By Phil Hecken
Last evening, the Cincinnati Reds began their 150th “Anniversary” celebration in earnest, breaking out the first of 15(!) throwback uniforms. Paul scooped this way back in November, when the Reds first announced their plans to showcase a multitude of uniforms from different eras in their history. Yesterday the team wore their “1902” uniforms, and today they’ll be breaking out a mono-blue set that dates to 1911.
Unfortunately, yesterday evening I was teaching curling, so not only did I not get to see any of the game, I didn’t even begin writing this till well after midnight. But I knew the throwbacks were coming and what they’d look like, thanks to the big reveal several months ago.
First, let’s take a quick look at what those original 1902 Reds wore — probably not surprisingly, quality photographs from this era are scarce. But here’s what they were hoping to replicate:
Those uniforms were pretty basic, obviously. Here’s how Marc Okkonen rendered them:
Back in the early part of last century, several teams, including the Reds, didn’t wear road grays — the 1902 set had mono-blue roadies. I had almost wished the Reds threw back to those, but they will be wearing another mono-blue set today (which they also wore in 1911). Note the home uniform isn’t quite white — but it’s not quite cream either (we’ll examine that momentarily). When the team drew up schematics of the 1902s, here’s what they looked like:
Again, not white, not cream — something between the two. Also note two important differences in the jersey from today’s modern uniforms: The “point” collar (I’d liken it to a polo shirt collar) and the left breast pocket! I’m not sure a pocket was ever a necessary feature on a jersey, even back in 1902, but it’s cool the team included it. I join Todd Radom in this thought:
Today I’m proud to announce the kickoff of my petition drive to restore pockets to MLB uniforms. pic.twitter.com/MQzh0rvRVl
— Todd Radom (@ToddRadom) May 4, 2019
In addition to the pocket and the collar, the uniforms also sport the partial placket common in the day. Note the buttons begin at approximately the belly button and go up all the way to the top of the collar:
So far, so good.
The “problem” with throwbacks, as I have often lamented, is they are never truly historically correct, despite the best efforts of the team and uni manufacturer. I used to get really bummed, but now I just accept that there will be certain limitations: nods to player comfort and safety will always have to take precedence over historical accuracy. To wit: these throwbacks were designed with the following modern limitations/conveniences the original squad didn’t have:
• Numbers on back
This is the most lamentable — the team could have easily left those off to approximate accuracy without sacrificing anything (except maybe slight difficulty in scoring). MLB has no problem with everyone wearing #42 for JRR Day, and when the Yankees and Red Sox threw back to 1912, they went N#OB. So the Reds could have gone that route. But OK.
• Modern uniform cuts, helmets, and modern shoes (and gloves, shin guards, etc.)
Again, I can live with these, as player safety is more important than true accuracy. Obviously, the Giants — the Reds opponents — were not similarly outfitted in throwbacks (how cool would it have been if the Reds outfitted the Giants in these?). But to do that for 15 different uniforms for opponents would really have been asking a lot of the Reds. Plus, the idea is to showcase 15 different uniforms for the Reds, not their opponents. I get somewhat disappointed when only one club throws back, but I understand it here.
As far as the uniforms (aside from the historical considerations): as they were simple in appearance — really, the team only had to get the “CINCINNATI” font across the font, the cap and red socks — they did very well. I absolutely LOVED their take on the cap (which was rendered in modern construction):
I love the stylized “C” and the soutache, and the solid red ring around the base of the crown:
It was more than unfortunate that New Era couldn’t keep the logo creep off the cap (and of course Majestic also had their makers marks on the sleeve). That’s one concession to modernity the team certainly DID NOT NEED.
Since I didn’t actually watch the game, I assume the weather in Cincy was on the raw side, as more than one player sported a short sleeved hoodie underneath their shirts.
For the most part the unis followed the graphics, but both that and the Okkonen rendering show a pocket with a closed flap. This was faithfully recreated on the actual unis, although the pocket flap appears to be sewn shut. As a vestigial feature, this was probably done for safety as much as functionality.
You can see how the unis looked in action below. Note almost every player wore a red belt:
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) May 5, 2019
Every player but Yasiel Puig, that is
🎶 Slow ride, take it easy. 🎶 pic.twitter.com/ctiKmn8DY1
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) May 5, 2019
Now about that “cream” vs. “white” — you will notice some of the photos show the uniforms as looking almost pure white
while others show them as distinctly cream
The videos seem to show them somewhere in between
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) May 5, 2019
If anyone saw the game in person, how did they look to you? I’m just curious as to why the TV screen shots showed a creamy color, while the still shots tended to look much whiter.
You can see many more photos here.
Apologies if I missed anything and also for what was probably not my finest review (I wish I could have watched the game and not had to write this at 1:20 am).
