A brief history of the Chicago Cubs baseball jersey
Moment of full disclosure: I am a jersey affectionato. I realize how much of a loser it makes me, but I would wear a baseball jersey every day of the week if I could. I don't care if it's January of July, if the Cubs are first or last, I like wearing these shirts. I'm wearing one right now - my Kerry Wood blue alternate.
Baseball jerseys are my smack. My h-train is a j-train. If I see a cool jersey, my pupils dilate, my pulse quickens, and endorphins are released into my brain. Actually, the same is the case when it comes to hats.
I own the pinstripe home uniform - #8 Andre Dawson - the road grey, two blue alternates (a Sosa that I stopped wearing seven years ago and Wood), a Cooperstown Ernie Banks jersey that is literally falling apart, a Mark Prior jersey that looks like it belongs to a softball team, and a Dominican Republic jersey from the Caribbean Series. And I. Want. More.
I like the Cubs uniforms. They're nice. Classic. Practically unchangeable. Except I think it would be awesome if the Cubs did just that - changed things up a little bit. Considering how marketing savvy those guys are, I just can't believe nobody has touched up the uniforms at all. Besides, the blue pinstripes have only been around since the late 50's. There are plenty of traditional, classic looks that the Cubs have in their repertoire.
Rather than give you the detailed history of these uniforms, I'm going to highlight some of the most interesting.
(All credit goes to the Baseball Hall of Fame)
1908 - the Cubs C with a bear appears for the first time. Not without coincidence, this team kicked ass.
1916 - For the first time in the team's history, the big C is red. Note the "walking bear."
1918 - A one-year experiment with pinstripes. There are several old newspapers which report that the road Cubs - in their atrocious reds - were repeatedly chased out of town by indignant mobs who were angry that their sensibilities had been so greatly offended.
1929 - Steak Sauce. I'd love to see this uniform sold in the stores around Wrigleyville. It's all the colors and the basic look of what we've come to love today minus the pinstripes. (Actually these uniforms first came into use a few years earlier, but this is the first year of a darker road grey with an arm patch.)
1932 - Check these ones out. The Cubs experiment with 4 different choices, including red pinstripes and, for the road uniform, a red hat. Note that both road uniforms include a arm sleeve Cubs logo.
1933 - More steak sauce. This is perhaps my favorite home jersey in Cubs history. Again, why the hell can't they sell this in the team store? There are idiots like me flailing about with cash-in-hand wanting to buy these jerseys.
Behold the innovation of the 1941 Cubs. Actually in this era the Cubs were responsible for a lot of uniform firsts. They were the first team to use zippers instead of buttons in 1937 - something that would be common for decades to follow - they were the first team to go sleeveless in 1940, and here they are the first team with the powder blue road uniforms. The powder blues would last two seasons before the angry mobs crushed the team's will to wear them. This is also the first time the Cubs logo has most-resembled today's version.
1957 - the first year that the pinstripes became common. This was also the only year in which the Cubs road jersey said "Cubs" in it. When I was a kid I had the blue hat with white stripes. Upon reflection, it was pretty ugly. Incidentally, in 1962 the Cubbie bear patch is added to the home and road uniforms.
1978 - Why Cubs, why? Blame the Montreal Expos for the return popularity of the powder blues - I guess the Cubs were just three decades ahead of their time - but in 1978 the Cubs became the first and only team to have white stripes on their blue road jerseys. Look up ugly in the dictionary ... well, you know. And yet they sell this jersey but not the other, older, cooler ones.
1982 - The coolest ever. I grew up watching the Cubs when they had the blue road uniforms, which is perhaps entirely why I like the modern alternates so much. I realize that older Cub fans will scorn me for that, but you guys grew up admiring the powder blues, so you've got nothin' on me.
1990 - And with a few bumps and modifications, this has been the basic Cubs jersey template of the past 19 years. It amazes me to realize that we've got readers who have known nothing but the uniforms of the last two decades. But, unbelievably, it's true.
I think the Cubs are long overdue for a jersey overhaul. There are plenty of designs they can incorporate which would not fly in the face of the team's traditional look. It just seems to me that, with so many cool designs in the team's storied history, it's limiting to pretend that the current look is "old school" and is irreplacable by anything else.
And perhaps as early as tomorrow, I will present to you design options for ... the jersey of the future!