[Editor’s Note: Paul is on vacation and will return to the site on March 9. Today’s content is by assistant editor Alex Hider.]
By Alex Hider
Almost every athletic uniform across all sports shares one thing in common: A number on the back of the jersey. It’s been that way across the big four American sports since the mid-”˜30s. But in the late 1920s, one short-lived trend threatened to change the baseball uniform as we know it.
As most Uni Watchers know, the Indians and Yankees were the first Major League teams to wear numbers on the backs of their jerseys in 1929 (the Tribe were first thanks to a Yankee rainout). But they weren’t the first to use the back of the uniform.
That honor appears to belong to the Detroit Tigers. In 1928, the Tigers debuted a new set of unis that featured a large tiger’s head on the backside of their jerseys.
The poorly-drawn tiger wasn’t the only quirk of the road set. The team paired the set with black ”” or perhaps a darker blue ”” cap and socks. The jersey also bore the team name in block letters on the front, in a strange, sloping alignment.
Some photos show a steeper slope than others.
It’s no surprise that the Tigers waited until 1929 to introduce such an innovative set, considering Ty Cobb was no longer on the team. According to Charles Leerhsen’s book “Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty,” Cobb was the face of baseball for much of his time with the Tigers, and wielded a ton of influence over what the team wore.
Leerhsen mentioned that the Peach preferred the classic long-sleeved, collared sweaters of the early 1900s. After Cobb left the team after the 1926 season, the Tigers got much more creative with their unis.
The Tigers only wore their LOB jerseys for one season, but the Boston Braves quickly followed suit. From 1929-1930, the Braves wore home and road sets featuring the team’s Brave’s head logo on the back of the jersey.
The Brave’s head also appeared on the front placket of the jersey in the middle of the BRAVES lettering. In 1930, team added what appears to be a Pilgrim’s hat on their left sleeve, turning the unis into a Thanksgiving stereotype. UPDATE: According to Scott Johnston this patch was used to commemorate Boston’s 300th anniversary. The Red Sox also wore the same patch that season.
It’s no coincidence that the LOB trend quickly faded after the Yankees and Indians began regularly wearing uni numbers. Fans quickly began associating star players by the numbers they wore. Radio was quickly becoming essential to teams, and numbers allowed broadcasters to quickly identify players.
By 1937, all teams were regularly wearing numbers on both their home and road unis. The Tigers adopted numbers in 1931; the Braves added them in 1932.
What could have been”¦.
By Alex Hider
Baseball News: Phil didn’t have a photo yesterday, but it appears that this is what Mexico will be wearing as a road uni in the WBC (from Ti Ti Tierra). … Clint Frazier, one of the Yankees’ top prospects, has been sporting long red locks. Will the Yanks send him to the barber? … It was Alumni Day at the Phillies spring training game yesterday. Members of the team’s Wall of Fame had a special patch sewn on their jerseys (from Frank McGuigan). … It looks like some Mets coaches have cut the sleeves short on their BP tops (from Brendan Mongey). … Matt Harvey had an Adidas logo showing on his undershirt yesterday. Is there a fine coming, or will the league take it easy on him because its Spring Training? (From David Blum). … Spring Training at its finest: The Reds and Angels went red-on-red yesterday, and the Cubs and Rangers went blue-on-blue (from O.G. Miller and Andrew Consentino). … Patrick Thomas sends along shots of some beautiful MLB pennants, circa 1949. Good stuff. … Holy giant NOB, Batman! (From Frank McGuigan). … Jerry found this old press clipping former Pirates equipment manager about John Hallahan from 1968. Good read. … Nice throwbacks for Nebraska (from Mike Shearer). … Oral Roberts’ jerseys are, uh, interesting (from Will Chitty). … Love, love, love these Jackson State uniforms. They feel a lot like the White Sox 1969-70 roads (from Bill Hetrick). … Paul probably isn’t sure how to feel about these purple stirrups. That’s from a DIII matchup between CCNY and Shenandoah (from Scott Musa). …
Pro Football News: Paul was in New Orleans yesterday and spotted a bag of Saints-branded ice, complete with the team’s Sir Saint logo. …The Bills are auctioning off the pool table from the team locker room (from Helmet Addict). … The New York football Bills (from Ryan Z). … Very drab gray-on-gray matchup in the Champions Indoor Football league last night (from Rovitz).
Hockey News: According to this story, the Senators are considering making their throwback “O” logo their primary mark (From Stan Capp). … The Red Deer Rebels of the WHL wore ’90s throwbacks on Saturday night (from Wade Heidt). … The Moose Jaw Warriors wore special jerseys to commemorate a team Hall of Fame event (also from Wade). … The Saginaw Spirit of the OHL wore Mighty Ducks-themed unis on Saturday (also also from Wade).
Pro Basketball News: Great looking color-on-color game between the Celts and Suns yesterday (from Cole P.). … Hawks season ticket holders donated their premium courtside seats to veterans for last night’s game (from Max Strauss). … Steph Curry has a new pair of kicks. I don’t think the internet will have as much fun with these as they did with last year’s model. … The Erie Bayhawks of the D League wore some garish Stars and Stripes unis yesterday (from Micah).
College Hoops News: Rumors are swirling that this is what Kansas will be wearing during the Big XII and NCAA Tournaments, though no official announcement has been made. Given the #TeamBrand trend we’ve seen in the past few years, perhaps other Adidas schools could wear a similar template (from Fried). … Maryland gave away framed jerseys to its seniors yesterday. Note the inconsistencies in the space between the team name and number (from Terrapin BB Uniforms). … The Big South championship trophy has a hashtag on it. Is this an NCAA basketball first? (From Adam Vitcavage). … Spotted during the Temple/South Florida game: A scorekeeper wearing a baseball jersey. According to Douglas Ford, the jersey is red with gold trim, and the script on the jersey appears to end in “ts.” Any idea what it is?
Grab Bag: FC Cincinnati of the United Soccer League broke out black and gray uniforms in a preseason game on Saturday. As a fan, I sincerely hope this is the last we see of them (from Brian Henke). … The Colorado Mammoth of the National Lacrosse League wore Colorado flag-themed uniforms for 303 Day, a Denver appreciation day (from Wade Heidt). … White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has upgraded his suits at the request of the president ”” but his tie game is still not on point. (From Tommy).