By Phil Hecken
Back in 2016, I began undertaking a series of entries looking at a team’s “signature” uniform. Loosely defined (and subject to interpretation) a “signature” uniform would be a uniform which one might definitively associate with a team, the one which stood out the most over the years. A signature uniform is not necessarily a team’s best uniform, or one which the team has worn the longest (although either of those could still apply), but rather the one uniform that, when you think of how a team looked at their most distinct, you have their signature uniform. Earlier this year, I resumed the series with the Montreal Expos, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Oakland A’s, the Kansas City Royals, the Washington Nationals, and the Atlanta Braves.
If you missed the previous 2016 entries in the series, you can see them at the following links: Indians, Pirates, Astros, Mets, Rays and Padres.
Today we’ll look at the Colorado Rockies — born in 1993 and celebrating their 25th Anniversary this year — who have been remarkably consistent in their uniform looks over their entire history. In fact, the basic home and away uniforms the team is wearing today are almost identical to those they debuted two and half decades ago. Consistency has been their hallmark and rather than making wholesale adjustments, they’ve been content over their history to make mostly tweaks and to add a few alternate looks.
The team chose black and purple for their base colors (with some silver/gray) — the black probably because it was trendy at the time, but the purple was a nod to the “purple mountains majesty” so associated with Denver and the Rockies. It’s been noted the team wanted a classic look (which was evident from the get-go) and the pinstripe homes were modeled after the Yankees. They’d go with elegant dark purple pinstripes and black fonts and outlines (the original font appears to be in the “caslon outline” family) and the letters were filled in with a silver color. There would be no NOB on the 1993 homes (another nod to the Yankees). The team’s road jersey would only be worn for one season — 1993 — and it had silver letters outlined in a purple caslon font with solid purple lettering for the NOB and number on back, both of which were outlined in white. A think headspoon in black and two black stripes at the sleeve hems completed the look. Also introduced during the inaugural season was a black alternate jersey, to be worn on home Sundays, but it quickly fell out of favor and was rarely worn. It had the same “ROCKIES” font and purple color scheme on the numbers and NOB as the road gray. The team retired it following the 1993 season. All uniforms would have a solid black cap with an interlocking “CR” in caslon font, with purple fill surrounding the white outline.
1993 Black Alternate
In 1994, the home jerseys would add NOBs, but they were otherwise unchanged. The gray alternate would change somewhat, as the “ROCKIES” font, which previously had been rendered in silver with a purple outline, was made solid purple with a white outline The thick black hem at the hems of the sleeves was also removed, leaving one thin piping near the end in the same style as the headspoon piping.
The team would stick with the home and road (solely) uniform lineup for the remainder of the 1990s. 2000 brought the most major changes (which were not all that major) to the homes, and slightly more ambitious changes to the roads. For 2000, and continuing through today, the team added from uni numbers to the homes, added to the left side of the jersey, beneath “ROCKIES.” The numbers would be black outlined in white.
The road uniform would see more significant changes. Purple pinstripes were added to the jerseys and pants, and “COLORADO” replaced “ROCKIES” on the front. These would be in purple with a white outline. Numbers would be added to the front of the uniform in the same location as the homes (lower left) and would be purple, outline with a thin layer of black and a thicker layer of white. An new alternate cap would also be added, with a black crown and purple brim.
2000 also saw the introduction of the team’s first alternate jersey since the black alt in 1993. The team added a purple alternate jersey, which would be worn with both the home and road uniforms. It kept the same “COLORADO” font as the roads, but was white/purple/white (so it appeared “thicker” than the road script). The jersey would have front numbers in black, outlined in thick white, a pattern repeated on the back with the NOB and rear numbers.
2000-present Purple Alternate
In 2002, and for three seasons, the team introduced an alternate home uniform — very similar to their current one, but with “ROCKIES” removed and the interlocking “CR” logo from the cap was added to the left chest. The “CR” was silver outlined with black. Numbers were moved from the lower left to the right rib cage, about midpoint on the jersey.
