By Phil Hecken
On St. Patrick’s Day of 1978, in a (very) surprise move, especially by the standards of the day, and with no advanced warning, the Cincinnati Reds broke out their normal home uniform in a spring training game against the New York Yankees, only instead of their regular red logos and numbers, they were green. Thus began the tradition, now practiced by many major league clubs, of wearing a special St. Paddy’s Day spring training uniform.
The move shocked the baseball world, foremost among those being shocked was Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who was not pleased by the move (h/t to Todd Radom for this one — you can read more about that here). The Reds would kick the Yankees ass that day, and while most owners don’t get upset at Spring Training losses, this was Steinbrenner we’re talking about, so naturally he was doubly upset. So, it was a genius move by the Reds.
This sort of thing is commonplace today, with all the marketing and jersey sales, etc. that go hand-in-hand with an alternate uniform, but this move came completely out of the gree..er, blue. Imagine heading to the ballpark in Florida expecting the Reds in, ya know, white and red, and seeing them trot out like this (click on this and all photos to enlarge):
It’s actually a really beautiful looking uniform — especially with the crisp kelly green and the beautiful green stirrups and caps.
What may have begun as a one-off funzie-type offering actually spawned multiple wearings of the St. Paddy uni for the next several years. They’d continue to wear the uniform the next four seasons, before eventually returning to their “regular” Spring Training attire. The great Bill Henderson has documented the Reds’ first years wearing o’ the green:
Bill has also reproduced a very good article which explains (a lot better than I) how then-Reds General Manager Dick Wagner turned St. Patrick’s Day into “baseball’s holiday.” Definitely worth the read:
Following the Reds success with wearing the green-accented uniforms, over time, other teams began to wear similar uniforms. Many teams introduced green caps (keeping their regular uniforms) while still others began wearing green jerseys AND caps. It’s a hodgepodge right now, and not all teams participate (though this year almost all of them did in some way — those who don’t go all the way with jerseys and caps, or full white uniforms with green swapped for their primary colors, usually at least throw on a green cap). I’ll have a recap of all the teams at the end of this article. With all the merchandising money at stake, and fans more than willing to burn holes in their pockets, there’s no shortage of green fan gear now available.
I don’t have the time to check all the Spring Training “data” available, but the Reds marked the anniversary of their first wearing green with a special patch yesterday — I’m not sure if this is the first ever patch used to commemorate another Spring Training event, but surely if there are others you can count them on one hand. Here’s what the Reds wore yesterday:
They did not go the extra yard (pardon the football pun) and go with green helmets (no teams do), so we get that “odd” look seen in so many games when teams where special uniforms but don’t get matching helmets:
As you can see from today’s splash photo, the Reds wore a patch on their left shoulder to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of their first wearing green. Here’s a closeup of the patch, which contained the phrase “First Team To Wear Green,” (which is technically not correct — but it would have been wordy to say “First Team To Wear Green For St. Patrick’s Day) and contained the dates 1978-2018. So it is a true Anniversary.
If you look closely at that second photo of the Reds wearing red helmets, you’ll notice some of the players wore special socks. These were new Stance socks used just for today, and players from several teams wore them. They were adorned with at least three visible logos: The Stance logo, the MLB logo, and a clover. Here’s a closeup:
Teams who “wore green” yesterday can be divided into three groups: white uniforms with green elements swapped for their normal color, teams who wore green jerseys (both of these also had green caps), and teams who wore their regular Spring Training uniforms but added the green cap.
I’m not normally a fan of any “specialty” (or event) jersey, but I love these. Maybe because it’s Spring Training (not the real season), maybe it’s because it means the regular season is only a couple weeks away (and less than that this year), and maybe because it’s whimsical and fun. The green jerseys don’t always look great (but they are a beautiful color) and teams who only wear caps often look very odd. But for the teams who wear full white uniforms with color swaps, they look great.
