Northside Archives: Far From Uniform
For those of us who reside outside the greater Chicago area, we’ve grown accustomed to seeing the road greys when watching the Cubs in person. It’s kind of like eating your aged grandmother’s food – you’re elated to see her even if it means that you’re getting another helping of her famous lime Jell-O in which she’s trapped both celery and cantaloupe. I wouldn’t mind a different flavor of road uniforms for 2012.
When most fans think of the Chicago Cubs, “change” isn’t a word that readily comes to mind – especially with respect to their uniforms. In fact, the Cubs changed their uniforms at a dizzying pace during the early 1900s. But one thing has been constant in one form or another for virtually every season of their existence. The big “C” on the left chest dates back to 1903, when it was featured on the pocket (yes, like a men’s dress shirt!). When they won their last World Series title the “C” featured the standing bear holding a bat inside it.
In 1909 they wore grey pinstriped uniforms and inside the “C” was the familiar “ubs” – though it was not ringed by the circle yet. The word Chicago was where written down the middle of the chest over the buttons. Not our finest hour.
By 1916 the bear inside the “C” walked on all fours, and the “C” itself resembled the more pointed look that the Cincinnati Reds or the Chicago Bears use today. The “C” was red making it the dominant color on the uniform – a mistake that the Cubs would continue to repeat (I hate any Cubs uniform that features red – we’ve been over this before).
They would tinker with the uniform look virtually every year – even introducing a horrid set for 1918. But until 1941, the Cubs would wear a close relative of their 1916 uniform in white for home games. They started wearing different road uniforms just before the depression. These featured simply the word Chicago (often in giant red letters!). The would wear a variation of this on the road until 1937.
There was also a very Oregon Duck-like phase where the Cubs sported two completely different, and yet equally vomitous, sets of home and road uniforms from 1931 until the end of the 1934 season. Oddly enough, none of the uniforms looked anything alike – one even featured a red hat! Other innovations included a zipper instead of buttons and sleeveless uniforms.
The Logo We Love
The Cubs introduced the iconic logo in 1941. The “Cubs” logo has been emblazoned on the left chest of every home jersey since. The road uniforms, which they had been wearing for 4 seasons, simply read “Chicago” with a red line beneath it – unless they were wearing the powder blue uniforms that were very similar in style to the greys. The powder blues died the first time after only 2 seasons.
For 16 seasons the Cubs would virtually ignore their uniforms. Only slight changes were made in style or appearance during this time. But the next change was momentous.
We Wear Pinstripes Too!
Pinstripes became part of the regular home uniform in 1957. For 55 seasons the Cubs have worn essentially the same home uniform. The only real changes have been shoulder patches and the thicker blue circle.
They sported hideous road uniforms that read “Chicago Cubs” in – again – big red letters. Because there’s nothing more professional than spelling out the entire franchise name on your chest. They would begin to fix this in 1958 reverting to “Chicago” for a more traditional look. This combination lasted until 1969 when the Cubs unveiled their perhaps first not horrible road uniform in franchise history.
The Cubs started pulling their jerseys over their heads in 1972. While far from the worst idea ever, it has a “t-ball” feel to it; and yet for some strange reason I’ve always kind of liked the pullovers.
Those powder blue uniforms that are readily available from MLB’s Cooperstown Collection are from 1978. But the powder blue made it’s initial comeback in 1976. Unbelievably, these might be better than any previous road uniform – although the 1978 pinstripes are probably a mistake. Still they were nothing to write home about…I have no answer for why it took the Cubs more than 100 years to get a really good road uniform, but it did.
The Dark Blue
I’m biased – this is the Cubs team I grew up watching. The Cubs went on the road with the white pants and all blue tops. They started wearing these uniforms in 1982 and some moron made them stop in 1990. This is also the year where the blue circle around the “Cubs” was thickened to its current size. Eight seasons of perfection – maybe that’s why I like the current alternate jerseys.
Every road jersey since 1990 has been roughly the same. Grey with the word “Chicago” in blue letters and the player’s number in red on the lower left front (although for three seasons they played with a cursive “Cubs” where the “Chicago” had been). The biggest problem with these uniforms is the font choice. The 1990 font was too bubbly – it looked more like a party invitation. The current lettering is too narrow and the spacing is poor as well – it looks more like a funeral announcement. Plus, the deeper issue is that neither uniform is even a distant cousin of our home uniforms. The Cubs look classy and professional at home – but more like misfits on the road.
It’s Time For A Change
I could be persuaded that the 1933 alternate road uniforms – with some minor tweaks – could be a solution. There’s also something old-timey about the current road uniforms of the Yankees and Red Sox that appeals to me; the Cubs haven’t harnessed that yet. Perhaps it’s the white outline of the letters and numbers, or the fact that we sport 4 different colors on the front of the jersey. In any case, we’re due for a change – and while I like the all-blue alternates, I’d like to keep them as alternates only…something about too much of a good thing.
A Few Final Notes
There are other ways in which the Cubs could improve their uniforms – at least in my opinion. I prefer the home jerseys without names. They’ve changed this so much over the years that nearly any Cubs player of note during the last 30 years has played both with and without his name on the back of his jersey.
Put the regular logo on the alternates instead of the “C” with the giant walking bear. We have three different jerseys right now, and the featured writing/logo on the front is not the same on any of them.
And at the very least, return to the blue numbering on the away jerseys!
(You may have noticed that the uniform pictures are part of the Baseball Hall Of Fame. They have an amazing tool whereby you’re able to search and find any jersey from any MLB team since 1900. Check it out here, and be sure you have some time to waste before you do!)