By Morris Levin
“Kind of Blue Views from Elysian Fields”
The St. Louis Cardinals are celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of their 1982 World Series championship. The Cardinals had defeated the Brewers in seven-games in 1982, and with the team in town earlier this month, the Cardinals made a weekend of it. For the Sunday game, the Cardinals sported what it called its 1982 “Victory Blue” road uniforms. It was the first time the Cardinals wore the “Victory Blue” in St. Louis.
It reminded me of the Blue Jays wearing their 1979 to 1988 road uniforms as a home alternate at (I’m still calling it) SkyDome from 2008 to 2010. The Royals introduced powder blue as an alternate home jersey for the 2008 season. Ostensibly, the powder blues were part of their tradition as “one of the clubs that initiated [powder blues] in that era” – which the Royals saw others to have copied.”
Perhaps The Onion was prescient in 1997 when it reported, “U.S. Dept. Of Retro Warns: ‘We May Be Running Out Of Past‘. We are now reimagining the road light blues as a distinguishing feature of team identity, as if the fabric color was the primary team color itself. Oh, how we forget the promise of the late-1980s as MLB came to its aesthetic sense and returned to grays.
Between the first road light blues of the White Sox in 1964, and the last in 1991, twelve of the twenty-six teams wore light blue on the road. The light blue color of the fabric served as symbol of the club playing on the road. But it was no more itself a team-representing color than gray is representative today of the Phillies or Yankees.
With few exceptions, gray was the MLB road uniform standard from the 1930s through the early-1960s. But while it was said that one could purchase any color of Model-T so long as it was black, this was not the case for gray baseball uniforms.
The image above shows a swatch of Color 26 on the left, and Color 58 on the right, in the Standard Club Base Ball Uniforms swatch book issued by GoldSmith for the 1932 season. The book belongs to Peter Capolino who graciously lent it to me for this piece.
The swatch book contains a full presentation of baseball uniform fabric swatch options by pattern and weight. Your local sporting goods store would have one of these books from which your local team (including professional) would select the fabric pattern and quality. In this case, home white was Color 14, white with thin navy pinstripe was Color 24, and here is Color 58 if you want a classic light gray, and here is Color 26 if you want your gray on the blue side.
Our contemporary powder blue uniforms have their roots in these multiple shades of gray.
The Chicago Cubs were the first to wear to go full powder blue in 1941 and 1942 on the road. That was it until 1964, when the Chicago White Sox changed their color from black and red to navy blue and white, and introduced road uniforms in a light blue gray. Note how light the blue-gray fabric is; this is the fabric in 1970. Paul surveyed MLB’s blue history here on Page 2 in 2005.
Baseball’s intro and use of the light blue road uniform paralleled the change in our viewing of baseball as mediated through the rapid adoption of color television between 1962 and 1972. ABC broadcast its first series in color in 1962, when only 3.1 percent of American households had color television sets. By 1966 and 1967, the three networks had switched their entire prime time broadcasting to color. It was not until 1972 that more color than black and white televisions were sold in the U.S., just in time for the Oakland A’s in the World Series.
The missing link for me is the 1972 Phillies road gray prototypes. Bill Henderson reports on these jerseys in the current Sixth Edition. The Phils wore flannel in 1971 and seemed to have intended to wear gray on the road when they introduced double-knits in 1972. Very quickly, the team found the gray jerseys to appear washed out on color television, and ordered the same uniforms in the the light blue. This was a move to change the canvas, not the team identity. [For those of you following at home, you can find this discussion on Page 1561 of the overall edition, which is in Chapter 26: Phillies, page 67.] This is the gray with a light blue tint worn in 1971, and light blue double-knits eventually worn in 1972.
The Seattle Pilots and Montreal Expos played their first seasons in 1969 wearing a true shade of blue on the road. The Pilots moved to Milwaukee in 1970 and the Brewers wore the Pilots uniforms, which became light blue double-knit in 1972. The White Sox changed to the bright light blue in 1971 which was rendered in double-knit like this in 1972. As for the Royals, they initially wore gray in 1969, subsequently switched to the darker light blue, and went blue in double knit in 1973.
Thankfully, as color televisions became the norm, and the explosion of color in the 1970s evolved into the late 1980s, teams remembered how much better they looked in gray than blue.
The Cardinals and Brewers returned to gray in 1985, the Rangers in 1986, the Twins and Braves in 1987, the Blue Jays and Phillies in 1989, the Cubs in 1990, and the Royals and Expos in 1992. The 1992 All-Star Game player intro was powder blue free. (Spoiler alert: White Sox wear black alternates, and the Reds are wearing the last pullover jersey).
The Phillies opened the 1989 season at Wrigley in the afternoon of Tuesday, April 4. I had baseball practice after school and was fearful I would miss the entirety of the Phils’ opener. But the game was in the top of the ninth when I came home after 6pm, and turned on the television. We did have a color television.