Here’s a rundown of all 30 teams and whether they celebrated the wearin’ o’ the green or not (I did my best to provide a complete list — with split squads and whatnot, I apologize if I missed one or two):
Angels (green cap)
A’s (they’re already in green, wore stirrups only)
Astros (green caps & jerseys)
Blue Jays (green cap)
Braves (green cap)
Brewers (green caps & jerseys)
Cardinals (green cap)
Cubs (green cap)
Diamondbacks (green cap)
Dodgers (green cap)
Giants (green cap)
Indians (green cap)
Mariners (green cap)
Marlins (green cap)
Mets (green cap)
Nationals (green cap)
Orioles (full green uni)
Padres (green cap)
Phillies (green jerseys and caps)
Pirates (green cap)
Rangers (green cap)
Rays (green cap)
Red Sox (green jerseys and caps)
Reds (full uniform, including green belts)
Rockies (green jerseys, not sure if they wore green caps as well)
Royals (full uniform)
Tigers (green jerseys and caps)
Twins (green caps)
White Sox (green caps)
Yankees (green caps)
So, there you have it. Everyone pretty much represented in some way. I like the tradition, but it would be nice if there was some uniformity (heh) to it. The mix and match of styles is kinda cool, but it provides a visual cacophony out on the diamond at times. And of course any team who goes the full distance and wears a white uniform with green accoutrements has my highest praise.
UPDATE: Several readers note that not all teams shown with green caps actually wore them in game play (but of course they’ll be available for purchase), and the Rockies did wear green caps but not green jerseys in their game. So, while every team has at least a green cap option, not all teams used them.
Readers, what say you?
I had the distinct pleasure of featuring the wonderful artwork of artist Graig Kriendler on two occasions over the summer and fall of 2017.
For those who don’t wish to click the links, Graig paints baseball heroes (and regular guys) from the past, and is an immense talent.
Occasionally, I will be featuring his work on Uni Watch.
Here’s today’s offering (click to enlarge):
Title: “The Weiser Wonder”
Subject: Walter Johnson, 1907
Medium: Oil on linen
Size: 22″ x 28″
Walter Johnson is clearly one of the best pitchers to ever play the game. His numbers are shocking, especially considering the ballclub he played for his entire career. With that said, seeing him in anything other than a Senators uniform just seems odd. But that’s what we have here: a 19 or 20-year old future Hall of Famer with the Weiser Kids of the semi-pro Idaho State League. Finding proper color information for the uniform was no easy task. It wasn’t until I was able to get in touch with a family member of somebody who had played for the club in those years that I discovered what’s on the canvas today.
Thanks, Graig! You can (and should!) follow Graig on Twitter.
Time Is Running Out…
…to pick up your Uni Watch mini-helmet!
If you haven’t already, you can still pick up a Uni Watch mini helmet (and for a couple bucks for shipping, you can have Paul and I sign it and send it back to you). If you’d like either or both of us to custom sign for you, just contact Paul (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Phil (Phil.Hecken@gmail.com) and we’ll give you the details.
Once the helmets are all sold, they won’t be available again, and stock is running low. Don’t miss out on this one and one collectors item! And they’ve reduced prices too!
To order yours from Rocker T. Collectibles, just click here.
Coming This Wednesday…
…it’s Paul’s birthday.
Yes, I know this is early, but I won’t be writing Wednesday’s article…our founder and birthday boy will. So I’m going to take this opportunity now to wish him an early Happy Special Day.
Technically spring comes this year on March 20, but I’ve always equated March 21st with the first day of Spring (and indeed it is the first FULL day of Spring), and longtime readers of this blog know that the weather for that day, at least round these parts, is often wet. It’s still a bit too early to make a call, but the weatherperson seems to be trending towards Paul’s “typical” birthday weather. I know I hope a little rain does fall that day. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, be sure to read Wednesday’s blog and I’m sure Paul will fill you in on this wonderful detail of his life.
So Happy B-Day Paul — a few days early — to the best boss and greatest friend a guy could ever have.
Uni Watch News Ticker
Baseball News: Once again, on Jackie Robinson Day (April 15th), the Daytona Tortugas will, once again, be the ONLY team in baseball to wear all #9 jersey’s in honor of the sacrifices made & heroic acts performed by Jackie Robinson to help get us to were we are today. … The Erie SeaWolves (Class AA; Eastern League) will have new uniforms this season. … We’ve had some in-progress photos (and a .gif) of Jeff Callahan‘s tabletop mini Forbes Field — home of the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1909-70 — well, now it is complete! You can see another shot here. … LSU baseball’s Hal Hughes wears Pete Frates’ #3 in tribute to Frates’ perseverance through his battle with ALS (from Bill Abely). … It’s not a great photo, but new cream alts for D3 Shendandoah (from Fred Kreiger). … Ugh, eh? The Baseball Canada junior national team, in action against the Toronto Blue Jays, are wearing pant stripes that stop short of the knee (from Malcolm McMillan). The city of Houston made a slight alternation to the Astros Houston Strong logo for St. Patrick’s Day (from Ignacio Salazar). … Whoa, check out these fantastic uniforms for the Fort Bend (TX) Kempner Cougars (from Al Gruwell). … Good look at the new Stance socks worn by the San Diego Padres yesterday (from Meredith Wills).
