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. Earlier this year, I resumed the series with the Montreal Expos, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Oakland A’s, the Kansas City Royals, the Washington Nationals, and the Atlanta Braves.
Today we’ll look at the Colorado Rockies — born in 1993 and celebrating their 25th Anniversary this year — who have been remarkably consistent in their uniform looks over their entire history. In fact, the basic home and away uniforms the team is wearing today are almost identical to those they debuted two and half decades ago. Consistency has been their hallmark and rather than making wholesale adjustments, they’ve been content over their history to make mostly tweaks and to add a few alternate looks.
The team chose black and purple for their base colors (with some silver/gray) — the black probably because it was trendy at the time, but the purple was a nod to the “purple mountains majesty” so associated with Denver and the Rockies. It’s been noted the team wanted a classic look (which was evident from the get-go) and the pinstripe homes were modeled after the Yankees. They’d go with elegant dark purple pinstripes and black fonts and outlines (the original font appears to be in the “caslon outline” family) and the letters were filled in with a silver color. There would be no NOB on the 1993 homes (another nod to the Yankees). The team’s road jersey would only be worn for one season — 1993 — and it had silver letters outlined in a purple caslon font with solid purple lettering for the NOB and number on back, both of which were outlined in white. A think headspoon in black and two black stripes at the sleeve hems completed the look. Also introduced during the inaugural season was a black alternate jersey, to be worn on home Sundays, but it quickly fell out of favor and was rarely worn. It had the same “ROCKIES” font and purple color scheme on the numbers and NOB as the road gray. The team retired it following the 1993 season. All uniforms would have a solid black cap with an interlocking “CR” in caslon font, with purple fill surrounding the white outline.
In 1994, the home jerseys would add NOBs, but they were otherwise unchanged. The gray alternate would change somewhat, as the “ROCKIES” font, which previously had been rendered in silver with a purple outline, was made solid purple with a white outline The thick black hem at the hems of the sleeves was also removed, leaving one thin piping near the end in the same style as the headspoon piping.
The team would stick with the home and road (solely) uniform lineup for the remainder of the 1990s. 2000 brought the most major changes (which were not all that major) to the homes, and slightly more ambitious changes to the roads. For 2000, and continuing through today, the team added from uni numbers to the homes, added to the left side of the jersey, beneath “ROCKIES.” The numbers would be black outlined in white.
The road uniform would see more significant changes. Purple pinstripes were added to the jerseys and pants, and “COLORADO” replaced “ROCKIES” on the front. These would be in purple with a white outline. Numbers would be added to the front of the uniform in the same location as the homes (lower left) and would be purple, outline with a thin layer of black and a thicker layer of white. An new alternate cap would also be added, with a black crown and purple brim.
2000 also saw the introduction of the team’s first alternate jersey since the black alt in 1993. The team added a purple alternate jersey, which would be worn with both the home and road uniforms. It kept the same “COLORADO” font as the roads, but was white/purple/white (so it appeared “thicker” than the road script). The jersey would have front numbers in black, outlined in thick white, a pattern repeated on the back with the NOB and rear numbers.
In 2002, and for three seasons, the team introduced an alternate home uniform — very similar to their current one, but with “ROCKIES” removed and the interlocking “CR” logo from the cap was added to the left chest. The “CR” was silver outlined with black. Numbers were moved from the lower left to the right rib cage, about midpoint on the jersey.
Following the 2004 season, the alternate jersey was replaced by a sleeveless jersey (not a real vest, but for arguments’ sake I will refer to this style as a vest going forward). It was identical to the home alternate, just with the sleeves removed. It was worn with a black undershirt.
Unfortunately, the new pinstripe vest wouldn’t be the only vest the team would add, and what followed really began to define the team and would give them what could be strongly argued was their “signature” look – an alternate black vest was also added in 2005 and continues to be worn to this day. They would make an amazing late-season and playoff run all the way to the 2007 World Series (falling to the BoSox in 4), and the black vest would be worn for almost the entirety of that run, cementing it’s place in Rockies history. The vest, designed to be worn at home or on the road, would have the same thick “COLORADO” font style as the purple alternate, with a silver/purple/white pattern (numbers and NOB would also follow this treatment); the truncated sleeves would have a white/purple/white striping. In 2005 (only) the vests would be worn with purple undershirts (not a great look) and only for a part of the season; from 2006 onward, they’d be worn full-time with black undershirts (which seemed to defeat the purpose of wearing a vest altogether). The look would certainly be unique to the Rockies.
