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Sunday, August 22, 2010
Minnesota Twins Uniform and Team History
Please click on the evolution of the Twins 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.
In 1899 baseball’s first ever contraction took place when the National League decided to reduce its number of members from twelve to eight due to overwhelming financial troubles. One of the cities ousted from the league was the Washington Senators. Fortunately, for the city of Washington a new major league was about to emerge on the scene and soon big league ball would return to the U.S. capital.
In 1901 the American League began play with eight teams. The new Washington AL franchise, trying to distinguish themselves from the defunct NL Senators, was named the Nationals. However D.C. area baseball fans never took a liking to that name and preferred to call the new team the Senators; something they would continue to do for 50+ years.
Perhaps calling the team the Nationals was too confusing for the fans. Teams during this era did not always have nicknames and it was customary at the time for the media to refer to teams by their home city and the league in which they played, especially in cities that had two teams. (For instance the NL Boston Braves were often referred to as the Boston Nationals so not to be confused with the Red Sox, the American League franchise.) So to have a team named the Nationals playing American League was problematic. But hey, what’s in a name anyway!
In 1900 baseball began the custom of using separate uniforms for home and road games. Traditionally home outfits were white and road togs were grey. Here we see in 1907 the AL Washington club moved away from convention and adopted a solid dark blue uniform for the road.
Despite its distinct look, these uniforms perhaps weren’t the most ideal for baseball. During this period, we know that baseball uniforms were either 100% wool flannel or a blend of wool and cotton, great materials for cool weather. Can you imagine having to endure summer’s heat and humidity wearing heavy, dark coloured flannel uniforms?
Most baseball jerseys at this time were pullovers with long fold-down collars. It was the style at the time to wear the shirt collars folded up and pinned at the throat. This trend may have been the impetus for the advent of shorter collars like the cadet collar and the V-neck that came around in 1912.
Note also that even though the jersey has four buttons down the front, this is still 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 in the polyester double knit era of the 70’s and 80’s.
The Senators ended the 1907 campaign with a paltry 49-102 record, landing them in basement of the eight-team American League. The lone bright spot was rookie pitcher Walter Johnson. He finished second in the AL in strikeouts per nine innings with 5.69.
Here you see a small advancement in baseball attire. Gone is the puffy, swashbuckling type shirt with the long collar. In its place: a new short collar called a cadet collar. The cadet collar is similar to what we called in the 1990’s a Mandarin collar. That is a small short upright collar.
The Nationals 1914 uniform also featured a new colour scheme. They adopted the more traditional grey road uniform accented by bluish/grey pinstripes. As best we can tell, the first instance of pinstriped uniforms was in 1907. The Boston Braves road uniforms were made from a gray flannel with a fine green pinstripe. Later that same year the Cubs would introduce a new gray uniform with fine pin striping made for the World Series - they wore it for the Series opener in Chicago and were later reprimanded by the league for not wearing a white uniform at home.
Wool flannel and wool/cotton blends were still the materials of choice for baseball uniforms; in fact they were the fabrics of choice until after World War II. When one looks at photos of these uniforms one might get the impression that these loose-fitting uni’s could have doubled as pajamas. These lighter colored Nationals uniforms must have been more comfortable than the darker versions of a decade earlier.
Was there a co-relation between more comfortable uniforms and the team’s improved record, who knows? But if you peruse the team’s record from 1909 to 1912, you might notice as the uniforms improved (in comfort and quality) so did the team in the standings. From 1909 to 1912 the “Senators” went from last of eight teams to second- a whopping 49-game improvement in the win column.
In 1914 the Washington ball club finished in third (81-73) behind the Athletics and the Red Sox in the eight-team AL. They were led by pitching legend Walter ”Big Train” Johnson. That year he led the Junior Loop in wins (28), strikeouts (225), complete games (33), shutouts (9), innings pitched (372) and games pitched (51). And can you believe his 1.72 ERA was only good enough for third in the league?
In 1918 the “Nats” would finish the year with a 72-56 record, good enough for third place. Notice, if you will, they only played 128 games that year. The season was cut short by one month that year due to World War I. With the United States involved in World War I the government ordered Major League Baseball to finish its regular season by Labour Day, which meant the 1918 World Series was the first (and so far, only) Fall Classic played completely in September.
Once again Big Train Johnson dominated the league in pitching. He accounted for nearly a third of Washington’s wins and led the league in wins (23), ERA (1.27), strikeouts (162) and shutouts (8).
