers (numbers and wordmark outlined in dark blue), dark blue cap, thick dark blue, thin white and thick blue stripes on the sleeve hems and sansabelts, and thin red, white and blue piping on the pant legs and dark blue stirrups. About the only thing that changed were their toppers. More on that below.
ME: I’ve seen a lot of hate for these uniforms, but I don’t think they’re that bad. I think the vertically arched lettering NOB’s are too big, and this helmet based on a non-existent hat (and check the coach in the background) is TERRIBLE. For God’s sake, color that T in TC navy! By itself, I see a pretty average looking powder blue uniform, but with the odd choices of accessories, Grade: C-, but I’d love to grade these higher just to applaud the lack of road pinstripes.
RP: Oh, ick, we have to talk about the Twins. Around here we’re subjected to this uni far longer than we wanted … For many of us that was anything longer than one game. Especially because the first year of Twins doubleknits the roads were gray, and they was gorgeous, one of the really classy first attempts and creating a doubleknit uni that looked good — and appropriate — on a major league team. But evidently they couldn’t stand looking good when tacky was possible, because switched the road ensemble to powder blue. Not coincidentally (in my opinion, anyway) that’s when the Twins entered their most prolonged period of suckiness. To make it worse, they then added that red crown hat—first at home then later, (for god’s sake, why?) on the road, too—and the descent toward looking like the team from “up dere at da Techncial College in Fulda” was complete. Plus, they wore three different batting helmets (yes, that’s Rod Carew with a mustache) with those blues and for those used to this, something about this (in gray OR powder) was just out of time, out of place and out of whack. Grade: F
PH: What can I say about the Twinkies that hasn’t already been said? Nothing. I don’t like ’em (red doesn’t go on powder blue). ‘Nuff said. Grade: C
Seattle Mariners: The second Seattle ballclub, although alphabetically, they come before the Pilots, the Seattle Mariners donned the powder blues from 1977 through 1984. While not all these years had identical jerseys (they were constantly futzing with the look from 1977 through 1980, starting with the white outline around “Seattle” and blue, gold and white sleeve and sansabelt piping, then adding gold-white-gold (with thin blue stripes) on the sleeve and belt, and a gold outline around the wordmark. (Cap looked like this from ’77-’80, and this from ’81-’84). From 1981-1984, they added thick royal and gold stripes down the arms and replicated that on the waist and pant legs (adding an additional blue band on the waist). They also added a second layer of blue around the gold (which surrounded the blue) in their wordmark.
RP: I liked the Mariners version with yellow-gold as the predominant color in the waistband. A different choice, and for that reason it worked. Kinda, anyway. Give ‘em credit for trying something. Grade: D
ME: Wow, these Seattle Mariners are the powder blue problem children. They always seemed to have some problem with their look. One day, they had too many layers and borders in the wordmark; another day, it was too many stripes on the sleeves. But the pants take the “cake” with the wide Expos-esque stripes down the side, but featuring yellow instead of red. Yuck. The Mariners never got it right in powder blue, and not even Ken Griffey, Jr. could have made those uniforms look good. Grade: C-
PH: Another team ‘born’ in powder blues, I always liked the Mariners in their powder blue, and for the same reason as I like Milwaukee: the baby blue goes well with yellow/gold and royal blue. I definitely prefer the older version of the jersey, ya know, the one without the lame and unnecessary fat ass stripes, but at least the colors are still good. Nothing really special or horrible about the uni, but when I think of the original Mariners, I’ll always remember them in their powder blues & trident caps. Grade: B
Seattle Pilots: Ah yes, baseball’s one year wonders, the Seattle Pilots. In 1969, the Pilots donned these blue uniforms for road games. Nautically themed, the sleeves featured the stripes of a ship’s captain, four of them, with a ship’s wheel patch on the front. Yellow gold was the color of the letters (which were lower case) and numbers, outlined in dark blue. Shirts were button down. Pants had a thin stripe of yellow surrounded by two thinner stripes of blue. The famous cap contained the “scrambled eggs” design.
