By Phil Hecken
Back in 2016, I began undertaking a series of entries looking at a team’s “signature” uniform. Loosely defined (and subject to interpretation) a “signature” uniform would be a uniform which one might definitively associate with a team, the one which stood out the most over the years. A signature uniform is not necessarily a team’s best uniform, or one which the team has worn the longest (although either of those could still apply), but rather the one uniform that, when you think of how a team looked at their most distinct, you have their signature uniform.
If you missed the previous entries in the series, you can see them at the following links: Indians, Pirates, Astros, Mets, Rays and Padres. I hope to complete the signature series this year, but … we’ll see.
Today we’re going to look at a team that no longer exists (although the franchise does): the Montreal Expos. The Expos were born in 1969, members of that year’s expansion draft, and played in Montreal through the 2004 season. That’s 36 years of baseball — and through all that time, hard as it is to believe, the Expos have really only had three distinctly different uniforms (with a few minor changes to each along the way). So it shouldn’t be hard to determine a signature uni, right?
For their first 11 seasons, the Expos wore a beautiful uniform. The team itself was actually named after an event: “Expo 67,” which was the World’s Fair in Montreal. Like much of the “forward looking” type things that exist at Worlds’ Fairs, the Expos original uniforms were a modern, non-traditional set. Rather than using a team and city name (home/road) in script or block lettering across the chest, the Expos opted instead for a stylized logo on the left chest. Underneath that logo they’d place the team name (“expos” — in all lower-case letters); to balance the look, they placed a front uniform number on the right breast. The stylized “M” logo actually contains the letters “e” (the red curly-cue) and “b” (in blue), standing for “Montreal Expos Baseball.” We get our explanation from a 1985 New York Times article, which notes “The logo is composed of three colors – red, white and blue – and three letters: a large stylized “M” for Montreal, a lower case “e” for Expos in red on the lower left of the logo, and a “b” for baseball in blue on the right-hand side.”
For two-thirds of their “life,” the team would wear one of the most distinct caps in all of baseball. A red-white-and-blue tri-color paneled cap. The brim was blue, the crown was white, the side panels were red, and the back panel was blue.
From 1969 through 1972, both the home and road uniforms were a beautiful wool flannel.
With the league-wide change to polyester in the 1970s, the Expos changed too — but the eschewed the pullover jersey/sansabelt pant route, instead opting to keep the basic original uniform in tact, with full button fronts and belted pants. The only changes would be to the road unis, where the blue numbers were given a white outline. NOBs were added to both home and road unis in 1977. In addition, on the home uniform the blue numbers on the front of the uniform were changed to red. On the roads, the same change (blue numbers to red) also took place in 1977.
The first major change to the Expos uniforms would come with the 1980 season: the addition of red and blue “racing stripes” on the shoulders and down the sides of the jersey, and on the pants. The rest of the uniform remained basically unchanged, but the addition of the racing stripes added a new, unique and very distinct element, and was definitely a look the team would come to be associate with — in fact, we could say this was their “signature” uniform. Of course, they kept the beautiful tri-color cap with this set.
The white uniform would remain from 1980 through 1991, unchanged in any of these years. The road uniform would be the same from 1980 through 1988.
While the home white uniforms would remain the same through 1991, in 1989 and through 1991, the road blue uniforms added blue outlines to all the elements (number, NOB, “expos” wordmark).
The third, and final, uniform change would come in 1992. This one would be a radical departure from their original and signature looks.
The home uniforms were pinstriped, with a brand new cursive font saying “Expos” (with a long tail underline), and which was centered and angled upward on the jersey. The number would move from the right breast to the left side of the jersey, beneath the wordmark. Numbers and letters would be navy blue, outlined with a thin red piping. Hats and helmets went away from the signature tri-color to a sold blue, with the original “M” logo kept in tact.