This is the Phillies in spring training in 1989; the picture was taken at West Palm Beach. The Phils wore their blue pants for road games, and for the first time in spring training, their batting practice top in place of their home and road game jerseys.
The Phillies, down by a run in Chicago, had loaded the bases with no outs against Cubs closer Mitch Williams. And they looked good. Striking out with the bases loaded all the same – they were wearing lovely gray renditions of their road uniforms. Say what you will about Lenny Dykstra, but that maroon and white on gray is solid. The blues were gone and the Phils now looked proper.
In 2010, the G8 summit moved a Blue Jays-Phillies series scheduled for Toronto to Citizens Bank Park. The Blue Jays batted last and the designated hitter was used, and it led to the awful image of the Phillies dressing like visitors in their own home. Which might be precisely the point, and my optical discomfort with the Blue Jays’ 2008 to 2010 roads at home, or the Royals’ alternate tops, and the Cardinals wearing their “Victory Blue” at home.
Uniforms are less utilitarian in baseball than in football or basketball but serve as important mnemonics of place, time, and occasion. Or at least that is my optics, normalized to see powder blues through this lens, when they have grown to be branded team symbols all the same, the canvas now the object.
Morris Levin is an independent small business consultant in Philadelphia, a member of Athletic Base Ball of Philadelphia, a supporter of the Philadelphia Stars West Parkside commemoration project, and editor of William F. Henderson’s “Game Worn MLB Jersey Guide”.
Thanks, Morris, as always. Another terrific job!
If you think this is bad…
…that’s the new Notre Dame uniform to be worn for what is being called the “Shamrock Series” game (Oct. 6 against Miami at Soldier Field in Chicago). I worked a 14 hour day yesterday, and I’m glad I did, because I missed ALL to the talk about this absolutely horrid, pseudo-Maryland ripoff (and that’s being kind) Now, I’m speaking about the helmet, for the jersey is actually quite nice, but it’s all for naught if they’re going to be wearing that Loki shit on their heads. Fortunately, someone more erudite than I — a gentleman who’ll be returning to full-time weekday duty on Uni Watch next week — wrote a nice post for ESPN on the new uni/helmet. Give that a read, and lets discuss…
but wait…you ain’t seen nothin’ yet because very much under the radar…very much so…is the next iteration of the Oregon Ducks uniforms — and if you think Notre Dame’s helmet is bad…
…This could be worse
Is that a two-tone (with semi-vertical/horizontal shading) jersey? Half “Lightning” half white? Really? Is that even legal under NCAA rules? Apparently the jersey on the left is of an ALL “Lightning” jersey — not a half & half — it only appeared that way to me due to the strong sunlight. (That pic, while not taken by him, comes courtesy of UO’s own Kenny Ocker via “Addicted to Quack”). I don’t really mind the new feather motif on the shoulders (basically these jerseys now feature the full color spectrum of their Rose Bowl Unis). And what wouldn’t the U of Zero be without a new helmet? Say, one to match their shiny Rose Bowl number, only in a different color? Maybe…something like this:
Yup. Now THAT is cool looking, and it’s actually (kinda) in a school color.
But that new two-tone jersey? Sorry, Oregon, you’ve finally created a uni even I can’t get behind.. Now — the helmet? Awesome — but ONLY because it’s Oregon — anyone else pulls this kind of crap and I’m going to hate it (are you listening Maryland and Notre Dame? Whoops, too late). Own this helmet UO… but for the love of God, please reconsider that white/lightning jersey. K? Thanks.
Update: More on the new Oregon unis here.
#NoUniAds Campaign…Day 29
This will be a regular feature on Uni Watch until the NBA rescinds its incredibly offensive and stupid proposal to place corporate advertising on uniforms.
And now, a personal note from Paul:
It’s important that we keep making our voices heard: Call the NBA’s publicly listed phone number (212-407-8000), ask for Adam Silver’s and/or David Stern’s office), e-mail deputy commissioner Adam Silver at his his publicly listed address (firstname.lastname@example.org), and tweet to @NBA with the hashtag #NoUniAds. Do it now.
Now, more of your letters to the NBA:
Dr. Pete Clark:
Unfortunately, your thought about adding advertisements to NBA uniforms will have the exact opposite of the intended effect, correctly analyzed.
Reduced fan allegiance, dramatically reduced sales of both jerseys and other team-branded goods and negative press cannot be over-emphasized. Whoever suggested this stillborn idea would fail any major university’s valuation course– including mine.
Take the dunce cap off– get an “A” and do the analysis right.
I am an avid reader of Uni Watch Blog, and am aware of their stance against the possibilities of ads on NBA uniforms. While I am usually in agreement with most of Uni Watch’s opinions/taste, I disagree here…to a point.
While I’d prefer pro sports uniforms without ads, I understand why leagues/teams would at least look into this. I do however think there should be some sort of regulations and/or limitations. Who the sponsor is, the size, location and quantity of the ads should be subject to approval to some sort of ‘Uniform Police’ (for lack of a better term).
