Tag Archives: uniforms

World Baseball Classic Uniforms, Then and Now

Wow, has it really been five years since I’ve posted anything here? It’s been . . . a journey, I suppose. At any rate, today I published a ranking of this year’s World Baseball Classic uniforms over at Baseball Prospectus. It’s a deep dive into the most diverse collection of uniforms in the tournament’s history and was both a lot of fun and a surprising amount of work to assemble. When writing it, I kept having this nagging feeling that I’d done a piece that that before, but I couldn’t find evidence of it, until I realize that, when the last WBC was held in 2017 (just a year or so before my last post on this blog), I was writing for Sports on Earth, and all of SoE’s content was scrubbed from the internet when the site folded in early 2018. Fortunately, I have my original drafts. So, in the interest of restoring that piece, and providing some additional context for this year’s rankings, here is the unedited draft of my March 2017 piece on that year’s World Baseball Classic uniforms.

The World Baseball Classic is fun for many reasons. Among those is the opportunity for some new baseball fashion. Unfortunately, the majority of this year’s uniforms conform to a template set by their manufacturer, Majestic, with contrast-colored sleeves and charcoal gray road unis. Still, not every team used Majestic’s template—Korea used Majestic, but with a different template using gradient side panels, while Japan went their own way with Mizuno—and among those that did, some still managed to stand out. Here, then, are the five best uniforms from this year’s WBC, giving equal weight to the three key components: the cap, the home jersey, and the road jersey, each of which I’ve graded on the 20-to-80 scouting scale.

First a few honorable and dishonorable mentions:

Worst Cap: USA & Canada (tie)

The color schemes of these two caps are inoffensive, though Canada’s black bill and button recall the Reds’ use of black for black’s sake in the 1990s, while the U.S. somehow fails to use enough white to make their cap look truly red, white, and blue. The real problem, however, is the logos, which are a cluttered mess for both teams and indecipherable from any reasonable distance. That’s particularly galling in the case of Canada, which covers its iconic maple leaf, which can stand by itself, with a black “C” formed by a swooshing baseball. The only reason Canada’s cap isn’t dead last is that I’m giving it credit for the visual reference to the Vancouver Canucks’ whale logo. Grade: 30

Worst Home Jersey: Chinese Taipei

The “T” in Chinese Taipei’s logo looks like an F with a missing arm, and the printing of “Chinese Taipei” under that logo makes these look like company softball jerseys. The numbers on the back are too big, and the number placement on the front, on the lower right, take the worst part of the Washington Nationals’ jerseys and exaggerates it, dropping the number almost to the belt. Chinese Taipei also has the worst overall uniform set according to my grading with total score of 105. Grade: 30

Worst Road Jersey: Cuba

Cuba is known for proudly wearing gaudy uniforms in international play, but they’ve dropped their traditional all-red look for this tournament, opting instead to use an even mix of blue and red in the Majestic template. As a result, their road jersey is a just a dark mess, with the blue “Cuba” on the chest and oversized uniform numbers on the back illegible on those charcoal jerseys. Grade: 35

Best Cap: Israel

The WBC caps are plagued by an excess of patches and logos, with the WBC logo in the back, a flag patch on the right and the New Era flag (or Mizuno runbird for Japan) on the left. That prevents any team from getting an 80 grade for their cap, but Israel comes close with an elegant design that surrounds a capital “I” in a font that recalls Hebrew script with a stylized Star of David, all in white on a royal blue cap. This is a must-own for Jewish baseball fans. Grade: 75

With that out of the way, here are the top five WBC uniform sets.