The road uniforms would undergo similar major changes. The powder blue, worn since 1969, became gray. “Montreal” in script lettering was added (with a fleur-de-lis atop the “e” in Montreal), rendered in red, with a double outline of blue then white. Like the new homes, the wordmark was an angled script and the uni number was to the left side and below the “Montreal.” Thick blue, thin white, and thick red stripes were added to the sleeves of the uniforms, and also down the sides of the pants.
And then, they were gone — relocated to Washington, D.C. for the 2005 season and renamed the “Nationals” (we’ll look at the Nats signature uni another time). But for a franchise that existed for over 30 years, to have only three uniforms sets is pretty remarkable, and each one lasted for approximately the same amount to time. The originals (especially the flannel versions, with their rich texture) were, in my opinion, their best uniform, but their second generation, with the addition of the racing stripes, was definitely their “signature.” I also love this look, maybe almost as much as the originals.
Readers may be thinking, “Hey wait a minute, don’t you HATE the Mets racing stripes uniform?” I do — or at least I hate the home version of that. Just because racing stripes are on a uniform, that’s not the problem — the Mets own signature uniform isn’t bad because it had racing stripes: it’s bad because it had pinstripes AND racing stripes (total overkill) and was a pullover (paired with belted pants, no less) to boot. The Mets road racing stripe uni was far better because it lacked the additional vertical elements. The Expos racing stripe uni not only looked great (because it was on a crisp white or powder blue uni), it was a modern look on a traditional buttonfront/belted pants uniform. If the Expos ever become a thing in Montreal again, they could slide into this uni and all would be right in the world.
And there you have it. This one was an easy call. When you think of the Expos “signature” uni, it’s the racing stripes.
Readers? What say you?
For those who don’t wish to click the links, Graig paints baseball heroes (and regular guys) from the past, and is an immense talent.
Occasionally, I will be featuring his work on Uni Watch.
Here’s today’s offering (click to enlarge):
Title: “The Most Valuable Player”
Subject: Lou Gehrig, 1936
Medium: Oil on linen
Size: 16” x 20”
Perhaps best remembered for how he left the game, Lou Gehrig is by far and away one of the best players to ever pick up a bat. Numbers aside, the implicit confidence – as sportswriter Stanley Frank put it – that he brought to the Yankees was what made him their most valuable asset. And, those pinstripes and interlocking NY never looked better on a player. In fact, the home New York Yankees jersey as we know it today became permanent starting in 1936. Though it would go through subtle transformations throughout the late 1930s, 1940s and into the 1950s (size of the abbreviation, width of pinstripes, flared serifs, etc), the general winning combo remained the same: A deep midnight navy NY and blue pinstripes. And for as long as Lou Gehrig was in the lineup and his jersey contained those elements, the Yankees won.
Thanks, Graig! You can (and should!) follow Graig on Twitter.
Click to enlarge
MLB Season Preview reminder: Paul here. In case you missed it on Friday, my 20th annual MLB Season Preview column, with all of the new designs for the coming season (including the patches shown above), is now available. Check it out here.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled Phil phantasmagoria.
By Anthony Emerson
Baseball News: Here’s something you don’t see every day: Joltin’ Joe in a Giants jersey! That’s from a 1962 old timers game at Candlestick (from Doug Brei). After Paul tweeted out this image, @BSmile replied with this pic of all three DiMaggio brothers at the same old timers game. Note that Joe kept the Yankees cap, while Dom and Vince both appear to be wearing Giants caps. All three spent time with the San Francisco Seals (that pic from @RzstProgramming). … A local ironworkers union has a great take on the ’80s White Sox logo (from Frank Barber). … Cardinals prospect Dennis Ortega has a Venezuelan flag-based bat knob decal (from @SuperMonicaco). … The Lehigh Valey IronPigs of the International League are wearing these caps and giving away these T-shirts on LGBT Pride Night on June 14 (thanks, Phil). … The Montgomery Biscuits of the Southern League are adding a powder blue alternate to commemorate the 15th year of their affiliation with the Rays (from Roger Kirk). … The Trenton Thunder of the Eastern League unveiled their pork roll alternate caps yesterday. … The Binghamton RumblePonies of the Eastern League will become the Binghamton Spiedies on May 26 (thanks, Phil). … The Durham Bulls are holding Stranger Things night on July 13. Here are the caps the Bulls will wear. … Middle Tennessee is adopting 3D helmet logos (from Lee Wilds). … Texas A&M’s grounds crew cut a script “Aggies” into the centerfield grass (from Nick McKenna). … Here’s a look at the Mets’ Dominic Smith’s custom kicks (from Megan Brown).