Their road uniform featured a red, white and blue shield patch on the left breast to show support for the U.S. troops engaged in war; as well as wider spaced pinstripes than had been previously
Out is the solid blue piping down the front button pleat of the shirt; in its place a plain button front. Remaining is a block letter “W” on the left sleeve, just below the shoulder.
The Washington ball club never developed a reputation as a baseball powerhouse. In fact a saying was coined at their expense: First in war, first in peace, last in the American League.
But 1924 was a great year for the perennial also-ran Nationals. That year club owner Clark Griffith installed 28 year-old shortstop Bucky Harris manager. Under Harris's tutelage the team won the American League pennant with a 92-62 record; edging out the Yankees by two games. This was the first pennant in their 24-year history, a feat they would repeat only two times (1925, 1933).
Later that fall they went on to defeat the New York Giants four games to three in a hard fought World Series. Washington won game seven 4-3 in twelve innings. Player/ manager Harris got the game-tying hit in the bottom of the eighth inning before an Earl McNeely ground ball hopped over Giants’ third baseman Freddie Lindstrom’s head to drive in the game-winning run.
Once again the Nationals were led on the field by their ace pitcher Walter Johnson. The Big Train was the dominant hurler in the Junior Loop that year, leading all pitchers in: ERA (2.72) wins (23), winning percentage (.767), strikeouts (158), hit/9 innings (.755), shutouts (6) and strikeouts/9innings (5.12).
The Nats even had the AL leader in saves as relief pitcher Firpo Mayberry managed 15. (We are pretty sure that SAVES were not counted as an official statistic at that time. So Firpo was not given the Rolaids Relief Trophy. According to the Baseball Encyclopedia, from where this was derived, for the period of 1876 through 1968 a save was awarded only to the relief pitcher that finished a game.
1924 marked the third year the Senators would wear these road uniforms. After the 1921 season they dropped pinstripes from their away suits and later would use pinstripes exclusively on their home uniforms.
The Washington road uniform of this era was a grey wool/flannel blend. The jersey featured a standard, button-up front. Players could wear a navy blue under vest to enhance the look or to keep warm in the colder months.
In 1925, the year after their World Series championship, the Senators winning ways continued. Thy finished first that year with a regular season record 96-55. Their closest rival in the AL was the 88-64 Philadelphia Athletics, 8.5 games back. That fall they lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the World Series; 4-1 losing game five 4-3 in ten innings.
In 1926 Washington slipped in the standings to fourth place in the AL. They won 81 games that year versus 69 losses.
In 1927 the team's fortunes improved by four games as the Senators finished with 85 wins and 69 losses. Despite a very respectable record they finished nowhere close to the legendary powerhouse 1927 Yankees and their 110-44 record.
The '27 Yankees have gone down in history as the most feared batting order in Major League history. Their lineup consisted of a group of players nicknamed "Murderer's Row". With the big bats of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in the middle of the order, this team won the American League pennant with a 110-44 record. Not to mention they led the AL in almost every significant offensive category.
Despite the 1927 New Yorkers' superiority, the Senators had an answer for their daunting procession of sluggers - rookie pitcher Hod Lisenbee. Lisenbee beat the Bronx Bombers five times and it wasn't until September 29 that season before the Yanks got the better of him. They chased him in the first inning after Babe Ruth hit his 58th homer of the season.
Lisenbee finished that year with an 18-9 record and led all Junior Loop hurlers with four shutouts. Hod pitched only one more year for the Senators after his great rookie year. Before his career ended he would pitch for the Red Sox, Athletics and the Reds and after a short spell out of the game he'd return to the minors and pitch until he was 50 years old.
In 1928 Washington slipped to fourth place in the AL with a 75-79 record, suffering their first losing season under the direction of player / manager Bucky Harris. Harris was later traded to Detroit and was replaced as manager the next season by Walter "Big Train" Johnson. '28 was also the year the Sens reached back in their uniform history returning pinstripes to their home white uniforms like in the early 1920's. On the sleeve just below the shoulder was a block-letter "W".
In 1929 former Washington pitching star Walter Johnson took over as manager of the Nationals after the trade of player / manager Bucky Harris.
Johnson managed the ball club from 1929-1932. His best record came in 1930 when he led the team to a 94-60 record; good enough for second place, eight games behind Connie Mack's now legendary Athletics.
