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Monday, August 16, 2010

Milwaukee Brewers Uniform and Team History



Please click on the evolution of the Brewers 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.

1969


The Milwaukee Brewers franchise began in 1969 as an expansion team in Seattle, and was known as the Seattle Pilots. After finishing last in the six team American League West with a record of 64-98 (actually a respectable record for an expansion team), the team was in financial disarray and moved to Milwaukee where it was renamed the “Brewers”. Milwaukee had enjoyed a major league team from 1953 to the end of 1965, when the Milwaukee Braves moved to Atlanta.

The first two uniforms we see on the poster are the Pilots home and road jerseys. On both tops the lettering is a very non-traditional script and has a certain “futuristic” look. Note also that there is a patch on the front of the jersey as opposed to the more traditional patch location on the sleeve. The patch is a baseball with pilot’s wings.

The home jersey, which says “Pilots”, also features numbers on the front of the uniform. Uniform numbers first made their appearance on the front of a uniform in 1952 - the Brooklyn Dodgers were the first team to wear uniform numbers on the front of their jersey. 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.

Although barely visible, the commemorative patch on the right sleeve of each jersey, which features the MLB batter logo, was worn by all Major League teams in 1969 in honor of the 100th year of professional baseball. The patch celebrates the Cincinnati Red Stockings’ 1869 team that was the first openly professional team and went 65-0 in a nationwide barnstorming season.


1970


In the Brewers inaugural season, the city of Milwaukee welcomed back major league baseball with open arms – as noted earlier Milwaukee was home to the major league Braves from 1953 to the end of 1965, when the team moved to Atlanta.

The Brewers began play in 1970 at Milwaukee County Stadium, and they would stay there until 2001 when Miller Park was opened. The team crawled out of the A.L. West basement, finishing fifth in the standings with a 65-97 record (9 games ahead of the woeful White Sox). One reason for optimism was the play of third baseman, Tommy Harper. Harper led the team in batting (.296), home runs (31) and RBI (82), while finishing second in the American League in both stolen bases (38) and doubles (35).

The 1970 Brewers’ uniforms owe a little of their design to the 1969 Seattle Pilots, but gone is the “futuristic” lettering and the numbers on the front of the home uniform (the home uniform is the white jersey, the road uniform the blue jersey). Of note about the road uniform: for years baseball tradition was that a team would wear their nickname on the front of their home uniform, and the city name on the front of their road uniform. But in the late 60’s and early 70’s many teams (Oakland A’s, Minnesota Twins, Washington Senators, California Angels, Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Montreal Expos), went against baseball tradition and displayed the teams’ nickname, not hometown, on their road uniform.


1974


Although the Brewers finished last or second last in their division every season from 1970 to 1974, in 1974 a ray of hope appeared in the person of an 18 year old rookie shortstop named Robin Yount. In 1974 Yount batted .250 in 107 games and the Brewers inched their way closer to a .500 season with a best-ever mark of 76-86.

Please note: After starting out life in Seattle in 1969 in the AL West, and staying there for their first two seasons in Milwaukee, the Brewers shifted to the AL East in 1972. This was perhaps a harbinger of things to come as the nomadic Brewers would later leave the AL East for the brand new AL Central (in 1994), then leave the AL entirely for the NL (they made the move in 1998).

This home jersey is of a double-knit style that most major league teams succumbed to during the 70’s and early 80’s. The jersey is 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 1970 Pirates were the first double-knit sans-a-belt team, and the Cards and Astros joined them in 1971. By 1975 two thirds of major league teams had succumbed.

Note also that the stripes on the sleeve have gotten much thicker since the 1970 jersey, and note also that uniform numbers have reappeared on the front of the jersey.


1978


Finally – the Brewers finish above .500! In fact, Brewers smash their previous best season record (1974’s 76-86 mark) and finish with a remarkable 93-69 record, good for third place in the AL East, just 6½ games back of the Yankees.

1978 is also notable because it was the season that rookie 2nd baseman Paul Molitor joined shortstop Robin Yount in the Brewers’ infield. Molitor hit .273 in 125 games this season. Pitching was also a major improvement, led by Mike Caldwell who finished with a stellar 22 and 9 record. Things were looking up and would only get better.

This season would mark the first appearance of “Milwaukee” on the front of the team’s road uniforms. As noted earlier, baseball tradition calls for a team to wear their nickname on the front of their home jerseys, and the city name on the front of their road jerseys. The Brewers (and several other teams in the 70’s) bucked this trend but finally fell to tradition in 1978.

While not pictured, the 1978 home uniforms adopted a pinstripe style (see the 1981 uniform).


1981


1981 was an unusual season in baseball - because of a player strike partway through the season, the season was split in two halves, with the division winner of the first half matched up against the division winner of the second half.

In an extremely tight race in the AL East, the Brewers finished the second (post-strike) season in first, one game ahead of the Orioles and two games up on both the Yankees and Tigers. Thus the Brewers (who finished both seasons with a combined 62-47 record) make their first appearance in the post season, playing a best of five Division Playoff series against the AL East first half winners, the Yankees.

