By Phil Hecken
In what was, at least to me, one of the most eagerly awaited throwback games of the year (maybe even the decade), last evening the Philadelphia Phillies threwback to their infamous, one-and-done, “Saturday Night Special” uniforms, worn for only one game in 1979. You know the unis…the mono-burgundy ones:
The date was May 17, 1979, and the team had been scheduled to wear the all burgundy uniforms for select Saturday Night games that season. However, public reaction was so bad that the team scrapped the whole plan and never wore them again. That rarity alone made me circle this game on the calendar as a “must see.” You see, as a Uni Watcher, some of the best uniforms are actually the worst uniforms (in the “so bad they’re good” vein), and when you wait 40 years for a reappearance, expectations are high. Unfortunately the uniforms, and the game (at least from a Phillies perspective) were a let down.
First, lets take a look at the Phillies unis:
From a pure uniform perspective, the Phillies pretty much nailed these as close to the original as they could — they even went with the period-correct zipper-front jersey, which was worn in 1979, and they seemed to get the burgundy correct (some would say this borders on maroon, but to me there’s more red in it, so it looks burgundy to me — and that’s the color I’ll be calling it).
Phillies jersey is interesting as it features a rib knit collar not usually found on other zippered baseball jerseys. Reminds me of a lace up hockey jersey collar. pic.twitter.com/97jPjdNytt
— Wafflebored (@wafflebored) July 27, 2019
Contrast that to the throwback helmets (which they currently wear with their powder blue throwbacks) — those appear to be more maroon (note also the “DPM” sleeve patch, which obviously the team didn’t have in 1979; this and the makers marks were the only true differences between what was worn last night and what was worn 40 years ago):
Note the helmets (and the caps) have the “P” with the ‘baseball’ stitching across it, while the uniforms have the ‘solid’ “P” which is correct for 1979.
I give the Phils A+ for effort and authenticity of the unis. Even if the zipperfront led to some interesting styling:
But … this game wasn’t just about the Phillies. Nay, they went the extra yard and outfitted their opponents, division-rival Atlanta Braves (they were in opposite divisions in 1979) in authentic 1979 throwbacks as well, and those were spot on as well. Here’s what those road jerseys looked like back then:
Those jerseys were pullovers, worn from 1976-1979 (and often mistaken for the road uni Hank Aaron wore — there were similarities, but they were different), with raglan sleeves and a single sleeve feather (worn on the left sleeve). The caps/helmets were two/tone in royal blue with a white panel on the crown. Pants were belted. All of these were duly reproduced last night.
Even the fairly wide white stripe at the hem of the sleeve was pretty close to the original.
So, I commend the Braves (and Phils) on another great reproduction. A+ there too.
But, aside from the particularly lopsided loss for the Phillies, the game was also a disappointment from a uni perspective — even with the near perfect reproductions. I know I shouldn’t complain about how the players “style” their unis, but I didn’t see a single Phillie wearing stirrups (which were certainly part and parcel of that SNS look); most wore their pants pajama-style, and the few who did go with high cuffs simply wore maroon socks. You’d think the team, which went all out on the reproduction, could have at least provided stirrups, or better matching socks.
Then again, I may have been the only one who cared about that. The baseball was that bad.
The Braves, on the other hand, all appeared to be going high-cuffed (though I didn’t spy any stirrups there either).
But it was more than the players just not sporting the ’79 feel. 40 years later, the mono-burgundy unis just really didn’t look that good. Like, at all. You know my nostalgia for the early polyester era (since I grew up during it) probably overlooks some really bad uni-design, but even I can’t get behind these. I’m glad we saw them one.last.time, but let’s hope they stay mothballed for another 40 years. If I make it to the ripe old age of 93, maybe I’ll be happy to see them again…
The Phillies are currently down by 13 runs, which may well mean that we won’t see these all-burgundy onesies again for another 40 years (2059.) Here’s what happened to the first iteration, one and out: pic.twitter.com/bZUOv3GUAC
— Todd Radom (@ToddRadom) July 28, 2019
You can get a sense of the unis with these video clips. And just how much better those Braves unis look.
