Saturday, February 16, 2008

Reason #21: The Uniforms.

The powder blues are coming back. Enough said.

Well, not enough. (Like I could write eight words about any topic.) The fascination Royals fans have had with the powder blue uniforms is not easy to understand at first. You don’t hear Padre fans pining for a return of the Would-You-Like-Fries-With-That brown unis, or Astro fans haranguing management to bring back the rainbow brites. The powder blues were never the fashion faux pas that those uniforms were, but let’s face it: they looked like pajamas. The Blue Jays, who wore similar powder-blue uniforms for a few years, are bringing theirs back as well, and I don’t think their fan base is nearly as excited as ours is.

Here’s the thing: if Royals fans sit down and think about it rationally, we realize that we don’t love the powder blue uniforms. We love the teams that wore them. The Royals introduced the unis in 1973, and stopped wearing them after the 1991 season, a 19-year stretch which almost perfectly coincides with the team’s glory era: in those 19 years they finished over .500 fifteen times and went to the playoffs seven times. In the team’s other 20 years (1969-1972 and 1992-2007) they’ve had three winning seasons and never won more than 85 games. By comparison, the Blue Jays wore theirs from their debut in 1977 until 1990. They had some good years in there, but it was only after abandoning the powder blues that they shed the “Blow Jays” label and won two straight world championships.

If the Royals had started wearing those uniforms in 1997, fans would be burning them in effigy. But instead of watching Ken Harvey chase after popups like a beached whale in pajamas, our memories are of Hal McRae charging the second baseman like a mad bull to break up a double play, of George Brett lining yet another ball into the gap, of Willie Wilson flying around the bases for another inside-the-park-home run.

When Brett hit Gossage’s fastball into the upper deck in the 1980 ALCS, he was wearing powder blues. When Chip Ambres dropped a routine flyball with two outs in the ninth, allowing the Indians to go on and score 11 runs in the inning and win 13-7, prolonging a losing streak that would reach 19 games…he was not.

So I don’t want to overstate the appeal of the new uniforms: if the Royals continue to lose, the fans are going to tire of them quickly. Regardless, it’s not going to be quite the same as before. For one thing, the Royals are not bringing them back as road uniforms, but as alternate home uniforms. This makes sense – the fans want to see them, after all – but it also means we’re not going to see much of them.

And not to go all Paul Lukas on you, but whereas the road uniforms had “Kansas City” in white block letters from 1973 to 1983 – which is the way I like to remember them, not the white cursive “Royals” from 1984 to 1990 – the new uniforms have the cursive “Royals” on the front, but in dark blue with white trim. When you’re going for nostalgia, you’re not supposed to stop at 90%. I hope the team realizes that the appeal of the powder blues will directly correlate with how much they resemble the original product, and they reconsider the color scheme in the future.

But in the meantime, if the Royals win their first few Sunday home games, the uniforms could take on a life of their own, becoming less a piece of clothing than a talisman. The team has already announced they plan to debut them on Saturday during the season’s opening homestand. If the Royals are shrewd, they’ll end the Buddy Bell practice of sending out the “Sunday lineup” and resting all the regulars, and work the rotation to make sure one of their better starters (i.e. not Brett Tomko) is toeing the rubber on home Sundays. A little psychological warfare never hurt anybody.

13 comments:

Devon said...

YES YES YES! Powdah bluuee. They were even wearing powder blue in game 5 of the I-70 series. I love your countdown here. The Royals are one of my favorite teams ever since I lived near KC a few years ago....they stunk at the time, but who cares about that. I remember when I was little and they had Brett, Wilson, and Quiz. I'd love to see them kick the Red Sox in the gut in a good solid playoff series.

Jeff said...

How funny, I was talking to my dad about the power blue uniform's this morning and he said it wasnt the uniform's he liked but George Brett in the uniform. We are both going to be there the first time they break them out.

Isaac said...

I'm an old schooler and don't think they should be wearing them until they are good enough to wear them. Otherwise, they just disrespect the teams that made those powder blues so loved by the fans. Also, I think the new ones stink. If they are going to do them, then do them right and stick Kansas City on the front like it used to be and make them the road unis. Most people have TVs nowadays and FOXKC will be showing some 144 games this year. If they lose in these unis, they will just ruin the legend that accompanies them. I agree with Rany. BTW, thanks for starting this blog.

Isaac said...

In response to Jeff's comment, I have never lived in KC but my family is from there. I have been a fan since 76 and loyal ever since. I go out to KC every few years from my home just north of LA to see a week of KC games. I will be going to opening day this year for the first time and will be there for the Saturday and Sunday games. It should be interesting.

shay said...

I love the new unis, but am wary of the Jose Guillen in them.

For purists, are you arguing that the Royals should go back to the pullover tops, too? The old style powder blue with white lettering struck me as hard to see. The royal blue framed by white pops.

This team is improving and the uniform change reminds them and the fans that its getting better all the time!

Scott said...

There seems to be quite a bit of excitement in KC about the powder blues, which I could not understand, since I remember the relief that they had done away with them being pretty widespread once they broke out the gray road uniforms. I think that your suspicion that they are associating the powder blues with the best years of the team makes sense, and explains a lot of the excitement about bringing them back.

Pops said...

The powder blue enthusiasm is completely lost on me. Since the 70s has become generally regarded as "the decade that style forgot," particularly in baseball, this phony nostalgia seems particularly ill-suited. But Rany touches on the worser of it - the return to "Royals," as opposed to block-lettered "Kansas City" on the road unis. That move was originally the brainchild of John Schuerholz, who wanted the franchise to wear something that wouldn't put off its "regional" fan base. I wonder just how regional the teams fan base is after the past 15 years of soul-numbing suckage? At any rate, actual Kansas Citians are ponying up big bucks for stadium renovations, and this backsliding to "Royals" seems even more inappropriate than the disco-era duds to me.

Drew said...

Ah, yes. Aug. 9, 2005. I was at that fine, fine baseball game. Definitely the low point of my decades of Royals watching. Thanks for bringing back that memory:
http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/recap?gameId=250809107

Max said...

I'm with you Rany, do it right, or don't do it at all.

If teams are going to bring back throwback unis, will they also bring back the bullpen car? I loved those things, and found them completely unnecessary. A paid athlete can't walk across the field on his own?

Cardinal70 said...

Funny, the Cards won the series in '82 wearing powder blue, but that doesn't make me feel any fonder toward them!

Alex said...

So what is to become of the Royal Blue jerseys of Sundays past? I'm working on getting my Gordon #4 jersey in the royal blue, but that's turned into a big problem. I would get the authentic if they made it in a size small (the medium (40) almost goes down to my knees), and they don't seem to make that jersey in a replica version for some reason. I have no problem finding size small black replica Royals jerseys that they haven't worn in about 4 years, but the royal blue one is nowhere to be found. Anyone had any luck finding the royal blue replica jersey?

btw - if you need any MLB jersey (except the one I've mentioned of course), www.triplethreatsports.com is by far the best place I've seen, and trust me, I've been searching high and low for months.

Anonymous said...

Rany,

Do you personally have nostalgia for the block "KANSAS CITY" powder blues? I am one year older than you, and the first year that I personally can recall anything about the Royals was 1980. I've loved them from then, but most of my personal nostalgia is the cursive "Royals" blues.

Anonymous said...

Pops,

It sounds as if you don't want the Royals to have a regional fan base. They need it to be stronger than it currently is to have any chance of competing in the revenue game that baseball unfortunately is.

I think most regional fans could care less about a throwback jersey and what lettering is on it. The ones in Missouri are just glad that they can get access to all of the television brodcasts for the first time in a long time.