Red pinstripes. Blue stars. A simple white home uniform, a gray road uniform and a third uniform coated in cream. (And a fourth jersey, which we’ll get to later …) The Phillies have a simple look, thought of as classic and fitting somewhere near the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Cardinals and Dodgers.
It always wasn’t that way, however. In the nascent days of the Phillies, the team switched plenty of times, from red to navy to red to yellow to royal blue. After switching temporarily to the secondary nickname Blue Jays (during World War II), the Phillies decided to retool completely. That’s when they went red for good.
But in 1991 the Phillies weren’t the same red of the 1950s and ’60s. As we know, in 1970 the team changed its look before and during its move into Veterans Stadium. The Phils – long regarded the butt of the National League – wanted to dazzle themselves up to fit the swingin’ ’60s and dynamic new ’70s. So they promoted a new home run spectacular in the outfield, rolled out the giant Colonial-clothed mascots Phil and Phyllis, and attempted to bring young men to the seats with the Hot Pants Patrol.
And to top it off, they changed their look. Out went the simple red typography, the crisp white home and gray road uniforms. And in went a burgundy “P” stylized with a ’70s tail, an impossible-to-sketch logo featuring Phil and Phyllis, and two wildly new uniforms: a white home outfit with burgundy pinstripes and rounded numbers, and – starting in 1973 – a powder blue road outfit, one of quite a few introduced in the early 1970s.
But the look got stale, partly because fashion changed dramatically after the early 1980s, and partly because the Phillies weren’t very good. The Phils changed a few things along the way, ditching the powder blue for traditional gray, and ditching Phil and Phyllis for an almost-as-impossible logo spotlighting Independence Hall, but the fact remained: the look just wasn’t right anymore.
So 1991 was the last year of the burgundy look. Immediately, team President Bill Giles and Co. told fans they’d go back in time, using the classic look that started around 1946 as a foundation.
The move also signaled a baseball-wide transition from the wild 1970s and ’80s to a 1990s focusing on updating tradition. Teams moved from Contemporary-styled multi-purpose stadiums and concrete domes to ballparks that resembled past cathedrals – places like Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Rangers Ballpark and Progressive Field. And they also ditched their old, colorful uniforms of the past for cleaner looks (like the Astros, Blue Jays and White Sox), whether for good or not.
The new look
But unlike teams like the Astros and Jays, the Phillies had a long history to pull from, and admittedly, the duds of the 1950s and ’60s are pretty cool. So the 1992 Phillies stepped onto the field in tweaked versions of those outfits – the “Phillies” typography across the chest (a little fatter than the classic version), on red pinstriped home uniforms (pinstripes were reintroduced in 1950), and the same typography across the chest of gray road uniforms. That’s it. No third looks, even during the 1990s when teams started stocking up on alternate looks.
They rolled out the new look with a wacky marketing ploy, using the Phillie Phanatic as a “guard” watching over the secret new uniforms. And, according to “More Than Beards, Bellies and Biceps: The Story of the 1993 Phillies” by Bob Gordon and Tom Burgoyne, Darren Daulton and Mickey Morandini were shown in a video waiting for the new duds … in their underwear. Yow.
The Phillies also changed the logo, now emphasizing the Liberty Bell over Independence Hall, placing the “Phillies” typography over the icon and framing it in a modified field layout. It’s a little comical, though the Phils haven’t been able to develop a more classic logo in recent decades, but it works, and has stood strong for the last 25 years.
The uniforms hold up better. The home pinstripes have become as iconic as the road powder blues of 1973-88, while the road grays are sharp, wisely not trying to fit too much (like, say, the word “Philadelphia”).
Changes since 1992
There have been small detours. With the 1993 team becoming immensely popular (and thus driving up merchandise sales), the Phillies added a blue cap in 1994. That was ditched quickly. In 1997, to mark interleague games, the Phillies went with a blue-billed cap. Again, that didn’t last too long.
In 2008 the Phils finally gave in and introduced an alternate uniform, but going with minor tweaks over a design overhaul. They decided to ditch the red pinstripes for a solid cream base, then emphasized the blue in typography only. That look worked; it’s one of the finest alternate uniforms in baseball. Part of that design includes a blue-top hat with a red bill. Still jarring, but of all previous options, the least so.
Possibly to shake up jersey sales with a really bad team, and possibly to focus fans on a younger, potentially dynamic team, the Phillies added a second alternate jersey in 2016. That red top with the standard typography, is a little amateurish.
If they want to sell more merchandise, I’d rather the Phils bring back the 1973-88 look a few times a year. While a wild diversion from what we know today, that look still shines. And, for the most part, so does the look we now have, a look that came alive in 1992.