— Jeff Skversky 6abc (@JeffSkversky) July 28, 2019
Zippers? The #Phillies uniforms have zippers?
— FOX Sports: Braves (@FOXSportsBraves) July 27, 2019
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) July 27, 2019
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) July 28, 2019
And finally — if you want to see more of the ORIGINAL 79 unis (very few photos exist, but there were folks who brought cameras for photo night), check out this thread.
You can see more photos from last night’s game here.
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: “José Méndez, 1909” (color study)
Subject: José Méndez, 1909
Medium: Oil on linen mounted to board
Size: 5” x 7”
I’ve always been fascinated with José Méndez. One of Cuba’s first national sports heroes, his legend was born in the Cuban winter leagues, mostly against (white) big leaguers. One of his more famous stats is a period over three appearances in which he pitched 25 consecutive scoreless innings against the visiting Reds in 1908. Supposedly he had equal luck in the states, cited by some historians as having gone 44-2 with the Cuban Stars in 1909. Whether any of his exploits smack of hyperbole or not – some of his known statistics claim that he may have been little more than a middle-of-the-road pitcher with a couple of stellar performances under his belt – one thing is for certain, those same American players he faced thought he was worthy of the praise bestowed upon him by baseball fans on the island.
Athletics catcher Ira Thomas said just as much in a piece for Baseball Magazine in 1913:
“Méndez is a remarkable man. More than one big leaguer from the states has faced him and left the plate with a wholesome respect for the great Cuban star. It is not alone my opinion but the opinion of many others who have seen Méndez pitch that he ranks with the best in the game. I do not think he is Walter Johnson’s equal, but he is not far behind. He has terrific speed, great control, and uses excellent judgment.”
Giants manager John McGraw is also famously quoted as saying he would have bought him from his Cuban club for $50,000 had he been white.
For me, it’s his look that I was always attracted to. A tall and skinny man, there’s something about that dark skin and those high and pointy cheek bones that gave him such a great look. Having that contrast against any of those bright home uniforms we’ve seen him in (with this case, Almendares) makes for a nice contrast as well. Truly, of the few Cuban Leaguers I’ve been able to paint, he’s been my favorite subject thus far.
This small portrait is one of 200+ such paintings of mine that will be on display at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in the spring of 2020.
Thanks, Graig! You can (and should!) follow Graig on Twitter.
Guess The Game…
from the scoreboard
The game has returned! At least for a trial basis, but I got a lot of positive response to its return, so we’ll see how long we keep this one going.
Today’s scoreboard comes from reader Willard Kovacs
The premise of the game (GTGFTS) is simple: I’ll post a scoreboard and you guys simply identify the game depicted. In the past, I don’t know if I’ve ever completely stumped you (some are easier than others).
OK — this one’s obviously not a baseball or football scoreboard, but it’s a fun one nonetheless. Rather than “identify the game” as noted below, identify the event (plus date, location, etc).
Here’s the Scoreboard. In the comments below, try to identify the game (date & location, as well as final score). If anything noteworthy occurred during the game, please add that in (and if you were AT the game, well bonus points for you!):
If you guys like this, please continue sending these in! You’re welcome to send me any scoreboard photos (with answers please), and I’ll keep running them.
As you’re all (hopefully) aware, Paul is once again scheduled to take his monthlong sabbatical from Uni Watch during August (he’s actually leaving for a real vacation this weekend). As always, I hope to fill each day with new and good uni-content, but sometimes there just isn’t that much uni news. That’s where you guys come in.
I’d love to feature some articles from you, the readers, as I have during past Augusts. So if there is a uni-related subject or topic you feel passionately about, and would like to share with your fellow obsessive students of the athletic aesthetic, give me a shout at Phil (dot) Hecken (at) gmail (dot) com and we can discuss the parameters. Many of you have submitted guest pieces in the past, and some of them have been really outstanding. A couple of you have already contacted me to express interest, but I can always use more — so please HOLLA if you have a uni-related column idea!
OK? OK!Let’s make August a uni-ficent month!
