By Phil Hecken
Thus far, in the “What’s Your Sign(ature)” series, we’ve looked at the Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Houston Astros. Today we’ll take a look at my team — the New York Mets — and as you can probably tell from today’s splash, their signature uni is the “Racing Stripes.” It’s also my least favorite uniform. But if we take a look back at the uniforms the Mets have worn through their 50+ year history — this is the one that really stands out as the “METS” more than any other.
For the better part of their early history, the Mets had beautiful classic uniforms: designed to “honor” the colors of NYC (and coincidentally the departed Dodgers and Giants), the uniforms were royal blue and orange, with a pinstriped uniform for the homes (despite rumors that the pinstripes were added as a tribute to NY’s AL team, the one that didn’t move west — there is no conclusive proof the pins were worn as a tip of the cap to the Yankees).
The early uniforms were gorgeous — and relatively unchanged from 1962 (the year NY entered the league) through 1973 — with a script “Mets” on the home pinstripes, and a gray road uniform with “NEW YORK” in the ‘tuscan’ font across the chest. Uniform numbers were added to the front of the jersey in 1965. They would go NNOB for all these years. (You can click any photo below to enlarge.)
As the polyester craze took over the league in the early-mid 70’s the Mets uniforms began to change as well — although not too radically. From 1974-1977, the block “NEW YORK” on the roads was changed to the same script “Mets” as on the home uniforms. Both unis would remain button-front and have belts.
In 1978, the Mets would ditch the full button-front jerseys for both home and road, and would go to a 2-button ‘henley’ style top. They’d also add blue/orange/blue trim on the sleeve ends and collars. They’d keep this uniform look from 1978-1981.
So, through 1981, the Mets had some beautiful (and some pretty nice) uniforms, certainly classics — but nothing that would really “scream” Mets…their signature uniform wasn’t far off however. 1982 would be the transitional year. In that year, they’d keep the henley tops for their homes, but they would add their (in)famous racing stripes to the road uniforms. Those road tops were full pullover tops, but they would keep the belted pants (something they would do throughout their time wearing pullovers — an odd look during a time when most, but not all, teams who went to pullover tops also wore sansabelt pants).
The big change, and the change to the signature uniform, occurred fully in 1983 (and would last through 1990), when they went to the racing stripes full-time on both home and road uniforms. Interestingly, they went through several different road uniform styles during this time (always keeping the racing stripes). They’d begin with the script “Mets” which they’d wear from 1983 through 1986, then a one-year script “New York” font in 1987, finally reverting to a block “NEW YORK” font from 1988 through 1990.
Oh yeah. Those uniforms were gaudy, loud, obnoxious — pretty much like the Mets during that period. It doesn’t always follow that a team’s signature uniform is worn during its period of most sustained success (if one World Series title and two division titles in an 8 year period, but usually always in contention, defines the Mets greatest success), and certainly the iconic images from the 1986 World Series add to the lore. But the racing stripes ON the pinstripes (and with pullovers over belted pants to boot) was a look the Mets owned. No one before or since wore a combination of that order. If one (or at least anyone over the age of say, 30) were to think back to one uniform that ‘defined’ the Mets, the 1983-1990 uniforms certainly qualify as their “signature” look.
When we think back we ALMOST always associate the racing-pins unis as pullovers, but the Mets would actually revert to button-front jerseys with this design for two additional seasons — they’d wear those in 1991 and 1992.
Mercifully, the Mets would finally lose the racing stripes after the 1992 season. For the next two years, they’d go back to plain(er) pins and gray roads, with a odd “fishtail” script on both the home and roads.
For a brief period before the “BFBS” would take root in the late 1990s and last into the 2010’s, the Mets uniforms returned to their roots — a look they basically currently sport. In 1995 and 1996, they’d return to the “basic” (classic) Mets uniform, with script “Mets” on the homes and tuscan-style “NEW YORK” on the roads. In 1997, the would also add a “snow white” home uniform (worn with an “ice cream man” cap).