With the Brewers on the verge of elimination down 2 games to 0, they stormed back to win the next 2 games in New York, thus forcing a fifth and deciding game, also in New York. Milwaukee took a quick 2-0 lead in game five, only to have the Yankees take the lead in the 4th. The Yanks would go on to win the game 7-3.

The off-season would see Brewers’ relief pitcher Rollie Fingers showered with both the Cy Young Award and the American League MVP honor, the first time in major league history that a relief pitcher won both awards in the same season.

Note that this home uniform features pinstripes. The brewers adopted the pinstriped look in 1978. Gone is the yellow trim around the arms, while the yellow and blue trim around the collar and waist are now just blue.


1982


Not skipping a beat, the 1982 Brewers finish the season atop the AL East, with a 95-67 record. The batting leaders were Robin Yount, who hit .331 and 29 homers, Cecil Cooper who hit .313 with 32 dingers, and Paul Molitor, who chipped in with a .302 average and 19 home runs. Pete Vukovich led the way for the pitchers with an 18-6 mark and a 3.34 ERA, and every starter finished above .500 (Caldwell went 17-13, Haas 11-8, McClure 12-7, Slaton 10-6 and Randy Lerch 8-7).

In the post-season the Brewers came up against the California Angels for the pennant in a best of 5 series. It was a sense of déjà vu as the Royals dropped the first two games in California (they went down 2-0 to the Yankees the season before), only to come back and win the next two games at home, forcing a fifth and deciding game in Milwaukee. With the Angels up 3-2 in the 7th, the Brew Crew scored two runs off a Cecil Cooper single to take a 4-3 lead. The Brewers shut down the Angels after that and hung on for the win to collect their first American League pennant. The Brewers were also the first team to win a Championship Series after trailing 2-0.

Their next opponent was the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals. The World Series saw the 1st two games played in St. Louis, followed by three in Milwaukee, with the final two back in St. Louis.

Milwaukee took the first game in a rout 10-0 only to lose the following two games. The Brewers then won the next two games to go up 3 games to 2 and only needed one more victory to claim their first World Series Championship.

In game six, however, the Cards crushed the Brewers 13-1, forcing a deciding game seven in St. Louis. The Brewers were up 3-1 going into the bottom of the 6th when the Cards scored 3 runs of their own to take a 4-3 lead. Try as they might, the Brewers were unable to score again and the Cards added 2 more runs in the 8th to take the game 6-3 and deny the Brewers their first ever championship.

Molitor and Yount again led the team in the World Series, with Molitor going 11 for 31 for a .355 average, and Yount going a remarkable 12 for 29 for a .414 average.

This road jersey is virtually identical to the 1978 uniform, featuring “Milwaukee” written across the chest with the uniform number below the team name.


1988


After losing seasons in ’84, ’85 and ‘86, the Brewers turned it around in ’87 (when they finished 3rd with a 91-71 record) and ’88, when they again finished third (with an 87-75 mark), only two games behind the AL East Champion Red Sox, and one behind the Tigers.

Several Milwaukee players finished the season among the American League leaders. Paul Molitor was third in stolen bases with 41 steals and fifth in batting with a .312 average. Robin Yount was also a standout finishing with a .306 average and tied for the league lead in triples with 11. Pitching was also strong as 16-9 Teddy Higuera led the league with a 2.45 ERA (tied with Allen Anderson of Minnesota) and closer Dan Plesac had 30 saves and a 2.41 ERA in just 52 innings of work in 50 games.

The road uniform is now gray, something that began in 1986. The patch on the left sleeve is a round patch with a bat separating the initials H.K., in memory of the Brewers’ former manager Harvey Kuenn who passed away in February 1988. Kuenn was a fan favorite and managed the team in the 1982 (when they came within a game of winning it all) and 1983 seasons.


1992


The Brewers finished the 1992 season with a stellar 92-70 record, good for second place in the AL East, 4 games back of the eventual World Series champion Blue Jays. One of the season’s highlights was the fact that on September 9th Robin Yount became the 17th player to record 3000 hits. The future Hall of Famer was also the 3rd youngest ever to do so (he was a week shy of his 37th birthday), behind Ty Cobb and Hank Aaron. Yount would retire at the end of 1993 after 20 seasons with the Brewers, with a lifetime average of .285; 3,142 hits in 2,856 games.

This pinstriped home uniform has a “swoosh” under the team name, which was added in the 1990 season. This underline “swoosh” style was introduced to baseball by the 1932 Cubs, and has been worn by many teams since then. Note also that a Brewers’ “M” and “B” ball glove logo is on the collar of the undershirt. The trend to adding embellishments to the undershirt began in baseball in the late 80’s.


1994


The commemorative patch on the right sleeve is in honor of the 125th year of professional baseball. The patch has the Major League Baseball logo and “125th Anniversary” on it, and celebrates the Cincinnati Red Stockings’ 1869 team that was the first openly professional team and went 65-0 in a nationwide barnstorming season.
In this, the year of professional baseball’s 125th Anniversary, there would be no World Series for the first time in 90 years, when a player lockout in August 1994 put an end to the season. The Brewers were sitting in 5th and last place in the AL Central with a 53-62 record.

