Monday, November 18, 2013

Dressing like a varsity team

I remarked the other day that I missed everything that was on this card. That's almost true.

I do miss seeing Carlton Fisk behind the plate. I do miss food issue cards with team logos prominently on display. I do miss Drake's cakes. I even miss those goofy-yet-functional '70s-style sun hats that folks in the stands are wearing.

But if I'm being objective -- and not merely nostalgic -- I don't miss the uniforms the White Sox wore then. Sure, I like the idea of those uniforms, the time period of the crazy, everything-goes uniform style. But, really, the White Sox looked downright dorky when out on the field with another team that was wearing a regular uniform. It looked like they were playing a split-screen game, one-half from 1980 and the other half from 1911.

This made me wince because, really, the White Sox were better than that.

I like my established teams to wear classic uniforms. These uniforms do not change every 10 years or so. They remain basically the same, like forever, with only a few tweaks. Dodgers, Yankees, Cardinals, Red Sox, etc. This is the sign of a "real" team. A varsity team. If you're repeatedly changing your uniform colors or look in any drastic way, that is definite JV behavior.

For a long time, the White Sox were a varsity team slumming in the JV dressing room.

This happened to be the same time when I started following baseball, and I had a difficult time taking the White Sox seriously with all their uniform changes.

This was before I was watching ball, but I remember seeing my first 1971 cards in the late '70s and I couldn't believe that the White Sox wore blue uniforms. This trend actually started in the early '60s when the White Sox first broke out pale blue road uniforms.

When I first started buying baseball cards, the White Sox's primary color was red. That's a pretty dramatic jump -- from blue to red -- in only a couple of years, but that was the White Sox. Given my brief baseball fanhood, as far as I was concerned, the White Sox had worn red pinstripes for decades.

Until they didn't. The White Sox were the first team to make a significant uniform change after I started following baseball (the Astros had already made their orange rainbow switch). These are the famous retro-style uniforms that also included shorts for a year.

Red was out. Wide collars were in. And those Olde English letters clashed with Ralph Garr's crucifix. (But a very cool card).

The White Sox also changed the logo on the cap, from the diagonal, interlocking "Sox" that first showed up on White Sox uniforms in the early 1930s, to the wide-lettered, left-to-right Sox.

That paved the way for this:

Good god, did I mention that I once had a sweatshirt that looked very similar to this? I could not dress in the '80s.

And neither could the White Sox. I'm sure there is a lot of nostalgia associated with this uniform -- I have it, too, as Chicago's farm team was in Buffalo at the time and there was a ton of SOX and BISONS in BIG SQUARE LETTERS going on at that time -- but objectively? No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

By the late '80s, Chicago had toned it down quite a bit. They went with a mix of red and blue with scripted lettering and the dreaded squiggly "C" on the cap. This is best summed up as "the curly cue" era and best forgotten, too.

Not only were the White Sox not very good at this time with that blasted loopy "C," but they did strange things like wear their uniform numbers right next to their crotch, and trot out red and blue softball tops.

Then it happened ...


We all knew that it was right the moment we saw it.

The White Sox's 1991 return to white-and-black -- but with wonderfully modern duds instead of those retro things from the late '70s -- was a phenomenal hit from the start. The caps flew off the shelves and also became gang fashion statements.

"THIS" is the White Sox," everyone seemed to be saying at once. "Where have you BEEN?"

Sure, the White Sox still had to go with the softball tops -- didn't all the teams? -- but they were black softball tops, as it should be.

And the White Sox's uniforms haven't really changed much since the early 1990s (no, I don't know why it looks like Floyd is wearing lipstick). Chicago was finally one of those stable, long-standing teams who had a defined look and kept it that way.

Welcome to the lodge, White Sox.

I didn't really know the history of White Sox uniforms before the early 1970s, but it turns out their look had actually been pretty stable up until the 1960s (the look of the uniforms they wear now are kind of similar to the White Sox's uniforms in the 1950s, although those ones had red outlining the Sox logo).

In fact, the case probably could be made for some other old-school teams changing their uniform look more often.

I guess the mid-1960s-to-the-early-1990s was just a phase for the White Sox. Who knows why they made all the changes they did in that time -- Bill Veeck, I'm guessing -- but sometimes it takes 30 or so years to realize, "hey I'm a varsity team here. Better start acting like one."

But I still miss everything on this card.


  1. Let me correct a few things:

    1) the Sox did not wear shorts for a year. It was a three game experiment.

    You can see video of the 3rd game here:

    2) It was Veeck (as in "wreck") who came up with the early 80's uniforms. He also came up with the exploding scoreboard, shower in the outfield, Disco Demolition, Harry singing "Take Me Out to The Ball Game" as well as a lot of other great promotions. Veeck was first to add names on the back of a player's uniform with the Sox in 59.

    3) It was in the series of '59 the Sox changed their uniform slightly - they had special white stirrups with stripes instead of the regular season black stirrups with stripes.

    4) The interlocking "Sox" logo has a very long history with the team. It first appeared, very similar, to it's current view over 60 years ago in 1949. Though, you can argue it's a logo that have been is transition for over 100 years, first with the style appearing in 1912:

    That nested logo existed until 1932, when the first version of the "script" style sort of came out:

    In 1949, the first appearance of the current logo appeared on a uniform:

    The current script is slightly different than the '49 and the '72 red, but it's only corrected for asthetics.

    1. That's not really correcting. That's clarifying and expanding (a lot).

      By "a year" I meant they wore shorts during the year of 1976: "a year in which they wore shorts."

      I know all about Veeck. I had a subscription to SI in 1976.

    2. Was there ever a baseball card of a Sox player wearing shorts?

    3. JediJeff ---> how many times did the Sox wear green for St. Patrick's Day?

  2. The Garr is really cool, he had a few of them over years

  3. Chuck,I dont know about a player in shorts but,the whole team is in shorts in the 1977 Topps White Sox team pic card.

  4. This right here is my favorite White Sox 'look' But the current ones are pretty nice as well.

  5. I agree with your "varsity" comparison. As a Padres fan, I get sick and tired of them tweaking things every few years. I wish they would have just stuck to the old brown, yellow, and orange from the early 80's.