By Phil Hecken, with Rick Pearson
Every once in a while, talk in the comments leads to a main entry — in fact, it was just such a phenomenon that led to an article I wrote last year entitled, Did The Uni Make Them Better?, in which we discussed how fan impressions of a team’s uniform may (or may not) be influenced by how the team performed in that uniform. Example number one was the 1987 Twins.
With the recent passing of Harmon Killebrew, who sported the original and gorgeous original uniforms of the Twins, but also the polyester sansabelt pullovers, the current Twins decided they would wear their alternate “throwback” uniform on a full-time basis at home, to honor Killer’s memory.
Chatter in the comments inevitably turned to all the uniforms the Twins have worn in their 50 year history (and if you think about it, it’s really only been three distinct sets, albeit with many minor changes in between) — the original home pins and road grays of the flannel era, the one year switch in 1972 to non-pinstriped, button-down polyester with a gray roadie, and then the much-maligned switch to pullovers and sansabelts for bothhome and road, with the trendy decision to wear powder blues on the roads. (In another “uni review” column, Ricko and Mike Engle graded those Twins powder blues as “D” and “C-minus” respectively, while I gave them a “C”). But, while the flannel and polyester eras were distinct, they’d always kept the script “Twins” wordmark.
1987 ushered in a new uniform and an era of good feelings for the Twins, winning the World Series in that first year uni (and another one four years later), and cementing that uniform as a fan favorite for generations. It’s generally lauded in Minnesota as a great uniform set, and it’s not surprising, since the Twins saw their greatest success ever as soon as they began wearing it. But — is it really that good a uniform? And while what it replaced (polyester pullover w/sansabelt & powder blues) had become a mere shell of the original 1961-71 flannels, I would argue that the 1987-2009 uniforms were no where near as good as what the Twins began life in — and what they are, at least at home, returning to now.
Admittedly, I’m but an outsider looking in, but my contention is that the 1987-2009 uniforms were not all that great, but fans (and non-fans alike) view them much more favorably because (a) the team found immediate success wearing them, and (b) what they replaced had morphed into something so far from the original they couldn’t possibly be seen as anything but a positive improvement. Again, this is my personal opinion, not a statement of fact, so of course it’s open for debate — I never liked the wordmark (always preferring the original script) nor the road pins with very tight block “MINNESOTA” in all caps (I also hated when they went to direct sewn nameplates since that ruined the look of the pins). I also hated that “M” on the cap. When the Twins opened Target Field last year and got new unis, I was ecstatic. I figured Twins fans would be as well. Turns out, they liked their 1987-2009 uniforms — a LOT.
I’ve babbled on long enough, so I’ll turn the remainder of this over to our esteemed sexagenarian Rick Pearson, who offers his perspective on the entire gamut of Twins uniforms — and as someone who was both alive AND saw all of those uniforms live and in person, can give a much more “insider” look at how those 1987 uniforms came to be, and why they are viewed so highly by Minnesotans. Here’s Rick:
Sort of apples and oranges here, because I’m only comparing the regular set to its predecessor, not to the ’61 originals. And I’ll admit that, through the keyhole lens of time, even I see there may be something charming and attractive about the Minnesota Twins sansabelt unis. But, taken in the context of their actual lifespan, they were a mess.
The Twins began their foray into the doubleknit era with gray roads. But, after a single season in a really nice looking road set (all things considered), they jumped on the Powder Blue Bandwagon and that began a downward spiral that matched that of the Twins franchise itself…a bizarre parade of afterthought on top of afterthought with absolutely no apparent plan.
“Let’s wear red crown hats at home, but keep the tri-color helmets.”
“I’ve got it! RED SHOES at home.”
God, it just never stopped.
Here’s the reason why, I think. Those unis were ordered off pages 52, 58 and 75 of a catalog (so to speak) by someone with little or no design sense. Trust me, neither Calvin Griffith nor anyone on his staff was gonna end up on anyone’s best-dressed list. They knew baseball remarkably well, but that bunch of guys was clueless about how to dress. In a room together, they looked like the Ralph Kramden’s bowling banquet.
And this point, the Twins were the ONLY team in MLB that wore predominantly navy (hat crowns, sleeves, stirrups, et al) that went to powder blue. All the others stuck with navy. Why? My guess is that because, especially on TV, the powder blue made the navy look black. And back then there was a sense that maybe you didn’t want your team to look “black n’blue.” The Twins, though, never saw it that way. I suppose some will say that made them look unique. I think it made them look blind.
Those unis simply were NOT universally loved. There was just a general grumbling that the sansabelts were bad but, “What are you gonna do, that’s what the ultra-cheap Griffths think passes for a Major League uni.”