5. Japan

Japan’s home uniform is by far the best in the tournament. The jersey and pants have a black, dotted pinstripe on white. The lettering, name and number all in a unique, old-school font with black outlined in gold, and the jersey has a thin stripe of gold around the collar and sleeves. That’s gorgeous in and of itself, but a tremendous added detail is a thin stripe of red on the inside of sleeves, which compliments the red sun on the Japanese flag on the right sleeve. The road set has the same basic look, including the red inside the sleeve, on a black jersey with a white, dotted pinstripe, which is paired with white pants with one line of black pipping down the side. That’s a handsome look, as well, but the numbers and lettering are still black outlined in gold for black-on-black look that fails to pop. That black-on-black approach is even worse on the cap, which has a black “J” outlined in gold on a black cap with gold trim around the bill. Home Jersey: 75, Road Jersey: 60, Cap: 45; Total: 180

4. Colombia

Colombia made great use of Majestic’s charcoal road template by using a bright yellow outline on the letters and numbers on their road jersey. That yellow, taken from the largest stripe on the Colombian flag, makes everything pop out of that dark background and is further enhanced by the neon yellow undershirts worn by many members of the team. The resulting charcoal, royal blue, and bright yellow combination is unique and very pleasing to the eye, especially on the team’s darker-skinned players, such as highlight-reel centerfielder and Yankees prospect Tito Polo. The home jersey is less striking with the same color scheme on a white jersey with yellow sleeves, but is still a handsome look, and both jerseys benefit from the number on the front being tucked up neatly under the team name on the left. By way of comparison, Venezuela’s does far worse with the same colors, resulting in a gaudy look which is further cluttered by some players wearing maroon undershirts, perhaps left over their previous look, that clash with the bright red. Colombia’s cap, all blue with a red “C” outlined in white, is unexceptional, but does nothing to detract from the uniform and adds a necessary splash of the third national color. Home Jersey: 60, Road Jersey: 70, Cap: 55; Total: 185

3. Australia

Australia’s national colors are green and gold, chosen in 1984 to represent the national flower, the golden wattle. As a result, Australia often looks great in competition, as green and gold (or yellow) is an underutilized combination. In baseball, that is likely due to how closely associated those colors are with the Oakland A’s. Indeed, the Aussies, in their green caps with yellow brims and buttons with a predominantly white capital A on the front, do look like the A’s. Of course, that’s not a bad thing, and the use of the stars of the southern cross on both the cap and over the heart make these uniforms uniquely Australian by echoing the national flag. Unfortunately, that flag is blue and red and clashes as a patch on the green hat and the jersey’s green sleeve. Still, the yellow outline on the letters and numbers helps that charcoal jersey pop and the overall look is both unique and refined. Home Jersey: 60, Road Jersey: 60, Cap: 70; Total: 190

2. Mexico

Until Israel came along, Mexico boasted the best cap in the WBC. Using the font from the 1968 Mexico City Summer Olympics (one similar to the Blue Jays’ old jersey font), Mexico boasts both a unique look and a unique color scheme of green and red (Italy, which shares the same stripe pattern and colors on its flag has a century-old tradition of wearing blue in competition, to its detriment). Mexico scores further points by breaking with the Majestic template to wear solid-color jerseys both home (white) and away (green), both over white pants. The home jerseys are particularly attractive, with “Mexico” in green outlined in red and the uniform number on the lower left abdomen in red outlined in green (with the latter color scheme for name and number on the back). The red number on the front recalls the Dodgers’ contrast-colored front numbers, particularly on first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, but the set as a whole is unmistakably Mexico’s. They get some demerits for their dark-green batting helmets, which don’t match the caps or jerseys, and the red “pit stain” ventilation panels under the arms of both jerseys. Still, Mexico’s uniforms have been consistently near the top of the class in the WBC and, four tournaments in, the team has a well-established visual identity rooted in the country’s sporting history that is both unique and a personal favorite. Home Jersey: 70, Road Jersey: 60, Cap: 70; Total: 200

