Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Best and Worst Uniforms: National League

While searching for the Prince Fielder pic from yesterday's post, I was struck by how much better I like the Milwaukee throwbacks than I do the current uniforms. Not just because of the novelty, either. Throwbacks are almost always fun because they're something we haven't seen for a while or, in some cases have never seen, but they're not often the team's best look.

So I got to thinking, what is each team's best and worst looks, historically speaking? To figure it out, I decided to consult the Hall of Fame's Dressed to the Nines database. What follows is obviously my personal opinion, but given the subjectivity of fashion, it's as valid as anyone else's. The only real caveat here is that, for the most part, I disqualified deadball era outfits because, let's face it, they had no idea what they were doing back then.

National League today. American League tomorrow.


While their current look -- hearkening back to the Whiz Kid unis they wore in the 1950s and 60s -- is considered classic Phillies, I'm actually kinda partial to the 1930-40s numbers with the blue accents. Given that the Phillies were about as bad as any team ever has been or ever will be while wearing them, however, there's little chance they'll ever go back.

Worst: Sure they won a World Series while wearing them, but I never liked the big-P stuff they wore in the 1970s and 80s. The 1979 numbers -- with the alternate all reds -- were a low water mark.

A nitpick, but I like to see the city name on road uniforms, so I wish they'd change the "Phillies" in the road grays to "Philadelphia."


Best: The Mets haven't changed much of anything besides accents over the years, and for that I love them. To the extent there has been variation, however, the original 1962 jobs are the best.

Worst: Nothing horrendous, but I didn't much care for the alternate solid blues between 1982-84, and the script "New York" in 1987 was pretty ugly too. Ultimately, their worst transgression is the introduction of black caps in 2001, which was followed by black alternate jerseys and accenting. You're New Yorkers! You're supposed to set fashion, not be slaves to it!

There should be a law against the Mets wearing anything but the classic blue, white, and orange getup.


Best: The current ones, which are basically the same as the classic 1946-67 Boston/Milwaukee/Atlanta uniforms, minus the big Indian head on the sleeve.

Worst: Lots to choose from here. The 1929 numbers were notable for having a giant Indian head on the back instead of a number. The 1936-40 uniforms have an excuse for being ugly -- the Braves had renamed themselves the "Bees" and adopted the appropriate yellow accents. But the 1980-86 numbers are the worst in my mind. Not because they're assaulting in any way, but because they are so bland and uninspired.

Suggestions: The biggest problem for the Braves stems from their use of Native American iconography. Yes, the uniforms look good, but that tomahawk, while nothing as offensive as Chief Wahoo, does present a bit of a problem. Not sure what to do there, really.


Best: They're still working on that. They look as good now as they ever have, but that's not saying much.

Worst: Season one's teal nightmare still causes me to wake up screaming.

Suggestions: I dunno, how about breaking away from their Dolphin-inspired fixation on tropical colors? Ever seen a real marlin? They're dark blue and silver-gray with some minor orange accenting. Think about it.


Best: Depends on whether you count the Expos and/or the two incarnations of the Senators. If you do (and now that I think about it, I don't think you should, but whatever) I like the second-generation Senators' red and white uniforms with the curly Ws. If not, I think they look pretty good now, not that we have much of a choice.

Worst: With the same caveats, I'd say that the last generation Montreal uniforms were the worst simply because they lacked the cajones to put the sylized "M" on the jerseys themselves. And if any team was born to wear powder blue roadies, it was Les Expos.

Suggestions: The Nats have decided that they are limited to red, white, and blue, I presume, and there's not much you can do with that. I'd say that keeping the curly W is pretty important, but beyond that they should feel free to experiment. It's not like they have a lot of history to screw up.


Best: They've stayed pretty close to a classic look, at least in living memory. Choosing among slight variations, I'll take the 1960s over the current model if for no other reason than I like the cuddly little bear better than the cub walking out of the "C" on the sleeve.

Worst: They were doing some funky stuff in the early 40s. Some of it may have even involved satin.

Suggestions: Don't mess with a classic. Unless of course they want to bring back the cute little teddy bear.


