By Phil Hecken
Some interesting thoughts popped up in the comments section this week, specifically regarding how we remember our favorite team’s uniforms. Even more specifically, several questions were raised as to whether a team’s success, or lack thereof, affects our opinions of a particular uniform. Did a team winning a championship while wearing a specific uniform set positively (or negatively) influence a fan’s view of said uniform. Conversely, did a team’s lack of success, or in the extreme, complete ineptness, despite wearing an otherwise beautiful uniform, conjure up negative feelings towards that uniform? It’s an interesting case study.
Lets look at several examples. We’ll begin with Ricko’s baby, the Minnesota Twins. When the Twins moved indoors to the HHH Metrodome in 1982, as you can see, they were attired in sky blue roadies and white polyester doubleknit pullovers. Not great uniforms to be sure, but those early to mid-80’s teams weren’t particularly good, and eventually longtime owner Cal Griffith sold the team to Carl Pohlad. But they had several rising stars like Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek on the scene and were an improving club. And in 1987, not only did the Twins sport new uniforms, but the went and won their first ever world series wearing them. Four years later, they’d go and win their second. New uniforms. Two world series victories in 4 years. Obviously, one had something to do with the other.
Well, of course it didn’t, but the fact remains that most Minnesotans, rightfully so, associate those uniforms with winning, pride and a return to greatness. When they moved out of the Homerdome this spring, and announced their new uniform set last November, many fans of the team, not just Ricko, bemoaned the new (road anyway) uniforms. Now, whether you agree or disagree with my personal position that pinstripes don’t belong on a road uniform, or whether or not the new road uniforms represent an improvement over the old ones, some of the first complaints about the new uniforms were “those look like the one we wore when were bad” (or words to that effect, cleaned up for this family blog). The fans of the team were so attached to the old uniform (which I would argue was never an attractive uniform, but that’s just my opinion) and the winning that once came when it was worn, that they dismissed the new road uniform (which I would also argue is a significantly better looking uniform — but again that’s just my personal opinion) out of hand. I read comments like “why would they ditch the road pinstripes? We won two world series’ wearing those!” Obviously, it wasn’t the uniform that won those two rings, but rather the team wearing them. Still, it’s a good memory for most Twins fans.
Lets take another example. The 1986 Mets. While most Mets fans have nothing but amazin’ memories of that 1986 team, I think most who look at it purely as a uniform would argue it was pretty freakin’ ugly. Except for the current black monstrosities the Mets now sport, the orange and blue racing stripes they wore were my least favorite uniform set. But many Mets fans love them, and they remain a very popular item both in stores and at
Citi Field Shea today. It’s instantly recognizable as the 1986 world series uniform. But let’s be honest — it’s not a good looking uniform — polyester pullover (shockingly with belted pants) and garish full body stripes that frequently misaligned. For the obsessive compulsive uniform affectionado, just a bad, bad look, especially when you consider the gorgeous uniform they sported in winning their first world series.
But what about the other side of the coin? What about bad teams who wore beautiful uniforms? One of the oft-cited examples of this is the New England Patriots red uniform in which they reached Super Bowl XX, but for the most part, didn’t have much success. They had worn that uniform, or a very close facsimile, from their inception and through the years with a few variations. When the Pats finally went through the first of several uniform iterations, all involving a blue jersey, success quickly followed: while they lost in 1997 super bowl wearing the second generation unis, the would go on to win the big one in 2002, 2004 and 2005, and losing a hard fought super bowl to the Giants in 2008. Clearly, the change to blue jerseys made the Patriots better, yes? Of course not. But that’s the perception. When the Pats broke out their red AFL throwbacks this past season, uniform lovers rejoiced but Patriots fans immediately were struck with thoughts of “oh great, their loser uniforms.” Despite the fact that the AFL throwback is one of the more gorgeous uniforms seen of the field, especially today, many fans of the New England team were less than thrilled. Why? Because their memories of the uniform weren’t always happy ones.
More recently, last weekend the Astros had a Turn Back The Clock evening where they threwback to the uniforms they wore in 1965. Many of us remembered those uniforms, and even those who never saw them before remarked upon how good they looked. Some, myself included, felt this was the best uniform that team (who have gone through more uniform interations than one can shake a stick at) ever wore. But, alas, those uniforms weren’t exactly associated with a winning team. Certainly that was no fault of the uniform. And to this day, with the exception of the attention they received for the TBTC game, they are largely forgotten. Unfortunately for the Astros, their only world series apperance came in their current crop of uniforms which, while certainly not the worst uniform they have ever sported (or thrown-back to), isn’t nearly as classic or beautiful as those 1965 duds or those which immediately followed. But one of the more beautiful uniforms of all time, and certainly in Astros history, is largely forgotten due to the large amount of losing that was done in it.