1. China

Japan and Mexico made this list by breaking from the Majestic template. China tops it by being the best example of the template, with their national colors of red and yellow popping brilliantly out of Majestic’s charcoal road jerseys, the best road set of the tournament, and looking elegant on the white home jerseys, as well. Topping everything off is a cap whose only fault is a lack of clear national identity. On its own merits, the red cap with a yellow brim and button and yellow Old English “C,” sans any needless outlining or shading, is beautiful. However, there’s nothing about that primary logo that identifies China the way Australia’s Southern Cross, Mexico’s Olympic font, or Israel’s Star of David do for their respective countries. Home Jersey: 60, Road Jersey: 75, Cap: 70; Total: 205

Final thoughts: Major League Baseball needs more teams using yellow as a secondary color. Red and yellow is a color scheme that some team should adopt (the Cardinals are a candidate, but likely have too long of a history with navy to abandon it). Charcoal road uniforms need a bright highlight color, not just a light one, which is why the Diamondbacks’ road set is such a disaster. I should have watched more of China’s games before they were eliminated.


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The Hardball Times: An Illustrated History of the Tigers’ Old English D

This was something I had wanted to do for a long time, and the Tigers’ recent uniform changes gave me an excuse, and The Hardball Times actually paid me to do it. It’s a definitive history of the many (many) iterations of the Detroit Tigers’ Old English D, both the D’s on their jerseys and, more crucially, because previous to this there were no thorough resources for it, the D’s on their caps. It covers every Old English D in franchise history dating back to 1896, and includes at least a thumbnail image of each, nearly all of them taken from photographs of actual Tigers players in uniform.

Tigers fans and baseball historians may want to bookmark this one. Given how frequently the D has changed, this piece can be used to date photographs of Tigers players. It can also be used to expose just how inaccurate the Tigers’ caps in the Cooperstown Collection series by both New Era and American Needle are (though there are a few American Needle caps that get my stamp of approval available via Detroit Athletic Co.). If that sounds like a very specific pet peeve to you, you might want to avoid asking me about their St. Louis Browns caps. Unfortunately, I’m unlikely to get an excuse (or a paycheck) to do a history of the St. Louis Browns’ various cap logos.

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Posted by on March 8, 2018 in My Writing


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Deleted Scenes: My debut

The first thing I ever did for was write the Friday entry for “Fungoes,” the site’s first attempt at a baseball blog. After Ben Reiter, Albert Chen, Alex Belth and Jon Weisman tackled the six divisions over the first four days of the week, I would write a “Wild Card” entry on any topic of my (and my editor’s) chosing on Friday. My very first Fungoes entry, on April 6, 2007, concerned the Diamondbacks’ brand new uniforms and color scheme. With Arizona having replaced that uniform set on Thursday night, this seemed like as good a time as any to add this to the pieces I’ve salvaged from my personal archives. As with the other articles that were lost in the site’s redesign in June 2014, this is the version I submitted, presented here unaltered and prior to any editing by’s editors. The many embedded links (blantantly imitating the style of Paul Lukas’s Uni-Watch, but with his blessing) are from the original, as well, so my apologies for the many that now lead to dead ends and since-deleted pages.

If Jerry Seinfeld’s right that we baseball fans really just root for laundry, then it only seems appropriate that, after all of the words spilled on new faces in new places (or rather, old faces in new laundry), we spill a few on the laundry itself. This year, the Diamondbacks and Reds have entirely new looks. New designs were sorely needed in both cases, though both could have done better than what they ultimately came up with. The Reds became victims of the dreaded black drop shadow in 1999 and, though they are one of the few teams with some historical claim to black as a team color, the Reds always looked better when they either stuck exclusively to red and white, or used navy instead of black. Their new duds do greatly reduce the amount of black in their color scheme, but that blasted drop shadow is still there.

The Diamondbacks were the clear choice for worst uniform in the majors from the moment they entered the league in 1998 (so much for Buck Showalter’s reputation as a traditionalist, even a dirt path to the pitchers mound couldn’t make up for the Snakes’ seemingly endless combinations of purple, teal, gold, and black). They’ve finally toned things down, but now they just look like the Astros. Despite the lack of creativity in the D-backs’ new design (see also the Washington Nationals), their wholesale color scheme change is actually rather historic.

