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Saturday, August 21, 2010
Detroit Tigers Uniform and Team History
Please click on the evolution of the Tigers uniform poster above for a close-up version of the poster. The descriptions below give you some insight and background about the uniforms and/or eras depicted in the poster.
The Detroit Tigers, in existence since at least 1894, joined the new American League when it was formed in 1901. The AL was initially an 8 team league, and the Tigers are one of four franchises still in existence in the same city as in 1901 – the other teams are the Red Sox, the White Sox and the Indians. The name “Tigers” originally came from the yellow and black stockings they wore in the 1890’s.
The collar on this 1907 jersey is the standard type of collar found on baseball uniforms at this time – it is a pointed collar that could be worn folded down or could be stood upright. When it was folded down, it was a blue collar. When standing upright, it was a white collar.
Note that the jersey has four buttons down the front, and is known as a “pullover” style jersey that had to be pulled over the head – once again, this was common in jerseys throughout baseball at this time. We believe the first major league team to wear a completely buttoned front jersey (ie one that didn’t have to be pulled over the head) was the 1909 Phillies, followed by the 1911 Cubs. The pullover style jersey finally disappeared after the 1939 season (the A’s were the last team to wear it), but of course pullovers resurfaced in a big way with the double knit era of the 70’s and 80’s.
If you notice, there is a center belt loop, which was to secure the belt buckle off to one side. Players of this era usually wore the belt buckle to one side so they could prevent injury when sliding into a base.
An old English “D” appears on the front of the jersey. The Tigers first used the old English style D on their 1904 road uniform – the first appearance of a lone “D” on the Tigers’ uniform was a plain “D” that they wore on their 1903 home and road uniforms. Although the monogram has gone through some changes in appearance, an old English “D” has been used on most Tiger home uniforms since 1905. The 1907 “D” is on a pocket, something the uniforms had from 1904-1907.
In 1907 the Tigers’ ballpark was Bennett Park. It opened on April 28, 1896 at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, the same location that Tiger Stadium (aka Navin Field, Briggs Stadium and Tiger Stadium) was built in 1912.
There are great photos in baseball history books of a young Ty Cobb wearing this very uniform. Cobb, owner of a lifetime .367 batting average (the best lifetime average in major league history), played for the Tigers from 1905 -1926.
The 1907 Tigers finished 92-58 and advanced to the World Series for the first time (the World Series began in 1903, but wasn’t staged in 1904, thus the 1907 Series was the 4th World Series) where they met the NL Champions Chicago Cubs. The Tinkers-Evers-Chance Cubs beat the Tigers in 4 straight.
In 1908, the Tigers finished with a 90-63 record and went to the World Series for a second straight year, and once again they faced the Cubs. The result was much the same as 1907 – the 1908 Cubs beat the 1908 Tigers 4 games to 1.
And again in 1909 the Tigers made it to the World Series on the strength of a 98-54 record (can you imagine that they played 152 games in a season even in this era?). This time they met the Pirates, and while it was a closely contested series, the Pirates beat the Tigers 8-0 in Detroit in the 7th and deciding game of the series.
The home uniform has what is known as a “cadet” collar, a small upright collar worn by many teams from about 1910 to the mid-late 20’s. The Detroit monogram has changed slightly since 1907, and it is no longer on a pocket (as it was in the 1907 painting). The US flag on the left sleeve is a show of patriotism marking America’s entry into World War I – a number of major league teams added a flag to their uniform part way through the 1917 season.
By 1917 the Tigers had been playing at Navin Field for 6 years (it opened in 1912). The ballpark would be known as Navin Field from 1912 – 1937, then it was known as Briggs Stadium, then finally known as Tiger Stadium.
In 1917 Ty Cobb was 31 years old and was in his 13th year with the Tigers. He led the league in batting average (.383), slugging percentage (.571), at bats (588), hits (225), doubles (44), triples (23) and stolen bases (55). But from 1915 – 1921 there was no MVP selection or award, so Cobb didn’t take home the 1917 MVP award which he surely would have won.
Also in 1917, the great Sam Crawford retires after 15 seasons with the Tigers. In his 19 year career, Crawford amassed a remarkable 312 triples, a record that still stands today.
The tiger on the left breast of this road uniform is one of two different tiger heads used by the Detroit Tigers on their home and away uniforms in 1927. This is the only year the Tigers ever used a tiger head on their jersey, and after this one year experiment the Tigers returned to their traditional old English “D” for their 1928 home uniforms.
We don’t know why the Tigers had two different Tiger heads in 1927, nor do we know when they wore each – perhaps they didn’t like the first style and switched part way through the 1927 season. If you have any insights into this mystery, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org . Our sources for the color of the Tigers’ heads are also sketchy, so if you have a color source, we’d love to hear from you!