2002-2004 Home Alternate
Following the 2004 season, the alternate jersey was replaced by a sleeveless jersey (not a real vest, but for arguments’ sake I will refer to this style as a vest going forward). It was identical to the home alternate, just with the sleeves removed. It was worn with a black undershirt.
2005-2011 Pinstripe Vest
Unfortunately, the new pinstripe vest wouldn’t be the only vest the team would add, and what followed really began to define the team and would give them what could be strongly argued was their “signature” look – an alternate black vest was also added in 2005 and continues to be worn to this day. They would make an amazing late-season and playoff run all the way to the 2007 World Series (falling to the BoSox in 4), and the black vest would be worn for almost the entirety of that run, cementing it’s place in Rockies history. The vest, designed to be worn at home or on the road, would have the same thick “COLORADO” font style as the purple alternate, with a silver/purple/white pattern (numbers and NOB would also follow this treatment); the truncated sleeves would have a white/purple/white striping. In 2005 (only) the vests would be worn with purple undershirts (not a great look) and only for a part of the season; from 2006 onward, they’d be worn full-time with black undershirts (which seemed to defeat the purpose of wearing a vest altogether). The look would certainly be unique to the Rockies.
2005-present Black Vest
The team would make one more major change in 2012, ditching the pinstripes on the road uniform and returning to one that was very similar to the one worn from 1994-1999. These would say “COLORADO” in purple with a white outline (same treatment used for the numbers and NOB) with the thin headspoon piping returning, with a similar treatment for the sleeves.
Finally, the Rockies have made two subtle changes to their uniform sets of recent vintage. In 2017, the team changed the color of their purple — making it more ‘red’ and less ‘blue’ — a noticeable change for the better. It’s most evident in the hue of the purple alternates (below the new is on the left, the old is on the right) but it was also changed on the two-tone cap and anywhere purple was used.
2017 Purple change
Finally, this past season, the Rockies changed their cap logo for the first time, swapping out the purple for a solid white in the “CR” logo, giving the logo a ‘fatter’ appearance and probably greater visibility from distance.
2018 Cap Logo change
So there you have it — over the course of 25-plus seasons the Rockies have been remarkably consistent in their uniforms, never succumbing to a wholesale reworking and making only semi-major changes to the road uniforms (twice). One could easily argue the home pinstripes ARE the team’s signature look (and I wouldn’t argue too strongly against that), but it’s not longevity in a uniform that necessarily makes it a signature look — it when you can see a photo of that team and instantly identify them. And in that capacity, one could also argue the black sleeveless jersey, which really gained fame during their incredible 2007 run to the World Series and which the team has now worn for than a decade, would qualify as their signature look. No one else wears a black sleeveless jersey and no team wore said vest with black sleeves. It’s a look that is definitely unique to the Rockies, and one that could be argued would be their calling card. YMMV.
Old Time Base Ball Photos
Readers will recall I featured Ronnie Bolton (who posts on Twitter as @OTBaseballPhoto and who you should definitely follow) earlier this year with some great football played on baseball field photos and writeups, some MLB Opening Day specials, and more recently with some old baseball stadia (here and here). As his twitter handle implies, Ronnie’s specialty is old baseball photos.
With my look back at the Colorado Rockies Signature uni(s) today, Ron’s got some old time photos of various ballparks which have called Denver home.
Enjoy. Here’s Ronnie:
Broadway Park, Denver, CO, ca 1900
In this photo, Pearl “Casey” Barnes is up at bat for the Denver Bears of the Western League. The Skyscrapers, or Roughriders as they were sometimes called (what nickname this team went by is really anyone’s guess), played at a ballpark built in 1893 that was simplistic in design. During this period baseball struggled to take hold in Denver due to several factors, one being the city’s isolation from other towns and teams and also the lack of competitive leagues in the region, so the interest in the sport was stunted at times and the motivation to build a viable ballpark was lacking. Another problem was any talent the area did produce tended to flock east for bigger paychecks.
