By Phil Hecken
Last weekend, I put forth the proposition that the short-lived Cleveland Indians “caveman” uniforms, worn only from 1973-1977, constituted their “signature” look (loosely, a signature look is one where if you were to see a picture of a player in that uniform set, you’d KNOW exactly what team you were looking at. It doesn’t need to be a team’s best looking uniform, or the one in which the team had its greatest success, or one which was worn the longest…just one you associate most strongly with a particular team.). Today, I’m taking a look at the Pittsburgh Pirates…and as you can glean from the photo above…I will argue the Pirates “signature” look is the “We Are Family” uniforms worn 1977 through 1979 (and technically through 1984).
First off — no Pirates team (IMHO) can be considered to have a signature look before 1948, for it was in that year that the team took the momentous step and jettisoned their previous red and blue color schemes and adopted the iconic black and gold colors of the Pittsburgh flag. Beginning in 1948, and continuing until 1953, the Pirates adopted a uniform which is similar to their current set, featuring a black cap (with gold “P”) and “Pirates” across the chest, in “Pirate” script. Their roadies would say “PITTSBURGH”. In 1954, and until 1956, the Bucs would jettison the city-name-on-roads and wore “PIRATES” both home and away. Those were beautiful unis, no doubt — but what would follow could certainly be argued are the two other “signature” looks the team would have.
Beginning in 1957, and until the team moved from Forbes Field to Three Rivers Stadium in 1970, the team wore vests with black sleeves and classic black stirrups with three gold stripes. It looked great on every player, but probably none more so than Roberto Clemente.
Clearly a beautiful look, and one that would certainly be considered a “signature” look. But…
In 1970, the Pirates moved (mid-season) into Three Rivers Stadium and with the move, they would begin wearing another semi-iconic uniform, lovingly dubbed “The Mustards” (for the distinct color of gold shade they wore). Not only was the uniform an MLB first (the beginning of the polyester era), it also was the first synthetic uniform to feature a sans-a-belt with pullover jersey.
The Pirates would wear that uniform from mid-1970 through 1976 (and in 1976 they wore a mustard-colored “pillbox” cap that would become the basis for their “most” iconic and signature uniform — the “bumblebee” — but we’re getting slightly ahead of ourselves).
The Pirates (and their fans) certainly “owned” this look, and brought it back a few years ago for their Sunday throwback games. No one has ever worn a color remotely approaching the ‘mustard’ worn by those Pirates, and one could certainly argue this was a signature look for the team. Until…
From 1977-1979, the Pirates “broke” all uniform rules, introducing three complete uniforms (an all-gold, an all-black, and a white uniform with “fat” black and gold pinstripes, plus a black and gold pillbox cap, and both black and gold undershirts and stirrups). They would wear these uniforms in mix-and-match fashion, creating literally dozens of possible combinations.
Almost no combination was off limits, but there was actually a “pattern” — if the team wore a black jersey, they wore gold sleeves and a gold cap; if they wore black pants, they’d wear gold stirrups (and vice-versa). Both the gold and black accessories were worn with the pinstripes.
At this point, I’d like to direct your attention to two AMAZING posts I did with Jerry Wolper (“BucTracker”) with some assistance from a couple other UW stalwarts back in 2010 and 2011, wherein Jerry documented every combination worn by the Pirates from 1977 through 1984 (while the Pirates would continue to wear their gold and black uniforms through 1984, they would ditch the fat pins after 1979). It’s truly an amazing undertaking, and well worth reading through now, if you have a few extra minutes.
As classic (even iconic) as those vested and mustard uniforms are, I think the evidence is clear the mix-and-match bumblebee era is THE signature uniform set for the Pirates.
If that uniform set isn’t what one thinks of when one thinks “Pirates” — it’s up there. Couple all that with the “Stargell Stars” on their caps, and you have one memorable uniform. And for those who are fans…the 2016 Pirates will be bringing one of the combinations back (the black/gold/black/gold uniform worn in Game 7 of the 1979 World Series) for the Sunday home games this year. I will have a review of that, plus a look back at the many times the Pirates have attempted to throwback to the “We Are Family” uniforms in the past (and usually not well) soon.