1927 was the first year since 1904 that Ty Cobb wasn’t with the team. He signed with the A’s, and played for them in 1927 and 1928 – hitting .357 and .323 respectively.
On this road uniform we see the first appearance of the team nickname “Tigers” on the jersey. This is the only season that the word “Tigers” appears on the road uniform. It only appears once on the home uniform as well, that being in the 1960 season.
In 1931 the Tigers added pinstripes to both their home and road uniforms – pictured here is a home uniform. The Tigers first wore pinstripes in 1912 on their home uniforms, and they wore pinstripes on and off for the next 20 years. They wore pinstripes at home and on the road from 1931 – 1933, but have never worn pinstripes again.
As best we can tell, the first instance of pinstriped uniforms in major league baseball was in 1907. The Boston Braves road uniform were made from a gray flannel with a fine green pinstripe. Later that same year the Cubs had a new gray uniform with fine pin striping made for the World Series - they wore it for the World Series opener in Chicago and were later reprimanded by the league for not wearing a white uniform at home. The Yankees, most often associated with pinstripe uniforms, first wore a pinstriped uniform for one year at home in 1912 (the New York Times wrote about their 1912 home opener “The Yankees presented a natty appearance in their new uniforms of white with black pin stripes”), then every year from 1915 to the present.
The scripted “Detroit” on the front of a Tigers uniform first appeared in 1930 on the home & away uniforms, and it would be used on the road uniform right up to 1959.
This is a very simple Tigers road uniform, with blue piping around the collar and down the front, and a scripted “Tigers” across the front. We can’t help but see Hank Greenberg when we see this jersey. Greenberg had an amazing season for the Tigers in 1935 - he batted .328 with 36 home runs and 170 RBI. He was voted the American League MVP after not being picked for the all-star team.
The 1935 Tigers finished 93-58 and advanced to the World Series for the second year in a row (they lost 4 games to 3 to the “gas-house gang” St. Louis Cardinals in 1934) and fifth time ever (they lost 3 consecutive times from 1907-1909). And just like 1907 and 1908, their opponent was the Chicago Cubs. But the similarities end there – 1935 was to be a magic year for the Tigers as they beat the Cubs four games to two, winning their first ever World Series.
Despite losing Hank Greenberg to a broken wrist in game three, the Tigers won the World Series in dramatic fashion. The 9th inning of the final game, 3-3 tie. The Cub’s Stan Hack cracks a triple, but the Detroit pitcher Bridges retires the next 3 batters. In the bottom of the 9th, Mickey Cochrane hits a single and advances to second base on Charlie Gehringer’s groundout. Another single for Detroit came from Goose Goslin and the Tigers won their first World Series!
On a sad note, team owner Frank Navin passed away on November 13th due to a heart ailment at the age of 64. Walter Briggs Sr., who was a half-owner of the team, bought the remainder of the team and became Tigers president, paving the way for the 1938 re-naming of the Tigers’ home turf from Navin Field to Briggs Field.
This is the classic Tigers home uniform that looks remarkably similar to the uniform of today. It has been written that except for a brief transgression in 1960, the Tigers’ old English “D” logo “enjoys the longest continuous usage of any major league uniform insignia” (as per Marc Okkonen in Baseball Uniforms of the 20th Century).
Note the Stars and Stripes patch on the left sleeve of this uniform. During the Second World War, the question is raised, should able-bodied athletes of baseball be fighting for their country rather than playing baseball? Baseball Commissioner Landis asked President Franklin D. Roosevelt what to do - here is part of Roosevelt’s reply:
“I honestly feel it would be best for the country to keep baseball going. There will be fewer people unemployed and everybody will work longer hours and harder than ever before… Here is another way of looking at it - if 300 teams use 5,000 or 6,000 players, these players are a definite recreational asset to at least 20,000,000 of their fellow citizens - and that in my judgment is thoroughly worthwhile.”
Wartime sleeve patches were worn by all levels of professional baseball teams between 1942 and 1945. A “Health” patch was worn during the 1942 season, part of a war-time health and fitness awareness campaign, and from 1943-1945 this “Stars and Stripes” patch was worn.
Bolstered by the return of Hank Greenberg (he has been in the Armed Forces for 3 ½ seasons), the Tigers finish in first, 1 ½ games ahead of the Senators.
Once again, the Cubs provide the opposition (this is the Tigers’ 7th World Series appearance and 4th against the Cubs!).
In a see-saw series that the Cubs led one game to none and two games to one, the final four games are all played in Chicago. The Tigers take games 4 and 5 to go up 3 games to 2, then the Cubs bounce back with a 8-7 12th inning win in game six. In game 7, the Tigers go up 5-0 in the top of the first, and hold the lead the rest of way for a 9-3 win and 4-3 series victory. The Tigers were led by Doc Cramer’s 11 hits and Hank Greenberg’s .304 average and great pitching by Dizzy Trout and Hal Newhouser.
