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A’s Had a Uniform Free-for-All in 1972 Spring Training

[Editor’s Note: Today we have a guest entry from longtime reader/researcher Ferdinand Cesarano, who’s uncovered something very interesting about how the A’s used to handle their spring training uniforms. Enjoy! — PL]

By Ferdinand Cesarano

Back in the day, when an MLB team changed its uniforms, the team often used the old/outgoing design in spring training and didn’t debut the new uni until the start of the regular season. But the Oakland A’s did something more unusual: In spring training, they used uniforms from several prior seasons — even when they weren’t making a change for the new season!

The image shown above, for example, is a shot from 1974 spring training, showing newly appointed manager Alvin Dark flanked by players Reggie Jackson and Deron Johnson, and they are all dressed in uniforms that had last been used in the regular season in either 1969 (if that’s the grey road uniform, as it appears to be) or 1971 (in case it’s the white home uniform). This, even though the A’s made no changes to their uniforms between 1973 and 1974!

I recently discovered that the team was not consistent about which old uniforms it pulled out for spring training. At the beginning of spring training in 1972, for instance, the A’s acquired pitcher Denny McLain, who wore a variety of old uniforms. Here we see him pictured in the grey road uniform, last used in 1969:

Next we see him wearing the 1971 home uniform (which makes sense, as the A’s were about to debut new uniforms for the 1972 season):

Next up is the 1968 home uniform:

And we round things out with a shot of McLain pitching in a spring training game while wearing the 1971 road design:

1972 was McLain’s only spring training with the A’s, so we know that all of these photos came from the same spring camp. That’s a lot of different uniforms to have in circulation!

Even more surprising, the team did not always dress all of its players in the same old uniform on any given day!  Here we see McLain, dressed in the 1968 home uniform, alongside Reggie Jackson, dressed in the 1971 home uniform:

Personally, I find that very surprising. I know it’s only spring training, but it still goes against the whole idea of a uniform!


Paul here. Really interesting stuff! Big thanks to Ferdinand for sharing this material with us.

I wanted to know more, so I emailed all the photos to former A’s equipment manager Steve Vucinich, who was an assistant with the team at that time. Here’s what he wrote back:

Great pictures!  The equipment manager at the time didn’t have a good system at all. In those years we wore the previous season’s unis in spring training. But [team owner Charles] Finley loved having pics of guys with “Oakland,” even if we didn’t wear that jersey beyond the photo op.
Also, McLain was a spring training acquisition, and with very little inventory in those days, we probably didn’t have a correct-size jersey — hence the different ones in these photos, till a proper one could be made for him.

So that helps solve the mystery. A fun rabbit hole, for sure!

Comments (22)

    Knowing how frugal (cheap) Charlie O. Finley was, it’s not surprising at all. If they still had the Kansas City A’s jerseys available, I’m sure they would have been using those as well.

    My favorite example of Finley’s parsimony was the rejected move from Kansas City to Louisville (I think this was ’64?). He would have renamed the team the Kentucky Colonels, thus not needing to change the “KC” on the caps.

    I got to meet Rollie Fingers at Cactus League spring training a few years back. It was just after the MLB Network Presents “The Swingin’ A’s” was shown, and I asked him a couple questions about it. Let’s just say he still hates the frugality of Charlie O.

    You can even spot some frugality on that #52 jersey: the 5 has much less wear on it than the 2 and the A; it looks like some other number ending in ‘2’ was repurposed for spring training.

    I used to have a 1998 Cubs spring training jersey like this; Miguel Cairo’s #20 was converted into a #60 with a brand new ‘6’, and the ‘I’ in the middle of the NOB stayed put but the name was changed to that of Jose Espinal, who had an i in just the right spot! (Espinal never made the majors, but did go on to pitch in Taiwan: link )

    That’s a nice observation about the number that McLain was wearing in that game.

    I’ll note that the research shows that, as of the 1972 regular season, McLain wore neither the number 31 nor the number 52; rather, he wore the number 17 with the A’s, as he had done with the Tigers and the Washington Senators. (I have found no photos of this, but all sources agree.)

    Later in the 1972 season, the A’s sent McLain to the Braves for Orlando Cepeda. There he wore the number 30 that Cepeda had just vacated.


    Wearing number 17 with the Braves that year was the future Met Felix Millan (who, with the Mets, wore number 16 in his first year with the team of 1973, before switching to 17 for the rest of his tenure).

    Hey, Paul, thanks a lot for running with this, and for checking with Steve Vucinich!

    It was fun looking these things up, mainly to get the sequence of A’s uniforms straight in my own mind.

    I’m a little confused? Were these pictures from spring training practice and photo ops, or did the players wear different uniforms from each other during spring training games? For instance, was that picture of McLain and Jackson wearing different uniforms from an actual spring training game they both played in?

    All of the pictures apart from the one in which McLain is wearing number 31 appear to be from workouts. Whether the players had mis-matching uniforms even in spring training games is something that I don’t know.

    Maybe Steve Vucinich can shed some light on that question.

    Not covered but noteworthy is the picture of McClain wearing white sanitaries with black shoes. I always thought it odd but the first few years in Oakland (and maybe KC prior) for most of spring training the A’s wore black shoes and white sanis. I heard it was because there were too many white shoes to polish and too hard too get a good shine so they stuck with black til the regular season

    I find it interesting that as late as 1974, which was well into the double knit era, the A’s were still wearing flannel uniforms during spring training.

    I wonder if they got a better sweat playing/training in the flannels, in those days, spring training was about getting in shape for most guys, few came in ready to go.

    I’ll bet spring trainings in the early 70’s were colorful. The switch from flannel to double-knits occurred in 71 or 72 for most teams – seems these flannel vests weren’t stripped and sent to the minors around that period, as the minor league clubs wanted double-knits too.

    Now, why did they wear them in spring training as late as 74? Maybe they didn’t want to rough up the new polyesters. From what I’ve read, the A’s recycled game jerseys pretty often, rather that buy complete new sets each year during this period. Makes sense to practice in the old duds.

    Reggie Jackson noted in his autobiography, “Reggie”, that A’s players were issued one white, one gold and one green jersey along with a single pair of white pants, and were expected to get through the entire season with them.

    (and was also the last spring training of his career)

    McLain went to spring training with the Braves the next year, but didn’t make the team.

    Denny McLain had a lot of that same wagger that Joe Namath had, except playing lounge music and polkas on the organ goesn’t give off the cool vibes that bar-hopping with a couple of blondes does…..

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