In 1933 Johnson was succeeded as manager by another "boy wonder", 27-year-old Joe Cronin. Cronin, like Harris, had the dual role of player and skipper. Cronin was also one of the premier shortstops of his time. In 1930 he had a .346 batting average and knocked in 126 runs. In fact during his career he drove in more than 100 runs per season eight times.
In 1933, his first year as manager, Cronin led the Senators to the AL pennant. They finished 7 games ahead of Joe McCarthy's second-place Yankees. In the 1933 World Series Cronin's Sens lost to the New York Giants in five games. It would be Washington's final World Series appearance.
The following year Cronin led Washington to a 7th place finish in the AL, 34 games behind the league leading Detroit Tigers. Also that year he married owner Clark Griffith's niece Mildred Robertson. But not even marrying the boss’s niece could guarantee Cronin a lifetime job with the team. Griffith sold him to the Red Sox later that year for $225,000. He played in Boston until 1945 when his playing career came to an abrupt halt after he broke his leg in a game. Cronin, generally considered one of the brightest minds in the game, was chosen American League President in 1958. He presided in that office for twelve years.
Back to the Senators.... In 1935 Bucky Harris returned to his role as skipper of the Senators. He would hold that post for seven more seasons, never finishing better that fourth place, 20 games out of first.
From 1929-1937 Washington wore a simple style road uniform. For the first three years it went unchanged. The pants and jersey were grayish-blue in color and the only script on the uniform was a block letter “W” on the left sleeve below the shoulder. In 1933-34 the format of the road uniform stayed the same but the color was changed to the more conventional grey. In 1936 red was added to the “W” on the sleeve.
In 1938 the Senators unveiled a radical change to their road attire. After nearly a decade of wearing the same style road uniform, they moved the "w" from the sleeve of the shirt to the left breast. The "W", for Washington, was blue outlined by red trim to give the “W” a 3-D effect.
When 1959 rolled around it marked 26 years since the Senators had made a World Series appearance. Not to mention they were only able to manage three winning seasons since 1938. And it had been four years since owner Clark Griffith died at the age of 85. Times were not good
Calvin Griffith, son of Clark, took over as president of the ball club after his father's death. Looking for inspiration for his team in any form, he decided to revamp the uniforms. The new uniforms finally acknowledged the team nickname Senators as it was emblazoned across the chest of the home white jersey (See the 1907 jersey for history on the team nickname). The block letter "W' located on the left breast of the jersey was removed, but the pinstripes remained. But the real news about this jersey was the buttons had been replaced by a zipper.
During the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s many teams used zippered jerseys instead of the more traditional button front jerseys, while a handful of teams wore them well into the 70’s and even the 80’s. The Reds were one of three pre-1977 major league teams that never wore zippers, the others being the Yankees and A’s. 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.
1959 did have its bright spots for the lowly Nationals: that year the ball club set an attendance record at Griffith Stadium - their total season attendance was 615, 372. Sadly for owner Calvin Griffith the record crowds and the new uniforms were not enough to help the team win. That year under new field boss Cookie Lavagotto, the Senators finished in last with a 63-91 record, 31 games behind the pennant-winning Chicago White Sox. It was their third straight last place finish and their fourth in five years.
Finally the losing became too much for Calvin Griffith. It was time for a change, time to move west. It was almost time to say good-bye to the D.C. area and hello to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
In October 1961 Calvin Griffith, president of the Washington ball club, made the historic decision to move his team to Minnesota, thus giving birth to the Minnesota Twins.
Despite the fact that the American League President, Joe Cronin, was Calvin Griffith’s cousin-in-law, moving the team proved to be no easy feat. Not only did Griffith have to convince the other American League owners that relocating his franchise was a good idea, he had to get the members of the U.S. Congress on side too. You see, the members of Congress enjoyed catching a game after a long week of politicking on Capital Hill and if Washington had no team they could no longer enjoy this luxury. The owners were afraid that if they upset Congress baseball’s cherished antitrust exemption might get repealed. But the move did not leave the Washington area baseball fans without a team because the same season they left an expansion team was granted and a new version of the Senators took up shop at D.C. Stadium.
The new Minnesota team made their home in Bloomington, a suburb of Minneapolis. The nickname “Twins” was selected as a tribute to the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The new Twins showcased some familiar names from their days in U.S. capital including: Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Camilo Pascual and Jim Lemon.
1965 was a remarkable year for Calvin Griffith’s Twins; they clinched the AL pennant with a 102-60 record, a complete turnaround from their 1964 record of 62-100. It was the franchise’s first pennant since Washington won it in 1933. Ironically, the Twins clinched the Pennant by beating the new Washington Senators in Washington on September 26. Jim Kaat got the win in a 2-1 decision.