Once the calendar turned to 1985, the Pirates returned to a much more basic, and traditional, uniform scheme, and have continued that trend up to the present. The halcyon (and possibly psychadelic) days that produced the iconic mustard and bumblebee sets are gone…but not forgotten.
So what say you readers, are the mix-and-match bumblebee uniforms the Pirates signature look?
Occasionally, I will be featuring wonderful, high-quality black and white photographs that are just begging to be colorized.
Just one colorization today — from another old friend from whom we have not heard in a long time —George Chilvers, who is back with one of his classic colorizations, and was spurred to send this in because of yesterday’s main article.
Click photos to enlarge.
Haven’t shared any with you for a while. People didn’t seem interested, so I haven’t bothered, but maybe (yester)day’s lede will get a bit of interest.
This is the groundsman and his trusty friend preparing the pitch in 1925 at the Estadio Chamartin, which was then the ground of the now world-famous Real Madrid before they moved to the Estadio Bernabeu. Cue all sorts of jokes about the number of donkeys who are playing for whichever team at the moment.
I will share with you though that I used to write quizzes for small groups (I don’t know if you have them over there – a “quiz night” with each table in a pub competing against everyone else). I once askeda question “who tilted at windmills?”. More than one group obviously had the person writing the answer mishearing the person who knew the answer – and wrote “Donkey Hotay”.
Hope you’re all keeping well.
Thanks George — great job, and welcome back! So glad to hear from you again!
It’s A Day Early But…
…I’m Not Doing Tomorrow’s Post
Just wanted to pass along my heartiest birthday wishes to Mr. Uni Watch, Paul Lukas, whose actual birthday is tomorrow. It always *seems* to rain on March 21, but we may end up with a bit of snow here in New York (that counts, right)? Either way, it looks like the day will start with some form of precipitation. And if you don’t know why that’s significant, I’m sure Paul will fill you in tomorrow.
Paul and I usually exchange Amazon Gift Cards or something like Curling brooms or sweaters, but this year, in a great twist, he requested instead that I make a donation to the Southern Poverty Law Center in his name, and I heartily agreed. If you guys ever wanted to donate to a wonderful organization, this is a great one.
So — Happy (early) Birthday to the best boss (and friend) a guy could ever ask for! Cheers buddy! Enjoy your special day tomorrow (the first full day of Spring).
UW’s Friday Flashback
In case you missed it, Paul’s Friday Flashback on ESPN looked back at the (in)famous Marquette hoops untucked jerseys, which first appeared during the 1975-76 season. Not only were they a uniform *first* — they were also designed by forward Bo Ellis, a 6-foot-9 junior majoring in fashion design! The Marquette team already had worn some awesome designs during Coach Al McGuire’s tenure, but the untucked unis were another step in the evolution of uni design. We look back on them now with fondness (if not outright joy), but I’m wondering if swooshie or adidas came out with a similar “innovation” now if we’d simply pan them. Of course, uni design back then wasn’t done (or driven) by marketing considerations first and foremost — it was a different era.
Great read, so be sure to check it out if you missed it!
Uni Watch News Ticker
Baseball News: Will the new “flex base” side panels on jerseys affect teams wearing pinstripes? We thought so, but if you look at this ad from Dicks, it appears the “authentic” jersey will have normal pinstriping (and it does show the back hem in flex base material, so it does appear to be an “on field” type produce). Thanks to Joe Dixon. … The Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders have unveiled a new blue alternate jersey. … Adam Vitcavage writes, “even my cup at Oakland’s Spring Training has logo/sponsor creep. Didn’t last year.” … The New Mexico Lobos debuted some very dark gray unis yesterday (h/t Rob Montoya). … Here’s a good closeup of the really awful West Virginia digital-camo baseball tops (thanks to Coleman Mullins). … The Toronto Blue Jays batting practice/spring training caps have both the Jerry Dior batterman logo AND a Blue Jays logo on them (from Justin Terry). They did the same thing last year as well (from @ron). … Tweeter RN’s Funhouse said, “Any idea what these Cubs patches were for in 1984? Google is no help. Sorry for the terrible quality.” I’m guessing those are the 1984 NL Eastern Division Champion patches. … Red Sox and Cardinals went red jersey vs. red jersey yesterday (from Richard Grossman). … “I was at the Clemson/Boston College baseball game (yester)day, and noticed that the BC players were all wearing what appeared to be two-in-one socks,” says Chip Powell. “Also noticed that many of them had pinkish ‘sanis’ as the maroon from the socks looked like it ran in the wash. This is the best pic I could get from where I was sitting.” … In college baseball, Louisville and Miami went red versus orange last night (screengrab by Adam Apatoff).