NFL/CFL News: Reader Joseph A. Bailey received his NFL fan survey, and it included questions about the aesthetic changes to the game ball, which included a change to how the team logos are presented on the ball to adopting a full-color shield. … After lots of speculation, the Eagles ended up not proposing an alternate helmet rule at the owners meetings (thanks, Phil). … Also listed in the NBA section: everyone attending Tom Benson’s funeral received and wore these lapel pins (from Lamar Bourgeois III). … CFL teams have two ad patches: one that each individual team negotiates, and one that the league requires all teams to have. The previous leaguewide patch was Canada Pacific Railway, as seen in these pictures from last year. CP’s contract with the CFL expired after last season, and they’re not renewing it. The company replacing CP has been kept very hush-hush until TSN released promotional photos showing CFLers with Kal Tire patches (from Wade Heidt).
Hockey News: Someone noticed that the Blue Jackets’ helmet decals are raised and textured. Does any other team do that? (from @CBJProspects). … Allen Americans goalie Jeremy Brodeur wore the ECHL Golden Goalie sweater while the rest of his team was in white last evening (from @MDWDFW).
NBA News: I think we may have covered this before, but just in case: Kyle Caffrey noticed that the number of stars on the side panels of the Sixers’ jerseys varies: four stars on the right side panel and three stars on the left side panel. Kyle thinks the disparity is supposed to represent 7 on one side and six on the other, including the three stars on each side of the shorts. Excellent work, thanks Kyle! … Here’s a decent guide to the players behind the Wizards’ retired numbers (from William F. Yurasko). … Speaking of, Phil Chenier describes his impending number retirement as “surreal” (also from William F. Yurasko). And here’s his number up in the rafters (from Mike Chamernik). … Cross-posted from the NFL section: everyone attending Tom Benson’s funeral received and wore these lapel pins (from Lamar Bourgeois III). … Steph Curry wore a Kentucky jersey at practice after losing a bet.
College/High School Hoops News: Yesterday gave us our first look at the Final Four floor. Anyone else getting a 90s Spurs logo vibe? (from Forrest M and @loneranger158). … Weird looking graphic last evening in the Orange/Blue Devils tilt: “I know what CBS is trying to do here, but is it me or does this “D” for Duke looks really odd?” asks Damon Hirschensohn.
Soccer News: What would’ve been the USA World Cup kits have been launched. Here’s some deeper information on the design (from Conrad Burry and Phil). … Stoke City’s 2018-19 home kit has been leaked. … Saudi Arabia’s 2018 World Cup kits have been officially launched (from Josh Hinton). … Last week, Yeovil Town asked its supporters to vote on three potential kit designs for next season, and the supporters have chosen the only halfway decent proposal (from Alex Evans). … FC Cincinnati’s of the USL have launched their new kits. … New kits for NPSL side Chattanooga FC (from Ed Żelaski). … Also from Ed: Cleveland Soccer Club of the NPSL have launched their first-ever crest.
Grab Bag: The debate surrounding whether tennis balls are green or yellow exploded recently when Roger Federer claimed they were yellow. Science says they’re both yellow and green. So everyone wins (thanks, Phil).
Big Uni Watch shout out to reader and contributor Kenny Ocker who is
ruining his life taking the big plunge and getting married today! Way to go, Gobs. Good luck and happy trails, my friend.