After several failed attempts at bringing organized ball to the Denver area during the 1880’s and 1890’s, George Tebeau, a former ballplayer from the area, worked tirelessly to put together a formidable squad and joined the rugged Western League in 1900. But despite the Bears early success on the field and off, the Denver club would eventually fold in 1917 and the Rocky Mountain city’s erratic affair with baseball would take a temporary backseat once again.
you can see on the right hand side part Broadway Park
Denver, CO, October 5, 1927
In downtown Denver a large crowd of baseball enthusiasts assembled on Champa Street by the Denver Post headquarters to follow the first game of the 1927 World Series via a giant animatronic scoreboard. The New York Yankees would defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-4.
It’s hard to tell which version of the electronic scoreboard is hanging on the front of the building. Due to its popularity, there were several dozen varieties in use, one of the most popular being the Playograph made in Stamford, Connecticut. It was common practice for newspapers to foot the bill and sponsor the viewing of the games on these scoreboards that worked much like a ESPN Game Cast.
The ingenious machine usually relied on two to three operators hidden from the public view. One would get updates of the game from the telegraph and relay them to his co-operator who would then move the baseball on the huge billboard-like scoreboard (usually around nine feet in height) to the delight of the spectators in the front. Uni Watch’s own Paul Lukas probably does a better job describing how it works in great detail.
In time their popularity would start to wane with the emergence of radio stations broadcasting the big games. By the early 1930’s these scoreboards were nothing but a memory and few if any exist today.
Bears Stadium to Mile High Stadium
Mile High Stadium will always be known as home to the Denver Broncos, but the road from being home to a minor league baseball team (Bears) to being universally recognized as a major football venue is a unique journey.
It all began in 1948 when Bears Stadium was built for the city’s minor league team (see above photo). However, the city was rapidly growing and the Bears success in the 1950’s would entice Bears owner Bob Howsam to dream big, so efforts were made to lure an MLB team to Denver and Howsam made moves that in the end turned out to be ill-advised, including expansion of the ballpark that would put him in great debt.
After it became apparent his gambles backfired and MLB would not be coming to the Mile High City, Howsam began looking for other avenues for much needed revenue and soon enough he would be awarded an American Football League charter franchise. The “Broncos” would change the fate of Bears Stadium as it would start the full transformation from a minor-league baseball venue to a 75,000-seat multi-purpose stadium.
Thanks, Ronnie. He’ll be back periodically with more wonderful old photos and the backstories that go with them.
By Kris Gross
Baseball News: The Red Sox and Orioles went color on color last night (from Andrew Cosentino). … According to @EthanNovak, the Mariners went teal brim, navy jersey, and white pants for the first time in almost two decades. … Major League Baseball told White Sox first base coach Daryl Boston he can no longer use a whistle during games. … Not sure if we knew this, but Mike Clevinger has Chief Wahoo on his glove (from Brandon Baumgartner). … New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. wore a throwback Rays jersey as he took batting practice with the team last night (from Ignacio). … Now this is cool: Here is an original ticket to Southside Park, home of the White Sox from 1901-1909 (from Matt Bond). … Here’s a column on what the Padres can learn from San Diego State’s brand (thanks Phil). … Mets Police thought this ad using Mets fans didn’t look like Mets fans – turns out, they were right (thanks Paul). … The Springfield Cardinals wore pinstripe jerseys last night, and the pinstripes were made of the word “Cardinals” (from Teej). … In case you missed it, here are the alternate jerseys the Reno Aces wore last week (from @OT_Sports). … Celebrate the 25th anniversary of The Sandlot with these El Paso Chihuahuas jerseys on June 2 (from Fernie B.). … The Fort Myers Miracle will play as the Fort Myers Groupers in July (from Adam Childs). … Nelson Warwick described the uniform matchup between West Virginia and Baylor quite nicely: “rather brutal”. … Ohio State’s softball jerseys split the “E” over the buttons, making it appear to say “Buckleys” (from Billy Juszczyk).
NFL News: Is this our first clue that the Steelers Batman jerseys are on the docket for 2018? (from Mark R. Hirschfeld). … Did anyone ask for a Raiders logo with a mustache? (from @tonyjuve10). … Also listed in the baseball section: Giants WR Odell Beckham Jr. wore a throwback Rays jersey as he took batting practice with the team last night (from Ignacio). … Check out Elvin Bethea’s monster cast – and a great uni match up too! (from Pro Football Journal). … 247Sports ranked the best Bears unis from the last 30 years and the greatest Eagles uniforms in history.