When 1998 hit, the Mets went black (for black’s sake) and almost never looked back. They began by adding black dropshadow to the wordmarks, and added two new caps (a hybrid black/blue cap, followed by an all-black cap in 1999). In 1998, the squad also added a black jersey. They were late-comers to the BFBS craze, and held onto it longer than most teams, keeping it through the end of the 2011 season. The would not return to their uni-senses until the 2012 season, which marked their 50th Anniversary season.
Finally — in 2012 — the Mets returned to their “classic” uniforms — non-dropshadowed pinstripes at home and road grays, but they kept the snow whites — and made the pinstripes a cream color (trying to evoke images of yellowed flannel uniforms of yesteryear). But they looked like the Mets again. They would add a blue alternate in 2013 (and the road alt would get its own cap in 2015), and drop the snow whites at the beginning of the 2015 season (they then changed the color of the cream pins to white). But for all intents and purposes, the 2012-2016 club has looked very much like the 1965-1973 team. It might not be their “signature” look, but it is their best.
And there you have it — for a majority (or certainly a plurality) of their time, the Mets have had some really good, classic unis, and two distinct periods (the racing stripe era and BFBS era) when their unis haven’t been quite as good. But the one set that you could instantly and ALWAYS identify the Mets in and by … was the racing stripes. For better or for worse, it’s their sign(ature).
What If The NBA Had Uni Ads…
Got an e-mail from Lee Traylor, who did the unthinkable…he imagined an NBA where uniform adverts existed during some of the NBA’s golden years. Yeah, he went there (click photos to enlarge):
Thought it might be interesting to imagine a world in which NBA uniforms always had a 2″ advert patch, so I tried to Photoshop some of my childhood heros’ (sic) uniforms with period-appropriate ad patches. I’m not proud of what I’ve done.
It’s awful to think of an NBA uniform with ads, but this is an interesting exercise — what if the NBA had ads for 20+ years? And what if they stayed 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches for all this time? Would we even notice? Would we have cared (then)? Would our “child heroes” or favorite teams wearing brand adverts make us more (or less) likely to BUY those products? I mean, if Mickey D’s is good enough for Jordan, then it’s where I’m getting my burger, right? (Side note: with all the products Jordan endorsed, did he ever endorse McD’s? I can’t remember, and choose not to.)
There are entire generations of kids (now adults) who will only wear Jordan/Nike sneakers, simply because Michael Jordan was paid (handsomely) to wear them. Will uni ads on NBA jerseys have the same effect? I realize this isn’t a perfect analogy (one popular player wearing a certain brand is NOT the same as a team wearing an ad patch) — but certainly the future advertisers are hoping this will happen. 20 years from now, can we expect an entire generation of young adults (who are TrailBlazer fans) to purchase products made by say, Apple computers, if they are the advertisers of Portland’s team? Or buy their “gear” at Dicks Sporting Goods if they were to advertise on a team’s unis? How impactful will these future ads actually be?
Soccer fans: Question — does the corporate entity that sponsors your favorite team’s kit have any bearing on whether or not you’ll purchase a good or service from that advertiser? If you’re a fan of a certain New York-area team, are you more or less likely to buy a Red Bull energy drink? Does it even enter your consciousness?
Occasionally, I will be featuring wonderful, high-quality black and white photographs that are just begging to be colorized.
Got a couple colorizations today — both from names you know and love — George Chilvers and Bruce Menard. You’ll never guess the subject matter from each…
George is up first, followed by Bruce.
Click photos to enlarge.
This is from a screengrab I made from this video.
Wigan Borough were a Football League team in the 1920s who struggled for survival and finally went out of the League in October 1931 due to financial problems. Wigan Athletic were formed in May 1932, and finally got into the Football League in 1978, the Premier League in 2005, and won the FA Cup in 2013. We are now fighting our way back up the leagues :)
This game is an FA Cup tie in 1929 against a more famous team, Sheffield Wednesday, which the visitors won 3-1. The attendance was a ground record at Springfield Park of 30,443.