A good example is European League soccer. Each of those teams have ads, and in most cases, it’s tastefully done.
Thank you for your time.
Thanks for keeping the faith readers! We can stop the NBA if we can keep up the pressure.
Thanks to Tim E. O’Brien and Chris Giorgio for the image in the upper right of this section!
“Benchies” first appeared at U-W in 2008, and has been a Saturday & Sunday feature here for the past two years.
Oh…THAT’S why the cute salesgirl said he looked like a movie star…
Click to enlarge
Uni Watch News Ticker: “At Shawn Marcum’s rehab start, and he’s the only one not high cuffed on the entire team,” says Wayne Boardman. “Forgot my camera, had to take this with my phone. Not sure if it’s a team rule that he was able to bend or what the team’s policy is.” … Jon Forbes was watching the USA vs Mexico game last night, and “I noticed that the Mexican captain’s (Francisco Javier Rodriguez) armband looked like the American’s kits. At first, I assumed they had just swapped armbands, but US captain Tim Howard had a Nike armband and Mexico is Adidas so that wouldn’t make sense.” … Jon Solomonson says, “Here are 117 options you have for vanity license plates in Florida. I guess they’re really “support somthingerother” plates. All FL sports teams are represented.” … Here are the whole uniforms for UMass. Says, Joe Condon “At least it isn’t all black.” … Oh, God, no: Davian Almonte don’t know how solid this info is but saw this cap on new era talk a hat forum. “This is a possible example of what new era intends to release for their 2012 breast cancer awareness promotion in October.” … Caleb Borchers checks in with this: “Argentina have recently moved their rugby team to Nike. Given how awful the new jerseys are, I wonder why they didn’t just wear the practice jerseys.” … This admonition came from Zachary Gelber: “NBA ‘opposes’ Nets Jerseys! David Stern “allegedly” does it again. Have you guys ever heard of anything as ridiculous (and borderline racist) as this? In any league?” More on the Nets & JayZ here (thanks to Kyle Hanks) … Two bits from Chris Mahr: Putting an End to College Football’s Ridiculous New Uniforms, and (oh shit), Photos of Central Michigan’s New All-Black Football Uniforms. … Gregory Koch sends in this: USA Field Hockey Warmup Spotted at UConn Field Hockey Game – and there’s lime green piping! … Bills throwbacks from Nike? Timothy Tryjankowski says, “Perhaps I’ve been under a rock..but if not covered..this site lists AFL nike jerseys for sale. It includes the Buffalo Bills road white throwback jersey. Might we see Da Bills in their white tops, and spectacular standing red buffalo helmets this season? Patriots throwback is also there.” … This comes from Casey Hart: “The stencil for the dreaded mound logo at GABP.” … Unlike Matt Powers’ DIY, this one is really good: Dave Sikula was at the Giants/Nats game Wednesday, and while waiting for his friend, saw this guy in a “Boo” t-shirt. The front had a logo for “The Sons of Johnnie LeMaster,” but I didn’t get a chance to ask him about it. … Good spot from Adam Hep — Used Reebok NFL pants on LaMichael James. … My buddy, and our “Sunday Morning Uni Watch” correspondent Terry Duroncelet send us this. “Here’s something that Olympic junkies and gearheads in the drummerverse alike can appreciate: These are the Zildjian cymbals that Zak Starkey used for last Sunday’s closing ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics.” … I hope they didn’t charge her $106. Jim Walatis writes, “Here’s an image from the online Chicago Tribune story linked below of Alice Lundstrom, a 106 year old Cub fan who was given a $106 uniform.” I think he meant a “#” 106 uniform. Of course, I might know that if I could actually read the article where that picture was found. … Pacific Rim correspondent Jeremy Brahm checks in with this: “It is not often that you seen a macron (line over a vowel) in a script look like this.” … Mike Colvin from Big Slices of Wrong writes, “My brother was going through some old T-Shirts and came across this one featuring all the Minor League logos from 2001 on the front and back. Very cool!” … Both Brinke and Jeremy Brahm felt this was important, so here it is: USF unveils new logos, website. And finally, Johnny Bruno was watching Sportscenter and noticed Don Mattingly has changed to #88. He was wearing #8 but that was given to Shane Victorino when he got traded to the Dodgers.
And that is it for this week, folks. Paul has a pretty big week coming up on the mothership, beginning on Monday — so I think I’m gonna ask that he do a nice lede on that for Monday (ain’t I magnanimous?). Thanks to Morris for another stellar article, Ricko for his Benchies, and you fine readers for indulging me (and of course to all those keeping the fight against uni ads going). You folks have a great weekend — Ek will take you through to Monday. Catch you then.
“I’m not against everything new, but for corn’s sake, this is just crap. Is it so horrible to expect teams to once in a while play as themselves? It seems to me anytime there is even remotely anything special about a game, the corpos ruin it. Fuck all this shit man, they are killing uni watching, and I have nearly had enough.”
–Robert P. Marshall, III