NFL News: The Cleveland Browns have an aptly-named blog Factory of Sadness, who feel that when the new Browns uniforms are finally approved, the team should get a “new” logo as well. … Here’s an interesting Patriots logo mashup for the Patriots Alumni Association (from Ilana Hardesty).
Hockey News: “The Everett Silvertips wore one-off special jerseys and presented them to select fans in a “Jersey Off Our Back” ceremony at the end of the game,” says Wade Heidt, who adds it’s “a good looking jersey with the grey on the arms. Here is the jersey unveiling video.”
NBA News: “Some nice work from @47 on their NBA Mash Up series of caps, where they created all-new alternate logos for the teams,” says Conrad Burry. “Some of the teams need to consider buying the artwork and using them officially, imo.” I wholeheartedly agree! … OK, maybe all those Nike alternate uniforms are having some positive effect: Kenny Ocker sends in this story of Ricky Rubio being influenced by the Jazz fourth uniform, so much so, he decided to go take a visit to Southern Utah to “know where they’re coming from.” … The New Orleans Pelicans players honored the life of the late team owner Tom Benson out on the court in the Smoothie King Center last night on their unis.
College Hoops News: Several folks noticed (but I believe B.J. Millican was the first) that the UMBC Retrievers, they who became the first #16 seed to knock off a #1, stole the Beavers unis from “Teen Wolf”. … Rhode Island’s Eric Dadika (#15) was missing the NOB on his uniform against Duke yesterday (from Collin Wright). … I have a feeling Paul (especially) and everyone (generally) approved of yesterday’s FGCU vs. Mizzou matchup in the women’s NCAA tourney (from Ted Chastain). … “Coach K with 3 pins on the suit jacket has to be a Tourney Record!” says @killerkg). … The splash photo in this old New York Post article on Virginia losing a different huge upset shows the game against Chaminade was color-vs-color (from Steven Marks). … Last night Florida wore orange uniforms with a gator skin pattern that were apparently quite the talk of the town. … “Ohio State staffers are wearing the PK80 polos from the beatdown in November against Gonzaga. Clever bit of motivation from Chris Holtmann,” says Austin Ward.
Soccer News: ” I’m from Philly and saw this on the Philadelphia unions Facebook page,” says Keelan McWilliams. “It’s a St. Patrick day patch featuring an aspect of their logo, a snake, which is famous for being chased out if Ireland by st Patrick.”
Grab Bag: Reader Joe Werner thought this would be a good grab bag item: To blend into the background and not distract from a performance, stagehands typically dress in all black. Up until Friday, they were also using burnt cork to darken their faces. Due to racially sensitive concerns at Bethel Park HS, now they’ll wear black ski masks instead of blackface. … Brother Martin (High School) Lacrosse honored Tom Benson with a special helmet decal yesterday (from Andrew Hartfield). … Did you ever wonder why pistachios aren’t red anymore? Me neither, but if you did wonder, here’s why (from Fred Kreiger).
And last (and least)…
You guys know I love to wear fancy pants for curling, and last evening my Long Island rink played its final game of the season. After going undefeated during the regular season, we lost in Virginia-like fashion in the playoffs (to play for the “gold”), so last night we played off for the “Bronze.” We regained our form and won in fine fashion, in a very high scoring (for curling) match, 10-7 (the last end isn’t shown on the board).
Did I dress up for the St. Paddy’s Day match? You betcha.
It’s actually been a heckuva week-plus for me on the sheet. Two Thursday’s ago, I taught curling to some folks from BlackRock, and followed that up on Sunday by teaching curling at my Long Island Club in the morning, then traveling to Brooklyn to play a match (we won) and following that, teaching another Learn-To-Curl immediately after. This past week, I taught on Thursday in Brooklyn to some folks from Deutche Bank, on Friday I taught L-T-C on Long Island, and last night I played my final match. I conclude the whirlwind schedule by playing my final match of the season (we’re 6-0 in this session, going for the perfect season) and then again teaching immediately afterwards.