The Reds & Giants will play again today and (as mentioned above), today the Reds will throwback to 1911. I’m sure Paul will have great coverage of those for Monday. Enjoy those!
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 Rookie Phenom”
Subject: Mickey Mantle, 1951
Medium: Oil on linen
Size: 70″ x 30″
Yankee manager Casey Stengel claimed that the young Mickey Mantle could “hit balls over buildings” and “run as fast as Ty Cobb”. The young prodigy was merely 5’10” and around 165 pounds, but had the arms and shoulders of a blacksmith. During Stengel’s pre-season rookie camp in Phoenix, Arizona, veterans alike watched in awe of the long arching drives Mantle smashed, that would later return to earth with a bang against the distant outfield bleachers. Even more surprising to these veteran coaches was that Mantle was the same kid who had been easily winning the footraces that opened up the camp that spring.
With a sensational run against the teams of the Pacific Coast League, Mantle, who hit .402 in exhibition play, was touted as the most exciting newcomer since Jackie Robinson. The Yankee brass concluded that Mantle was to be the next Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio all rolled up into one package. Upon coming up with the team as a rookie that April, he was given jersey #6, following right behind DiMaggio’s #5, Gehrig’s #4, and Ruth’s #3. The wunderkind started off the 1951 season with impressive power from both sides of the plate, hitting home runs at both Comiskey Park and Sportsman’s Park in early May that traveled in excess of 420 feet. However, as veteran pitchers learned his weaknesses – especially his inability to lay off of high fastballs – his batting average slowly began to dip with increasing strike outs. Under the enormous weight of the swelling pressure from the New York fans and media, the ‘Commerce Comet’ was in the midst of a frustrating slump by June. He was sent down to the Kansas City Blues farm team by Manager Stengel on July 15 of that same year, in the hopes that he would find himself under less pressure to succeed.
In Kansas City, Mantle started slowly, getting only three hits in his first 22 at-bats. Though his hitting would improve to .345 after a long road trip, the phenom felt like he could do no right. The draft-board had ordered another physical – as he had received a 4-F classification in the late 1940s due to osteomyelitis, a rare bone disease – and his concentration and confidence troubles only seemed to deepen. With catcalls of ‘coward’ and ‘bust’ ringing in his ears, the 19-year old kid considered quitting baseball altogether. It took a stern hardline reaction from Mantle’s father Mutt to inspire the kid to pick up both his courage and his bat. Mickey would hit 2 more home runs the next game, and for the 39 games that followed, Kansas City saw Mantle bat in 50 runs and end his Blues stint batting .361. When Mantle returned to the Yankees for good in late August, it was Pete Sheehy, the longtime clubhouse attendant of the Yankees, who gave the young player #7 to wear, in the hopes that it would relieve the pressure of being the next Yankee legend in line.
Upon his return, the Bombers had picked up steam coming into the second half of the season. Though Boston had tied the White Sox for the American League lead on July 20, pushing the Yankees and Indians one and a half games back, the turning point of the year came with Casey’s decision to bench the slumping Jerry Coleman, and move Gil McDougald from third to second, while inserting Bobby Brown at third. This sparked a 17-3 streak for New York, and catapulted them past Boston and Chicago. During their run, the rookie McDougald was leading the team in hitting, and Yogi Berra had picked up the slack of a slumping Joe DiMaggio. Hank Bauer and Gene Woodling were also contributing tremendously. Mantle had begun to come to life as well, hitting five more home runs coming into mid-September, one of which was a monstrous shot into the left-centerfield bleachers at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland.
By the end of the summer though, the Yanks were jockeying for first place with the Indians. The last Stadium series between the two American League powerhouses found the Bombers dominating the Tribe during regular season, winning 13 out of 20 games played. It was not until this pictured game at the Stadium on September 16 that the Yanks pulled away for good.
In front of 68,760 screaming fans, Cleveland’s pitcher Bob Feller is shown firing a 2-2 pitch to the Yankee freshman, Mantle, in the first frame of the afternoon. Catcher Jim Hegan is poised behind the plate, as is umpire Bill Summers. Also visible that warm afternoon is Indian shortstop Ray Boone, third baseman Al Rosen, first basemen Luke Easter, leftfielder Sam Chapman, and centerfielder Larry Doby, with umpire Bill Grieve between first and second. The 19-year old switch-hitting Yankee would fly out on the play.
Facing ‘Rapid Robert’ that afternoon was Allie Reynolds, who at the time was pitching the best baseball of his career. ‘Super Chief’ pitched brilliantly, allowing only 5 hits, two of which came in that same fifth for a run – the only scare of the afternoon for New York. In that same inning, Feller intentionally walked Berra to face the seemingly weary DiMaggio, who had been dropped to the fifth spot by Stengel. Casey’s batting order gamble had worked in the first inning with Berra driving in a run, while DiMaggio feebly grounded out afterwards. However, this time Joe met the challenge with a thunderous wallop that ignited the crowd. The ball was belted into cavernous left-centerfield, scoring Mantle and Berra, and leaving Joe with a triple. Feller and the Indians were finished for the day.
