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EXCLUSIVE: Leaks Appear to Show New MLB City Connect Designs

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When MLB launched the City Connect program in the spring of 2021, the plan was that seven teams would be part of the program that season (the CubsDiamondbacksDodgersGiantsMarlinsRed Sox, and White Sox), another batch would participate in 2022 (those turned out to be the Angels, Astros, Brewers, Nationals, Padres, Rockies, and Royals), and the remaining teams in 2023 (the A’s, Atlanta, Blue Jays, Cardinals, Guardians, Mariners, Mets, Orioles, Pirates, Phillies, Rangers, Rays, Reds, Tigers, Twins, and Yankees). This ESPN story, for example, said, “Every MLB team is expected to have a City Connect series jersey by the end of the 2023 season.”

So you may be surprised by the news that emerged yesterday from St. Louis, where the Cardinals were holding their annual Winter Warm-Up event. During a Q&A session, team owner Bill DeWitt III was asked about the team possibly adding a red jersey and had this to say:

You bring up an interesting point about our uniforms. Even though we’re a red team and all our fans wear red, we don’t have a red jersey. And Nike is now doing all the jerseys — and one thing I’ll point out about Nike is that they have come to all the clubs and said, “We really want to sort of streamline uniforms.” So there’s a model out there that they want to stick to called “four plus one.” You have four jerseys that you can wear — home, road and two alternates — plus your City Connect when you unveil that. We’re going to unveil the City Connect in 2024.

And we have, of course, our white, our alternate home cream, our road gray and alternate road powder blue. Those are our four and then plus one will be our City Connect. I won’t spoil it here, but suffice it to say, there will be some red on the jersey.

There’s a lot to unpack there. One thing at a time:

  • DeWitt’s comments about the team’s 2024 CC launch matches my own reporting, as multiple sources have told me that several teams — it’s not clear to me how many — will not participate in the CC program until at least 2024. Personally, I consider that to be a positive development, because (a) most of the City Connect designs are poor, so I’m happy to have the remaining ones delayed for as long as possible, and (b) the one good thing about the CC program is that the releases have been staggered over time, allowing each design some room to breathe. Spreading out the remaining 16 teams over at least two more seasons is much better than doing all of them this year.
  • The longer CC rollout raises another question: The initial plan was for each team to wear its CC uniform for three seasons before getting a new CC design. But now that the rollout is being extended to at least a fourth year, does that mean the three-year wardrobe cycle is also being extended? In other words, will the seven teams that got CC designs in 2021 get new ones in 2024, as originally planned, or will they wait until all 30 MLB teams have joined the program? I have not yet been able to determine the answer to that question.
  • This is the first time we’ve heard about Nike’s “four plus one” approach. It presumably explains some of the chatter we heard last year about the Mets eliminating their road alternate because of a four-jersey limit.

Lots of people asked me about that supposed four-jersey limit last year. I told them all the same thing: “I’ve never heard of such a rule, and it doesn’t make sense because there are multiple teams, like the Twins and D-backs, that currently have more than four jerseys.” (The Twins have recently pared things back to four with their new uni set.) Judging from DeWitt’s comments, this sounds like more of a goal than a strict rule.

But Wait — There’s More

Even without DeWitt’s comments, I was already planning to write about City Connect today, because a credible industry source has provided me with screen shots that appear to show CC T-shirts for Atlanta and the Mariners:

Let’s take a closer look at that Atlanta T-shirt:

Hmmm. Referring to Atlanta as “The A” seems like something that will get annoying in about five seconds, but the more intriguing thing is the “715” graphic. Henry Aaron hit his record-breaking 715th home run on April 8, 1974, which means next year would be the 50th anniversary of that epic moment. So Atlanta will presumably be another team making its City Connect debut in 2024, not this year.

In addition, the “715” design appears to be based on the scoreboard graphic that went up at Fulton County Stadium as Aaron rounded the bases for his historic home run:

Obviously, the T-shirt design is pretty minimalist, so maybe the full uniform will have more visual details. But it appears that it will be 715-centric.