It was 52 years ago today that the beloved Shea Stadium had its first official game. They lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates that day, 4-3, with Willie Stargell laying claim to the 1st home run at the new ballpark. The photo itself is a re-working of an old wire photo I’ve posted in years past, now with a touch of color and a Mets colored border. Just a cleaner look overall from the original edit.
Here’s the box score from the game: April 17, 1964 Pittsburgh Pirates at New York Mets.
Thanks George and Bruce. Outstanding work, as always!
UW’s Friday Flashback
In case you missed it, Paul’s Friday Flashback on ESPN looked at Nets’ uniform history, which has included some memorable designs — though some of them were memorable for all the wrong reasons. The FF comes in response to one of the great uni-related stories of recent years — which came earlier this month from ESPN.com’s Zach Lowe, who revealed the previously untold tale of how the New Jersey Nets almost renamed themselves the New Jersey Swamp Dragons in the 1990s. That in and of itself is a tremendous story — so be sure to check that link out as well.
Great read, so be sure to check it out if you didn’t catch it on Friday!
Uni Watch News Ticker
Baseball News: Interesting uni combo for Myers Park HS in Charlotte, with tequila sunrise and striped stirrups (from Steve DiPaola). … Pretty sure we’ve seen these before, but Seton Hall has a tequila sunrise jersey (from Nathan Bryson). … It wasn’t just the Royals who modified their uni to add gold for their championship, Fresno Grizzlies did as well (from Nick Lineback). The Grizzlies are the defending Pacific Coast League and Triple-A National Champions. Additional shots here and here (from David Taub). … Remember the other day when Bryce Harper put “100” decals on his bat knobs? Well, MLB issued 4/13 memo stating that after further consideration, personalized bat knob decals are now allowed (thanks, Paul). … “Is it just me, or does the lettering on Jeff Locke’s uniform (first and third pictures) look off here?” asks Michael McLaughlin. … Welp, here’s another “chipped” helmet logo for the Dodgers — this time Yasiel Puig (h/t Playoff Nick). … Should the D-Bax just dump the current snakeskin-covered unis and switch back to their original teal and purple? The author of this article thinks so. … “Note spelling of ‘AOKLAND’ on 4/16 A’s jersey giveaway shipping boxes,” says Richard Paloma. “Fortunately the lettering of the jerseys was correct. Scary moment when opened with 15K to giveaway.” … The first 15,000 fans at the Oakland A’s game today get striped socks (good spot by Bruce Menard). … Here are the new Burlington Bees alternate jerseys they’ve worn a few times this year (from Corbin Schindler). … Fort Scott Comm College baseball wore Jackie Robinson uniforms yesterday. They have a faux flannel pattern (from Scott Nuzum). … You might know this already, but the Twins put their uniforms for each year on the wall outside the main gate (via Paul). … The July 4th Flag Desecration jerseys for the Padres and Rays look like the alternate Red Sox jersey designs of the early 2000s (the team never wore those, but they were sold to fans). From Nomar’s Better. … Show of virtual hands: who besides me thinks the A’s should return to these unis? (from Bruce Menard). … This Dodgers ballgirl has a 2015 Postseason patch on her jersey. Submitter Sean Robbins notes, “But also least she gets one of the new helmets.”
NFL/Football News: Whoa! Did you know the Cowboys had considered switching to a helmet with this logo? Check out this nice article by reader John Turney to read more on that. Great stuff. … Are the Seahawks planning on introducing a new charcoal helmet? … NBA jersey ads raise an obvious question: Is the NFL next? … In light of last year’s Jets/Bills color rash fiasco, the NFL apparently has a plan to avoid color-blind confusion for future color rash games. … Take this with a grain of salt, but supposedly these are the designated colors for this year’s color rash promotions (a few people sent this in). … Espo asks, “Is it just me, or are there three different copper colors between the Rattlers helmet, numbers and side panel?”
