The book: “Winning Ugly: A Visual History of the Most Bizarre Baseball Uniforms Ever Worn”
The author: Todd Radom
How to find it: Sports Publishing, 176 pages, $24.95, due out May 15
The links: At Amazon.com, at the publisher’s website.
A review in 90-feet or less: It was June 5, 1999. It turned out to be very a ugly Saturday afternoon.
Fox’s new ownership of the Dodgers was trying to mark its new-way-of-thinking territory. In L.A., that can be encouraged as progressive thinking.
But consider tradition before you tread forward.
The Dodgers-Angels Freeway Series meeting at Dodger Stadium was also a Fox national telecast. A perfect day to make a statement.
The Angels already were in their periwinkle blue pinstripe PJ and winged-A logo arrangement, the residue of their Disney takeover (1997-2001) and a desire to Mickey Mouse-up everything.
Referencing page 121 of “Winning Ugly,” Radom explains that “it actually could been worse. … The originally approved uniforms called for double pinstripes, rendered in periwinkle and navy, along with widely flared banded stripes around the shoulders that looked like something out of a dystopian science fiction movie.”
In fact, back in 1997, Disney actually issued a dark blue Angels jersey with periwinkle sleeves for the Freeway Series meeting with the Dodgers (see page 120, in the chapter entitled “Diamond Duds.) It was so hated that they never did it again.
Now it was the Dodgers’ turn.
Here, in Chapter 7, entitled “When Good Teams Go Bad,” Random explains on pages 112-113 how the Dodgers’ model of consistency — “the classic blue ‘Dodgers’ script, kissed by red player numbers” — had been assaulted with a reverse-image dark blue top and piping, a white script and white borders around the numbers. Was this supposed to be their batting practice jerseys? Was someone pulling a prank? Fans were confused.
And then all heck broke loose.
A bizarre brawl broke out between the Dodgers’ Chan Ho Park and the Angels’ Tim Belcher, after Belcher fielded a bunt by Park and tagged him out, and Park decided to go all ninja on him.
Perhaps – and we’re just guessing here – neither player was crazy about the uniform they were wearing. This incident just brought it all to a head.
Thankfully, this random act of SoCal misjudgment isn’t the cornerstone of the book, because there are plenty more sad stories to tell by Radom, a graphic designer who has worked with the MLB for the last 20-plus years and has a resume that includes interaction with the Angels to create their “graphic identity” (in the post-Disney era).
Here is his own Mr. Blackwell selections of the worst-designed baseball jerseys ever attempted to be used in a game. We’re not sure whether to thank him or remind him that some people actually embraced these as being so bad they want them back on those “Turn Back The Clock” promotions.
Some of them are no-brainers of the brain-dead decisions: The top four:
* The Houston Astros’ “Tequila Sunrise” orange-red-and-yellow rainbow.
* A variety of choices by the Chicago White Sox that included a retro look with black short pants. Another with SOX that looked like a bad license plate. The franchise even used the phrase “Winning Ugly” to go along with it in the 1980s.
* The San Diego Padres’ “Taco Bell uniform” choice. Which Tony Gwynn famously said: “It may be ugly, but it’s our ugly.”
* The Pittsburgh Pirates pillbox caps with the selection of black or yellow tops with the pinstriped pants that made Willie Stargell look like a clown.
It’s the ones we didn’t know happened that give context to the idea that there’s always been an evolution of laundry, trying to connect to the fans and give them civic pride. Heck, there’s even a Brooklyn Dodgers version of a checkered pattern that didn’t last long, thankfully.
(Remember when the current L.A. Dodgers, a few years ago, went with some strange powderblue satin-looking tops, one that even was depicted in an Andre Ethier bobblehead? It’s not here, but it’s seared into minds, and it won’t leave.)
Still, it seems that if anyone is more qualified than Radom to go through the MLB’s closet and expose it on this subject, speak now or forever hold your Sansabelt slacks up with a safety pin.
Hey, some teams just picked bad colors — Florida Marlins’ teal, or Arizona Diamondbacks purple. Nothing was quite as bad as Baltimore Orioles (and San Francisco Giants) burnt orange.
And what did the Montreal Expos’ cap logo “mean” anyway? It’s all there.
This also reminds us that the MLB always-trying-to-sell mentality led to that awful “Players Weekend” promotion last August, when it had every team were this softball-looking color combination with their nicknames on the back was an affront to traditionalists everywhere — especially tarnishing the history that the New York Yankees had established. It’s a shame some teams couldn’t have opted-out of this charade.
Will it come back? We hope Ross Yoshida, whom Radom calls “the gatekeeper of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ storied visual identity” and a source quoted in this book, has something to say about that.
How it goes down in the scorebook: Uniformly superior to anything we’ve seen like this before. A heads-up as well to Paul Lukas for what he’s done at UniWatch.com as well.
Also: Radom refers in the intro to the old Jerry Seinfeld line that as players come and go, fans end up “rooting for the clothes.” ESPN’s Sam Miller took that to heart in a story he did this past spring training entitled: “Rooting for laundry isn’t a joke — it’s why baseball works”