Allie Reynolds picked up his fifteenth win, and the fifth against the Tribe that year. Outscoring the Cleveland Indians 5-1, the Yanks found themselves in first place by .003 percentage points, a lead they would never relinquish. That year, Mantle’s rookie numbers were a respectable .267 batting average, 13 home runs, and 65 RBIs. Though his season was abbreviated by the Kansas City stint, he was an instrumental part in the Yankees capturing their third straight pennant in as many years. Moreover, this first season proved to be only a glimpse of what was to come for this future Hall of Famer, one who would come to be synonymous with the Yankee dynasty and the city of New York for the next 17 years.
Thanks, Graig! You can (and should!) follow Graig on Twitter.
Threads Of Our Game
Occasionally I receive an e-mail update from Craig Brown, the designer and proprietor of the website, Threads of our Game. As the header explains, the website is a databuse of 1800s base ball uniforms. If you haven’t checked it out before, you’re welcome.
Anyway, got an e-mail yesterday with the subject line: “How many 19th-century baseball photos are lost?”. The body was as follows…
The answer: maybe more than we realize.
This week, there are two new additions to the Threads Of Our Game project, both covering League Alliance teams from 1877. But these new posts made me think.
Both teams utilized the business model for baseball ownership in the mid-1870s: 1) build a ballpark, 2) hire professional out-of-town players, 3) charge admission and 4) most importantly for me, sell cabinet card photos of the players. The teams listed below seemingly did all of these steps. Does this then suggest that almost every other team did as well? And if this is true, was there once photos existing of every League Alliance team? So, how many have been lost to time? 60%? 75%?
One of the earliest examples of a professional team wearing a shirt with a yoke design, a look borrowed from the top collegiate teams.
It’s clear the Red Caps’ uniform was a product of Spalding & Bros. The pillbox cap, the unadorned shirt, the white stockings and the fancy shoes were all copies of the contemporary Chicago NL team.
Send me an email if you have an opinion on the subject, or if you have any corrections or additions.
Thanks for your time. You can also find these links on the Threads “News Feed” page.
How great is that? Very! Thanks, Craig!
2019 MLB Uni Tracking
For the past two years, reader Ed Kendrick provided uniform tracking for us for four teams: the Arizona Diamondbacks, Washington Nationals, Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles. Last year, he added a fifth team, the San Francisco Giants.
For the 2019 Edition, Ed has now bumped up his tracking to eight teams, adding the Cincinnati Reds, Miami Marlins and San Diego Padres.
You can check them all out via this link.
Thanks Ed. We’ll run this feature monthly until the season ends!
Uni Watch News Ticker
Baseball News: On Friday night, as the game entered the 12th inning, a game between Texas and Toronto featured ZERO visible fans in the expensive seats (from Scott Gurrola). … Also on Friday, a game between USC (official colors: cardinal & gold) vs Stanford (official colors: cardinal & white) was black vs. black (from Grant Young). … We’ve seen these before, but check out the “so bad they’re good” black unis with pinstripes for Vandy (from Niko Suave). … Check out this U12 Softball game featuring both teams in orange over black (from Tank). … Updated look for the Castlewoods Monarchs (a South Dakota Amateur Baseball Team), from Chris Lather. … I’m not even sure this is news anymore, but single digit (college) pitcher alert from Max G. … The Montgomery Biscuits wore these Luke Skywalker-inspired jerseys last night on Star Wars Night at Riverwalk Stadium (from Chris Adams-Wall). … The Cedar Rapids Kernels wore these Yoda-themed jerseys last night versus Dayton (from CR Kernels). … The Macon Bacon wore these
tie fighter X-wing-inspired jerseys yesterday (from Macon Bacon). … And the Durham Bulls also also did Star Wars night, although I see Yoda, I’m not sure what’s on the front (from MiLB Promos). … What’s worse than a MiLB team doing a Star Wars night and wearing bad unis on May the Fo(u)rth? That’s right, a major league team doing a Star Wars night without unis that’s not on May 4th (from Maximiliano). … What’s worse than pride stickers on a football helmet? That’s right, pride stickers on a baseball helmet. That’s a picture of a Valdosta State baseball player’s helmet from yesterday. Submitter Phillip Tutor asks, “Is that rare?” We can only hope. … With the Kentucky Derby run yesterday, here’s a look at the Arkansas Travelers horse-themed alts (from MiLB Promos). … Also from MiLB Promos, here’s a very California-flag-themed jersey for the Lancaster Jethawks. … The Phillies wore Jimmy Rollins patches on their jersey and hat last night. Rollins is the all time hit leader in team history and former MVP (from Blake Fox). … Did you guys know that in addition to being really good at hoops, James Harden pitches for the Yankees? (from A.J.). Yeah, me neither, although we know Harden can bring it. Seriously, though, the Yanks have one James (Paxton) and no Hardens on their 40 man roster, so I’m not sure how that mistake was made. (Also posted in Hoops) … Check out this (unfortunately only a fan) cap for the Houston Astros Mexico City series (from Ignacio Salazar). … Of course, no awesome caps, but we did get ADS on the helmets for this set of games (also from Ignacio Salazar). … Very unappealing dark green vs. black jersey matchup yesterday between the A’s & Pirates (from Jon Knoll). … Awesome stirrups for Richfield High School, Utah (from Benji King).