Hockey News: The Canucks could be getting new alternates next season (thanks Phil). … Here’s a NYT article on the spectacle of the Golden Knights’ pregame. … Here is the Regina Pats’ jersey from the Memorial Cup last night (from Nelson Hackewich).
NBA News: Our buddy Conrad Burry has uncovered what looks like a new wordmark for the Nuggets next season. … The Bucks NBA2K team has become the first with a jersey ad (from Nick Haering). … @Calvin_Bruce61 came across this basketball featuring the current Bucks logo, but old uniform.
Soccer News: The new Club America has leaked, and it’s covered in ads (from Marc Price). … Tranmere Rovers FC has a new home kit (from Josh Hinton). … Red Bull Salzburg have unveiled new home and away kits (from @FunkyColdMatina). … This is a sweet goalie helmet from 1982 (from @QuakesFan84).
Grab Bag: Also listed in the baseball section: Here’s a column on what the Padres can learn from San Diego State’s brand (thanks Phil). … United States curling star Matt Hamilton used his gold medal as a golf ball marker. Pro move. … Major League Lacrosse team Denver Outlaws will wear five different helmets honoring the branches of the military tonight (from @LaxSportsNetwork). … Also listed in the NBA section: The Bucks NBA2K team has become the first with a jersey ad (from Nick Haering). … Here is a visual history of Captain America’s shields (from @walbergLines).
And finally, a special big Happy Uni Watch Birthday to Jimmer Vilk (whose birthday I seem to forget every year — but not this time). Please join me in wishing him a Happy 51st! Cheers, MoVi.
Here’s a column on what the Padres can learn from San Diego State’s brand (thanks Phil)
is so nice, they inserted it twice…
If the inaugural 1993 Rockies home uniform was NNOB, the first picture must be from a different year as Galarraga is on the back of that uniform.
The Rockies didn’t make a change of their cap logo this year, per se. The ones with the white CR are their 25th Anniversary caps (with a corresponding patch on the side). The other hats have stayed the same.
When it comes to the Vancouver Canucks third uniform, it would be cool to see something new in green, which would for sure involve Johnny Canuck. However, I would also be excitedly happy seeing the return of the last third uniform retired last year. It was probably one of the best Canucks uniforms.
If I had my say in Canucks uniform, the following concept idea would be the favourite solution for me. Yes, it does involve ditching the orca. The striping could be changed, but it would involve the logos from the previous third on the primary home and aways. Third uniform in green with Johnny Canuck in roundel as crest. Stick-in-rink on the shoulders of the green uniform.
I never liked the Canucks’ most recent 3rd, primarily because I felt the design was too similar to their regular home jersey. It seemed a bit superfluous.
I also don’t like either of the two logos that were on it. The stick-in-rink is too simplistic. (There’s a fine line between classic and boring, and they crossed it with that one.) The Johnny Canuck logo is a cool idea in theory, but the execution was terrible. Poor guy looks like his neck is snapping.
A bit more about the Regina Pats jersey at the Memorial Cup. It is worn just for one game. Every year, the host team at the Memorial Cup plays the first tournament game wearing a specially designed commemorative jersey.
Article about the jersey:
The uniform in action last night against the OHL champion Hamilton Bulldogs:
I always see “GR” in the Rockies logo
Now if the Springfield Cardinals paired those jerseys with striped pants, that would be a nice uniform.
See, now I agree with the call in this week’s edition of the signature uniform series. It’s not my favorite look (black vests with black undershirts is a dated look and the lack of contrast defeats the point; the best “sleeve hems” look more like UCLA stripes in a baseball jersey) but it is a “signature look”. They had their greatest success to date in them and it’s uniquely theirs. Pinstripes are used by plenty of other teams. IMO, they should use purple more, what with “purple mountains’ majesty” and all. But through 25 years, this is their most “Rockies look”.
