Saturday, January 23, 2010

My friends at Uni Watch recently reported that the Phillies will be breaking out their 1970s powder blue uniforms at least once this year. That is a welcomed development, for I consider the powder blue to be the best uniform in Phillies history – mainly because they wore it when I was a kid, and the Phillies meant everything to me.

The news also reminded me of a mystery that has long baffled me. It concerns the space inside the P on the Phillies’ uniforms in the 1970s and 1980s. Section 1.11(e) of the official rules of Major League Baseball says, “No part of the uniform shall include a pattern that imitates or suggests the shape of a baseball.”

In 1970, the Phillies unveiled a new uniform with a new stylized P logo – and, in the space inside the P there was clearly a pattern that imitated or suggested the shape of a baseball.

By 1976, however, the baseball inside the P on the uniform had disappeared, and that’s how it stayed until the late 1980s, when it mysteriously reappeared!

(Odder still: Around 1979, it seems the space inside the P was briefly changed to make it look less like a baseball.)

What happened? After several seasons did MLB officials suddenly realize the uniform violated the rules, forcing the Phillies to change it? If so, did MLB subsequently grant the team a waiver to put the baseball back inside the P? Or was it all just the vagaries of uniform design at the time, an inconsistency due to a serious lack of attention to detail (a not at all unlikely scenario)?

Anyway, it’s something that, in my slightly obsessive way, I have always wondered about...

UPDATE: My brother Howard points out that the uniform of the Seattle Pilots also depicted a baseball. Seems a little small to me, but probably in violation of the rule.