This is the Cubs’ 7th World Series loss in a row after having won their 1st two appearances in 1907-1908.
The Tigers added an orange outline to the scripted lettering on their road uniforms in 1952, as seen in this 1956 road uniform. The scripted “Detroit” on the front of a Tigers uniform first appeared in 1930 on the home & away uniforms, and it would be used on the road uniform from 1930 right up to 1959.
By 1956 young Tigers outfielder Al Kaline was in his 4th season with the Tigers. He had become a genuine superstar at 20 years of age in 1955 when he batted.340 and had 200 hits. In doing this, he became the youngest player in league history to win a batting title.
A side note: During the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s many teams used zippered jerseys instead of the more traditional button front jerseys. The Tigers briefly wore a zippered uniform for part of the 1938 season, otherwise they would join the Reds, Yankees and A’s as one of only three pre-1977 major league teams to have never worn zippers. The 1937 Cubs were the first team to wear a zippered jersey, and as far we can tell the 1988 Phillies were the last to wear one.
This is a home jersey, and it marked quite a radical departure for the Tigers uniform. The team had undergone a change of ownership, and the new management team decided to make some changes to the Tigers’ uniform.
First of all, numbers appear on the front of a Tigers’ jersey for the first time in 1960, a one year experiment, and won’t be seen again until the early 90’s. Uniform numbers first made their appearance on the front of a uniform in 1952 - the Brooklyn Dodgers were the first team to do so. The Braves followed suit in 1953, and the Reds joined in beginning in 1956. The 1916 Cleveland Indians actually wore a uniform number on their sleeve, but it wasn’t until the ’52 Dodgers that the number made it to the front.
A second radical difference for the Tigers was the fact that they replaced the old English “D” on their home uniform (a tradition since 1934) with a scripted “Tigers”. The only other time that Detroit used the word “Tigers” on a uniform was their 1928 road uniform.
Note also the underline “swoosh” - this style was introduced to baseball by the 1932 Cubs, and has been worn by many teams since then. This 1960 home jersey is the only time that the Tigers use this design element.
When the Walter Briggs Sr. passed away in 1952, his son Walter Jr. took on the team presidency. John Fetzer purchased the team in 1960 and became club president. In keeping with tradition (see the 1935 write up), Briggs Stadium was renamed Tiger Stadium.
The 1960 experiment with a uniform number on the front of the jersey is a distant memory, but as you can see in this 1968 painting the Tigers did wear a uniform number on the right sleeve of their road uniform for a while. But the story of 1968 isn’t the road uniform – it was the team itself.
Denny McLain has a record season, 31-6 and is the last pitcher to win 30 games in one season. He was also honoured with the A.L. MVP award and the Cy Young Award.
After finishing 103-59 under the leadership of Mayo Smith, the Tigers face the St. Louis Cardinals and powerful Bob Gibson in the World Series. This is the Tigers’ 8th trip to the World Series – they won in 1935 and 1945, lost in 1907-08-09, 1934 & 1940.
After falling behind 3 games to one, the win game 5 at home with 3 runs in the 7th to win the game 5-3. Then it was on to St. Louis for game 6, where Denny McLain pitches on 3 days rest and the Tigers pound the Cards 13-1, setting the stage for a dramatic 7th game in St. Louis.
Going into the 7th it was a 0-0 – Gibson for the Cards vs Mickey Lolich for the Tigers. Gibson was pitching on 4 days rest after having won games1 and 4, Lolich pitching on 3 days rest after winning games 2 and 5. Finally Jim Northrup slams a two run triple in the 7th and the Tigers score 3 in the 7th, add one more in the 9th and then hang on as the Cards scratch one run in the bottom of the ninth. Both Lolich and Gibson pitch complete games, with Lolich emerging as the Series MVP.
Thus the 1968 Tigers become the 3rd team ever to win the World Series after being down 3 games to 1.
We can’t overlook Detroit slugger Al Kaline, who pounded out 11 hits for a .379 average. He would go on to retire in 1974, ending an impressive 22 year career (all with the Tigers) with a total of 399 home runs, 3007 hits and a lifetime batting average of .297. He was inducted into the Hall Of Fame in 1980.
PS from August 2016: Reader Frank Mervyn recently sent me a note asking me if I knew why some members of the 1968 Tigers wore a uniform number (only) on their left sleeve while others (only) wore it on their right? I asked Frank for some visual references, and he kindly sent me the images below which clearly show the issue. Anyone out there got an answer/suggestion as to why this was the case?