The team would make one more major change in 2012, ditching the pinstripes on the road uniform and returning to one that was very similar to the one worn from 1994-1999. These would say “COLORADO” in purple with a white outline (same treatment used for the numbers and NOB) with the thin headspoon piping returning, with a similar treatment for the sleeves.
Finally, the Rockies have made two subtle changes to their uniform sets of recent vintage. In 2017, the team changed the color of their purple — making it more ‘red’ and less ‘blue’ — a noticeable change for the better. It’s most evident in the hue of the purple alternates (below the new is on the left, the old is on the right) but it was also changed on the two-tone cap and anywhere purple was used.
Finally, this past season, the Rockies changed their cap logo for the first time, swapping out the purple for a solid white in the “CR” logo, giving the logo a ‘fatter’ appearance and probably greater visibility from distance.
So there you have it — over the course of 25-plus seasons the Rockies have been remarkably consistent in their uniforms, never succumbing to a wholesale reworking and making only semi-major changes to the road uniforms (twice). One could easily argue the home pinstripes ARE the team’s signature look (and I wouldn’t argue too strongly against that), but it’s not longevity in a uniform that necessarily makes it a signature look — it when you can see a photo of that team and instantly identify them. And in that capacity, one could also argue the black sleeveless jersey, which really gained fame during their incredible 2007 run to the World Series and which the team has now worn for than a decade, would qualify as their signature look. No one else wears a black sleeveless jersey and no team wore said vest with black sleeves. It’s a look that is definitely unique to the Rockies, and one that could be argued would be their calling card. YMMV.
Old Time Base Ball Photos
Readers will recall I featured Ronnie Bolton (who posts on Twitter as @OTBaseballPhoto and who you should definitely follow) earlier this year with some great football played on baseball field photos and writeups, some MLB Opening Day specials, and more recently with some old baseball stadia (here and here). As his twitter handle implies, Ronnie’s specialty is old baseball photos.
With my look back at the Colorado Rockies Signature uni(s) today, Ron’s got some old time photos of various ballparks which have called Denver home.
Enjoy. Here’s Ronnie:
Broadway Park, Denver, CO, ca 1900
In this photo, Pearl “Casey” Barnes is up at bat for the Denver Bears of the Western League. The Skyscrapers, or Roughriders as they were sometimes called (what nickname this team went by is really anyone’s guess), played at a ballpark built in 1893 that was simplistic in design. During this period baseball struggled to take hold in Denver due to several factors, one being the city’s isolation from other towns and teams and also the lack of competitive leagues in the region, so the interest in the sport was stunted at times and the motivation to build a viable ballpark was lacking. Another problem was any talent the area did produce tended to flock east for bigger paychecks.
After several failed attempts at bringing organized ball to the Denver area during the 1880’s and 1890’s, George Tebeau, a former ballplayer from the area, worked tirelessly to put together a formidable squad and joined the rugged Western League in 1900. But despite the Bears early success on the field and off, the Denver club would eventually fold in 1917 and the Rocky Mountain city’s erratic affair with baseball would take a temporary backseat once again.
you can see on the right hand side part Broadway Park
Denver, CO, October 5, 1927
In downtown Denver a large crowd of baseball enthusiasts assembled on Champa Street by the Denver Post headquarters to follow the first game of the 1927 World Series via a giant animatronic scoreboard. The New York Yankees would defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-4.
It’s hard to tell which version of the electronic scoreboard is hanging on the front of the building. Due to its popularity, there were several dozen varieties in use, one of the most popular being the Playograph made in Stamford, Connecticut. It was common practice for newspapers to foot the bill and sponsor the viewing of the games on these scoreboards that worked much like a ESPN Game Cast.
The ingenious machine usually relied on two to three operators hidden from the public view. One would get updates of the game from the telegraph and relay them to his co-operator who would then move the baseball on the huge billboard-like scoreboard (usually around nine feet in height) to the delight of the spectators in the front. Uni Watch’s own Paul Lukas probably does a better job describing how it works in great detail.
In time their popularity would start to wane with the emergence of radio stations broadcasting the big games. By the early 1930’s these scoreboards were nothing but a memory and few if any exist today.
Bears Stadium to Mile High Stadium
Mile High Stadium will always be known as home to the Denver Broncos, but the road from being home to a minor league baseball team (Bears) to being universally recognized as a major football venue is a unique journey.