PH: It’s a shame the Pilots only lasted one year, as I really liked their uniforms. The blue was not too powdery (because it wasn’t on a polyester blend, I don’t think), and the shirts were button down. The yellow nicely complimented the powder and royal. The ship captain’s stripes were a great element. About the only complaint I even have is I was not a fan of the scrambled eggs on the cap, since, while I “get” why they were there, I found superfluous and cluttersome. But it was unique, both then and now, so that keeps the grade high. Grade: B+
ME: Most underrated powder blue. Easy to underrate them because they only lasted a year, but they looked really good. The sky blue works for the pilots because pilots fly planes … in the sky … which is usually blue. The sleeve stripes, sock stripes, and the hat stripe (and eggs) made everything look cohesive with the yellow type. The whole uniform’s a bit avant-garde and possibly over-designed, but it’s really well put together. I like the look. Grade: A-
RP: One-year wonderful, those PILOTS. Some much going on: more-than-usual sleeve and sock striping, scrambled eggs, logo and caps-lower-case lettering/number in yellow-gold. They tried everything … and damned if it didn’t work. The wanted a maritime version of a baseball uniform and they got it. Oh, sure, maybe if the team had lasted, in another year or two they’d have scrapped some of the brick-a-brack (sic) cuz if might have gotten old. But as MLB’s ultimate one-off team … perfect. Grade: B+
Texas Rangers: Winding down now, the Texas Rangers wore powder blue from 1976 through 1982, keeping the same basic design throughout, the sole exception being 1977, when they wore a black memorial band and a “4” (here’s another view). The uniform was basic, with “TexaS” spelled out in vertically arched red lettering (with white outline), along with thick red, white and blue stripes on the jersey hem, waist, and down the pants legs. Jersey was pullover, with two-buttons at the top. When the hell did they wear this jersey with the capital letters tho?
RP: Oh, yeah the Rangers wore powder blue, too, didn’t they. Stripe on the pants sure was nice and wide, huh. Remember seeing them playing the Tigers on TV on a Saturday game of the week in Detroit (mid ‘70s, sometime) wearing white pants with their powder jerseys. That was, well … goofy. Next patient, nurse. Grade: D
PH: One word: meh. Red doesn’t belong on powder blue. Fat stripes are ridiculous (at least they didn’t put them down the shoulders and from the armpit to the waist). I’m not a fan, at all, of the two-tone cap, although I don’t mind the font — kind of ‘old Texasy’. But, really, this uniform is “FAIL”. So that’s what they get. Grade: F
ME: It’s not a problem with the powder blue, it’s that front font. Just doesn’t look like a major league team to me. And the Henley tops…ugh. Grade: B for AAA ball, but D+ on the Major League level.
Toronto Blue Jays: Our study on powder blue concludes with the second Canadian team to sport the colors, and the Jays wore blue for a fairly long time. From their inception in 1977 through 1978, the Jays jerseys said “TORONTO” across the front, and in 1977 this was solid blue, while in 1978, a white outline was added. From 1979 through 1988, and the wordmark was changed to “BLUE JAYS.” Jerseys were always pullover, and the colors were always navy blue and white, appearing in thick stripes around the waist and thinner stripes on the sleeves. The same striping pattern which appeared on the sleeves was repeated on the pant legs.
PH: Like the Royals, who got it right by using their namesake color in their name, so too did the Blue Jays. I was more of a fan of the second generation of jerseys, the ones with BLUE JAYS and the bird & ball logo, but I liked both versions. And while I was never a fan of the font, it was one of the more unique and easily identifiable of all sports fonts (at least for the sport of baseball). Born blue, they remained blue until 1988. That’s a long time, and that’s how I’ll always remember them. Not necessarily fondly, but well enough. Grade: B
ME: Yeah, I guess Blue Jays should be blue. (Definitely not black, cough-cough.) And for whatever it’s worth, this pullover top makes the best t-shirt of this bunch. My favorite thing about those uniforms is the font. It’s a complement to the old graphic identity that I think electric stovetops look like the Blue Jays, and not the Blue Jays look like electric stovetops. It’s obvious that changes were made throughout the Blue Jays’ blue run, and I should have an opinion as to whether they look better with TORONTO or BLUE JAYS on the front. But the changes are too hard to see, so I don’t think I have a definite opinion either way. The white front panel is OK; the chest logo is less OK, and even less OK when the buttons pushed the logo off to the side. Grade: B (with a reduction down to B- with the non-centered chest logo)
RP: Loved the BLUE JAYS road. So “70s” and so appropriate to the team nickname. Always wished the home trim (sleeve ends, waist and pant stripes) had been royal-powder-royal, though. The extra “weight” would have been good. So much white was a little “fey” for a bird as ballsy as a blue jay. Uncle Charley has spoken. Grade: C
Phew … well, there you have it. Day 2 of the powder review. What do you think? Did we hit one out of the park or take a third strike looking? Feel free to let us know how we did, and what YOU thought about the time when men were men, and players wore pastels.
OK…that’s all for today. My great thanks to Mike and Ricko for providing me with a three generational perspective on the powder blue. Hope you enjoyed it.
Yesterday, I know the draft went on (and continues today), there was a bunch of uni news too (like the Pods throwbacks), and as many (or most) of you probably know by now, the San Francisco 49ers introduced new uniforms. Paul will have his full review of those this week, plus a very full ticker on Monday, I’m sure. Happy 39th birthday Robert Marshall!
Everyone enjoy your Sunday.