As for the Mariners, their T-shirt design should look familiar to students of baseball uni history:

That’s right, the M’s T-shirt appears to be based on the the Seattle Pilots’ old road uniform, but with a different “a” and what looks like a black drop-shadow. Hmmm.

The Pilots existed for only one season — 1969 — so neither 2023 nor ’24 would be a milestone anniversary for them. But since this design is being shown alongside the Atlanta design, which is almost certainly pegged to 2024, it seems reasonable to assume that this design is also planned for 2024.

One thing I like about both of these designs is that they’re related to baseball, not the usual tourism-bureau nonsense. So I hope these designs, or at least their basic thrust, turn out to be accurate.

If anyone else out there has solid intel on the CC program (or anything else), contact me hereI’ll protect your anonymity, of course. Thanks.

NFL Adds MLK Uni Messaging for Bucs/Cowboys Playoff Game

While watching last night’s NFL playoff game between the Buccaneers and Cowboys, I was surprised to see both teams acknowledging the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday by wearing “MLK” rear-helmet decals and “Be Love®” neck bumpers. (“Be Love” is a program from the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change.)

The NFL never had Monday-night playoff games until last year. Did that game also fall on MLK Day, and did the teams wear the same messaging? Yup — the Rams and Cardinals wore those same decals and neck bumper slogans for their playoff game on Jan. 17, 2022, although I had completely forgotten about that:

So it appears that this will now be an annual thing, at least as long as the NFL keeps having Monday-night games during the first round of the playoffs.

 

Too Good for the Ticker

I’m just gonna leave this here.

(Big thanks to Randy Koehn for this one.)

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Comments (50)

    “The A” is a pretty common and fairly universally accepted nickname for Atlanta among locals (a Big Boi song called “In The A” certainly helps). It’s *certainly* preferred to Hotlanta, which no one from here actually uses and most actively hate. The Braves have leaned into it for years. Their Twitter hashtag and most commonly used slogan is #ForTheA.

    Having said that, I hope it’s not just a blue jersey with that chest logo

    And instead of just being negative and saying “I hope it’s not that”, my thought would be: There’s plenty of local iconography that makes Atlanta unique beyond tying *everything*, even its role in the Civil Rights movement, to 715. They already use the 1974 throwbacks, which achieves that purpose. I personally would love something that pushes beyond that narrow view and ties to the broader civil rights theme, kind of like the Hawks’ MLK uniforms. I know I’m asking a lot for the team that literally left Fulton County, but that logo just appears super uninspired.

    Would’t that open up a can of hypocritical worms if they were to trumpet civil rights when they stubbornly won’t change a uniform and chant that falls further and further out of favor?

    Considering that the team has made it fairly clear that they don’t consider either an issue: no

    (note: I don’t agree with them)

    Has any effort been made to determine what the prevailing opinion of the Greater Atlanta indigenous community is? It would seem that their view is really the only one that matters here.

    That rotating sign is awesome!!!

    I’d take those signs on the neck bumpers over lot’s of different colored items throwing off the look of the game.

    Do the Yankees ever wear their Spring Training unis in regular season games anymore? I feel like I remember that happening a time or two in the past.

    If the 4 plus 1 plan is true, I wonder what the 4th Cubs uniform will be. Currently they have the home Pinstripes, the road greys, the Blue Alternate jersey and the CC WrIgleyville. Cant even imagine what they would do with the 4th since the home jersey has been basically the same forever and with already 2 “road” jerseys, the greys and the blue (they haven’t worn the Blue at home for several years).

    The cubs had 4 jerseys for a while in the mid 2010s. They had 2 gray jerseys. The current on they have now and an alternate that said Cubs.

    link

    I hope the Cubs get a throwback or fauxback home alternate based on one of their ’30s or ’40s classics, or maybe the 1900s-1910s C-with-standing-bear. Use the underappreciated Otis Shepard font for the numbers, and go back to the classic NNOB style.

    In 2014 they wore a bunch of throwbacks from the 1910s to the 2000s and everyone liked them. If there’s one team that needs an alternate home uniform, it’s the Cubs.

