All-Star Game caps call back colorful '70s unis
MINNEAPOLIS -- The All-Star Game has always provided a gathering of greatness in the baseball world, but there was a time when it doubled as a collection of different uniform colors.
Eye-catching, retina-burning colors.
It was in the 1970s when uniforms were first given the double-knit polyester platform upon which they still reside, and the shift away from a flannel fixation resulted in an explosion of daring duds that coincided perfectly with the rise of color television.
There is a National League team photo from 1979 that demonstrates this uniform trend at the height of its hilarity -- the bumblebee yellow of the Pirates and Padres, the powder blue of the Phillies, Cardinals, Royals and Expos, the unmistakable orange of the Giants and, of course, the psychedelic rainbow-colored jerseys of the Astros weaving together at a time when traditional home whites and road grays were often sent to the bench.
We bring this up because a funny thing has happened for tonight's All-Star Game: Major League Baseball has willingly brought back one element of 1970s style.
Thankfully, it's a style we can welcome. Each All-Star will be wearing a team cap designed by New Era and inspired by relics from an older era -- the 1970s batting helmets of this year's Midsummer Classic hosts, the Minnesota Twins.
It's a pretty good look.
But the thought of 1970s All-Star Games had us thinking back to some odd images still burned in our brains after all these years.
Here, then, in no particular order, are our picks for the most kitschiest, kookiest, craziest uniforms from baseball's most colorful period -- the 1970s.
The Orioles had the bad sense to have an alternate all-orange uniform combo, but they had the good sense to only wear it a few times. When the O's brought the look back a few years ago for a retro night, Buck Showalter agreed with someone who said the uniforms were reminiscent of "Halloween candy corn."
The "We Are Family" squad that won the World Series in '79 had three jerseys (gold, black and white with pinstripes), three pants (gold, black and white with pinstripes) and two hats (black with gold stripes and gold with black stripes), and they used each potential combination at some point that season. Dave Parker won the MVP Award at the '79 All-Star Game wearing the most outlandish outfit of all -- the gold jersey paired with the gold pants. If the folks watching at home felt the need to adjust their television sets, we could hardly blame them.
White Sox (1976)
These were not that colorful, and they did not show up on the All-Star stage. In fact, they were only worn for three games total. But what discussion of unreal unis from the '70s is complete without mere mention of the experimental approach unveiled by the White Sox in August '76? The white tops with the fanned-out navy collars that the Sox wore for much of the '70s were ridiculous enough, but the blue shorts and the high white socks took matters to another level unseen before or since in the big leagues. Give the Sox credit, though: In their first game wearing the shorts, they not only won, but they also stole five bases, which means there were at least five willing slides, despite the bare-legged look.
The Padres had many forms of so-bad-they're-good uniforms in the '70s, including those '78 numbers with the funky lower-case lettering. But the '72 scheme is particularly interesting for one reason: The Friars wore all-gold unis both at home and on the road. Every. Single. Game. There was no escaping this yellow fever.
The A's were still in Kansas City in the '60s when owner Charles Finley reinvented the concept of color scheme in the Major League uniform with the gold-and-green tableau they would take to Oakland. And you can argue that pretty much every combination they tried on through the mid-80s was its own form of ... unique. But they do get bonus points for the '73 alternate all-green ensemble that only Kermit the Frog could approve.
The all-powder-blue unis, which the Phillies wore on the road from '73-88, weren't much to look at. But they look like a source of sartorial splendor when compared to the alternate all-maroon uniform the Phils briefly had in their repertoire in '79. The cap, jersey and pants all looked like they had been soaked in a bottle of burgundy.
These were the ketchup to the Padres' and Pirates' mustard. An all-red nightmare. It's a wonder stray dogs didn't infiltrate Municipal Stadium looking for a place to relieve themselves.
It's one thing to wear buttonless pullovers featuring multishade orange, yellow and red stripes (flanked by a big blue star) and quite another to wear them for more than a decade. These bad boys somehow escaped the '70s alive. It showed impressive persistence on the part of the rainbow jerseys, which forever hold a special place in baseball-uniform lore.