Kickin’ It Old School


Just when you think the world is going to hell in a handbasket, something comes along to restore your faith in humankind, something that makes you think, “Y’know, maybe things are going to turn out all right after all.” Uni Watch is proud to be the bearer of precisely such a nugget of life-affirming news: The Tampa Bay Devil Rays have redesigned their uniforms.

And needless to say, it’s not a moment too soon. The Rays and their rainbow-gradated jerseys have been eyesores on the diamond since the team’s 1998 inception, but let’s give credit where it’s due: Tampa’s new duds are simultaneously traditionalist and super-sharp, from the blue/green color scheme to the overhauled jersey emblem, from the new cap design to the alternate vest jersey. Hell, even the alternate cap looks great! Well done, people—all is forgiven.

The Devil Rays’ back-to-basics renaissance is one of several developments that should gladden the hearts of tradition- and history-minded baseball aesthetes this season. Among the highlights:

The White Sox, apparently trying to channel some positive historical karma, have come up with a brilliant alternate uniform by resurrecting the outfit that the team wore while winning its last World Series title in 1917. The uni, which was designed specifically for that year’s fall classic and never worn again, is a beauty—and the new repro of it, which will be worn for the team’s Sunday home games, is relatively faithful to the original, complete with white cap, surnameless jersey with cadet-style collar, gorgeous “SOX” chest insignia, and American flag sleeve patch (which at the time was a gesture of support for America’s World War I involvement). Too bad they didn’t render it in wool flannel instead of polyester double-knit, but you can’t have everything. Uni Watch’s highest rating.

The Pirates are also dipping into their past, switching to home and road vest jerseys modeled on the designs that the team wore from 1957 through 1970. Let’s see newly acquired Derek Bell put a hip-hop spin on that!

The Pirates and Devil Rays aren’t the only teams joining the sleeveless set—the Blue Jays have switched to a vest road jersey. But the Mariners have deleted their alternate vest, so worldwide sleeveless domination, long advocated by Uni Watch, remains on the slow track for now.

Alternate caps have clearly plateaued, with only the Giants adding an extra lid and the Red Sox, Angels, Mariners, and Diamondbacks all shelving theirs. And in a textbook case of addition by subtraction, the Pirates have ditched that miserable gray road cap.

With 2001 marking the American League’s centennial, A.L. teams are wearing a snappy 100th-anniversary sleeve patch. The patches worn by the Indians, Red Sox, Tigers, and White Sox have an additional design flourish, identifying these clubs as charter members of the league.

Other cool sleevewear: a sharp 25th-anniversary patch for the Blue Jays; a handsome 40th-anniversary patch for Houston, celebrating both the Astros and the franchise’s earlier incarnation, the Colt .45s; and a nifty “Home to Heroes” patch for the Brewers, commemorating baseball’s role in Wisconsin culture over the past century. All three neatly symbolize a season in which baseball is moving ahead by looking back.