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Have You Ever Been ‘Uni-Surprised’?

By Phil Hecken

Good Sunday Morning, Uni Watchers — I hope everyone had a good Saturday. Today is technically the shortest day of the year for most of us in the United States, with 48 states moving their clocks forward to Daylight Saving Time at 2:00 am this morning. Coincidentally, today will also likely be one of my shortest posts of the year as well (for reasons not worth explaining, I had some family issues yesterday, and then taught curling for most of yesterday evening, so I simply didn’t have time for one of my usual Sunday mega-posts). I’m sure most of you are thankful for that.

Before we get into today’s lede, a quick “time change” aside — you could probably win a bar bet with a time change riddle. It goes something like this: a set of twins were born, a boy and a girl. The boy was born first, but on the official birth certificates, the girl was listed as being born 20 minutes before the boy. How could this be?

Answer: The boy was born at 1:50 am, and the girl arrived 40 minutes later. But because it was the annual “fall back,” the clocks were turned back one hour at 2:00 am, the girl’s official time of birth was recorded as 1:30 am, due to the time change. So even though the boy is older, his official time of birth is later than his sister.

Anyhoo … on to today’s subject: “Uni Surprises.”

The splash photo was from the second game of a Mets/Marlins double-header, which took place on August 29, 2011. I was actually at this game with Paul. This was the final season of the Mets’ BFBS infatuation, so they had a number of jersey options (snow white, pinstripes, BFBS), but blue wasn’t one of them. The team did wear a one-off “Los Mets” jersey earlier that season, but aside from that, a blue softball jersey was still a few years away. What the Mets wore that day was a total uni surprise: they received permission from MLB to wear their batting practice jerseys for the second dip of a late August DH, much to the surprise of a certain uniform columnist and his seatmate. Paul did a great writeup of the game the next day. You’ll note he didn’t have many positive things to say about it…and it was one fugly looking game:

Obviously, neither of us (nor anyone else, I would imagine, other than the EQ manager and the players) had any advance warning of this uni surprise. I guess you could kinda say I “saw history” being made with a jersey debut (one and done), especially since it came, literally, out of the blue. I’d been thinking about this for some time — how often, especially in this day and age of social media, has a team broken out a “new” uniform element without any advanced warning?

I remember seeing the Mets play the Pirates in a TATC game in 1999 — it may have been the ugliest game I’ve ever witnessed in person:

That game sort of a “uni surprise” — but only because I hadn’t seen either team’s TATC uniforms in advance. I knew going to the game that it would be a TATC game, so while I was mortified I wasn’t surprised per se that the Mets weren’t wearing their normal uniforms.

I’m sure a team has broken out a uni surprise in the past (in fact, before uniform unveilings became a thing, many times fans wouldn’t see a team’s new uniform or uniform element until the first game of the season, or in a few cases, during the season). But it’s a rarity these days, especially with hype videos and twitter and other social media. In fact, the only “uni surprise” of recent vintage I can think of was when the Ravens broke out mustard-gold pants against Kansas City the weekend before Christmas in 2015.

Those pants (also one-and-done) seemed to come out of the blue, but believe it or not, the team had been planning on wearing them earlier in the season. According to this article,

But this wasn’t some willy-nilly decision; it was a nod to the team’s 20th anniversary season, and the color choice is also same gold used in the team’s logo. Either way, coach John Harbaugh has some advice for the naysayers: do it yourself then.

“I think it’s fun,” Harbaugh said Monday, via the Baltimore Sun. “Uniforms are fun. They should be fun, and we want to be traditional. We have a look, I think, that we’re proud of here in Baltimore, that stands out, and we want to build on that. But if we can be creative in there somewhere, I’m all for it. I want to play well. It doesn’t really matter what color the pants are to me. If the players like it, I like it.

“But we want the fans to like them too, so it’s official, we’re having a contest,” Harbaugh joked. “… Maybe we should do a contest for our third pant-color combination with the fans, so we can have them weigh in and we’d wear them.”

So — even though the team planned to wear their gold pants, it was not something that had been previously announced…hence the “uni surprise.”

I’m sure there may have been a few other uni surprises (in other words, a uniform element NOT previously announced before the team wore them) in the past decade, but there can’t be that many. I’m thinking there must have been a college football or basketball uni (if not in the pros) but if there was one, it escapes me.

Can you guys think of any uni surprises in the past decade? And have you ever been to a game where it happened? I’m not talking minor leagues — although I’m sure there have been some uni surprises there. Please list any examples below (and they needn’t be from the past decade, although that’s the sweet spot).