College Football News: Looks like the University of North Dakota football team will have a new gray helmet for the upcoming season — and it’s joining its green counterpart with a matte finish (thanks to Greg Enkers). … Check out this Dartmouth football title rings blog post. Submitter Cassian Wykes adds, “the lineup of coach Buddy Teevens’ rings at the end is interesting.” … Here is a look at the Will Smith decal all Ohio State players had on their helmets for yesterday’s spring game (thanks, Paul). … Here’s a look at the Penn State helmets with the “Uplifting Athletes” decal (from Thom Pucks). Also, looks like Penn State has “Nittany Lions” on the bottom of the helmet for the first time. Submitter Chris Flinn adds, “Seems like it’s always said ‘Riddell’ in the past.” … Towards the bottom of this article, there are a bunch of fan statements about Oklahoma State football uniforms — interestingly (but unsurprisingly), many feel the “kids” play “harder” in “cutting edge” uniforms, the unis help in recruiting, and this gem: “Nike decided that we’re going to be one of the teams they are going to use to advance their own brand” (and he means that as a compliment). Fans aren’t stupid, but they’ve completely bought into the Kool Aid the uni makers are selling.
NBA News: According to this article, the Charlotte Hornets will likely have a Jordan Brand logo on their uniforms during the 2017-2018 NBA Season. … Shawn Moorman Was perusing the CBS Sports App and “I came across this photo. Interesting that all 4 teams shown have a different neckline style.” … Here’s an up-close look at each of the four shirts Toronto Raptors put on seats yesterday afternoon (Thanks, Paul). … Put on your shades before you look at this link: The Atlanta Hawks had a volt-out for the fans yesterday (several sent that in). … Here is your first look at the 2016 NBA Season / Postseason upcoming t-shirt designs (all looks here). From Conrad Burry).
Soccer News: New home kits for Gloucester City AFC (via TRiCKETT). … “Seems kind of weird the official twitter account of the Colorado Rapids uses a logo that hasn’t been used by the team since 2006,” says Chris Shockey. … “In case this hasn’t been mentioned, the shirt sponsor of BM (T-Mobile) dresses 58 of their employees in white ponchos and caps at each home game, and seats them in a way that spells out their *T*** logo!” says Daniel Hresko. “This is per a 10/2014 article at bayerncentral.com.”
Grab Bag: “The AUDL (American Ultimate Disc League, a professional ultimate frisbee league) has reversed a recent decision to refuse a team from wearing rainbow bracelets during a game,” says Tyler Pearson. “The team, the Austin Sol, requested to wear the bracelets during an upcoming game in North Carolina, to protest the recent LGBT laws. AUDL initially allowed them to wear the bracelets before and after the game, but recently changed their decision. Here is the link to the reversal statement.” … Yesterday’s Army/Navy lacrosse game was gold vs. sand, which made for obvious difficulty viewing (thanks to Brian M.). And apparently Army had a new jersey (from Army-Navy Game. … Here’s a look at a college lacrosse official wearing a hockey helmet (via Travis Holland). … “Haven’t submitted anything in a while but visited my hometown (Valpo, IN) and came back to my favorite watering hole — the Franklin House — and noticed in the bathroom they changed the standard urinal to urinals that are former kegs!” exclaims Andrew Horne. “Nothing like a little ingenuity at your local sports bar.”
And that’s going to do it for this weekend (at at least here in the Northeast, finally a NICE spring weekend!). Hope you guys are able to get out and enjoy the weather if it’s nice by you.
Thanks to everyone who submitted for the ticker, either by e-mail or by tweet.
I’ll be back with more next weekend, but until then…
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.
“You don’t pull on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, and you don’t mess with the pinstripes.”