Those are just four examples of good teams wearing (in my opinion at least) bad uniforms, or bad teams wearing good uniforms — but clearly, in the minds of fans of the team, the uniform — or at least the greatness or awfulness of the uniform — is tied into the success of the team while wearing it.
Examples exist everywhere. The flip side of 1986? Exhibit A. Is it any wonder many Sox fans weren’t too thrilled in the 2008 offseason when the team announced they’d be wearing this in 2009? The BFBS/”Lets wear Raider Colors” Kings had their greatest success in that uniform. Now is that a better uniform than the current BFBS uni? Maybe, but it reminds Kings fans that the best teams they ever had wore this and not this or this.
Same with your reigning Stanley Cup champions. The current uniform will be associated with Sid the Kid and success, even though this, this or even this and this are, in the minds of many, clearly superior. But success in those uniforms was missing, so in the minds of many Pens fans, those uniforms will never be held in as high a regard as these or these.
Ever wonder why Islanders’ fans clamored for their team to return to these? Is it any wonder? Not that anyone would say these were things of beauty (although I like the fisherman because it’s so bad), but these uniforms remind Islanders fans more of failure than of success.
So what about you, Uni Watchers? Do you feel your impression of a team’s specific uniform (for any era) is influenced by the success (or failure) of the team sporting that uniform? There are numerous examples of bad uniforms worn by great teams, just as there are beautiful uniforms worn by bad teams. Do those bad uniforms get held in higher esteem and the good uniforms become associated with losing? Let’s hear what you think. And, while we’re at it…is there a certain uni (of any vintage) you’d love for your team to return to wearing, even if their record while wearing it was less than stellar?
St. Louis Browns 1939-1949: The St. Louis Browns began life as the Milwaukee Brewers in 1901, moving after only one season to St. Louis, where they renamed the “Browns,” a reference to the original St. Louis national league team of the 1880’s, who by that time were themselves renamed the “Cardinals.” They would remain in St. Louis until the end of the 1953 season, when they would move to Baltimore and be renamed the “Orioles.”
The Browns weren’t very good. In fact, in their first 20 seasons, they posted only four winning ones. They, were, however, quite popular in St. Louis in their early years, and they owned Sportsman’s Park, which they shared with the Cardinals. However, once the Cards won the world series in 1926, they became ‘second class’ citizens even in their own park. Unfortunately, they would never be more popular than the Cards again.
For their first four decades they would toil in mediocrity. Until World War II, that is. In a major leagues depleted of talent due to the war, the Browns fielded their only pennant winner in 1944, where they would advance to the World Series and lose to, of course, their tenants — the Cards. But baseball teams on Uni Watch are not so much judged by their wins and lossses, but by their attire. And, for an 11 year period, spanning 1939-1949, and encompassing their lone pennant and world series, the Browns wore some gorgeous stirrups and some equally beautiful uniforms. Unfortunately, if color photos of their stirrups exist, I couldn’t find any. But, had I, their stirrups would have looked like this. That’s a shot from the 1944 world series, which the Browns lost to the Cards.
Those 1939-1949 stirrups were white on the bottom, brown on the top, and with three not quite equidistant width orange stripes on the brown tops. It’s difficult to make out the width and spacing in some photos, but make no mistake, they had a northwestern stripe flavor to them.
Again, color photos including the stirrups prove elusive, so I colorized an old b & w photo to give you an idea. This color still (appears to be from a home movie) shows a far background shot of the rups, and this old ad featuring one-armed Pete Gray also gives a nice flavor of the stirrups.
Hopefully, very soon, the “stirrup club” will be receiving this month’s order, which includes the Browns 1939-49 stirrup. Those who didn’t order these beauties can contact our own Comrade Robert Marshall, leader of the stirrvp revolution.
Guess The Game From The Scoreboard: Back to baseball today and this one may prove tricky — or not — since the ballpark is obvious, and you can likely figure out the opposing team. Just find out when the
abortion doc killers rail crossing safety crowd is in town. Ready? Guess The Game From The Scoreboard. Date, location and final score, please, and be sure to link to your answer. And, as always, if you enjoy the game, please send me some new scoreboards! Drop me a line. Thanks!
Back again with more Uniform Tweaks, Concepts and Revisions today. Lots to get to, and if you have a tweak, change or concept for any sport, send them my way.
First up is a BIG set of tweaks, spanning the three major sports, as well as hockey, from John Follett. John sent me 9 “weeks” worth, and last weekend we looked at the first three. Here’s the second batch:
Week 4 – San Antonio Spurs: Always loved the logo but I did feel that the uniform needed to be upgraded. Again, one of the better weeks of our competition. Snowy was clearly watching one too many Bruce Lee movies when he drew this up. Snowy would take a lot of heat for the logo design and eventually made attempts to make it look less “Ninja-esq”. Even better, Snowy went the extra step with his court design. Sam is still fighting his lawsuit against a certain WNBA team, following his submission. As for me, I ended up with more change than I initially set out for. Some weren’t a fan of the primary color change, so I did re-contrast my logo.
