NY Mets are back in black: A brief history of the club’s uniforms
By Alan Karmin
The New York Mets are back in the black. And, thankfully, these days we are not referring to the financial debacle caused by the Wilpons’ sordid association with that guy Madoff. Rather, we will be once again seeing the Mets don the black jerseys that have become synonymous with a specific era, one that brings back wonderful memories of one Mike Piazza.
That era was memorialized when Sports Illustrated named the Mets infield of John Olerud at first, Edgardo Alfonzo at second, Rey Ordonez at short, and Robin Ventura at third, as the best infield ever. And also memorialized were the black jerseys, as the magazines cover pictured the quartet donned in that uniform.
Jerry Seinfeld jokes that a uniform is nothing more than someone’s clothing. That you are actually rooting for clothing, not the person. The loyalty lays in the clothing.
When I was a kid, I actually chose the number that I came to always wear because of the way the number looked on a player’s back. That player was, believe it or not, Ken Boswell. I just loved the way that number 12 looked to me in the full block style on the old Mets gray road uniforms with the Tiffany style “New York” across the front.
New York Mets uniforms have changed over the years
Perhaps some fans don’t notice how the uniforms have changed, but I certainly have taken notice. Because although the current road uniforms are gray and sport the Tiffany “New York” across the front, they are not nearly the same as the originals that made such an impact on me.
Of course, the Mets began wearing wool uniforms like every other team. Home white. Road gray. Well, home was really a cream color, not really white. Home with Mets and a block number on the back. Road with the old Tiffany style “New York” on the front and a full block (different than the home number) number on the back.
In the early seventies, like the rest of the Major Leagues, the Mets went to polyester uniforms. But unlike most of the other teams, the style didn’t change. For instance, the Oakland A’s owner Charlie Finley would have the A’s wear solid jerseys with multi-colored piping – yellow for home, green for away, and white for Sunday games. Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck had his players talking to themselves, sending them out in shorts and jerseys that a v-neck with a collar. I kind of liked the A’s look but I was actually embarrassed for the Sox’ players.
And while I was hoping the Mets would come out with a blue jersey with orange and white piping on the sleeves and around the neck, the biggest change would be just adding blue and orange piping to the sleeves and collar in the late 70’s along with the players’ names on the back. Seeing Lee Mazzilli in that uniform is probably what made it look good. Because, in reality, it wasn’t all that great.
I love discussing uniforms and always get a kick out of hearing players talk about it themselves. Fans don’t realize how much players actually give thought to the uniforms they are wearing. It’s fun listening to Keith Hernandez go off on the “racing stripe” unis that the Mets wore during his time with the team. He hated them as a player, and I hated them as a fan. They were hideous. The worst were the road uniforms, first with “New York” in a script which never looked right, and then switched to a thin, block lettering that just looked so out of place. Probably the best era of competitiveness for the team, but the worst era for uniforms.
I am truly a traditionalist when it comes to baseball…including when it comes to the uniforms. I have always loved the old traditional uniforms, especially those worn by the Pirates and the Reds with the sleeveless blouse and the colored three-quarter shirt underneath.
Although I am a traditionalist, I do like when teams have the “alternate” jerseys that add some color to the uniform. Quite often, though, teams end up looking more like Sunday softball teams than Major League Baseball teams.
Fans embraced the New York Mets black jerseys
When the Mets introduced the black jerseys, the old traditionalist loved them. I am kind of fond of the color black. I was an artist who went to art school in NYC for five years and my mom was horrified that I began to incorporate so much black into my wardrobe and my bedroom. I always liked when teams had black as one of their colors, like the Colorado Rockies. I think the black and purple combination looks awesome. I thought when the Reds added black to their uniforms, though, it looked awful. Maybe because they are not part of the Reds color…I don’t know.
The Mets jerseys in black…love it. The dropped shadow for the lettering…not so much. But I, for one, am truly looking forward to seeing the return of those iconic jerseys, even though they are not one of the Mets official colors, they just happen to look good with the blue and orange.
And for those who will say that the Mets colors originated from the Dodgers and the Giants…well…the Giants were not only orange…they were black and orange. So we can say that the black is still within the color group from which they were conceived from, right?
While we’re at it, I dislike the orange button on the cap and I am truly annoyed that the number on the road jersey is the same as the one on the home jersey and nobody but me seems to notice. Who made those decisions? And why HASN’T anyone noticed?
Apparently, the black jerseys have made a big impact on fans. You see so many fans wearing them in the stands at the games. Some fans were clamoring for their return, while others have been completely dismissive about them. You either like them or you despise them. There must be SOMETHING about them because they are impossible to find to purchase.
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In fact, knowing that, I think it will actually irk me to watch Pete Alonso tear one of those black jerseys off someone’s body following a walk-off victory. Or maybe not.