Guess The Game…

from the scoreboard

Today’s scoreboard comes from Paddy McShanus.

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).

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!):

Please continue sending these in! You’re welcome to send me any scoreboard photos (with answers please), and I’ll keep running them.



Uni Concepts & Tweaks

Time for more Uni Tweaks from the UW readership.

I hope you guys like this feature and will want to continue to submit your concepts and tweaks to me. If you do, Shoot me an E-mail (Phil (dot) Hecken (at) gmail (dot) com).

• • • • •
Today’s concepts come from Carl Rossini:

Howdy Phil,

Long time, first time.

I have long thought that the USWNT and USMNT deserve a great kit and have been underserved by the constantly changing kits over the last few decades. A few of the kits have been good, but none have had staying power. The great national team kits (Brazil, Netherlands, Croatia and Italy come to mind) in their unique color and stay true to their core design with small variations every four years.

My answer is purple! No other country lays claim to this color and it allows a nice design element with red and blue. I’ve attached a very basic version of this concept.


P.S. I would be interested in your readers sharing tips on what tools they use to create concept kits. I’d like to create a more sophisticated version.

• • • • •
OK readers (and concepters). If you have some tweaks or concepts, shoot ’em my way with a brief description of your creation and I’ll run ’em here.



Another Outdoor Hockey Game Today

There is another outdoor hockey game (following the Winter Classic and Stadium Series earlier this year) taking place today at 4:00 pm — featuring the Toronto Maple Leafs vs. the Buffalo Sabres, and as you can see above, the teams will be wearing special jerseys (and unis) for the event. This one is the “Heritage Classic.”

Canadian fans can watch it on Sportsnet and Americans can see it on TNT.

Our pal Chris Creamer has done an outstanding review of all the unis and logos and history over on his blog, so I just recommend you checking that out for the details. Should be a classic looking game for sure.



Uni Watch News Ticker
By Phil

Baseball News: The Washington Nationals have new 15 Seasons Flags at their ballpark. Art of Scorebug thinks they’re “pretty underwhelming, (and) hope this stays on signage.” … From Paul about new footwear for major leaguers: “Buried within the new MLB labor agreement is this, which likely means they’re going to an NBA-style free-for-all in which in any player can wear any color.” … First look at the ChiSox Spring Training gear, including a trucker cap with the real old school logo paired with the Winning Ugly Sox script on the black jersey (from Jim Howicz). … The Round Rock Express have new alternate jerseys, a second alternate uniform, and a special powder blue third uniform (all from IG Salazar).

Football News: For the upcoming season the Balkan Football League (an American football league) is merging two teams à la the 1943 Phil-Pitt Steagles. Two Slovenian teams, the Velenje Black Miners and Murska Sobota Storks, will play as the Black Miners & Storks (from Matthew Algeo). … Check out this uni-related passage from ‘Me and a Guy Named Elvis,’ a 2006 memoir by Jerry Schilling about his friendship w/ Elvis. This bit is from 1954, when Presley was beginning to blow up as a singer (from Greg Franklin).

Hockey News: The OHL’s Sudbury Wolves wore special green uniforms on Friday night. Proceeds from jersey auction going towards The Heart and Stroke Foundation (from Wade Heidt). … The QMJHL’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan have unveiled their new alternate uniforms in mid-season. Adding black to the mix (also from Wade). … One more from Wade: The OHL’s Ottawa 67’s wore some special jerseys for Legacy Night on Friday. The angry puck logo making a comeback appearance on the shoulder. … Yesterday the Blues and Predators both wore jerseys meant for outdoor games, indoors. Submitter Brayden Tweeter says, “Don’t know the last time I’ve seen that.” … The Canucks’ Pride Night warmup jerseys were incredible. Here’s the story behind them. … The Edmonton Oilers wore camo jerseys in warmups yesterday evening for Canadian Armed Forces Appreciation Night. … Last night the Boston Bruins remembered West Warwick, Rhode Island High School student and hockey captain Matt Dennison, hanging a jersey with his NOB behind their bench (from Art of Scorebug). … Longtime Minnesota Wild member Mikko Koivu will have his jersey retired today. He’s the first Wild to have his number retired by the club. … It was 80s night at the Saddledome, so the scoreboard appropriately had an 80’s aesthetic (from Brandon Kent). … On yesterday’s date in 1935, the St. Louis Eagles played their final home game. The NHL wouldn’t return return to Missouri for another 32 years (from Jerry Wolper).