    Dodgers? Not sure about them. Do they still wear the “Los Angeles” road unis along with the “Dodgers” ones? If so that’s at least 3.

    Will the Padres finally ditch camo w this rule!? My guess is the road all sand/tan uniform gets the shelf. I’d rather see the CC than camo anyday! Fingers crossed!

    Also what does this do for throwbacks? Or is there some type of loop hole?

    If my math is correct (which it often is not), wouldn’t 2024 be the 55th anniversary of the Seattle Pilots? Not a round number, but certainly an anniversary worth celebrating, even if only for their cool uniforms.

    Yes, 55th. But that’s never been viewed as a milestone anniversary for anything (unless there’s some tortured “storytelling” connection between Seattle and 55).

    Lest we forget, the Seattle Pilots became the Milwaukee Brewers after one season, and their 1970 roads featured a remarkably similar wordmark/font to those worn by the original Seattle Pilots

    link

    So the Seattle Mariners aren’t really celebrating any anniversary in 2024 (other than the original MLB franchise granted to Seattle — but that’s not the same franchise as currently plays there).

    link

    And lest we forget (again), the Brewers CC unis last season certainly evoked the original 1969 (or 1970) road jerseys for that club:

    link

    I’ll be interesting to see where MLB is going with the Mariners CC unis. But holding off until 2024 (if indeed they do) wouldn’t have anything to do with any particularly special “anniversary” year, unless they’re looking to misappropriate franchise history to do so. That, of course, wouldn’t surprise me and I could see some very tortured storytelling to justify it.

    Thanks for pointing all this out, Phil!
    Normally, I despise it when teams help themselves to historical leftovers…and what the Mariners may have in store is no exception. Surely there is something Seattle-y around town that could be incorporated into a CC design, but no, let´s just be Pilots For A Day (again) and call it a day.
    Also, I like to believe that the Brewers CC was inspired by the prototype Pilots jersey wordmark that Todd Radom uncovered years back:
    link
    link
    …which connects franchise historical dots but doesn´t connect to Milwaukee at all(?).

    The Es in the Seattle CC script look different too. Hard to tell for sure given the scale of the image, but it appears that the crossbar on the E angles up, rather than being straight horizontal relative to the baseline of the letter. If so, it’s a very slight jaunty tweak that matches the A nicely.

    I hope the four-uniform thing becomes a firmer rule. There has never in MLB history been a team with three high-quality alternates. For pure laundry logistics, a home and a road alternate can be justified, but a fifth shirt will necessarily make a team look worse.

    I´d say the Phillies come oh so close to going 3 for 3…the Schmidt-era powder blues are loved and look great (would look better on the road!), and I´ve long lobbied for the cream alts to replace the pinstripe primary…the red tops are ok enough but no team should wear BP jerseys for anything but BP.

    I have loathed the Phillies creams since the day they came out. They can go in the dumpster forever. The I hope the City Connects aren’t in the Flag of Philadelphia color since the Eagles already did that with their throwbacks. The maroon Saturday Night Specials color rushes should be in regular rotation (and get rid of the red-over-white batting practice-style unis). And if I had my druthers, bring back the ball-in-P road greys they wore from the late ’80s through 1991 (or there abouts).

    The Phillies were “Flag of Philadelphia color” in 1938, so there would be some precedent for going that route…not that they should or will.

    “One thing I like about both of these designs is that they’re related to BASEBALL, not the usual tourism-bureau nonsense.”

    I agree the CC program is basically nonsense, but it takes up a lot of Uni Watch real estate, and since it began I’ve felt it’s about nothing else but promoting the team’s city or region. A team’s non-CC unis are basically about baseball, but four times a year or whatever we’ll just have to put up with the Chamber of Commerce stuff.

    As a fellow Mets fan I dread the eventual unveiling of those CCs. I expect to be seeing a lot of apples. (Maybe even a corporate one on the sleeve by then.)

    I would like to see the Mets in a cream uniform with the script on the front and team logo on a sleeve and thats it. Clean and old school.