I have long complained that the Rockies home unis look too much like the White Sox. Same numeral font, black with silver trim, black hat with white lettering, etc. The purple pinstripes aren’t immediately noticeable like the Phillies’ red or Cubs’ blue. It’s high time Colorado drop the black and make purple its primary color and assume it’s destiny as Paul’s most hated team in MLB. Purple hats, purple numbers, maybe a little sky blue for a trim color: any or all of these would be improvements over the current set.
And to Phil’s point, that hideous vest is definitely their Signature uniform.
Not mentioned in the story, the Rockies did have the alternate purple hat for a brief period:
Also the batting helmet with the gradient purple to black look:
great job on the rockies signature feature
I never have liked the Rockies’ uniforms. I’m not anti-purple but I am anti purple/black. I can’t stand the Baltimore Ravens’ uniforms either.
But have you ever seen an actual raven? Black with a purple sheen. The color scheme fits the mascot in this case.
Royals throwing back to 1969 tonight…NNOB and MLB 100th Anniversary patch. Yankees not participating…they are wearing their road uniforms of 1973-2018.
Since the Rockies were already black and purple, why did MLB a few years later approve the Diamondbacks colors since they were going to be in the same division? I believe it’s fake news that the DBacks changed to red because MLB was forcing them since both Colorado and Arizona were in the same division. I believe it was because the new owners didn’t like it and wanted new colors. But Arizona won a World Series in these uniforms. Sure Purple and Teal were so 1990s, but they could have updated them without throwing away tradition. Maybe emphasis Teal/Turquoise more, and less purple, to go with the black.
I kinda dig the new Club American look! Neat take on the sash – kinda reminds me of the asymmetrical look Puma put out a few years ago.
Rockies fan here… *sigh* I HATE those black vests. I call them the Ace Frehley vests because they look like something KISS would wear. The excessive piping on the armholes makes the shoulders stand up too much, enhancing the glam metal look. But, yeah, I have a photo of Helton standing triumphantly over Eric (“Are they booing me?” “No, they’re saying Booooo-urns.”) Byrnes hanging in my office. And yep, that’s the look of the Rox franchise’s high point. On another note, I’m generally not a fan of batting practice/softball tops, and really despised the Rockies’ old purple ones, which looked dark blue on TV. But the lighter purple looks pretty nice, actually. TLDR… yes, the black vests are their signature, for better or for worse.
Checking in on this fairly late after a busy day off family responsibilities. But I definitely felt the compulsion to check in on today’s What’s Your Sign(Ature) entry as a Rockies fan.
Living in Denver and judging by what you see fans wearing, the classic white home jersey with the people pinstripes is definitely the most common. Heck, even the grey road jerseys with the pinstripes from the mid-2000s is seen more frequently as fan apparel than the black vests.
But what the fans wear is not necessarily indicative of a team’s signature look. And your reasoning is sound, Phil. Based on its secure status in the team’s current uniform rotation and its place in team history, I can see why the black alternate vest qualifies as the Rockies’ signature look.
One quick point of correction. The fill color on the Rockies’ home caps this year is silver, not white (the 25th anniversary is silver, get it?). Otherwise, I love this stroll down uni memory lane. Thanks, Phil! I love what you’ve done with the signature look series and can’t wait for more!
One other note on the Rockies article (great job over all, by the way!) The black hat with the purple brim was not introduced as an alternate, but as the road hat. The all black hat was kept for home games.
Day late and a dollar short … but that mustachio’d Raiders logo (wit the LV on it) bears a striking resemblance to the Runnin’ Rebel.
Raiders logo already has a mustache.
I would *love* the black vests if not for the hideous three-layer NOB in which the M’s, W’s, and even H’s look horrible because the second border fills in too much space.
Like many uniforms with three (or more) layers in the lettering, if those uniforms were NNOB they would look amazing.
Always had a problem with the Rockies cap. I can’t think of another team to incorporate their team name in the letters. I get that there were already a lot of ‘C’ teams when they were designing for themselves and they wanted to look classic like the Yankees, but forcing that ‘CR’ to be like ‘NY’ or ‘LA’ or ‘SF’ always stuck out to me. Just find a better, unique way to represent Colorado on the lid.