On March 24, 1951 Tommy Hilfiger was born. What does that have to do with baseball? Surely he could have designed better uniforms than the ones Richard writes about this week.
The inter-office softball league will be starting soon at my office, which means we are in the process of designing t-shirts to wear during our games. Of course, almost everyone has an opinion on this issue, so we are still negotiating exactly what they will look like.
But this nonetheless got me thinking about baseball uniforms, specifically some of the truly appalling designs that teams have run out over the years. In that spirit, we will run down my personal worst all-time uniforms. For a visual of each uniform, you can click on the title, which will take to you the Hall of Fame database of uniforms, an astonishing resource that makes columns like this one possible.
One quick condition: The uniform in question must be part of the regular rotation. One-shot deals, or those only worn a couple of times a season, are disqualified. This removes uniforms like the Padres’ camouflage top and the “Turn Ahead the Clock” jerseys worn by a handful of teams in 1999, which set a standard for hideousness that will never be topped.
As with any aesthetic argument, it is inevitably subjective, and I’m sure some of you will disagree. If you do, that’s fair enough, but of course, there’s no accounting for taste.
Expansion teams have a tough time with their uniforms—the Seattle Pilots and Tampa Bay Devil Rays also had particularly ugly jerseys early in their existence. (Or for the entirety of their existence, in the Pilots’ case.) But these Marlins uniforms win out for me owing to their excessive devotion to the teal theme the team was going for: teal cap, teal pinstripes, teal undershirt, teal MARLINS on the chest, teal piping on the number and, I can only assume, a teal jockstrap.
The Marlins realized the error of their ways and by 1995 had reined in the teal considerably, to everyone’s benefit.
If the Marlins had found a color scheme and were overcommitted to it, the 1904 Cubs had the opposite problem. There is always something to be said for simplicity of uniforms (the best ones usually are), but there has to be something going on. When one considers that these date from the period when players did not wear numbers on their uniforms, this might be the plainest, dullest uniform in baseball history.
The history of one color uniforms is littered with few successes but many failures. And among the failures, few were uglier than this uniform—apparently intended to make the players look absolutely as much like a tomato as possible—that the Tribe wore for three ill-conceived years. This was a generally dark period for both the city of Cleveland (the infamous Cuyahoga River fire took place just a few years earlier) and the Indians, who on some nights drew fewer than 5,000 to cavernous Cleveland Stadium.
|Ron Gant, modeling the Angels’ ill-conceived Disney uniforms (Icon/SMI)|
There is no shortage of truly dire Padre uniforms to choose from, but these are the worst. As I mentioned, monochrome uniforms tend to be a disaster anyway, but these are exceptionally awful. Not only did the Padres make the mistake of using one color for the pants and uniform top, but they inexplicable decided to take one of the ugliest colors known to man, mustard, and use that. Simply revolting. I may have this ranked too low.
These uniforms were just goofy, which is perhaps no surprise as they came during the period when the Angels were owned by Disney, where the original Goofy comes from. The team’s primary logo in those days was a winged A, with an inexplicably phallic-looking portion of the wing crossing the A. Combined with a red and cast-of-thousands-shades-of-blue color scheme, it made for a terrible uniform.
“I say, Mortimer, the Indian head on our tunics is rather small, how will the fanatics sitting in the bleachers know which of the players are from our local nine?”
“Why, I was just thinking on that very subject, and I’ve come up with a solution. We shall make the Indian head so prominent it would be as though the nickel were enlarged to the size of the very moon we see at night.”
“Brilliant, Mortimer! I cannot wait for the season to commence so that people all over this fine nation can examine our newly-designed garment.”
Among the comments on other sites describing this uniform: “at least [they’ll] be safe while hunting,” “flashy prison jumpsuits,” “dressing up like candy corn” and my personal favorite characterizing Earl Weaver in the uniform as a “five-and-a-half-foot carrot.”
Personally, I have always thought that the Orioles taking the field in these uniforms—especially from the upper deck—must have resembled nothing so much as a series of traffic cones dotting a baseball field. Why anyone thought this was a good idea I cannot begin to imagine, but there they are.
The ill-conceived trend of writing something down the button portion of the uniform (technically known as the “placket,” I learned while researching this article) was not just limited to the Dodgers, but no one tried to cram more letters on there than did the Brooklynites.
Vertical lettering on a uniform is basically never seen and for good reason. The effect isn’t as outright awful as some uniforms below it on the list, but it is pretty jarring and just feels wrong.
The typical comparison for these uniforms—I saw it mentioned twice—is that of a train conductor. But to me they look like nothing so much as if someone were to have inverted the colors on a Yankee uniform. Supposedly, the Yankees themselves actually considered that for a road uniform at some point in the 1970s. (It is to their everlasting credit they did not go forward with the idea.)
As for these uniforms, I can only assume that Charles Comiskey was hoping to convince fans that his team throwing the World Series just a few years earlier was not, in fact, Chicago’s greatest shame, but instead it was these uniforms. Either that or the Old Roman figured that by dressing his current players like prison inmates, he could restore the karmic balance of the players who threw it.
When a team has five uniforms, it would seem inevitable that at least one of them would be half-decent looking. But the Pirates in this period managed to go 0-for-5, with each uniform variation somehow uglier than the last. Of the many different lists I consulted to take inspiration for this, the Pirates uniform—along with the Padres’ mustard tops—appeared on every one.
Just about every part of the uniform was ugly, from the bumblebee colors to the pillbox cap, which also featured the bumblebee colors. The Pirates had some success in this period, including the 1979 World Series title, but one can conclude it was despite their uniforms.