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Spobacks, Glorious Spobacks

By Phil Hecken

OK, folks — I’ll be completely honest with you — if there was one throwback game this year I wanted to see, it was the Expos, er… Washington Nationals playing as the Montreal Expos vs. the Kansas City Royals, in a 50th Year Anniversary throwback to 1969. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see one second of the game as I was both playing and working at the Long Island Curling Club’s First Annual Firecracker Bonspiel. I didn’t get home from the ‘spiel till after midnight, so apologies in advance for what will be probably a less-than-stellar writeup of the game. I hate not only missing the game, but being able to devote less than proper research and commentary. But it is what it is.

Anyhoo…to the game and of course, the uniforms. I’ve already said I thought that 1969 was the greatest uni year in baseball, and the Expos and Royals were both “born” this year. The Expos got it exactly right from the start, while the Royals had a very nice looking set. Interestingly enough, the Nationals (playing as the Expos — and I’ll use Expos/Nationals interchangeably from here on out) chose to throwback to the road uniform of the Expos, rather than the homes (and who can argue) — the powder blue flannel donned by the Expos that wear was probably the best uniform the team ever wore (I admit to having a fondness for the next generation uni as well, where they added racing stripes — a uniform I thought was their signature look). The Royals were also dressed in their road unis (as the road team, that makes sense); since many of us remember the Royals early years and their own penchant for powder blue, casual uni observers and younger readers may not remember the original Royals roadies were gray flannel, not powder blue — they wouldn’t get the powders until the polyester era.

But the real uni star of the show was the Expos throwbacks — “Spobacks” as I called them a couple weeks ago. And they didn’t disappoint. Other than the unfortunate makers mark (and of course, the one’s worn yesterday were not flannel), these were pretty true to the originals. And, they were spectacular.

These being polyester, unlike the originals, seemed a bit more vibrant in photographs. The Nat…er Expos, lucked out with a beautiful sunny day, which seemed to make them pop even more. Almost every photo I saw featured players in stirrups, and everyone went high cuffed.

The caps were true to the originals and of course, those tri-color beauties are unique to that team, and one of the most beautiful caps ever worn in a baseball game.

The original Expos also had solid blue helmets, not the tri-color helmets they would later don, so yesterday’s helmets were also exactly correct.

I tip my cap to the Expos, who also outfitted the Royals in period-correct 1969 road throwbacks (yes, it was very odd, but certainly not unprecedented, to see two teams both wearing road uniforms), and while much plainer than those worn by Les Expos, were still beautiful in their own right.

Unfortunately, not every Royals player chose to high-cuff, showing off hosiery or even stirrups, but that is a minor quibble.

Still, a great look.

Both teams were also NNOB, as they were in their birth year.

And of course, both teams wore the 1969 Jerry Dior batterman 100th Anniversary patches on their left sleeves:

The Expos/Nats honored Vlad Guerrero (who threw out the first pitch), and who wore a jersey he wore during his playing days, rather than the 1969 throwbacks:

I believe many of the scoreboard graphics were also in French (and English), reflecting the bi-lingual city that Montreal was/is. The team also gave out the following Official Program/Programme Officiel, which was a nice touch:

Inside were bios/photos of the original 1969 Expos:

The Nats also went the extra yard by putting the Expos logo on the back of the mound. Of course, that is in and of itself anachronistic, but a nice touch:

The Nationals are one of a handful of teams who have a bullpen cart, but really went the extra kilometre by making that retro as well:

And the Nationals batting circle also feature the throwback logo:

Here's a few videos of the game:

And a few more photos are available here.

And there you have it -- again, apologies for the less-than-stellar writeup, and apologies for anything (and I sure there was plenty) I missed -- I really wish I could have seen this game. But from the photos and videos, it sure looked purdy!

And The Expos Weren't The Only Throwbacks Worn Yesterday...

The Cincinnati Reds continued their "anniversary" uniform tour yesterday (another game I didn't get to see) but they too wore throwback unis -- this time to 1939:

Note the gorgeous 1939 MLB Centennial Patch worn that year.

