Thursday, July 25, 2013

Turning Back the Clock to... 1923

Last Saturday, the Milwaukee Brewers welcomed the Miami Marlins to Miller Park for the Eighth Annual Negro League Tribute Game. The Brewers' new 1923 Milwaukee Bears throwback uniforms made their debut.

The visiting Marlins wore throwback uniforms to 1956, with the modern addition of a patch reading "28" on the right sleeve, honoring Hall of Famer Satchel Paige, who was a member of that team.

I don't know what that year was selected (the previous two Brewer Turn Back the Clock events involved matching years: the 1913 Brewers against the 1913 Cardinals and the 1948 Brewers against the 1948 St. Paul Saints (Twins). There is an interesting connection, albeit one that seemed to go relatively unremarked during the game. The Miami uniforms were from Bill Veeck's tenure in charge of the Marlins (he was also responsible for bringing Paige to Miami). Veeck, as we all know, was a seminal figure in Milwaukee baseball history.

The grounds crew got into the act, replacing the Brewer logo on the mound with a block "M".

It proved to be a fantastic game, and not just because the Brew Crew managed to break their 0-2 losing streak in Turn Back the Clock games. Both teams looked absolutely amazing.

I absolutely love the pinstriped Bears uniforms, and the visitors looked equally sharp. If the Marlins were really so keen on making orange a primary team color when they changed uniforms a couple years ago, this is the set they should have adopted.

Not to mention that swinging marlin sleeve logo – oh, baby!

That's where the Veeck lineage really shines through.

Not content with just old logos, the unis had the baggy fit common to the period. In his radio call, Bob Uecker joked that starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo (who was pitching a masterful game) would start requesting that looser cut in all his uniforms.

In addition to the throwback cut, the Marlins' uniforms had another detail worth noting; embedded in the fabric was a textured pattern resembling vintage flannel.

I don't yet know who manufactured the uniforms, except that it wasn't Majestic. Their exclusive deal with Major League Baseball not only gives them right of first refusal to supply throwbacks, it ensures that no other manufacturer's logo can be placed on jerseys or pants. These were unmarked, and not for period authenticity. A faux-flannel texture was originally developed by Under Armour, and supplied to some of their college baseball teams three years ago.

The Brewers have in the past turned to AIS to order their Negro League throwbacks, and perhaps they did again. We'll see when game-used jerseys start showing up on the collectibles market.

There were a few small changes from the earlier incarnations of this uniform: the 2006-2008 version had a white "M" on the helmets. This year, they were blank (as they were on the 1913 and 1948 throwbacks).

In fact, both teams wore their regular batting helmets, although neither matched the throwback color scheme. This was particularly noticeable on the Miami helmets, black and emblazoned with their contemporary logo.

The Brewers' navy was close enough to go unnoticed, especially once they stripped off the front logo:

All the regular identifying details on the back (including the MLB batterman logo) were left on. If anything, it shows how dark the Brewers' navy is, that it could pass for black.

Most of the Twitter traffic during the game, to say nothing of message boards and Deadspin, revolved around a curious uniform malfunction across the chest of Brewer manager Ron Roenicke:

That wasn’t the biggest problem, to my eye. New Era made a small but crucial alteration to the Bears’ caps, swapping out the black squatchee for a white one. Somehow I missed that when the first caps hit the shelves.

Violates my First Law of Cap Aesthetics; a contrasting brim should always have a matching squatchee. Throws the whole thing out of balance when they don't match. Look at the publicity photo issued in 2006:

So much better.

Still, it's hard to be picky with a great pair of throwback unis (not to mention a Brewer win). If these are the Bear uniforms we see going forward every season, I’ll be a very happy Brewer fan.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this article was previously published on Uni Watch.

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