I have always abhored the alternate jersey phenomenon that has overrun Major League Baseball in the past six or seven years. While I’ve acquiesed and come to understand that it is, above all, a business, and alternate jerseys — particularly black ones — sell well, and these teams all need as much money as they can get.
I’ll admit that, at first, it didn’t bother me, but that was back when only the Orioles and the White Sox did it. They were the first. Sometime back around 1996, you started seeing highlights and pictures of the White Sox in a black jerseys with a classic “Sox” over the heart. And the Orioles had a policy in which that day’s starting pitcher chose whether the team wore the home white or road gray jersey, or the alternate black. But the thing with both of these teams is that black is one of their core colors. The White Sox are black and white; the Orioles black and orange. A black jersey wasn’t that much of a stretch, nor was it something new since both teams — I believe — wore black for batting practice. If that’s not the case, then I admit I was misled in my beliefs on the origin of their alternate jerseys.
But then the other teams caught on, and it got out of hand. The A’s started wearing their green jerseys (also an homage to their green and yellow tops of the 70s) and other teams followed suit, with a few holdouts. The Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Giants, Braves, Marlins and Rockies never stooped to such gimmicks. Shortly after the Dodgers were sold to Fox, they wore their blue batting practice jerseys for games, and it looked ridiculous — and many commentators and others said so. The following season, they had an alternate blue jersey made for the team, but they never reappeared after that campaign. Wonder why?
The Marlins, Rockies and — alas — the Red Sox have since relented, but to Boston’s credit, they went with red.
What really gets me, though, is the teams that suddenly made black one of their official colors. The Mets were the worst offenders, I thought. They’ve always been blue and orange — a nod to the Dodgers and Giants, who left New York without National League baseball in 1957. Then, in 1998, they decided to get into the ridiculous uniform game. If they did it, I’d hoped that they’d go with the classic blue batting practice duds they wore then. Instead, they sold out and added black to the mix.
It sure seems permanent now. In hindsight, I should’ve seen it coming with the ridiculous changes in 1997 — ridiculous mainly because of the white cap they added. (Check out the Mets’ uniform history here.)
The Mets hurt the most, but I cringed when the A’s, for one year, didn’t think green was good enough and made a ridiculous black jersey with “Athletics” written out in green script. The Royals did the same — again, what’s wrong with blue ones? — and then teams like Texas and Seattle added black either in jerseys or, stupid Texas, in an ugly black bill to an otherwise blue cap.
The idiocy of it all became apparent on Sunday, when Mets catcher Tom Wilson wore the wrong one in Yankee Stadium. The Mets’ road black jersey says “New York” across the front. The home one says “Mets.” He packed the wrong one for the bus ride to Shea and didn’t realize it until, apparently, a reporter pointed it out.
None of this would happen if the Mets would just get rid of the black jersey plague. I’ve come to terms with the white uniforms without the pinstripes, and I’ve always loved the road grays that have the city written out in a classic font as it was on the original Mets uniforms in the 60s. They’ll still occassionaly don the pinstripes for random home games, but not nearly enough of them. And, as far as I can tell, there’s no rhyme or reason to the Mets’ uniform choices on a given day. Home day, night, weekend or holiday could be plain white, pinstripes or black tops. It could also be either white jersey with the black hat with blue brim, or the white jerseys with the classic (and best) all-blue hat. On the road, it’s either gray or black jerseys, but always the black hat with blue brim. (However, all black jersey games feature the all-black hat.)
For those of you keeping score at home, that’s five different jerseys and three different hats for a total of seven previously used and accepted combinations (all-black hat only goes with black jerseys, etc.):
1. Plain white/black & blue hat
2. Plain white/blue hat
3. Pinstripe white/black & blue hat
4. Pinstripe white/blue hat
5. Home black/black hat
6. Road gray/black & blue hat
7. Road black/black hat
Ridiculous. The Mets’ colors are blue and orange. Their uniforms have pinstripes. Their hats are blue, all blue. The road uniforms are gray. That’s the way it should be.
But until gangs go away, until teenage hoodlums stop thinking black clothes every day is the way to go, teams are going to bring out the alternate jerseys to make a buck — tradition and color scheme be damned.