Those unis were, of course, worn before the BFBS craze, so the Reds used blue as an accent color (something they'd do well to consider if they upgrade/redesign their unis in the future).

The font was the McAuliffe font, still worn by the Boston Red Sox, but worn by many teams years ago:

Caps were blue crowned/red brimmed with the wishbone "C" in red on the blue crown. The familiar jersey patch featuring "REDS" encircled by the C (in blue and red) was what was worn in 1939 (and it's a shame there were the makers marks on both cap and sleeve).

While this was a somewhat plain uniform, the blue/red combination and strong logo elements struck a
perfect balance -- and of course, the two-tone stirrups were a gorgeous icing on an already delicious cake: Gene Sanny

This week and last, I received four sketches from the Great Gene Sanny. I'm like 99% positive Paul ran at least one of them on Twitter, but I wasn't sure if it ever appeared on Uni Watch. I'll start with the second e-mail first...

Today's drawing... Mike Curtis takes out a drunken fan who tried to make off with the ball in a 1971 game. I decided to use a "frame" because it made it feel like Curtis was knocking him out of "his world". Always found this interesting because the fan actually has a jersey on... Would have been a more jarring image if he was dressed more like fans usually did back then.
Gene Sanny

And here's the drawing:

Then there is a great Chargers drawing...

My first favorite uniform as a kid... Happy 4th gentlemen. Another homage to Jack Davis... I just can't stop :)

Gene Sanny

Then there's this tremendous Bengals sketch:

And finally (and apologies if Paul has already run either this one below on UW or the one a couple above -- been off the grid for the past couple days -- but they're too good not to make sure), this one from a couple weeks ago...

Some art I did today... quarterbacks of the AFL

Gene Sanny

Thanks, Gene!

Uni Concepts & Tweaks

After being dormant for a while, the Uni Tweaks/Concepts have returned!

I hope you guys like this feature and will want to continue to submit your concepts and tweaks to me. If you do, Shoot me an E-mail (Phil (dot) Hecken (at) gmail (dot) com).

• • •

I received the following e-mail from frequent concepter John Elbertson, who has a Portland Rosebuds concept:

What’s up Phil?

With the inevitability of another Blackhawks outdoor game appearance always lurking, here’s a concept in which they faux back to their Portland Rosebuds roots. I tried to keep the classic, black-and-white feel to the jersey, while using a bambooish green as an accent color. I’m a big fan of simplifying logos, so I used the original but without the shield, and subtracted some of the yellow from the red in the hopes it would be rosey and really pop.

I wanted to include an updated version of the sticks logo as well (sketch attached), in which both the P and the R are represented, but it didn’t make much sense overall. I stuck with the diagonal Tuscan font, with the option to use either city or team name.


• • •

Thanks John. OK readers (and concepters). If you have some tweaks or concepts, shoot 'em my way with a brief description of your creation and I'll run 'em here.

Guess The Game...

from the scoreboard

The game has returned! At least for a trial basis, but I got a lot of positive response to its return, so we'll see how long we keep this one going.

Today's scoreboard comes from reader "ojai67".

The premise of the game (GTGFTS) is simple: I'll post a scoreboard and you guys simply identify the game depicted. In the past, I don't know if I've ever completely stumped you (some are easier than others).

This one probably rates a 3 or 4 out of 10 on the difficulty scale. Sorry about the watermark, but it won't detract from the game.

Here's the Scoreboard. In the comments below, try to identify the game (date & location, as well as final score). If anything noteworthy occurred during the game, please add that in (and if you were AT the game, well bonus points for you!):

If you guys like this, and want to continue this as a weekly feature, let me know in the comments below. You're welcome to send me any scoreboard photos (with answers please), and I'll keep running them.

And that's all for today, folks. Sorry there's no ticker, but feel free to discuss any uni news that happened the past couple days (which we haven't covered) as well as anything I may have missed from yesterday, in the comments below. Everything will be back to normal Monday when we're back on a non-holiday schecule.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Independence Day and a great long weekend.