NBA/College/Basketball News: Bryant University in Rhode Island has announced plans to build a new basketball/multi-purpose arena (from Kary Klismet). … The Boston Celtics will be retiring Kevin Garnett’s jersey this afternoon. … Holy crap that’s a lot of three point stripes for the Coppin State/Norfolk State MEAC Championship Game yesterday (from Jon Star).

Soccer News: Brighton and Hove Albion wore their away kit at home yesterday against Liverpool to support Ukraine (from Mark Emge). Also posted under Ukraine News. … Belarusian champs Shakhtyor Soligorsk have apparently switched outfitters. Now wearing Puma, they previously had Jako (from Ed Żelaski). … Tweeter varun writes, “Sporting KC wearing away shirts with their home jersey” (I’m not entirely certain what that means, but I believe he means shorts, not shirts).

Ukraine News: Brighton and Hove Albion wore their away kit at home yesterday against Liverpool to support Ukraine (from Mark Emge). Also posted under Soccer News. … Netherlands speed skater Antoinette De Jong is auctioning off her recent World Cup suit to benefit Ukrainian charities (from TimmyTheCop). Also posted in Grab Bag.

Grab Bag: Netherlands speed skater Antoinette De Jong is auctioning off her recent World Cup suit to benefit Ukrainian charities (from TimmyTheCop). Also posted in Ukraine News. … There’s a new costumed mascot for Northwood Technical College in Wisconsin (from Kary Klismet). … Tweeter Nicolas Telep notes Panther City, a National Lacrosse League first-year expansion team had many NNOBs, but more concerning (at least to me) are the horrible ghosted numbers. … Scott Rogers loved this curling mascot seen at the Tim Horton’s Brier this week.



Uni Tweet of the Day

Yeah, pretty much…



And finally… that’s it for today and for me for this weekend. Enjoy the shortest day of the year (and the extra hour of daylight!) and I’ll catch you all next weekend.



Comments (47)

    From Creamer’s Heritage Classic writeup:


    “ARENAS” is written on either side of the “T” in a matching navy blue making it practically invisible — I’m hearing that the team only wanted a white “T” but had to include the “ARENAS” to hurdle trademarking concerns.


    … wonder if the Leafs realize they’re paying an inadvertent homage to old Harold Ballard



    Go Sabres!

    “Can you guys think of any uni surprises in the past decade? And have you ever been to a game where it happened? I’m not talking minor leagues”

    Not sure if you are being specific to Big Four, but there is a really notable one what happened in the last decade in the CFL. 2013 BC Lions unveiling their alternate gun-metal uniforms in a complete surprise. Something you do not see in the past decade. They wore their regular uniforms out for warmups. Many players didn’t know until they came back into the locker room. Here is a video about it.


    Yes, perfect! (And not being specific to the major sports and hockey)

    Uni-surprises for this Braves fan is when they removed nameplates and went for direct-sewn NOB’s. And we can’t forget when the Braves changed their batting helmet logo overnight…likely in response to a post from Paul!

    The Columbus Blue Jackets usually wear red pants all the time. With their red Reverse Retro uniforms, the pants became navy. Then for the last road game of the year the navy pants got paired with the white jersey. Good look, good surprise

    That looked good. Has me thinking I would prefer the Blue Jackets to ditch the red pants in favour of navy fulltime. I feel the Blue Jackets need a uniform overhaul and the switch to navy pants could be part of it.

    Brighton Hove wore their away kit at home yesterday against Liverpool to support the Ukraine

    1) It’s “Brighton and Hove Albion” (usually “Brighton” for short), not “Brighton Hove.”

    2) It’s NOT “the Ukraine.”

    “the Ukraine” was not fixed.
    In Russian, “Ukraine” means “borderlands”. So when “the Ukraine” is used, it complies with the Russian notion that Ukraine is simply Russian land near the Russian border.

    Sorry — I did correct it in the soccer section, but forgot it was cross-posted in the Ukraine section. NOW fixed. Please accept my humblest of apologies.

    It doesn’t necessarily have to have that Russia-centric connotation. In English, we use ‘the’ when the name of the country is a noun and not a proper name, such as ‘the United States’ or ‘the Netherlands’. Grammatically, ‘the Ukraine’ follows ‘the Netherlands’ just about exactly once you know what the word means in Ukrainian.