Along with the aforementioned stars that migrated with the club from Washington, the twin cities fans could now stake their claim on a bunch of new stars that would make their name in a Minnesota uniform. 1965 Twins’ players like Tony Oliva, Jim “Kitty” Kaat, Zoilo “Zorro” Versalles (the 1965 AL MVP), rookie Jimmie Hall and Jim “Mudcat” Grant in 1965 would lead the Twins to the AL pennant and the World Series. The “Twinkies” would go on to lose that fall classic four games to three to Sandy Koufax and the Los Angeles Dodgers. During this World Series the Twins stormed out to a 2 games to none lead, but the Dodgers came back to win three straight games before a 2-0 Sandy Koufax
shutout in game seven, in Minnesota, clinched the Series for the Dodgers.
Killebrew, Allison, Pascual and Lemon were not the only things carried over from the team’s days in Washington. The scarlet and navy blue color scheme, the pinstripes and the slanted script with the team’s name seen on the 1959 Senators uniform were transported as well. The under sweaters were solid navy blue and the grey road uniform was a duplicate of the home uniforms minus the pinstripes. On the left shoulder was a patch depicting two ball players shaking hands over the Mississippi, the river that separates the twin cities Minneapolis and St. Paul. The Twins home and road uniforms would not change during the entire decade of the sixties.
The 1969 home jersey was a replica of the road uniform worn in 1965; the one difference was the home uniform had pinstripes. There was one other slight modification to the 1969 jersey, the shoulder patch with the illustration of the two ball players shaking hands normally found on the left shoulder was moved to the right shoulder to make way for the new 100th anniversary of baseball worn by all MLB teams in 1969. The patch featured a silhouette of a baseball player at bat.
1969 also saw the addition of two new teams to the Junior Loop: the Kansas City Royals and the Seattle Pilots (the Pilots would last just one year in Seattle and move to Milwaukee to become the Brewers).
Also in 1969 both the AL and NL got a face lift. Because of the increased number of teams (there were now 12 teams in both the AL and NL) the MLB owners decided each league be divided into two divisions, East and West. Beginning in 1969 each division winner would meet in a playoff at season’s end to decide what team would advance to the World Series. These were called League Championship Series and they began as best-of-five affairs.
The Twins would be the first AL West division champs. Unfortunately, they would lose to the powerhouse Baltimore Orioles in the first ALCS three games to none.
In the 1970’s baseball was introduced to two things that would dramatically affect the game: free agency and polyester double knit fabrics.
In 1970 all star centre fielder Curt Flood challenged baseball’s reserve clause- a clause in a player’s contract that basically stated that a player was property of the team that owned his contract. Flood sued MLB and lost in a court case that took two years, but his efforts paved the way for free agency and enormous salaries for players. For more on the “father of free agency” check out: http://www.baseballlibrary.com/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/F/Flood_Curt.stm
Polyester double knit fabrics were the new fabrics of choice for baseball uniforms. This 1978 home jersey is of a double-knit style that most major league teams fell victim to during the 70’s and early 80’s. It was a pullover style, with no buttons, made of stretchy, synthetic material. The pants were called “Sans-a-Belt” 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.
One element that remained on the Twins’ new-look jersey was the familiar left shoulder patch with Mr. St. Paul shaking hands with Mr. Minneapolis.
Though it is not illustrated on this poster, it is interesting to note during this period a large number teams moved away from the traditional grey road uniforms in favour of non-traditional colours such as light blue, black or even brown.
Perennial all star Rod Carew was the marquee player for the Twins during this time. In 1978 for the seventh time in ten years he won the AL batting title. He finished the campaign with a .333 batting average edging, Texas slugger Al Oliver by .009 points.
As for the Twins that year, they finished in fourth place with a 73-89 record.
In 1987 it was welcome back belts, buttons and pinstripe and good-bye stretchy double knit, pullover, sans-a-belt uniforms. Back was a more traditional uniform look with a couple of new wrinkles for the road uniforms.
The Twins road uniforms from 1973-1986 were light blue in colour and featured the team’s nickname across the chest which was unusual because most baseball teams feature their city name on their road uni’s. In 1987 the Twins went back to the traditional grey for the road suits and they decided it was time to change the script on the shirt as well. “Minnesota” was now emblazoned, in modern script block letters, across the front of the jersey.
