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How Uniforms Have Changed


Ye Olde Tigers

The Old English D on the Tiger uniform has been around for more than a century now, providing a nice aesthetic link from Ty Cobb to Miguel Cabrera. According to Chris Creamer’s wonderful history of sports logos website (sportslogos.net), the first Old English D was used by the Tigers in 1904. It was very similar to the one seen on the uniform presently. The exact version of the D seen now was first used in 1921, according to Creamer. Here we see some early footage of Ty Cobb and the Tigers. The plainer D in the first shots appear to be from either 1918 or 1919. The clip of Cobb playing catch appears to be from 1917 based on the D on his shirt. 

The early gloves that the players are wearing are also fascinating. They were truly gloves — simply padding on the hand to help haul in the ball with the other hand…nothing more. 

Video copyright Major League Baseball


Church Shoes at the Ballgame

We get a good look at Babe Ruth’s shoes in this newsreel clip from the 1927 World Series. Surprising to see that they are basically dress shoes with cleats on the bottom. It’s curious to think about Ty Cobb or other base-stealers of the era trying to really get moving while basically wearing the same shoes that they wore to church. 

Also, a good look here at the Yankee Stadium playing field in 1927. The short porch in right field was famous at the Stadium, but the left field foul pole was also close — just 280 feet from home plate in the 1920s. Plus, a look at the ring of dirt which encircled the mound at Yankee Stadium in those years.

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All-Star Add-Ons

The 1934 All-Star Game is well-known because it is the game in which Carl Hubbell struck out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin in succession. However, I had never noticed the odd numbers the players were wearing on their backs. Apparently, what looks like an extra piece of fabric was half-sewn on the players backs so that numbers would not be duplicated among players. However, that doesn’t quite explain it because Babe and Lou have the additions despite wearing their usual numbers. Anyone know the answer to this mystery?

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Traditional Digs

One of the advantages baseball has over football — and even more so over basketball and hockey — is its history. Teams that have uniform designs which show off that history give the sport continuity through the years. This past year, the Red Sox and Cardinals met in the World Series. Here we see a clip from almost 70 years ago and its remarkable to see that both teams are wearing almost identical uniforms and caps as today. Other Major League teams would do well to return to their most famous uniforms rather than switching around from year to year. Ask most fans what uniforms the Brewers, Padres or Astros wear today and they’d be hard-pressed to tell you. These clubs seem to swap constantly, even changing official colors from time to time. Why not go back to the uniforms from these franchises that everyone remembers? The Brewers best years came with their M and B (like a baseball glove) hats, along with blue and yellow outfits. The mustard yellow and brown of San Diego and the colorful rainbow unis of Houston have been maligned by some, but these outfits are still associated with their team in a way that their modern uniforms are not. In 40 years, it is likely that these uniforms would take on a classic feel and recall the early days of players like Gorman Thomas, Tony Gwynn and Nolan Ryan.

Fun to note here the old (wire?) strap in Red (Al) Schoendienst’s glove. And we can certainly see how Happy Chandler got his nickname.

Video Copyright Major League Baseball and the Sports History Channel


The Red Athletics

There are some colors that feel like they have always been associated with certain franchises. The blue and white of the Tigers, red of the Cardinals and Red Sox, the dark navy of the Yanks. But Athletics’ green and gold is relatively new. As seen below, the A’s were largely a blue, red and black team before Charlie Finley brought the new colors of the “Swingin’ A’s” to Kansas City. Here we see a video about the 1956 Kansas City Athletics featuring their largely red and black uniforms. Included is the Home Opener first pitch from K.C, Missouri Mayor H. Roe Bartle to the mayor of K.C, Kansas. The gargantuan Bartle was certainly a good sport to dress up in full costume.. During his tenure in office he regularly donned a full fireman’s outfit whenever there was a two-alarm fire within his city’s boundaries..

Also of note here is the old “A” hat without the apostrophe S, the standing room tickets selling for a dollar and a quarter at the gate and the “modern design” batting cages. 

Like other unceasingly positive promotion videos of the time, this effort makes the A’s sound like the healthiest franchise in the league. It somehow manages to chronicle their entire season without any hint as to their on-the-field performance. In fact, they finished 52-102 and after a dozen more dismal seasons were off to Oakland with Charlie O.

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“Like the Football Players Wear”

An interesting clip from a Montreal-Pittsburgh game in 1970 as we hear an early reaction to the new beltless pants that the Pirates adopted that season. As the first team to go to the “skintight” pants with a drawstring belt, the Pirates would turn out to be trailblazers. Eventually 21 of the 26 MLB franchises would switch to the beltless look, only to have all of them switch back to belts again by 1993. Keep your eyes on the Jarry Park scoreboard as well, where a multilingual not-so-jumbo tron lists “retraits” and “prise.” Ahh, the years of Baseball in French…

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Colorful Baseball

Has there ever been so many colors on a baseball field as in this clip from the 1977 All-Star game? The scene opens with the broadcasters commenting on the Pirates’ yellow “canary” uniform that Dave Parker wore during batting practice. However, the black and yellow he’s wearing as he lines a single to untucked-in Richie Zisk in left is outrageous enough. When Parker scores from first base on a Griffey (Sr.) double, it is a near psychadelic scene with Palmer’s orange, Luzinski’s blue, Fisk’s red and Parker’s black and yellow.

Other things to note: Carl Yastrzemski playing centerfield with a bad ankle (he’d never start in pain in an All-Star game these days), Tommy Lasorda way, way down the line coaching Parker home from third and the old-style abbreviations for the cities in the yellow batting average graphic (Cinti?).

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We often remember the colorful uniforms of the 1970s that took advantage of the new color TV sets coming into American houses. But these adventurous unis actually lasted well into the 1980s.  Here we see the bizzare uniform of the White Sox, as Carlton Fisk is introduced in the 1981 All-Star game, seemingly with a flapping bird around his neck.  Speaking of birds, Dave Parker looks like a giant yellow canary as he comes out of the dugout to join his NL teammates.

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