I'm a Baseball Purist Even (Especially) When It Comes to Uniforms

Ever since I was a kid, I've been as fascinated by sports uniforms and logos as I have been by sports themselves. In addition to watching baseball, football, basketball, and hockey games I also paid close attention to what the players were wearing. Growing up I had two posters in my room that I kept all the way through the day I left for college: one had every NFL helmet and logo on it and the other had every MLB hat and logo. I spent many an hour studying and memorizing those logos as a kid in the 1980s and 1990s, so much so that when a lot of teams in both leagues started overhauling their logos and uniforms in the mid-to-late 1990s it was quite jarring...and that's not even taking into consideration when several teams across the four leagues moved or when the leagues expanded and added new teams. For whatever weird reason, I've just always paid attention to the minutiae of sports logos and uniforms and for years I thought I was kind of strange in that respect. It wasn't until I found the Uni Watch column (and later blog) in the early 2000s that I realized there were other uniform-obsessed weirdos like me. Later on when I found SportsLogos site and the National Baseball Hall of Fame uniform database Dressed to the Nines, I was in heaven. My son is also picking up on this interest in logos and uniforms from me which I haven't passed down on purpose but I'm nonetheless proud to see. The purpose of this long-winded introduction has been to give you some background into why I decided to write this particular post.

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The impetus for writing about uniforms was a discussion I had with my buddy Mark. We were texting and tweeting each other during a Red Sox game in which they were wearing their alternate blue jerseys. The problem both of us had was the fact that these jerseys are no longer "alternate" in the true sense of the word. You see, when the Red Sox finally succumbed to the league-wide trend (only the Yankees have resisted) of wearing alternate jerseys (in order to sell more merchandise, of course) in the late 2000s they began the practice of wearing them for Friday games ONLY. They'd wear red jerseys for Friday home games and blue jerseys for Friday road games. That was it. For all other games they wore their classic home whites or road greys. Many fans (including me) didn't like them but could tolerate them once a week. The issue started in 2018 when I noticed the team wearing them more and more, as in a couple of times a week. Then it became a few times a week. Eventually they started wearing them all the time and the nadir, at least for me (and I know a lot of Red Sox fans agree with me on this) is when they wore them for EVERY road game during the 2018 World Series. They were playing another original franchise with iconic uniforms in the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Sox opted to play in what many of us derisively call their "softball tops" or "batting practice tops." Obviously I was thrilled they won the World Series (I wrote a book about it, after all), but I so wish they'd worn their gorgeous grey road uniforms instead.

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That brings us to 2019 where it seems the Red Sox wear the alternates MORE than they wear their real uniforms! (The official explanation is that each game's starting pitcher gets to decide which jerseys the team will wear which is straying a long ways indeed from the original intent of only wearing them on Fridays). As I've already stated, I'm a uniform purist and I think more than any other sport, baseball lends itself to sticking with the tradition that has been established over the last century: teams wear white uniforms with the team name on the front at home, and they wear grey uniforms with the city name on the front on the road. Period. It's crisp, clean, classy, and timeless. The history behind this is that way back when, teams had less access to laundry facilities on road trips and the grey uniforms didn't show dirt and grass stains as much as the white ones, so teams could go longer between washes. I also prefer players wearing short pants with high solid colored socks (I was never a huge fan of stirrups and always opted for the high socks when I played) and I hate the long baggy pants look, but that ship has long since sailed and these days players do whatever they want when it comes to pants and socks. Think about all of the teams with classic, timeless uniforms though: the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Tigers, and Cardinals (to name but a few) all wear basically the same uniforms today as they did in the 1920s and 1930s and they all look as beautiful today as they did back then.

Sticking with my Red Sox, just look at these gorgeous home white uniforms which have barely changed since the days of Ted Williams and are essentially the same today:

Ted Williams in the 1940s

Carl Yastrzemski in the 1960s

Roger Clemens in the 1980s

Mookie Betts in the 2010s

Xander Bogaerts in the 2010s

And now look at the beautiful road greys which have only changed slightly since Ted's day. Up until the early 1990s, BOSTON and the numbers on the back were in blue and there were no last names (these are my favorite Red Sox road uniforms by the way). In the early 1990s the letters and numbers were changed to red and last names were added...they still look great and I love them almost as much.

Ted Williams in the 1950s

Bill Buckner in the 1980s

Bill Buckner in the 1980s

Wade Boggs in the 1980s

Eduardo Rodriguez in the 2010s

Andrew Benintendi in the 2010s

You'll notice I'm not considering the abominations in the mid-1970s when the Red Sox wore V-neck pullovers, elastic-waisted pants, and red caps. The 1970s weren't kind to any MLB team when it came to uniforms except for the Yankees (who never deviated from their classic threads) and they're best left in the dustbin of history, nostalgia aside. I know there are a lot of fans who grew up in the 70s and remember those uniforms fondly, but I think that's more for the association with the 1975 team than anything else. 

Anyway, that brings us to...ugh...these...

Andrew Benintendi

Mookie Betts

First the home red alternates: it's just too much red. I know that sounds silly when discussing the Red Sox, but part of the beauty of their name and uniform is that the red is more of an accent color; the gorgeous crimson red pops against navy blue, white, and grey. The B on the hat, the lettering for RED SOX or BOSTON across the front, the numbers on the back, and of course the (optional) socks are the only red things on the uniforms. Those splashes of red look so good against the crisp white or grey uniforms and the navy blue of the caps. To make the entire jersey red is just garish in my opinion and the RED SOX lettering in blue across the chest gets swallowed up by all of that red.

Left to right: Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley immediately after winning the 2018 World Series

Brock Holt in the 2018 postseason

The road blue alternates are better but still not great, and for much the same reason. While the deep navy is easier on the eyes and the red BOSTON pops against the blue much better than the blue lettering on the reds, it's still too much blue. If I had to choose one alternate to keep, it would be this one without a doubt, but I still don't like solid colored jerseys and it's always looked a bit funny against the grey pants with red stripe and the (optional) red socks. It doesn't clash, but it doesn't really go together either (if that makes sense). The biggest travesty is that they wore these tops for all three road games in Los Angeles last year in the World Series. Paired against the Dodgers beautiful and timeless uniforms, it was a jarring contrast and a real missed opportunity.

In my perfect world, the Sox would wear their home whites and the pre-1990s road greys, but if they had to stick with the current road set, that'd be fine with me. All the players would have to wear short pants with high red socks and they'd NEVER wear their alternate jerseys. Unfortunately that isn't the world we live in any more, but a guy can dream can't he?

(and don't even get me started on this year's Players Weekend uniforms...)