Best: The 70s and the early 80s were a disaster for so many teams, but man, I really like the old Harvey's Wallbangers look. Lose the pullovers if you must, and I suppose the powder blue is negotiable, but the Brewers without pinstripes, yellow accents, and that mitt logo on the cap just aren't the Brewers.

I don't like what they wear today for all of the reasons stated above. It looks like a uniform designed by a focus group. Milwaukee is a city with a colorful history and citizenry. Their uniforms should have a some pizazz.

If they insist on shunning the early 80s look, the least they could do is put the sausage racers on the sleeves or something.


Best: The Cardinals have spent the better part of a century trying to find the right balance between red and blue accents. At times they've shunned the blue altogether, at other times no red hats were to be found. While I'm tempted to go for the blue cap/red bill look as the best compromise, I think the solid red at home, solid blue on the road look -- which they've sported on numerous occasions, including today -- is the best.

Worst: The Cardinals seemed to have a particularly hard time with the 70s. In some ways they may have been better off to have simply abandoned any effort at preserving the classic look at all and dove head first into day-glo doubleknits. Instead, they tried a series of compromises, none worse than 1976's dalliance with a flat-top, striped cap. The effect was much like seeing long, blow-dried 70s hair on extras in a Happy Days episodes. Not quite modern, not quite retro, and worse off for failing to commit one way or the other.

Resist the urge to fiddle. You look great. Of course, if any individual player wanted to adopt those striped stirrups like Stan the Man used to wear, there would be no complaints from this corner of the internet.


Best: The Reds have always looked pretty good. If you put a gun to my head I'd say the classic 70s and 80s uniforms are tops -- edging out the vests, which the Reds did better than anyone else -- just because so much good baseball was played in them. Note: these looked good in button-down versions as well, so there's no reason not to return to them today.

Worst: 1936 was something of a disaster.

Suggestions: Just remember your name, Cincinnati, keep away from black and blue accents, and everything will be fine.


Best: This all comes down to how you feel about vests. Like Cincy, Pittsburgh did them very well (1960s version is better than today's due to the ugly arm patch marring the current ones). It's close, but I think I prefer the vests to the longer sleeved traditional jobs they adopted in 1948.

The late 70s Pirates may have been fam-i-ly, but the thing about families is that they never tell each other when they look ugly.

Other than losing the patch, the biggest problem Pittsburgh has today are the people wearing the uniforms, not how they look


I know I'm supposed to be all hip and say I liked the crazy 70s-80s getup the best, but despite all of my irony training, I have to admit that they leave me a bit cold. Maybe it was the white shoes, which I've always despised on baseball players. My favorties: the late 60s-early 70s shooting star unis. They wore both red and blue. Maybe they should go the Cardinals' route and do red at home and blue on the road.

Worst: Even if the day-glos weren't as great as everyone now says they were, the 1994-99 overreactions were far worse. Like the Brewers, they looked like a committee put them together.

Suggestions: Eschew political correctness and bring back the guns! Short of that, lose the pinstripes. They just don't seem right in Texas.


Best: One of the three best lookin' teams of all time, the Dodgers have really only changed two things in the past 60 years or so, and those are (1) the addition of the red number; and (2) the words written in script on the front of the roadies. Take your pick between "Brooklyn," "Los Angeles," and "Dodgers." I think I like "Los Angeles" the best, simply because the word "Brooklyn" never appeared alongside the red number, and I rather like the red number.

Worst: You've gotta go back a ways to find a time when anything was different, but 1935's baby blue pinstripes weren't much to look at. Wait, what do you mean they experimented with a vest in 1999? I have no recollection of that whatsoever. Never happened, you hear me? It. Never. Happened.

Suggestions: Don't mess with perfection.


Best: People choose to remember the brown and yellow uniforms as all one look, but there were several significant variations on the theme, ranging from all yellow, to all brown, to something in between. I'm partial to the 1976-77 model which, in addition to mixing the colors in optimal fashion, eschewed those awful typefaces of 1978 and beyond.

Worst: All yellow was something ugly to behold, but at least it had flare. I think the worst was the 1991-2001 pinstripes. San Diego is one of the more laid back towns I've ever been to. Pinstripes should be outlawed there.

Suggestions: Embrace the brown. If it's good enough for the Swinging Friar it's good enough for you.


