I’m sure you heard about last month’s Tampa Bay Rays uniform kerfuffle, which I’m staying out of except to opine that this would have been a much bigger deal if teams weren’t changing uniforms every 17 seconds anyway. I’m particularly alert to the issue of uniforms, having seen a parade of them during my tenure at the Reds Museum, for the sight of one immediately places a player in a team, stadium, coach, and era.

We Americans are probably more peculiar about our baseball uniforms than other sports; it’s been ours the longest and we used to regard each logo shift as something far more jarring and age-divisional than a different presidential administration and only slightly less significant than new a geologic age. It’s impossible to maintain this kind of attitude now when even college athletes are trotting out new looks every quarter. How is a new Bengals helmet anything to ‘gram about when we never know what Evan McPherson is going to look like week to week anyway?

It was a long shift for me, a child of the ’80s, but entering the world of Thoroughbred racing began to blunt my preciousness over uniforms. Jockeys change them nine times a day and they’re happy about it; racing has employees whose entire job is dedicated to doing nothing more than keeping track of who the bearer wants to win for the next five minutes. Becoming the girlfriend and then the wife of a NASCAR fan finished the job. There is something refreshingly honest and all-American about driver suits. You know where this man gets his cornpone.

Still, there’s a reason why there’s a great deal of attention and suspense attached to which team hat a player chooses to represent on his Hall of Fame plaque. That’s the way he wants to be remembered; that’s the immediate advertisement of his career and professional identity. This will become more and more of an issue as post-free agency players are elected. It spreads the city-touched celebrations around, but it also invites increased arguments and division once the induction comes. The player must choose: One town over another, one set of teammates from many.

The next Red to enter–Votto, let’s not kid ourselves– will have a great deal to choose from even should he (presumably) enter as one of us. Mother’s Day version or spring training St. Patrick’s Day special? Los Rojos or Star Wars Day? In any case, absolutely no one blames our last alum, Griffey Jr., for entering Cooperstown as a Mariner; that poor team needs a bone thrown at it every now and then, plus Griffey joined the Reds during the dubious vest/stripes/black-accents-for-no-reason stage.

I don’t much mind the hated Red’s 90’s uniforms, since I associate that entire decade with a single team and it certainly didn’t dress like that, but mostly because the look infinitely more comfortable than the nightmare syntheticism of the 70s and early 80s. They look good, but it should be noted that the people forming opinions on them never had to endure that particular material next to their sweating bodies for hours on end. In the summer. In Astroturf-era Riverfront.

I was six years old in a polyester soccer uniform and even I knew that asking this of professional athletes was bullcrap. I spent most of my illustrious SAY career wearing a cotton tee shirt under the jersey in 90 degree weather and sneaking on Umbros in place of nasty neon-yellow shorts. You don’t own me, Bridgetown Finer Meats Lambchops! (Well– you do, but you can’t stop me from putting a layer between me and this plastic shirt.)

Then again, the very first Reds wore wool uniforms, so I don’t suppose any of us have room to complain. What was your favorite look?


19 Responses

  1. Rednat

    favorite reds uniforms were from the 1950’s

    favorite uniform of all time was the Chicago White sox shorts uniform of 1976!

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Ohhhhhhhhhh the rare non-Reds entry! Thanks for including that!

  2. Mark Moore

    A recollection of the Seinfeld episode where George talked the NYY’s into cotton uniforms comes to mind. 🙂

    As Billy Crystal used to say on SNL in his Fernando character, “It is better to look good than to feel good.”

    Frankly, I’d rather see a winning team. but at least we’re not wearing shorts like the ChiSox did for a while … 😮

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I was trying so hard not to bring that in, especially because Paul O’Neill was in the party. So thank you for doing it for me 🙂

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I do like the Big Klu look.

  3. Melvin

    The Big Red Machine uniforms. Just because of the association….winning. Different material though. That must have been brutal.

    • Melvin

      I will add though that I would prefer “American Flag” dark navy blue instead of the black.

      • Mary Beth Ellis

        A rare one! I used to have a replica of the ’40s hat.

      • Melvin

        It would be very patriotic don’t you think? I bleed red, white, and blue. 🙂

  4. Oldtimer

    I like the Big Red Machine double knit uniforms of the early to mid 1970s.

    Second best were the Reds uniforms of the early to mid 1960s.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Those 60s versions were underrated.

  5. BK

    I like the basic concept behind the current uniforms except that I’m not a fan of the “shadow” trim and would prefer a more traditional trim. The 1968 unis are also nice–very clean. Finally, I like the vests, but not a fan of the black sleeves in the ’90s–red should always be the dominate color.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I never did understand the “let’s make black part of the look even if it’s not one of our colors” thing.

  6. jessecuster44

    1997 Roads with the Jackie Robinson sleeves

  7. Greg G

    I liked the 1969 version, which was the only one I bought during the uniform throwback explosion that was the 2019 season. Clean design with the classic button down jersey, the first appearance of the MLB logo, and stirrup socks (which have no practical use, but for fans of a certain age are a requirement). 🙂