NFL News: The NFL have said the League will not grant a Super Bowl to the Atlanta Falcons if the Georgia Legislature passes a bill that would “be a check on the civil rights of gay people in Georgia.” There is *sorta* precedent for this, when the NFL threatened to (and did) deny the Super Bowl to Arizona for rejecting Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a recognized holiday. The NFL also put the heat on Arizona a separate time for similar anti-gay legislation. Even if this is the right thing to do (which it is), should the NFL be able to exert this type of power? And if they can do this, why can’t they hold the threat of the loss of any future Supes to the Washington team (whose stadium is located in Maryland) for refusal to change their name? (I think we know the answer to that one anyway.) Discuss. (Thanks to Paul for the tip).
College Football News: Yay! Another clickable slideshow from Bleacher Report! This one is called “10 College Football Brands That Won’t Ever Need a Redesign”, and, as you might imagine, the list is populated by schools who have had classic looks (some of them for a long time, even). … Check out this Ole Miss Football poster from 2000, showing the team was outfitted by Russell (thanks to Griffin Smith).
NBA News: The Heat/Cavs game last evening was a color on color uniform matchup. Miami wore their Latin Heritage “El Heat” uniforms (thanks to Robert Hayes). … Other color on color games included the Nuggets vs. Hornets, the Knicks vs. Wizards (in their “Bullets” fauxbacks), and the Pacers vs. Thunder (thanks to Zach for all of those). … Also from Robert Hayes, the Spurs (gray) and Warriors went color vs. color. … The Sioux Falls Skyforce (a Heat affiliate) wore these really corny uniforms last night (from Kevin English). Here’s another look.
College/High School Hoops News: “Cool short video/story worth a mention on the final four/ncaa logos, as well as for highlighting a neat business this guy runs out of his home (in a small “city” out in PA),” writes Chris Lewis: Meet the Man from Schuylkill County Who Designed the NCAA Logos. … The Diamond Ranch Academy Diamondbacks of Hurricane, Utah, have some interesting jerseys. Submitter Benji King notes they also have some rather intricate playing fields as well. … Yesterday KAT was watching Kentucky, sporting the new logo on the cap (via Joey Pants). … Several folks tweeted this at me: yesterday Thomas Bryant was sporting only two of three trefoil stripes. … Conrad Burry has made a 64-team bracket circle for the NCAA tourney. You can see the full circle here.
Grab Bag: “This is not at all uni-related,” says David Cline, “but being a food guy, I thought you would get a kick out of this: States as Food Puns.” … Because lacing up your sneakers is so 2010s (apparently), Nike has introduced a “self lacing and self fitting shoe” that has a sensor in the heel, so as a user steps into the shoes they tighten and adjust automatically. Weren’t we supposed to have this technology for those Back To The Future sneakers (and hoverboards too)? … The Japanese women’s volleyball team is going blue (including shoes), in the press release, you can see 2014 (red) and 2015 (orange) uniforms (thanks to Jeremy Brahm). … Whoa — check out these lacrosse helmets for the Binghamton Bearcats (h/t Anthony Naglieri). … Missouri is rocking some awesome tiger-striped singlets at #WrestleNYC (via Josh SÃ¡nchez). … Here is a look at every Wiz/Wizards/Sporting jersey, home & away, from 1996 thru 2016 (from @ZedMinor). … There is color versus color…and then there’s TRUE color vs. color (shot by Jay White).
And that’s going to do it for today. Thanks (and welcome back) to George for the colorizations! Everyone have a great week (and first day of spring) and I will catch you next weekend. Until then…
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.
“You’ve taken an art form to a whole new level!”
— Jerry Reuss, on Bruce Menard’s colorizations