One other new wrinkle was the introduction of a new shoulder patch. It featured the new Twins logo inside a baseball with Minnesota embroidered it. This replaced the long time shoulder patch that featured Mr. St Paul shaking hands with Mr. Minneapolis. Also the return of pinstripes was not limited to the home uniforms; the road suits now showcased this classic baseball uniform accent.
Minnesota fans probably will remember the 1987 uniforms for another reason: The Twins, led by stars like Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Frank Viola, Greg Gagne and manager Tom Kelly won Minnesota’s first World Series. That fall they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals four games to three.
During that series Frank Viola made three starts and won two games. In game seven he shut down the Cardinals over eight innings giving up six hits and two runs. His strong performance throughout the Series earned him World Series MVP honors.
Minnesota finished the 1987 campaign with an 85-77 record. And before advancing to the fall classic, the Twins disposed of the AL East champs Detroit Tigers in the ALCS 4 games to 1. Twins’ bullpen ace Jeff Reardon got the save in all four wins in the series.
From 1988 to 1990 the Twins lost some of the magic that led them to the 1987 World Series championship. Each year their record got progressively worse until they found themselves in last place in the AL West in 1990.
In 1991 they added Jack Morris, Chilli Davis and soon-to-be stars Chuck Knoblauch and Scott Erickson to a core group of players that featured Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Greg Gagne and Kevin Tapani and by doing so the Twinkies were ready to resume their winning ways.
After winning their division with a 95-67 record and then capturing the AL pennant by defeating the Toronto Blue Jays four games to one; the Twins found themselves in a most unlikely World Series that featured two teams that went from worst to first. The Atlanta Braves won the Senior Circuit crown that year, after finishing dead last in the NL West the previous year. The Twins won that dramatic World Series in seven games to capture the organization’s third championship ever. Minnesota pitcher Jack Morris was 2-0 in three starts during that fall classic and pitched ten shut-out innings for the 1-0 win in game seven. Morris’s pitching heroics also won him World Series MVP.
Worth mentioning as well, was a savvy defensive play by rookie second baseman Chuck Knoblauch to keep Braves runner Lonnie Smith from scoring late in the game. For more on this dear reader, you will have to look it up or rent the 1991 World Series video.
The 1991 uniforms maintained the classic look we saw in 1987. On the sleeve, of the home uniform was the familiar T-C insignia that used to appear on the Twins’ caps.
This jersey is what is referred to nowadays as a “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 possibilities.
In 1994 both the Al and NL decided to re-align into three divisions. The Twinkies found themselves in the American League Central Division along with the Chicago White Sox, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Indians and the Milwaukee Brewers
At this juncture in MLB history regional disparity had changed the economics of baseball and the long-established Twins found themselves in the “small market” team category. The team, unable to keep or attract high-priced players, found themselves in second last place in the AL Central Division with a record of 53-60 after the strike-shortened 1994 season. Twins management decided to concentrate on player development, a decision that would prove to yield great rewards just a few years later.
2002 marked the year the Minnesota Twins returned from the dead and to the post season. This is all the more remarkable when you think that in 2001 MLB threatened to contract the team for economic reasons.
The decision to concentrate on player development began to yield rewards in 2002 as new stars Torii Hunter, Doug Mientkiewicz, Jacques Jones and Christian Guzman won the hearts of the Metrodome fans. Ron Gardenhire took over for Tom Kelly as manager and the Twins went on to clinch the AL Central title with a record of 94-67. They met the Anaheim Angels in the Divisional playoffs and lost the best-of-seven affair four games to one.
As far as the uniform goes, there is very little change in the 2002 road uniform pictured here compared to the 1987 uniform. If you recall the T-C logo was moved to the shoulder of the home jersey that in 1991. In 2002 the interlocking T-C shoulder logo was replaced on the home uniforms by the classic Twins shoulder patch showing Mr. St Paul shaking hands with Mr. Minneapolis over the Mississippi river.
Text not yet written but gotta love those Twins!
And if you are a big Twins fan, you should check out this terrific labor-of-love Twins Trivia website created by super Twins fan John Swol. Great job John!
Celebrate the Twins' uniform history by owning a piece of history:
If you love the Minnesota Twins and the history of the Twins 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 15 pieces of original art available for sale, and when these 15 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 Minnesota Twins YouTube video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_z0dNM0H_M or go directly to the artwork website www.heritagesportsart.com/Minnesota-Twins-c149/ 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 Twins.
This text was written by Scott Sillcox and was last updated August 22, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org !