By Bryan Redemske
“Welcome, Uni Watch. We’ve been expecting you.”
OK, so it wasn’t quite like that, but Curt Nelson of the Kansas City Royals wasn’t exactly surprised when he received a phone call about the team’s new powderblue alternate jersey.
“We were wondering when we’d hear from you,” he said. “We have a few people around here who read Uni Watch regularly.”
A self-described uniform geek, Nelson is the Royals’ marketing director. That makes the first question easy: Is this all about selling more merchandise?
“Our idea was to bring back powder blue for historical reasons — to honor those teams in the ’70s and ’80s who wore it,” Nelson said. “We wanted the color back, but also a current-day, new-Royals look; a modern-day version of powder blue.”
The Royals have a long relationship with powder blue, beginning in 1973. The new jersey is the team’s third generation of powder blue. The first featured “Kansas City” in white caps, vertically arched, and was worn from 1973-1982. The second, and perhaps more iconic, featured the familiar script “Royals” in white. It was worn from 1983-1992.
With this kind of heritage, it would have been easy for the Royals to put together a retro uni package like Toronto or Milwaukee, but this project was more about the color of the old style rather than a replication of it. The end result was a modern take on a classic design. Kind of like this.
“Lots of people have asked for throwback designs,” Nelson said. “A lot of people have been attached to the era and to the uniform for a long time. We’ve done give-aways based on them, like the one based on the 1983 George Brett pine tar game. There’s a lot of nostalgia for the color and we wanted to bring it back. But to do all powder blue — that’s the connotation of a road uniform.”
With that in mind, the new powder blue was designed as a home alternate. It will be used much like other teams’ alternate jerseys, though it will mostly be seen on Sundays and will be worn with white pants.
“Teams wear colored jerseys all the time, but white pants means ‘home,'” Nelson said. The current royal blue alternate will remain in use, most likely for road games.
The powder blues also further distance the Royals from the black trim era, which ran from 2002-05 and featured a black alternate jersey and cap. “As a Royals fan, black was never the color — it never fit in,” Nelson said. “That was a reaction to other teams. It seemed to be the color that was sweeping through. It fell out of favor early in 2006, and we just sort of got rid of it.”
So far, opinions on the new jersey appear to be making the same split as age-old powder blue debates: love or hate. Old-school fans are mostly happy to see the team return to the hue. Some, though, are nitpicking about the script “Royals” wordmark — blue outlined in white.
“The traditionalist would say, ‘The script was always just white,'” Nelson said, “but there’s a a consistency thing with the [current] road uniform. I think it’s a good-looking uniform. And the powder blues’ numbers are white outlined in blue. There’s a stylistic thing with the contrasting colors — it gives the jersey its own design. It stands out; it’s different.”
Major thanks to Curt for making time for an interview. We traded phone calls a few times trying to get connected, but when we finally did it was a great conversation.
As far as my personal opinion, I’m not a fan of powder blues. I think there’s a very good reason they went away, just like pullover tops and elastic waistbands. And I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that most teams that have powder blue heritage don’t dust them off often.
That said, however, I’ll give the Royals’ new blues a chance to change my mind. (Mostly because I love their home unis.) We’ve only seen them as stationary objects at a season ticket-holders event — they may look better in the sunshine. Maybe.
Raffle-O-Rama: Paul here. Bill O’Reilly keeps on bleating about the “war against Christmas,” but he’ll have to change his tune after he hears about our biggest raffle yet, with five separate prizes. Without further ado (and with big thanks to everyone who donated prizes):
• Lot No. 1: A vintage-era college football helmet of your choice from Gridiron Memories. As most of you know by now, this is the retail arm of Helmet Hut, and their helmets are impeccably period-authentic in every detail.
• Lot No. 2: Two pairs of throwback Kansas City Monarchs pants — one home, one road. Reader Dan Merker picked these up at a Royals season ticket-holders event (although it’s not clear if they were actually worn in a game) and generously donated them in my direction. The home pants have red-navy-red side piping, red belt loops (including one at 12 o’clock), and red flap pockets. Size 36 x 28. The road set has red-navy-red piping on the sides and belt loops, and navy flap pockets with red buttons. Size 36 x 30.
• Lot No. 3: An assortment of New York Giants gear, including a mesh cap (here’s the rear view), a white polo shirt (size medium; team insignia on the rear collar), and a blue windbreaker (also medium; reflective stripe on the back, NFL Equipment logo on the left sleeve).
• Lot No. 5: A free Level One Uni Watch membership or any item from the Uni Watch store.
I’ll pick five winners. The first one will get his or her choice of any of the five lots, then the second winner can choose from the remaining four lots, and so on.
To enter, send an e-mail to uniraffle at earthlink dot net (not to the usual Uni Watch address, please) by next Wednesday, December 19th, at 10 p.m. eastern. I’ll announce the winners the next day. One entry per person but, as always, all enrollees in the Uni Watch membership program at the time of the drawing will automatically get three bonus raffle entries, even if they don’t enter by e-mail. (Members can also enter the raffle by e-mail just like anyone else, giving themselves a fourth entry.)
Speaking of which, I mailed out about two dozen membership kits yesterday, including all the discounted gift memberships, so those should all be arriving in plenty of time for Christmas. Thanks again to everyone who’s made the membership program’s first year such a big success.
Uni Watch News Ticker: So much for my dream of daily stirrups action for the Mets next season. ”¦ Willie Harris and his double-flapped batting helmet are now on the market. ”¦ New uniforms for Northwest Airlines. Details here. ”¦ In other non-sports uniform news, the Swedish army has made an anatomical adjustment to a patch on their uni (with thanks to Dave Burns). ”¦ Latest installment of “Equipped with Joe Skiba” is now available on the Giants’ home page. ”¦ Remember the confusion over whether the Red Sox wore the Massachusetts bicentennial patch in 1975, 1976, or both? John English has come across with something very similar on eBay: a 1975 Pawsox jersey with a Rhode Island bicentennial patch. … “The way the NFL is going, this may become a mandatory uni accessory,” writes Michael Rich, and he’s not talking about the mismatched socks. ”¦ Jerry Kill was named the coach of Northern Illinois yesterday, which led to this unfortunate spectacle (with thanks to Frank Mercogliano). ”¦ This Inter Milan kit is at the center of a legal and cultural controversy (with thanks to Matt Corica). ”¦ While looking at pics of the Texans’ solid reds from last night, two things jumped out at me: (1) The monochromatic look is modern, or futuristic, or whatever you want to call it, but the Texans use very traditional pants striping (esp. when compared to the Broncos), which makes for an odd with the clash of old vs. new, and (2) check out John Engelberger (No. 60) — looks like his chest horns have been truncated. … Speaking of NFL monochromes, several Minnesota readers report that the big rumor out that way is that the Vikes may go solid purple on Monday night, in which case we may as well just get it over with and press the planet’s “Self Destruct” button.