In nearly a century and a half of existence, baseball has inspired uniforms of all different styles and colors. Some have been timeless and classic, some have been ridiculous (the New York Giants emblazoned “World Champions” on their jerseys for an entire year after winning the World Series), and some have been… well, loathsome affronts to the eyes and soul. Here, then, are ten of the ugliest uniforms to ever besmirch Major League Baseball:
10. Seattle Pilots (1969)
If you’ve never heard of the Seattle Pilots, it’s because they only played a single season before moving to Milwaukee and becoming the Brewers. And, if you looked at the picture above before reading this, you know why. It takes a special kind of hideous to relocate a franchise after one season, and the Pilots had it in spades. Part of it was the logo, a ship’s steering wheel with wings sprouting from it. When you can’t decide what form of transportation best embodies you so you just choose both, that’s a problem; you might as well have a jackalope for a mascot while you’re at it.
But the biggest offenders were the hats, complete with wings meant to evoke either a decorated naval officer or an airline captain. Possibly both. As it turns out, the people of Seattle were not interested in questioning whether to salute or throw beers at their new local boys, and so Bernie Brewer was born.
9. San Diego Padres (1972-1974)
Sweet Christmas, that’s a lot of yellow. As a rule, yellow is not a flattering color, and it gets worse when you realize this was the early ’70s, when statistically speaking 87% of all players were horrifically unattractive (but gloriously mustached). Green uniforms are good for masking grass stains, brown for concealing dirt, but I don’t want to know what the Padres were hiding with these. Did someone really think it was a good idea to construct an outfit around the two colors we most associate with bathroom functions?
A Sans-a-Belt completes the ensemble, because no pitcher wants to be 8 innings into a no-hitter only to start worrying about his pants falling down. Actually, you’ll never convince me they didn’t remove the belts to keep players from hanging themselves when they saw these uniforms.
8. Philadelphia Phillies (1979)
Philadelphia may be my team, but I’m not going to let them get away with this monstrosity unscathed. For Saturday games in 1979, the Phillies wore uniforms that looked like they’d just finished playing 7 Minutes in Heaven with Optimus Prime. Were the announcers having difficulty locating players on the field, or did some wiseass kids sneak in and dump a vat of ketchup in the washing machine one night? We may never know the truth, but one thing’s for sure: after this, being banned from baseball is only the second worst thing to ever happen to Pete Rose.
7. Chicago White Sox (1982-1986)
Is anyone else getting the urge to watch NASCAR right now? In all seriousness, both good and bad baseball uniforms serve as mini time capsules of the era they originated in, and no outfit better exemplifies what people in the 1980s thought the future would look like than this one. From ditching the superfluous “white” prefix to rendering the “Sox” in bold block letters, everything about this uniform brands it as the New Coke of the baseball world. And even though it’s red, white & blue, this is the sort of outfit Captain America would look at and say, “Whoa, hey…maybe tone it down a little, son. Just a thought.”
6. Baltimore Orioles (1971)
Is it really so hard to grasp that if your team’s colors are extremely bright and striking, you want the shirts and pants to at least be different hues? Apparently so, because here we are again. You know the Orioles designer was patting himself on the back for getting to this one before the Tigers did; while the colors definitely fit the team’s namesake, these uniforms really needed a few dozen runs through the laundry in order to fade them to a less eye-searing level first. On the plus side, orange & black are Halloween colors, and the Orioles were one of only two teams still playing baseball in late October. Maybe they knew something we didn’t.
5. Chicago White Sox (August 8, 1976)
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this uniform…if we’re watching a rousing game of futbol. Admit it, you thought I accidentally posted a soccer image by mistake, didn’t you? Nope — that is a genuine baseball uniform worn by the Chicago White Sox for exactly one game of a double-header on August 8, 1976. The team was somehow bombarded with insults by the visiting Royals in the afternoon (yes, there was a time when the Royals were allowed to make fun of other teams) and traded out the shorts for pants for the evening game. It was the right move — we hold our professional athletes to higher sartorial standards than our UPS drivers — but I’ll bet even today, there are a few mid-August games where players really wish shorts had caught on. Those damned collars, of course, will never be okay.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates (1979)
We established earlier that bright yellow is a highly unflattering color on ballplayers, but what puts this one over the edge is the train conductor hats. If Willie Stargell had walked by you wearing this uniform, you’d have to fight the urge to hand him your game ticket so he could punch it. At least they remembered to put the three horizontal stripes on, otherwise it would’ve just looked stupid. But hey, give the Pirates credit; they knew they were playing in the final World Series of the most fashion-challenged decade the world has ever seen, and they went for the gusto. Gotta respect that.
3. New York Giants (1916)
It’s rare to find such a fashion faux pas occurring before someone moves to San Francisco, but the Giants wore this plaid number back when they were still playing in New York. It may look funny to us now, but remember that it stems from an era when players were primarily paid in hot dogs and pennies hurled at them by unruly fans. No doubt these uniforms were a big time-saver when the players had to finish a game and hurry back to their full-time lumberjacking gigs. And it’s hard to imagine any modern player beating Paul Bunyan‘s record-breaking home run that landed in Arizona and created the Grand Canyon.
2. Miami Marlins (2012)
You can’t blame Marlins management for feeling the need to do something drastic after the last few years– their attendance is the second worst in baseball (thank you, Oakland), they can’t give away tickets, and they play baseball in a football stadium that’s been through a dozen name changes. Building a new stadium was a step in the right direction, as was rebranding the team and hiring a new manager, but the new uniforms… holy crap, did these guys lose a bet? I guarantee you Jeff Loria owes money to the Gay Mafia, because seriously, just look at that. I’m a friend of the Friends of Dorothy, but there’s pride and then there’s just a Technicolor nightmare. Guess which side of the line this falls on?
1. Houston Astros (1975-1993)
If you can say nothing else for all of the other entries on this list, at least they didn’t stick around too long — eventually sanity prevailed and all of the players were replaced with more aesthetically pleasing uniforms. What’s astonishing about the Astros’ old “orange rainbow” uniforms isn’t how garish they are, it’s how damn long they stuck around. The ’70s are one thing, but these outfits existed in the same period in history as grunge. Try to wrap your head around the fact that someone was wearing this, un-ironically, the day you first heard Pearl Jam.
Can’t do it, can you? Whether it’s the yellow and orange hues that perfectly embody the concept of “space,” or the numbers on the pants that naturally draw one’s attention to crotch level, the question was never whether this outfit would make the list… it was simply how far ahead it would be of #2.
By Drew Anderson