    The Ms are one of the teams that already has 5 jerseys – home, road, navy blue, teal, and Sunday cream. It will be interesting to see if they eliminate one of those in anticipation of CC. I’d expect Sunday cream, another retro inspired uni, would be most likely to go.

    I believe they will *have* to. I recall reading somewhere that’s what happened with the Rockies when their CC was introduced. They were *forced* to eliminate their black sleeveless jersey from the rotation to make room for the CC.

    I’m a full on traditionalist, give me home white (or cream) and road gray. You can have your batting practice or spring training jerseys, that’s fine, but for games, I prefer home and road, that’s it.
    That said, I can appreciate Nike/MLB dictating an unofficial rule to limit uniforms. It wasn’t that long ago my Phillies were one of the few teams with just home and road. Then came the Sunday afternoon cream alternates, then powder blue throwbacks, then red jerseys. That is way too much. I’ll be quite happy if this results in fewer designs, and perhaps a more scheduled approach to when alternates are worn (day games, Fridays, etc.).

    As much as love a powder blue uniform, I wish teams wouldn’t try to replicate anything from that 10-15 stretch where uniforms were worn tight. They already have to make something that looks/looked better with stirrups work as pajamas. Same way football teams have plenty of new, throwback, and alternate designs they can choose, but teams like Princeton think they can recreate a full sleeve of stripes on their shoulder cuff.

    A few years ago a friend of mine bought me that exact Seattle Pilots shirt at a souvenir shop in whatever Safeco is called these days. I’m skeptical that it’s what they’re rocking with for City Connect.

    So I actually totally agree with the 4+1. To be honest I’d just skip the whole “City Connect,” thing. I actually think the Red Sox (my team) version is bad looking and it’s just overall Nikefication.

    I’m in the minority I guess in that the Swoosh on the front doesn’t bother me, I’d prefer the sleeve but I can live with the chest. But don’t go making tons of jerseys every year with wild designs, baseball doesn’t need it.

    But for standard uniforms, yeah, 4 should be the limit. White, grey, home alt, road alt.

    Will MLB teams in 2023 have to follow a Nike Master Schedule like they have controlled the NBA uniform game day jerseys?

    While 2023 isn’t a particular milestone for the Pilots or the M’s, it is a major year for the Mariners as they host the All-Star Game.

    Celebrating a one-season Proto-Brewers club is lazy and unfortunate. There is so much more that they could riff off, for a truly unique and awesome jersey. There’s a really great concept here: link

    I’d buy a few of those. The pilots jersey, nah.

    I know I’m just crotchety, but the more I learn of Nike’s ideas for MLB uniforms the more I hate them. The “city connect” nonsense hasn’t surprised me or disappointed me. It’s what I expected of them. Absolute trash and completely unnecessary.

    I don’t like having a set number of uniforms being allowed. One of the things I loved was the contrast. One team will stick with road grays and home whites meanwhile another team would wear a different uniform for every day of the week. It was interesting. Now it’s just formulaic.

    I know that the teams have a major say in their uniform creation with Nike, but let’s be honest, do you really think the Dodgers were dying to create that city connect? I don’t think so. I think they tried to do as little as possible until Nike said, “Ok, that’s different enough. It’s blue. We’ll go with that.” I think a good number of teams wouldn’t make a city connect if they didn’t have to.

    If the day ever comes where Nike no longer makes the uniforms that’ll be one of the best days ever.

    Strange that the outfitter dictates the number of uniforms allowed in MLB. Even stranger that the same outfitter supplies the NBA teams with tons of options every new season. My conclusion is that the actual HQ of both MLB and the NBA is in Beaverton, Oregon.

    The only thing I’ll say about the CC program is that my dad and I went to Houston for the last series of the regular season since they played the Phillies and we got to see our team clinch a playoff spot. . . and in that game, Houston wore their Space CCs and had a NASA night and every song played before and during the game had to do with space, and my friend Kevin (Houston native) joined us and I had him and Dad laughing whenever I sang the space-specific words during the song.

    (I know – run-on sentences are bad.)

    All these crappy new City jerseys makes me really hope Nike doesn’t start making NHL jerseys when Adidas’ contract expires.

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