    Those Ravens pants were definitely one for me. The Steelers were playing in the 4:00 window that day and I was out grocery shopping during the early window and let’s just say this was the first time I can ever remember having multiple texts regarding football pants! LOL

    Uni surprise from Thursday—in Men’s MAC Tournament, Ball State broke out an updated black uniform set. The previous set had white numbers and these have red numbers. Major upgrade!

    Red numbers on a black jersey are not an upgrade, if you want to see them from the rafters or from a wide shot on TV. Contrast matters.

    Besides, Ball State should be wearing *cardinal* red jerseys, not black…

    It seems that years ago, before just about every MLB team had a dark-colored softball top to wear in a game and the white vs. gray was standard, there would be the occasional jersey choice that would catch one by surprise when seeing the day’s highlights. I recall that happening once with the Expos in the 1990s.

    If you’ll accept a collegiate example, in 2014, Vanderbilt didn’t unveil their new uniforms prior to the game. These were the same unis that had “Anchor Down” on the back which was a violation of rules, so they were charged a timeout at the beginning of each half. Probably would’ve been caught if they had unveiled their jerseys ahead of time right?


    The only uni surprise I can recall was a long time ago – opening night of the 1994-95 NBA season. The Hornets were hosting the Magic, except Orlando wore their home whites whilst Charlotte busted out their brand-new 3rd uniform. This was the first season the NBA used alternate uniforms (at least on a league-wide basis), I’d heard that we were getting a new 3rd uni but wasn’t expecting to see it so soon, and at home to boot!

    What about a planned surprise? That Georgia Bulldogs ran out with red jerseys and ripped them off and had the black herseys on.(I may not be totally accurate on the colors) I think it was Mark Richt era.

    Against Auburn in November 2007. I was in attendance at my alma mater that glorious afternoon/evening.

    The team warmed up in red, the captains wore red at the coin toss, and then the team came out in black.

    Growing up I remember when the Minnesota Twins broke out a red alternate twice in 1997 only to never wear them again… link


    Anybody else feel like the Slovenian team missed a great opportunity to call themselves the Morks?

    Uni surprised???
    How about the Arsenal breaking out mono red last week. Insored at least 10 major articles. (and my horror)

    As a Trojan alum I’m surprised it’s me and not a Domer that brings this up, but the 1977 USC/Notre Dame “Trojan Horse” game is famous for ND breaking out green jerseys between warm ups and the start of the game. Notre Dame hadn’t worn green since 1963. Dan Devine replaced Ara Parseghian in 1975, where as Ara never broke out the green. IMHO Devine then messed up by having ND wear green the remainder of his stint there, retiring after 1980 season. After Devine, the different head coaches broke out green occasionally. Really, Notre Dame was the original alternate uniform CFB team.

    Mio Linzie’s Canucks’ sweaters are gorgeous and I think any team would be proud to wear her creations full-time.

    I went to the Mavericks game where they wore the silver trash bags. Everyone around us thought they looked terrible.

    October 15, 1994. My first ever game at Spartan Stadium as my Spartans took on Ohio State. I was so excited to see the traditional MSU uniform, but they wore mono green which looked awful.

    IIRC, the first time Maryland Football wore their original flag-inspired look (Calvert on one sleeve & side of the helmet, Crossland on the other), we all saw them for the first time as they came out of the tunnel. I will humbly admit that I might not recall correctly, however.

    Not exactly the same, but I was at the old Boston Garden the night Phil Esposito’s number was retired and Ray Bourque removed his #7 sweater to reveal #77. Total shocker. No one (other than a few at the club, of course) new in advance.

    Uni-surprise; the NE Patriots Silver Alternate 2003-2007. The first time worn, I feel like it was a Monday Night game and was like, “what is that?” They looked incomplete. Or just a dirty version of their white uni. Very strange.

    I may be misremembering this, but the I believe the first time the Seahawks broke out their green jersey (in 2009, pre-color rush) it was a “day-of” surprise. It was a big deal here because prior to the game a concept was shared joking about the idea of the Hawks going snot green. Then it became reality.


    It was a day-of surprise, but Paul had “predicted” it in his April 1st blog post earlier that year.

    I agree that the US national soccer teams need to have a more iconic look but personally I don’t think a nation founded explicitly against monarchy should make its signature color one which has traditionally represented monarchy.

    As for tools to create more sophisticated mock-ups, look around the web for Photoshop or Illustrator templates. There are several websites that sell them at various price points or for free in some instances. Good luck!

    I’ve always liked national uniforms who colors don’t match the flag. I wish the USA were one of those countries but it’s too late to change it now. Back-engineering a change like that would be a conceit.