NFL/CFL/Arena Football News: There may not be a better or more creative bit of cement truck art than this one for the Calgary Stampeders (from Danny Austin). … The Edmonton Eskimos have a gold helmet with new “EE” logo (from Russell Price). I had only previously seen that style on a green helmet, though admittedly I don’t know 100% they’ve never worn it before (any CFL fans out there want to help?). … The Seattle Seahawks have announced undrafted free agent rookie signings and jersey numbers (also from Tim Dunn). … Adam Lucas says, “gotta nominate this [Arizona Rattlers] #MayThe4thBeWithYou promo for “best of” the weekend!” … The Buffalo Bills haven’t officially unveiled uni numbers for their rooks, but some have been shared already. … Someone has taken it upon himself to rank each NFL player by jersey number.
College Football News: FSU football has gone with gold numbers on their home uniforms for the last five seasons and Coach Willie Taggert has now chimed in on the debate to change them “back” to white. Hint: They won’t.
Hockey News: Yesterday was “May (the) Fo(u)r(th)” so even Hawkey couldn’t escape a little Star Wars tribute. But it wasn’t from any team. James Beattie notes, “Don Cherry with a Storm Trooper jacket for Saturday night’s edition of “Coach’s Corner.””
NBA/Other Basketball News: In Friday night’s Nuggets vs. Blazers game, Portland’s Rodney Hood appeared to still have a price tag on his shoe (from Maks). Well, apparently not. … OK, this one’s kinda perplexing: “Duke grad with an Ohio State irish hat?” asks Grainy Crumble. If you read the replies to that tweet, it seems the answer is simple. … Unfortunately, no context but this team is using a mixture of the Raptors logo and colors with the alternate logo of the Rockets (from Robert Hendricks). … *CROSS POSTED from MLB*: Did you guys know that in addition to being really good at hoops, James Harden pitches for the Yankees? (from A.J.). Yeah, me neither, although we know Harden can bring it. Seriously, though, the Yanks have one James (Paxton) and no Hardens on their 40 man roster, so I’m not sure how that mistake was made. … “I have wondered this for years… what is the side striping for the rockets supposed to be?!” asks Josh Lassiter).
Soccer News: PDX FC will have a new black jersey (from Ed Żelaski). … Willem II will face Ajax in the Dutch cup final in De Kuip on today wearing a special football shirt. The special edition football shirt was launched on May 3 (from Josh Hinton). … More from Josh: Luton Town revealed their new kits for the 2019-2020 Championship season. … Still more from Josh: a new picture of the Bayer Leverkusen ’40 Years Bundesliga’ Kit showcases the special font used for the kit. … New kits for Chattanooga FC (from KaleyCo). … Here’s a great little detail on the new Luton Town jersey. A color chart documenting the color evolution throughout the clubs history (from Angelo Trofa). … La Liga side Espanyol yesterday released their new 2019-20 home kit, which is once again be produced by Spanish brand Kelme (from Josh Hinton, again). … There are triple digits and then there are triple digits — that’s Puebla FC (from Brad Harding). … It looks like Emirates used their new slogan on Benfica’s shirt (from Mike D.)
Grab Bag: Well, this sucks: as of late last evening, USA Volleyball’s Mens Junior National Team might be DQ’d for their last qualifier for Worlds because AA canceled their team’s flights & lost their luggage — Jeremy Brahm reports their unis were in their luggage. … John Elbertson writes, “I was in the market for a cheap heavy bag, and managed to score this one with 1984 Summer Olympics branding.” … Do you happen to have $1 million lying around? If so,
I accept PayPal you just might be able to own, or at least wear, the Darth Vader costume (NY Times link) (from Tommy Turner). … “Do all 7-Eleven employees wear uniforms now?” asks Max Weintraub. “I haven’t been in one in ages, but this one in downtown LA outfits their employees in what look like sports unis.”