It all began in 1948 when Bears Stadium was built for the city’s minor league team (see above photo). However, the city was rapidly growing and the Bears success in the 1950’s would entice Bears owner Bob Howsam to dream big, so efforts were made to lure an MLB team to Denver and Howsam made moves that in the end turned out to be ill-advised, including expansion of the ballpark that would put him in great debt.
After it became apparent his gambles backfired and MLB would not be coming to the Mile High City, Howsam began looking for other avenues for much needed revenue and soon enough he would be awarded an American Football League charter franchise. The “Broncos” would change the fate of Bears Stadium as it would start the full transformation from a minor-league baseball venue to a 75,000-seat multi-purpose stadium.
Thanks, Ronnie. He’ll be back periodically with more wonderful old photos and the backstories that go with them.
By Kris Gross
Baseball News: The Red Sox and Orioles went color on color last night (from Andrew Cosentino). … According to @EthanNovak, the Mariners went teal brim, navy jersey, and white pants for the first time in almost two decades. … Major League Baseball told White Sox first base coach Daryl Boston he can no longer use a whistle during games. … Not sure if we knew this, but Mike Clevinger has Chief Wahoo on his glove (from Brandon Baumgartner). … New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. wore a throwback Rays jersey as he took batting practice with the team last night (from Ignacio). … Now this is cool: Here is an original ticket to Southside Park, home of the White Sox from 1901-1909 (from Matt Bond). … Here’s a column on what the Padres can learn from San Diego State’s brand (thanks Phil). … Mets Police thought this ad using Mets fans didn’t look like Mets fans – turns out, they were right (thanks Paul). … The Springfield Cardinals wore pinstripe jerseys last night, and the pinstripes were made of the word “Cardinals” (from Teej). … In case you missed it, here are the alternate jerseys the Reno Aces wore last week (from @OT_Sports). … Celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Sandlot with these El Paso Chihuahuas jerseys on June 2 (from Fernie B.). … The Fort Myers Miracle will play as the Fort Myers Groupers in July (from Adam Childs). … Nelson Warwick described the uniform matchup between West Virginia and Baylor quite nicely: “rather brutal”. … Ohio State’s softball jerseys split the “E” over the buttons, making it appear to say “Buckleys” (from Billy Juszczyk).
NFL News: Is this our first clue that the Steelers Batman jerseys are on the docket for 2018? (from Mark R. Hirschfeld). … Did anyone ask for a Raiders logo with a mustache? (from @tonyjuve10). … Also listed in the baseball section: Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. wore a throwback Rays jersey as he took batting practice with the team last night (from Ignacio). … Check out Elvin Bethea’s monster cast – and a great uni match up too! (from Pro Football Journal). … 247Sports ranked the best Bears unis from the last 30 years and the greatest Eagles uniforms in history.
Hockey News: The Canucks could be getting new alternates next season (thanks Phil). … Here’s a NYT article on the spectacle of the Golden Knights’ pregame. … Here is the Regina Pats’ jersey from the Memorial Cup last night (from Nelson Hackewich).
NBA News: Our buddy Conrad Burry has uncovered what looks like a new wordmark for the Nuggets next season. … The Bucks NBA2K team has become the first with a jersey ad (from Nick Haering). … @Calvin_Bruce61 came across this basketball featuring the current Bucks logo, but old uniform.
Soccer News: The new Club America has leaked, and it’s covered in ads (from Marc Price). … Tranmere Rovers FC has a new home kit (from Josh Hinton). … Red Bull Salzburg have unveiled new home and away kits (from @FunkyColdMatina). … This is a sweet goalie helmet from 1982 (from @QuakesFan84).
Grab Bag: Also listed in the baseball section: Here’s a column on what the Padres can learn from San Diego State’s brand (thanks Phil). … United States curling star Matt Hamilton used his gold medal as a golf ball marker. Pro move. … Major League Lacrosse team Denver Outlaws will wear five different helmets honoring the branches of the military tonight (from @LaxSportsNetwork). … Also listed in the NBA section: The Bucks NBA2K team has become the first with a jersey ad (from Nick Haering). … Here is a visual history of Captain America’s shields (from @walbergLines).
And finally, a special big Happy Uni Watch Birthday to Jimmer Vilk (whose birthday I seem to forget every year — but not this time). Please join me in wishing him a Happy 51st! Cheers, MoVi.