    A couple of “uni-surprises” from NASCAR:
    1996-Kyle Petty’s Earnhardt-inspired ‘protest’ paint scheme. Pit crew may have even been outfitted in black/red/silver fire suits.
    2018-Bubba Wallace Darlington throwback(unloaded/qualified(?) an all Petty blue car, raced in a Petty Blue/Day-Glo Red scheme on Sunday).

    Going WAY back. 1969 Oakland A’s opening day with the gold caps, worn only 2-3 times that season.

    Can’t really think of any in the past decade, but I remember the one that really shocked me was the Kings-Ducks “Burger King vs. Wild Wing” game that was nationally televised on Fox in 1996. I remember channel surfing and coming upon that game and saying “WTF are they wearing?”

    Some others I remember from MLB:
    Angels wearing their navy BP jerseys for a game in 1983 or ’84.
    Padres wearing their navy BP jerseys for a game at Wrigley Field in 1992, I think.
    In 1990, the White Sox were in the last season of their cursive script/cursive C hat logo uniforms, but in the final week starting wearing the current uniform style that was to be full-time in 1991.

    Before uni coverage on the internet, we were at the mercy of things like league guides. If a team changed its logo or colors, it would be listed, and we could assume a new uniform.

    In March of 1984, I went to Boston Garden to see the Celtics play the Jazz, and I was stunned to see the Jazz in green. The logo hadn’t changed, the official colors were still purple, gold and green, and the design was like the purple uniforms, so a black-and-white newspaper photo wouldn’t have been notably different. It turned out that was the Jazz’ third season in green, and by December ’84, they were back in purple.

    Not a complete redesign but the Jets vs Black Hawks game a couple of years back when both teams wore “Broncos” nameplates to honour the Humbold Broncos who were killed earlier that week


    It was a bit of a surprise because the NHL usually does pregame things (everybody wearing the number being retired that night or something) but almost never in-game.

    Going way back – seeing the Orioles in vests in the late 60s.Saw them on TV. As for the Orioles all-orange duds in 1971, definitely a surprise but only really read about it in the paper. Obviously many decades before the notion of “announcing” uniforms became common.

    I think the Chicago Cubs suddenly wore their blue practice jerseys early in 1994, at home (where they had worn nothing but white for a century) in an attempt to break the losing streak that they began the season with. Soon after that they started wearing ‘real’ blue alternates, both at home and on the road.

    Arsenal wore red shorts last weekend in a Premiere League matchup against Watford. This nearly all read look is very unusual for Arsenal and when asked why they had worn the red shorts the club answered it was for “commercial reasons” which is very strange given that they do not have red shorts for sale in their merch store. It was a very surprising look for them

    It staggered the nation tuning in on 2/28/88 to see Syracuse donning blue jerseys vs. Kentucky. At the opening tip, Musburger said, “Syracuse fans are gasping.” Much like the Cowboys, the blue jerseys, mothballed since 1975, were hexed. Kentucky won and the blue jerseys were mothballed for another 20 years.

    2018 LSU football team wearing all white unis with a purple chameleon to gold helmet to honor the LSU soldiers who lost their lives in WW1. As an LSU fan since the mid-60s several of the uniform changes over the last 10 years have been very refreshing, typically LSU fans only want the standard gold helmet-white jersey-gold pants combo. Those helmets were $1500 a pop per UniWatch. Would love to get my hands on one of those helmets!

    I was uni-surprised in September 2013, when Wisconsin wore red helmets against Tennessee Tech. Surprised again when they introduced ANOTHER red helmet design on the road vs Illinois that season. This is after wearing the same white helmet design since the early ’90s. Turned out to be a Gary Andersen thing, and the red helmets were gone when Paul Chryst took over.

    1986 Oklahoma at Nebraska link

    The Huskers went through pregame in the their home “scarlet and cream” and then came out of the tunnel for the game in all scarlet. If I remember correctly, the captains asked to wear all red to gain an “edge”. HC Tom Osborne allowed it. Bad call. The Huskers committed a few untimely penalties gave up 13 unanswered 4th quarter points. Some of the dreaded “Sooner Magic” lead to a last second FG to win it and avoid a tie. That was the last time NU ever tried a uni-surprise. Likely because a shocking loss would forever be linked to that all red look. NU has had plenty of spectacular melt downs resulting in losses (and way too many at at the hands of OU). I don’t think I have ever been so furious after a Husker loss.

Comments are closed.