Sports Nut

Uni Watch

Baseball’s spring wardrobe blowout.

A new look for the Blue Jays

Adam Riggs of the Anaheim Angels etched his name into uniform history last Aug. 16, when he trotted out to left field wearing a jersey mistakenly embroidered with “Angees.” Think that could happen again this year? Probably not, but the odds have just doubled, because the team will be wearing “Angels” instead of “Anaheim” on its road jerseys this season.

So begins Uni Watch’s sixth annual baseball roundup, in which we examine the sartorial state of affairs on the diamond. With the Yankees and Devil Rays slated to open the season in Japan on March 30, and the balance of the schedule commencing on April 5, here’s what you can expect to see at the ballpark this year.

After years of incremental changes, the Blue Jays have gone back to the drawing board and undergone a complete overhaul. The new home jersey isn’t bad, but the ultra-drab gray home cap is a stinker, as is the gray-on-gray road jersey. Didn’t it occur to anyone that a team called the Blue Jays might benefit from a bit more indigo?

The season’s other complete makeover is in San Diego, where the Padres have a new wardrobe. The home jersey looks like a leftover from a double-A team, but that road jersey lettering is pretty nifty. Interestingly, these road unis aren’t traditional gray—they’re a faintly yellowish shade, officially designated as “sand.” Uni Watch could make all sorts of jokes here, only some of which would involve the thought of this color wrapped around David Wells’ paunch. But given the Padres’ dismal aesthetic history—which includes such milestones as the brown jersey and the all-yellow home uniform—let’s just say, “Coulda been worse” and leave it at that. And in a nice touch, the team’s old Swinging Friar logo will appear as a sleeve patch on the navy alternate jerseys.

The mix-and-match mania of recent years, which has left the average fan with no idea of what his favorite team will look like on any given day, may finally have crested. While a few teams continue to add alternate components—a sharp-looking vest jersey for the Rangers, an ill-advised 1970s throwback cap for the Twins, a predictably garish solid-purple cap for the Rockies—other teams are paring down. The Giants have jettisoned all their alternate-uniform elements, and Mariners have abandoned their green-brimmed home caps and will now wear their solid navy capsfor all games, reinforcing the old design logic that sometimes less is more.

Over in Cleveland, the Indians are marking the 10th anniversary of Jacobs Field with a commemorative patch. Leaving aside the question of why a stadium’s 10th birthday needs to be celebrated, it’s worth noting that this patch will be appearing not just on sleeves but also on the left side of the Tribe’s home caps. Cap patches, first worn by the Yanks and Braves during the 1996 World Series, have now become staples of the Fall Classic and the All-Star Game. But they hadn’t been used for regular-season contests until last year, when they were worn by the Expos for their games in Puerto Rico and all season long by the Yankees, who were celebrating their 100th anniversary. Enough already, says Uni Watch—cap patches destroy a cap’s sense of symmetry and create an overly cluttered look.

Sharp-eyed fans may have noticed that Detroit outfielder Dmitri Young wore a Tigers-branded do-rag under his cap last year. It isn’t clear if any other players were similarly attired—if so, Uni Watch didn’t spot them—but at least one player has joined in during this season’s spring training: Reggie Sanders of the Cards. Traditionalists might disapprove, but the mere thought of Bud Selig being presented with a set of do-rag prototypes for his approval (and maybe trying them on!) is entertaining enough to justify this item’s existence.

The Orioles are celebrating their 50th anniversary with a good-looking sleeve patch and by restoring their home-jersey lettering from black to orange, which not only matches the team’s old color scheme from 1955 through 1994 but also provides some relief from the oppressive “let’s make everything black” trend. Nicely done.

The Mets, desperate for anything to celebrate, are commemorating Shea Stadium’s 40th birthday with a sleeve patch. This should have been a great opportunity to create a design patterned on the sorely missed blue-and-orange panels that once decorated Shea’s exterior from 1964 through 1979. But instead the patch features those tacky neon batter and pitcher figurines, which is the design equivalent of signing Mo Vaughn instead of Vlad Guerrero—a typical misstep for a franchise that can’t do anything right lately.

In a welcome development, the umpires are wearing blue again, if only on a limited basis. As detailed in a previous column, umps switched from wearing navy blue to black with white trim in 2001. While black will still be the dominant color, umps will now have a light-blue shirt in their wardrobes (instead of the cream shirt that some have worn in recent years), and their black windbreakers will have blue trim—not quite the full-scale return to navy that Uni Watch would prefer, but at least those wanting to heckle the umps will once again be able to yell, “C’mon, Blue!”

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