This road jersey is of a double-knit style that most major league teams succumbed to during the 70’s and early 80’s. It was a pullover style, made of stretchy, synthetic material. The pants were called “Sans-a-Belt”’s because the elasticized waistline eliminated the need for a belt. The “double-knit” era started in 1972 for the Tigers and ended after they won the World Series in 1984.
Interestingly, the Tigers only wore the double-knit style on the road, sticking with their traditional button-down front jersey, belted pants and old English “D” at home. During this 1970’s-80’s period, the Tigers were one of the only teams to have such contrasting styles at home vs on the road.
This home uniform is still the same after so many years. The old English “D” has been on the Tigers’ home uniform since 1934 with the single exception of the 1960 season. It has been written that except for the brief 1960 transgression, the Tigers’ old English “D” logo “enjoys the longest continuous usage of any major league uniform insignia” (as per Marc Okkonen in Baseball Uniforms of the 20th Century).
It’s also interesting to note that from 1972 – 1984, the Tigers wore this traditional style jersey at home, yet they wore the buttonless, “sans-a-belt” style uniform on the road, During this 1970’s-80’s period, the Tigers were one of the only teams to have such contrasting styles at home vs on the road.
The 1984 Tigers had the fastest start to a season in major league history, jumping out to a record 35 wins against just 3 losses. Led by Kirk Gibson, Allan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, pitchers Jack Morris and Guillermo Hernandez, and manager Sparky Anderson, the Tigers finished the season with a 104-58 record, 15 games ahead of second place Toronto. The Tigers blew by the Royals in 3 straight games in the ALCS, then faced the surprising San Diego Padres. This is the Tigers 9th visit to the World Series, and the Padres first.
After losing game two, the Tigers make quick work of the Padres and wrap up the Series in 5 games. Sparky became the first manager ever to win a W.S. in both the National League and the American League. Jack Morris won both is starts, and Kirk Gibson drove in 7 runs with 6 hits, but Allan Trammell went 9 for 20 for a .450 batting average and thus won the World Series MVP.
Compare the 1999 home uniform to the 1907 home uniform – it’s remarkable how similar they are, and it’s a tribute to good taste and elegant, simple design that the Tigers recognize a good thing when they see it.
The patch on the left sleeve of this 1999 home uniform is in honor of the last season played at Tiger Stadium – in 2000 they moved to Comercia Park. For their entire time in the American League, from 1901 – 1999, the Detroit Tigers have always played ball in the same location – at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. At first it was Bennett Park, then in 1912 their new Navin Field opened, later renamed Briggs Stadium (in 1937) and later renamed again Tiger Stadium (in 1960).
But through it all there was one constant - the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. And that’s what is featured on the left sleeve patch, a street sign showing intersecting street sign with the words “Michigan and Trumbull”.
The patch also honors one other Navin/Briggs/Tiger Stadium idiosyncrasy - a flagpole. Tiger Stadium had a flagpole in the field of play, something no other ballpark had. This is the sort of character lost on many new ballparks, and the sort of thing that will help keep Tiger Stadium alive in the memories of fans forever.
Text not yet written but enjoy the 2005 uniform.
Celebrate the Tigers' uniform history by owning a piece of history:
If you love the Detroit Tigers and the history of the Tigers franchise, you might really love to own an original piece of artwork celebrating the team's historic uniforms as seen in the poster at the top of this blog - you can actually own one of those original pieces of art! There are only 14 pieces of original art available for sale, and when these 14 are sold, that's it, they're all sold out.
These original watercolor paintings would make a great gift (birthday gift, anniversary gift, retirement gift, Christmas gift, etc.) for someone you love or even a great gift for yourself (one of these framed pieces would look fantastic in your home or office). Each piece can be bought one of three ways:
1. As unframed art that you could have framed or mounted yourself (the one on the left)
2. Framed in our "Classic" framed version (the middle version)
3. Framed in our "Deluxe" framed version (the version on the right)
If you would like more information about this great artwork including the three ways you could purchase each piece, please visit our Detroit Tigers YouTube video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pDZAZI64y8 or go directly to the artwork website www.heritagesportsart.com/Detroit-Tigers-c143/ where you can see and purchase the artwork.
And if someone you know loves the history of sports uniforms (but maybe another team) and loves great art, please let them know that we have over 1500 pieces of great original artwork for sale at www.heritagesportsart.com (all NFL teams, all MLB teams, all NHL teams, all CFL teams, select NCAA football teams) or check out each team's video at the Heritage Sports Art YouTube Channel www.youtube.com/user/ssillcox
And please search my blog archive http://heritagejerseys.blogspot.com/ for other blogs on the history of the Tigers.
This text was written by Scott Sillcox and was last updated August 21, 2010. I have tried to ensure the accuracy of the information, but I am human and can make mistakes. If you believe I have made a mistake, please let me know by email at email@example.com !