Uni Watch News Ticker
Baseball News: Pretty cool little video here on how to break in a baseball glove in Japan (from Jeremy Brahm). … You know that little “comb” like device pitchers use to remove mud from their spikes? Well, Jason Triplett thinks it looks like the Jeep grille logo (and he’s not wrong). … Here’s a really good (and deep dive) article on the TATC unis worn by the “Mercury” Mets in 1999. I was at this game, btw. … (Friday) “night’s Indians/Royals game had to have been the first time two starting pitchers squared off both wearing #65, right?” asks Michael Driscoll). … What would make Milwaukee Brewers fan (and UW stalwart) Chance Michaels be a Mets fan? Let’s start with the logo, which Chance feels is the best in the bigs. … Check out this cool old Angels scorebook/program (from GOAT Jerseys). … Here’s a good look at some 1985 MLB unis, via Bruce Menard and this TWIB video cast. … Mike Wissman writes, “From the Phillies Facebook feed. They send this out for each game, with the lineups. (Last) night we get a bonus because of the special maroon uniforms. Looks like they gave an intern 3 minutes to mock things up in MS Paint. It’s just an inexplicably, stunningly bad effort. You can’t even bother to match the P’s???” [Perhaps this tweet better explains it. Seems like a goof — PH] … Mike Clevinger of the Cleveland Indians wore one red and one blue cleat last night. Submitter Ed Hahn says, “He wears a lot of custom cleats, but first time I’ve seen different colors. If this is common, I apologize…”
NFL News: Here’s a pretty interesting article detailing how 3D printing technology is allowing for custom football helmet liners (from James Gilbert). … Oooohhh. Evan Saacks writes, “My parents cleaned out a bunch of grandpa’s old stuff today and this was the coolest find to me– tickets and a game program from Cowboys vs. Saints 1967.”
College/High School Football News: As we gear up towards the start of the NCAA Football season, here’s a look at some of the footwear the Florida State Seminoles will be sporting (from Christina Dodson). … Quincy High School in Eastern Washington has a new football stadium, which it will debut on September 13th (from Kary Klismet).
Basketball News: LA Clippers owner Steve “Ballmer would not rule out changing the logo — and the colors, and perhaps even the nickname itself — when the Clippers move into the new arena,” (from Lucan Denfield). … Praise for the Milwaukee Bucks logo from Sleep Feast: “The ‘new nba logos have to have a basketball in them’ thing is kinda lame, but I like the way some teams have utilized it. The Bucks’ new look in particular. This is a perfect modern logo IMO. Three colors, simple, but still a lot of symbolism and heritage.” … Apologies if we’ve had this before (but I don’t think so): Barack Obama’s old high school basketball jersey is up for auction (from Kary Klismet).
Soccer News: The West Virginia ladies soccer team will have new kits this season (from Coleman Mullins). … Of course, don’t forget to check the twitter feed for soccer uni guru Josh Hinton who scours the interwebs for all the soccer kit news. … Here’s a Bizarre listing of Manchester City player issue clothes at “classicshirts,” including unworn underwear and blank white shirts (from Lucan Denfield).
Grab Bag: It seems as though there is now an international logo dispute, as a child entertainment firm has sued an Oklahoma marijuana dispensary, alleging trademark infringement (from Justin Cliburn). … “Caught the end of Brazil v. Guyana in Rugby 7s today and noticed the majority of Guyana’s players had the Guyanese crest covered with red tape,” writes Janssen McCormick. “Pretty sure this is because the PanAm Games follows the IOC’s lead on not allowing federation logos on uniforms.” … “Hey Guys – I don’t think you covered this yet,” writes Charlie Kranz. “Am embarrassed to say I didn’t know about this until the semi-final today. Limerick went without a logo on their jerseys this season.” … Is the Souvenir Cap the Ultimate Humblebrag? Everyone from former special counsel Robert Mueller to rapper Travis Scott has worn a baseball hat emblazoned with an insider’s location, a deceptively unassuming garment (from Tom Turner). … New secondary and tertiary athletic logos for the Centre College Colonels of Kentucky. The new logos, featuring an eagle reminiscent of the U.S. Military rank insignia and the pins worn by Kentucky Colonels, replace the old “Colonel Head” logo the college discontinued last year after finding it inconsistent with its non-discrimination policies (from Kary Klismet).