I think I enjoy teaching as much as playing (and moreso if I’m having a shitty day on the ice). There are a few more teaching sessions I have scheduled this spring, but my two clubs’ seasons are over after tonight.
Wish my squad success as we seek the 7-0 mini-season!
Typos: The Everett Silvertips wore one-off special jerseyS and presented them to select FANS in a “Jersey Off Our Back” ceremony
Stagehands wear black to minimize their presence on stage, but I’ve never seen it necessary for them to cover their faces in any fashion. I hope those masks are of the “luchador” type, because if it doesn’t cover the entire face, why bother in the first place?
Just looked at the article again. The ski masks will do just fine.
Here is a shot of those Everett Silvertips jerseys in game action on Friday.
“…but would it would have been…”
I hope your team never wins again. #FirePhil
Since we are celebrating St. Patrick’s Day uniforms, have to give my usual shout out to a team that dresses like it is St. Patrick’s Day each game, the Western Lacrosse Association’s Victoria Shamrocks.
Long history of a daily St. Patty’s day look, whether is was the early uniforms in the 1950s:
Later years with a leprechaun on the primary logo:
Or the nice present-day uniforms with some black trim:
Though the recent days as the primary WLA powerhouse and a national Mann Cup champion have passed them by, still looking good.
Rockies players and coaches did wear green spring training caps on March 17. The coaching staff wore purple jerseys, which made for a slightly link.
correction. Rockies just did caps. Not sure how Chuck got a green jersey in photo above
Thanks Gregg. I’ve updated the article to reflect this (and some other apparent) change(s). Looks like every team had a green cap option, though not all wore them in game play.
I don’t think the Yankees wore the green caps in their game yesterday in Lakeland. It appears Chad Green wore the cap during workouts in Tampa (pinstripe pants).
Remarkable that the Reds in 1978 went all out, not just with the green on the jerseys, but also the pants. I suppose since fans don’t buy trousers, teams only bother with caps and jerseys when it comes to marking any special occasion or even having alternate uniforms.
Remember everyone, reducing Irish culture to leprechauns, shamrocks, alcohol, and the color green is perfectly fine, but a Native American mascot is horribly racist cultural misappropriation.
(I know, I’m still banned. Fuck you Paul.)
“Ohio State staffers are wearing the PK80 polos from the beatdown in November against Gonzaga. Clever bit of motivation from Chris Holtmann,” says Austin Ward
Not effective though…
Yeah, the Yankees are still reeling from that 1978 spring training loss. What a dumbass description of that game.
Kempner, my alma mater!!! Our uniforms were terrible when I played there.
Giants also wore green jerseys yesterday which created a ridiculous green vs green match up in their game against Oakland
Hwy gang, sorry for the wonky photo. Took it through a fence. Have a great weekend and ill try to shoot you some more stuff soon
Also great colorizations today and a sweet lede on the Reds. It is ironic that the Reds of all teams were the first to go green but it is a great look and id ve interested to see the green and white with the all white hats the reds wore during 1983 spring training
Any idea when the Dodgers starting wearing green caps for St Patrick’s Day. I would have guessed before 1978. I remember the Dodgers doing this in Vero Beach, and really related it to the owner’s Irish heritage, Walter O’Malley. He died in 1979, but of course his son Peter owned the team after his passing.
The St. Patrick’s Day photo of the Orioles you included today is actually from 2016.
They wore their home whites with the green version of their BP hats.
Fantastic work by Graig on Walter Johnson! The Big Train looks incredible. Well done sir.
I’d just like to go on record and say I hate all incarnations of St. Patrick’s Day uniforms. Thank you.
Just checked and it appears that all of the Uni Watch helmets are sold out. Darn.
Don’t the Mariners get credit for green jerseys…albeit NW green?
The Reds were not the first MLB team to wear green on St. Patrick’s day. In a article by the Philadelphia Inquirer from March 17, 1899, the Phillies wore green for spring training in 1899. I also find it hard to believe no other MLB team from 1900-1977 wore green but I’m only positive about the 1899 Phillies.
Shamrocks, not Clovers on the socks