Many teams have added or deleted third or even fourth colors (such as the Mets, Royals, Rangers, and Reds flirtation with black drop shadows in recent years). Some have completely inverted the significance of their main two colors (see the Angels and Rangers, who went from predominantly blue with red highlights to the reverse, and, in the case of the Rangers, back again). Others have made gradual changes to their color schemes, such as the Padres switching from yellow and brown, to yellow, orange, and brown, to just orange and brown, to orange and blue, to blue and “sand” over the course of a quarter century. Still others have made what amount to changes in tint, the most extreme being the Astros, whose colors had always been based in orange and navy, but who switched to rust and black in 2000. Similarly the White Sox have always used some combination of navy, black and red, though at different times they’ve reduced their color scheme to just one of the three, the most striking recent examples being their early ‘70s duds, the home versions of which looked exactly like their current home unis but whereas the current versions are entirely black and white, the 1971 to 1975 versions were entirely red and white.

What the Diamondbacks have done, however, is to change their entire color scheme in the course of a single winter, something that has only happened twice before in modern major league history. The first time was in 1948 when the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had always worn some combination of blue and red, adopted the colors of the Pittsburgh city flag, the black and gold since worn by the city’s other two major sports franchises, the NFL’s Steelers and NHL’s Penguins. The second came in the wake of Charlie O. Finley’s 1961 purchase of the Kansas City Athletics. The Athletics too had worn only shades of blue with occasional use of red throughout their history in Philadelphia and Kansas City, but in their third year under Finley they took the field in colors Finely dubbed “kelly green,” “Fort Knox gold,” and “wedding gown white.” Mickey Mantle said the A’s, “should have come out of the dugout on tippy-toes, holding hands and singing.” The Mick’s homophobia aside, that sort of strong reaction was exactly what Finely was going for. His A’s didn’t just use their green and gold on stripes and text, they wore bright yellow vests and pants with green hats, green undersleeves, and green stirrups. Remember, this was back when uniforms were wool and the last active player to sport a moustache during the regular season was Frenchy Bordagaray in 1936. (Actually, there was a third instance, but the Brooklyn Dodgers flirtation with green lasted just one season before they returned to their traditional Dodger blue, whereas the other two changes persist to this day, even despite such horrors as this).

What exactly the Diamonbacks are trying to accomplish with their new colors is more difficult to discern. The team’s official press release stated that the new colors were “chosen to better represent the personality and beauty of Arizona.” I get that. The connection between their new shade of red and the rocks in Sedona is obvious. But when the Pirates and A’s made their palette changes, they distinguished themselves in the process. No other major league team before or since has worn Finley’s green and gold or Pittsburgh’s yellow and black. The Diamondbacks, however, look almost exactly like the Astros, who have been wearing “brick red” and black since 2000, supposedly in tribute to the importance of railroads in Houston’s history (which only makes sense for a team first named after a gun and then for the city’s connection to the space program). Then again, anything that will prevent things like this from happening has got to be considered an improvement. It’s just troubling that something so historic could seem so uninspired.

  • Game of the Week: Braves 3, Phillies 2, 11 innings. A seven-inning pitchers duel between veteran Tim Hudson and wunderkind Cole Hamels erased by a Braves comeback on a game-tying, ninth-inning two-run home run by Brian McCann and an eleventh-inning game winner by Scott Thorman.
  • Player of the Week: Miguel Cabrera – 7 for 10 with 5 walks, 2 doubles, 2 homers, 6 RBIs and 5 runs scored. Cabrera made just three outs in fifteen plate appearances over three games against the Nationals.
  • Performance of the Week: Felix Hernandez vs. Oakland, Tuesday April 3 – 8 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 12 K
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Posted by on December 4, 2015 in Deleted Scenes


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