The 1994 Brewers have radically changed the look of their uniforms, as we see on this “3rd jersey”. A “3rd jersey” is a concept that became commonplace by the mid 90’s. Most 3rd jerseys are worn occasionally at home as well as on the road, giving a team a third option as to what uniform to wear. And of course, the addition of a third jersey adds to the options fans can buy, thereby increasing apparel revenues and ultimately benefiting the team. More recently, teams have begun adding 4th and even 5th jerseys to their roster of uniform combinations.

A new logo adorns the front of this 1994 3rd jersey, while the lettering style across the chest has been totally revamped. The patch on the left sleeve is in honor of the team’s 25th anniversary in Milwaukee (1970-1994), while the commemorative patch on the right sleeve (although barely visible) is in honor of the 125th year of professional baseball. The patch has the Major League Baseball logo and “125th Anniversary” on it, and celebrates the Cincinnati Red Stockings’ 1869 team that was the first openly professional team and went 65-0 in a nationwide barnstorming season.


1997


Milwaukee finishes the season 3rd in the American League Central with a 78-83 record. This would actually be the Brewers’ last season in the AL. In Major League Baseball’s realignment, the Brewers opt to move the National League Central division.

Here’s a bit more about the Brewers’ penchant for changing their division: After starting out life in Seattle in 1969 in the AL West, and staying there for their first two seasons in Milwaukee, the Brewers shifted to the AL East in 1972. This was perhaps a harbinger of things to come as the nomadic Brewers would later leave the AL East for the brand new AL Central (in 1994), then leave the AL entirely for the NL (they made the move in 1998).

The patch on the sleeve of this road uniform marks the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier. All MLB teams wore this patch in honor of Jackie Robinson and all he achieved, and all MLB teams retired his number 42 - the first time in the history of the big four North American sports (MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL) that a number has been universally retired (hockey has since done it with Wayne Gretzky’s #99).


2001


This season would mark the opening of a brand new home for the team. Miller Park has a brick facade on the outside, making it look like a ballpark from the past, but the future is inside, as a retractable roof slides into place to shelter fans from both rain and cold.

But despite their stunning new home, the Brewers finish the season with a 68-94 record, good for fourth in the six team NL Central, 25 games behind the Houston Astros. The leaders on the field included Richie Sexson who hit .271 with 45 home runs and 125 RBI, and Jeromy Burnitz who hit .251 with 34 homers and 100 RBI. Attendance at Miller Park in its first season would reach 2,811,040, in sharp contrast to the 1,573,621 fans who attended the final season at County Stadium.

The Brewers have another new uniform look, as we see on this home jersey. This style was introduced for the 2000 season. They have gone back to the older script on the chest, and have a stylized “M” on the left sleeve. The patch on the right sleeve (although barely visible) commemorates the new ballpark by featuring a diagram of the stadium from the outside, topped by the heading “Home to Heroes”.

For true Milwaukee ball fans, 2001 was a sad year because it marked the passing of Milwaukee Braves great Eddie Mathews. Matthews, who hit 512 home runs, played in the majors from 1952 – 1968, including the Braves’ 13 seasons in Milwaukee (1953-1965).


2007


After failing to finish above the .500 mark in the 2000’s prior to 2007, the Brewers 2007 season has to be considered a major achievement. The Brewers went 83-79 and finished 2 games behind the NL Central winning Cubs. And the 2007 season certainly set the stage for the Brewers’ great 2008 season in which they went 90-72, won the NL wild card playoff position and entered post season play for the first time since 19xx.

As Craig Counsell said about the Brewers’ 2007 effort: "I don't have any complaints about how we (the 2007 Milwaukee Brewers) went about our jobs. We battled as hard as we could in the last stretch here. It just didn't go our way. There's no consolation for playing hard at this point, but we left it out there. It wasn't for a lack of effort, that's for sure.”

Team leaders in 2007 included: Third baseman Ryan Braun who batted .324, had 146 hits, 34 home runs and a .634 slugging percentage in just 113 games; First baseman Prince Fielder who batted .288, had 165 hits, 50 dingers and a .618 slugging percentage; and not to be overlooked were SS JJ Hardy and outfielders Corey Hart and Geoff Jenkins, all of whom had at least 20 home runs and 100+ hits. And on the mound, closer Francisco Cordero had 44 saves and a sparkling 2.98 ERA in 66 appearances.

The 2007 uniform pictured features an alternative home jersey – a classic dark blue style that is an attractive variation of the Brewers usual home white jersey.

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Celebrate the Brewers' uniform history by owning a piece of history:
If you love the Milwaukee Brewers and the history of the Brewers 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 Atlanta Braves YouTube video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVvVLaWWtyE or go directly to the artwork website www.heritagesportsart.com/Milwaukee-Brewers-c5/ 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 Brewers.

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This text was written by Scott Sillcox and was last updated August 16, 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 ssillcox@rogers.com !

Many thanks!!!
Scott

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