Week 5 – Washington Redskins: A borderline classic but definitely not the sexiest look we have ever seen. I know I am looking to give this team a much improved look that will help to shy them away from their very offensive & controversial mascot. Member “collyflower” gets in on the action. My first submission maintained the Native American look but shied away from the Indian head logo. My 2nd submission is less elaborate but definitely more 21st century. A look from Snowy that would drive Paul Lukas crazy for more than a couple reasons. Snowy even goes as far as to show us a different angle of his design.
Week 6 – Nashville Predators: Due to popular demand, we go hockey in Week 6. Not exactly sure where Nashville came up with “Predators” but the design looks more like a minor league arena football team. Snowy strikes first blood, eat your heart out Chattanooga Lookouts. Snowy would later re-buff his design. Debate sparked as to how “NHL” our creations really are…so we put them to test. After hearing some raccoon horror story coming out of Tennessee, I came up with something I felt was more relevant. How did my design fit in? See for yourself.
Thanks John. We’ll have the third and final set of your tweaks soon.
Next up, short and sweet, is Eric Wright, with a Broncos tweak:
Here’s a Broncos tweak combining the past w/ the present.
In the three-hole today is Mike Sullivan, who has a Blue Jays tweak:
Hey, I have a uni tweak that I wanted to share. I created a new Blue Jays home uniform. I (along with probably many others) was tired of the Jays using countless fonts, so I made them all the same. It uses the font from the away “Toronto” to make the “Blue Jays” script, the NOB, and the jersey #s. For the hat logo, I took the late 90’s logo and updated the color to match the current scheme. I made the hat and socks primary blue, because after all they are the Blue Jays (and not the Blackbirds, as they would like you to believe). And no uniform would be complete without a nice pair of striped socks. So there is what I consider to be a major improvement to Toronto’s current home unis.
Closing out the show today is Jesse Alkire, who has some Angels refinements:
All my conceptual uniforms try to convey a sense of tradition, and my Angels uniforms combine a few. First off, the neck piping is a longtime Angels tradition dating back to the 60s, but I’ve changed the color to gold so the piping forms a sort of halo. This contrasts nicely, I think, with the rest of the piping on the sleeves and pants, which remains red.
The pants take cues from the Detroit Tigers and add a throwback feel to the set, while the belts are changed from black to red. Making red the primary color once again, the shoes would also be red (only the 2nd team in MLB to have red shoes).
The silver halo is changed to gold and three more “halos” are added as sock stripes, which rounds out the home uniform changes.
Drawing inspiration from the St. Louis Cardinals, the Angels road set trades in some red for some navy. Navy belts, undershirts, socks, and a mostly Navy hat are the changes here from the home set. The ‘ANAHEIM’ script makes its return to the road jersey, as it should, along with the old but now re-colored California sleeve patch.
Overall I wanted to give the Angels something unique — the home/red, road/navy aesthetic, combined with the red shoes and yellow “halo” neck piping really give the Angels a distinct identity, I feel, something that most teams lack.
Thanks for posting these! Loved the great comments I got on my last set.
That’s it for the tweak show for today. Check back next time for more.
42 Redux: Just in case anyone missed Thursday’s official Jackie Robinson Day (ya know, the actual anniversary of Jackie’s breaking into the big leagues and smashing the color barrier in the process), yesterday brought us more of the same — some teams wore “42” for a second day, while others, who did not play on Thursday, broke out the 42’s for the first time.
Now, personally, I love Jackie Robinson Day…for a DAY. It’s ridiculous that it’s now spanning two days (and I believe some teams may wear the 42 at home if they were on the road for both Thursday and Friday). Seriously, it’s very quickly becoming OVERKILL, and they’re taking a very special, very appropriate gesture and turning it into a mockery.
There is a simple solution, particularly if MLB is going to mandate that all teams wear 42 every April 15th. All they need to do is two things: (1) schedule ALL teams to play on April 15th (yes, I know this year that date fell on a Thursday, which is traditionally a transition day for many clubs, but for one day, they can deal with it); and (2) schedule all teams the following season to play a home and home with the team they played the season before, so that those teams on the road can experience the 42’s at home the following year. Done and done. After 2 years, schedule another team and repeat. Seriously, can it be that hard?
Rainout? Fine, let both teams wear the 42’s when they schedule the make up. But to keep this going for two (or possibly more days)? Awesome gesture becomes overplayed gimmick overnight (no pun intended).
OK, Uni Watchers, let’s put it in the books.
Little roller up along first … behind the bag! It gets through Buckner! Here comes Knight, and the Mets win it! — Vin Scully, 25 October, 1986