Comments (30)

    The Nats should have worn the 1969 Senators uniforms, but instead gave fan-service to non-Washingtonians.

    The ’69 Senators were the high-water mark for post-WWII baseball in the nation’s capital. Led by Ted Williams, they went 86-76, hosted the All-Star game and had their highest attendance since 1946. Frank Howard hit 48 homers and Dick Bosman won the ERA title.

    The city history, rather than the corporate history, should be celebrated.

    I hope Montréal gets a team again soon and they can have the Expos again. There is an AL East team with a lease ending in 2022, I think.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the nats don’t have the rights to the Senators logo/usage (cough Texas Rangers cough).

    Also, close on the AL East team, their lease ends in 2027 (and there’s a BIG stink about them trying to start that split-season bull hockey in 2024).

    The Nats don’t “own” the Senators trademark so they can’t use the 1969 uniforms. That mark belongs to the Texas Rangers.

    The Nats have worn expansion Senators throwbacks before. The Rangers are not jerks about it. This is MLB, not the NFL.

    And the Expos throwback was fan service to Washington fans. Real ones, anyway. Nationals fans should take pride in their franchise’s proud history and heritage even as we take pride in Washington’s proud history and heritage, dating to the 1859 Nationals. It’s a both thing, not an either/or thing. When Montreal gets a new team, I look forward to the Nats wearing Expos throwbacks when the visit Montreal for inteleague play. The Mid-Atlantic already had a team that pretends it didn’t exist before it moved to town; if someone wants to root for a team like that, let them cheer on the Orioles.

    IIRC, the Nationals dressed at the Senators 2.0 only one time (for an away game in Baltimore, in which the O’s were celebrating their 1970 World Championship team…the Orioles provided the Nats throwbacks?).
    I really don’t understand the public’s resistance to the Nationals’ effort to re-connect with their Expos history, especially since it is the 50th anniversary of the franchise founding (Then again, I never understood the team’s prolonged resistance to celebrate their time in Montreal). No other team can lay claim to the Expos’ look, records, stars, etc…the recognition was long overdue and well worth the wait!
    Whether of not Montreal will get another MLB team is far from certain, but if they do I hope the Nationals play ‘hardball’ to retain the Expos branding and history.

    “When Montreal gets a new team, I look forward to the Nats wearing Expos throwbacks when the visit Montreal for inteleague play.”

    What makes you think Montreal wouldn’t take the Expos name back? There’s no way they would allow that to happen.

    No idea about the game but some thoughts… It’s a 1969 game as Washington and Seattle are on the board.

    Att. 3989? Two years after the Sox were in a pennant race? No wonder they played some games in Milwaukee that year.

    That meant few people saw the ad for Zenith, Meister Brau and World Book, which explains why you don’t hear about them today. No Sox baseball on what is now Fox 32, either.

    I had to laugh at that World Book ad. World Book?!?!

    I believe the publisher was Chicago-based, is the only reason it makes sense at all.

    On the day the game was played (Wednesday night), Minnesota was cruising to the AL West title. The Sox were 31 games back. A school night with a lousy White Sox team…no wonder the attendance was bad.

    The scoreboard photo was taken 9/10/1969 at Comiskey Park. The Sox held on to beat the Minnesota Twins 3-2.

    The Expos throwbacks were gorgeous; my only issue with them was the accent stripes were too wide. Should have been half the width or so.

    The other problem is that, as usual, there is a far-too-immense gap between the collar and the number on the back. Look at #22; the gap is big enough to fit a NOB in there.

    Nice write up Phil. Reds & Indians missed a golden chance yesterday. The 1939 Indians cap was nearly identical to the cap worn by the Reds. The only difference was the shade of blue on the Cleveland cap was darker.


    Good to see that beautiful Expos uniform & cap in action but I have mixed feelings about its use. Given how MLB contributed to the events that led to the franchise’s relocation I always felt the team name, colors and history should have stayed in Montreal (like the move of Art Modell’s NFL franchise to Baltimore).