Those were the years when every year the Twins seemed to be, as one writer described them, “Rod Carew and eight guys named Steve: Steve Brye, Steve Braun, Steve Luebber, Steve Comer…”
That’s why the 1987 set was universally applauded. It was so great to see that good young bunch of players finally looking like a Major League team instead of the Vo-Tech team they had previously resembled. The players themselves even said that. The fact that they won the World Series in their first year wearing them was just gravy.
The 1987 set was a uni that, for the first time, was NOT designed by the club. I believe their ad agency had a hand in it. The Twins wordmark introduced in ’87 is very much a child of its time, computer-created (wow, look what we can do now; we don’t have pick “catalog” lettering!), sort of the way there’s a cookie cutter look to most logos these days.
Personally, I thought the choice of red letters and number edged in blue made sense. I used to sit in the Metrodome watching the Twins play, say, the Yankees or Blue Jays (or other teams in the then predominantly blue American League) and think, “Thank God the numbers and wordmark aren’t navy trimmed in red like the originals. This would be like sitting in bleu cheese dressing watching the crumbles play ball.”
I am NOT saying the Twins have one of the great unis in baseball. I’m saying what they wear now was a quantum leap forward over it really ordinary, terribly unpopular predecessor. Comparatively speaking, in the minds of Twins fans in 1987, they had gone from being the dork at the prom in a powder tux and matching ruffled shirt to James Bond.
Thanks for that Rick. It’s always good to have a rational counterpoint to my emotional point. I still will never like those ’87-’09 unis, but now I completely understand why you, and an entire state, do. And just so you don’t think I’m hating on Minnie, I feel the same way about the Mets racing stripes. That’s generally a universally loved uniform by Mets fans, but (aside from the BFBS crap), that’s my absolute least-favorite uniform they ever wore. Yet because of all the winning the Mets did in those, folks seem to love them and think they’re great.
Now…about flying Elvis…
by Rick Pearson
Well, when you can’t use the stuff anymore…
And if that’s not big enough…here’s the
full MONGO-sized version.
We have another new set of tweaks today.
If you have a tweak, change or concept for any sport, send them my way.
Remember, if possible, try to keep your descriptions to ~50 words (give or take) per tweak. You guys have been great at keeping to that, and it’s much appreciated!
And so, lets begin:
We start with Timothy McKay, who has sort of a “mashup” logo:
I have always thought that the Mets “Baseball” logo is brilliant. One logo that incorporates the Brooklyn Bridge, NY Skyline, an actual baseball and the teams’ name is pure beauty in my opinion. I’m an Astros fan and unfortunately, our logo bores me. So, I decided to take it upon myself to create an Astros logo similar to the Mets. The major flaw here is that I used the same skyline, which I’ll admit was a bit lazy on my part but I trust you’ll agree the NY skyline is much more exciting than Houston’s and I did include a silhouette of Minute Maid Park to change it up a bit.
Next up is Dennis, who goes by “Pickles Pickly”, with a few baseball concepts from a few years ago…
I saw that you wanted any and all uniform tweaks so here are some i did in 2005.
Next is Dwayne White, who, like Sean O’Malley (featured a couple weekends ago), went with a reader request to see a Jerry Reuss retro Reds uni:
I don’t really know where this fits in, but a couple of weeks ago, somebody wanted to see what a Jerry Reuss Reds jersey from the mid-60′s would look like. Well, here is my rendition.
And finally, we have Mario Murillo, who just had to give the Oregon Ducks another look:
Not that they need any more uniforms but would you be surprised to see them come out with this? A la Mighty Ducks?
Thanks tweakers. Back tomorrow with more.
2011 Uni Tracking
Back with more tracking from the readers today.
Today features Walt Young, who posts as “Former Dirt Dart” and who happens to track the New York Mets.
Yes, I feel his pain. But he has a neat way of keeping stats on the boys from Queens…
Pics are from the actual games, game results hyper-link to the ESPN photos section for each individual game.
And the full months breakdown is at the bottom.
Thanks Walt! Great stuff. Walt also had his tracking featured over @metspolice (Shannon Shark’s twitter home — give them a follow and check out the board). Make sure you stop in and say “Ditch the Black”
I didn’t see much of the Yankees-Angels game (WCWS was more my speed), but the Angels were supposed to be throwing back to their original LA Angels days. Except they wore the uniforms in today’s pajama-style, which of course ruined the effect. Nice LA on the sleeve and NNOB, and they even had special helmets…hard to tell from those photos, but their caps did have a halo on top. And the numbers were authentic to the McAuliffe font, as McAuliffe manufactured the Los Angeles (and later California) Angels uniforms. Tip of the cap to Majestic on a solid remake — and boo-hiss to the players for wearing their uniforms like sleepwear.
And that’s all for today everyone. Have a great Saturday.
“I recently found out I was conceived after one of my parents bowling night and a healthy dose of vodka tonics and mini tacos. … I probably should have been born with hooves.” — MM Watkin