Best: While they lost their heads for a few years, for the most part, the Giants have kept the classic look, and it's a good look.

Worst: The orange and blacks were . . . regrettable.

Suggestions: There are going to be some lean years ahead. While I'm pretty sure the Giants will resist the urge, they musn't fall prey to the notion that you need to change things up in order to get a fresh start.


Best: They've always looked more or less the same, purple accents notwithstanding. I'm not enamoured with their look as it is clearly the result of the early 90s fixation with black which followed the marketing success of Los Angeles Raiders hats (N.W.A in the house!). People: it's been a long time since the Raiders were good examples of anything, so can we let go of the black already?

Worst: I've never liked dark solid alternates on any team, and that goes for the Rockies' version of it too. It's just so softball.

Suggestions: Someone with the Colorado organization should be forced to get in their car and drive around the Rocky Mountains for a week or two. When they get back, they should try to incorporate some of that raw beauty into the Rockies' color palette.


Best: Minor variations aside, they've only really had two uniforms. The current one is clearly superior.

Worst: Incorporating teal, purple, black, and pinstripes, the original Diamondbacks' outfits were the perfect storm of marketing douchebaggery. Maybe the worst thing every worn by a Major League team, and yes, I'm including the White Sox and late 70s Pirates in that assessment.

Suggestions: Hire all of the photo doctoring experts who managed to survive the Stalin regime and get them to subtly alter all pictures of the 2001 championship season so that no historical evidence exists of that awful, awful look.

So that's the NL. For the AL, go here!


Jason said...

Shyster, expect an angry call from Uniwatch blog, Paul Lukas.

(great work, though!)

Shyster said...

I know. I have already written the AL one, and at the end of it I put an apology to Lukas for stealing his bit.

(and thanks!)

Alex said...

What's the quote about pinstripes making the other team dizzy? However that went, it is much more true with the Pirates recent alternate vests: http://pittsburgh.pirates.mlb.com/
Laroche's look there is about what mine was when I first saw that awful red. And where do the Pirates get off using red in the first place? I think it's great that Pittsbugh's three major franchises use yellow and black, but now the Pirates think that because they put their mascot in red head gear they can disregard the city's theme? No no no. I dunno, maybe I'm missing something from their history, but the new red vests look terrible to me.

Anonymous said...

Don't agree about the Diamondbacks old uniform as compared to the current one. As a 15-game-a-year DBacks attendee, I think the current one is virtually indistinguishable from nearly every other red/white uniform in the majors. While a bit of a tone-down of the old one might have been in order (e.g., lose the stripes and/or mute the turquoise a bit), at least the colors were unique and not garish.

VP81955 said...

By adding red to the black and gold, the Pirates now look like the University of Maryland, which looks kind of weird. (The funny thing is that Maryland's baseball uniforms use the Nationals' style lettering and numbering, with "Terrapins."

Ken Dynamo said...

the mets need to get rid of all traces of black in their uniforms. immediately. lukas has my back on this one.

it was a dumb, purely for marketing purposes move in the 90's when they sucked (recalling such slogans as 'Mets in Black' - im not even joking) and it has nothing to do with the historical mets colors inspired both from the 2 teams they were replacing (Giants Orange and Dodger Blue) and from the New York City Fla which itself was derived from the flag of a former dutch colony (hence blue white and orange).

plus it looks terrible.

Andy said...

I think the Nationals current uniformss are pretty ugly. The combination of the historic script W on the hat and the modern Block letter Nationals, Washington, and DC leaves me confused. Can't have your cake and eat it too.

Anonymous said...

I, too, loved the Astros when they were a gay Hawai'ian softball team.

Eschew political correctness and bring back the guns!

But only if Billy Dee Williams is the stadium announcer.

Steve Treder said...

Absolutely wonderful piece, Craig. Bravo!

Shyster said...

Thanks Steve!

Anonymous said...

The stripes down the pants of the '86 Mets was even worse than the black.

Mike said...

I normally like the pinstripe look, but for some reason I've never liked the Mets' uniforms, but I've never been able to quite put my finger on why. Maybe it's the orange and black coloring. That should only appear on Halloween!