    If the demise of the Expos was a murder, there’s more than a couple of guilty parties that had a hand in it. MLB, for sure (looking to dissolve the franchise while his own Brewers weren’t drawing flies), but Claude Brochu and Jeffrey Loria were complicit as well. The value of the Canadian dollar at the time didn’t help, either.

    If MLB returns to Montreal, I believe that the Expos records, etc., will all be restored to the new team. Vive Nos Amours!!

    Sept 10, 1969…key hint Mont., SD KC & Seattle on the scoreboard with no Milwaukee, had to be 1969

    One further note…the Mets swept a DH that night with the Expos. The Mets took over first place for good in the ’69 race that night and it was the first time the Mets ever went into first place

    I know it’s just me, but white shoes destroys any illusion of ‘turning back the clock’ that these teams hoped to accomplish.

    Throwback games exist to irritate me.

    Love the Expos throwbacks. Also prefer the racing stripes (starting in 1980?).

    My memory of earlier throwbacks include a grey (!) version of these sky blues, but I can’t find an image.

    No, they always wore a shade of light blue, but it was a little muted with the original flannel uniforms, with a grayish tone to them. Once they switched to doubleknits, the colors lost any hint of gray.

    Great drawings by Gene Sanny. As an old Baltimore Colts fan I especially liked the one of Mike Curtis. The fan was actually wearing a red jersey.

    Yeah… AFTER I finished working from black and white photos, I looked up the date for a post I made, and saw a color clip… Ugh. Oh well, the red may have been more jarring to the drawing than I wanted anyway.

    As an old Expos fan… I guess I can appreciate the aesthetics, but I don’t like it. It doesn’t feel like a celebration. It was glorious unless you have an emotional connection to the team we lost. You took the team, you don’t get to celebrate it.

    I met someone from Montreal last weekend and asked how he felt about the Nats wearing the Expos unis. He was supportive of it and took it as an homage, FWIW. I can see both sides. I do believe if you change your team name, like the Nats did, the records and logos should remain with their original city.

    As commenters said above, the sleeve stripes were way too wide. A small detail that could have easily been done correctly, which makes it particularly vexing to me. I like the thinner stripes (soutache).



    “Note the gorgeous 1939 MLB Centennial Patch worn that year.”

    Technically, that’s the 1939 Baseball Centennial Patch worn that year.

    Some things about the Sox scoreboard: 
there’s no pinwheels! They weren’t added until the mid 70’s.

    The scoreboard is a bit lighter in the middle and around the box score – it was painted red during the second half of the 60’s while the rest of the board was a dark blue. When the board debuted in 1960, the middle section was a lighter blue contrasting with the navy. By the pinwheel era, the whole board was just dark blue.

    Waltham is sponsoring the clock – originally Longines provided the time. Later the time would be sponsored by Elgin, RCA and even a Volvo dealership.

    Expansion necessitated adding more games to the board, taking over real estate held by the “Pitchometer” in the lower left and three boxes on the lower right labeled, “OFF”, “DEF” and “RULE” – those three could go!

    Speaking of expansion, if the White Sox exploding scoreboard looks similar to the green one they had during the 1950’s, guess what? It was the same scoreboard! Veeck simply added the Soxogram on the left, the line-ups on the right, the advertising area and pseudo rocket launchers above the board and got rid of the green paint. Even the clock remained in the same place as the green 50’s board!

    I would like to see the Royals go back to the unis from ’69, they looked good! I loved the over-sized KC on the hats. I wasn’t a fan of the long pants or white shoes, but still pretty good.

    When I’m asked “why do you wear an Expos Hat, do you hate Washington for getting your team?”, my reply is “I like how it looks”.

    Probably too late here to get a reply, but:

    Is it just my eye, or the lighting, or something? That shot of the Expos jersey hanging in the locker looks an awful lot like a grey jersey to me, rather than a powder blue one, particularly in comparison to the other photos.

Comments are closed.