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Sunday, August 15, 2010
New York Mets Uniform and Team History
Please click on the evolution of the Mets 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.
After both of New York’s National League teams, the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers, move west in 1958, New York was suddenly left with only the Yankees. What made this all the more remarkable was that the decade leading up to 1958 were what baseball historians have called “The Golden Age Of Baseball In New York”. In fact, from 1947 – 1957 a New York team won the World Series 9 times out of a possible 11 (the Yankees won 7, the Giants 1 and the Dodgers 1) while a New York team lost the World Series 8 times (the Dodgers lost 5, the Yankees 2 and the Giants 1). Thus of 22 possible World Series appearances in this period, New York was represented 17 times. This is why it is so hard to believe that the Dodgers and the Giants left town after the 1957 season, but such was the allure of the almighty dollar.
So it is perhaps not hard to imagine that civic and business leaders were quick to put together another team to fill the National League void. And thus the New York Mets were born.
The Mets broke into the National League in 1962. They began playing at the Polo Grounds (the Giants’ former home), where they would play for their first two seasons until their new home, Flushing Meadow Park/Shea Stadium, was completed for the 1964 season. Legendary manager Casey Stengel guided the Mets for the first four seasons, his last tour of duty as a major league manager. The team did colossally poorly in their inaugural season, winning only 40 games and losing 120, setting a modern day record for futility. But despite their abysmal .250 average and the fact that they finished 60½ games behind the San Francisco Giants, the Mets were instantly beloved
On the field the ’62 Mets were led by Frank Thomas who hit .266 with 34 homers and 94 RBI and Felix Mantilla who hit .275 with 11 home runs and 59 RBI. The pitching staff had it rough, lead by Roger Craig’s 10-24 record and 4.51 ERA and Al Jackson’s 8-20 with a 4.40 ERA.
It’s interesting to note that the Mets chose to honor their National League predecessors by choosing the orange (for the Giants) and blue (for the Dodgers) as their team colors. Even the “NY” logo they wear on their caps was taken from the Giants. Right from the start, home uniforms, like the one pictured here, featured pinstripes.
Probably the highlight of the 1964 season for the Mets was the mid-season opening of their new home, Shea Stadium. Originally it was to be called Flushing Meadow Park, but then was named in honor of the man who spearheaded the movement to bring the National League back to New York, attorney William A. Shea. After going 51-111 in ’63 (an improvement over their record setting 40-120 in ’62), the Mets didn’t fare much better in ’64 as they went 53 and 109. Casey Stengel was still at the helm, and he would stay on through the 1965 season when he retired at the age of 75 due to a fractured hip.
This road jersey is similar to the road jerseys the Mets wore through the rest of the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s, then returned to in the late 90’s. The lettering is almost the same as it is today. The patch on the right sleeve was to promote the New York World’s Fair held in New York in 1965. On the other sleeve is the traditional Mets logo, which features a baseball with a bridge in the foreground and a skyline in the background The buildings in the skyline are, from left to right: a church spire, the Williamsburg Savings Bank, the Woolworth Building, the Empire State Building and the United Nations Building. The bridge symbolizes New York’s five boroughs.
Behind their ace pitcher Tom Seaver and his league leading 25 wins (vs. just 7 losses and a 2.21 ERA), the “Miracle Mets” surprise just about everyone and finish first in the National League East for the first time with a 100-62 record. This is all the more remarkable when you consider that the Mets’ previous best record was their 1968 mark of 73-89!
The ’69 Mets are led at the plate by Cleon Jones, who hit .340 (third in the NL behind Pete Rose’s .348 and Roberto Clemente’s .345) with 12 home runs and 75 RBI, and Tommie Agee who went .271 with 26 homers and 76 RBI. Next to Seaver the leaders were Jerry Koosman, who went 17-9 with a 2.28 ERA and six shutouts, Tug McGraw (9-3 and a 2.24 ERA) and a fresh faced Nolan Ryan (6-3 with a 3.53 ERA).
In the first ever National League Championship Series (baseball added an extra round of playoffs in 1969), the Miracle Mets faced Hank Aaron’s Atlanta Braves in a best-of-five battle for the NL pennant. Even though Aaron bats .357 with 3 homers, the Mets collectively bat .327 take the high scoring series 3 games to none (9-5, 11-6 and 7-4).
In the Mets’ first ever World Series, they take on the American League’s Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles led the AL with a 109-53 record, then swept the Twins in three straight in the ALCS, and were the heavy favorites going into the Series.
New York lost the first game in Baltimore 4-1. Undaunted, the Mets came back to win game two in Baltimore by scoring the go-ahead run in the top of the 9th for a 2-1 win. The next 3 games were all in New York.
In game 3 the Mets shut out the O’s 5-0 on the back of Gentry and Ryan’s 4 hitter. Then in game 4 Tom Seaver and the Mets led 1-0 going into the top of the 9th, but the O’s clawed back to tie it at one apiece. Then in the bottom of the 10th the Mets broke the Oriole’s hearts on the strength of a clutch bunt, winning the game 2-1 for Tom Seaver who went all the way for the win.
Then it was on to game 5 – win, and a Miracle would have been achieved. Lose and the Series would shift back to Baltimore for games 6 & 7. Going into the bottom of the 6th, the Mets trailed 3-0 and things didn’t look too good. But homers by Donn Clendenon in the 6th and Weis in the 7th tied the game at 3, setting the stage for a Cinderella story to come true. Sure enough, the Mets scored 2 in the bottom of the 8th and Jerry Koosman pitched a complete game 5 hitter to lead the Mets to a 5-3 win and their first World Series championship in just their 8th year of existence.
Donn Clendenon was named the World Series MVP, hitting .357 in the Series with 3 home runs and 4 RBI, while Jerry Koosman won both games he pitched, holding the O’s to just 7 hits.
As for the ’69 uniform, not much has changed on the home uniform since 1964. One difference is the addition of numbers on the front, which the Mets added for the first time in 1965. 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.
The commemorative patch on the left sleeve, 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. An interesting note about this patch on the Mets’ ’69 uniform – at some point in time the Mets changed the location of the patch from one side to the other – we have photos of both variations. If anyone knows why this was, we’d love to know – email us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The right sleeve is once again graced by the standard Mets patch they have worn from the beginning and will wear for years to come.
The Mets finish the 1973 season with a somewhat ordinary 82-79 record, but they win the NL East by 1.5 games over the Cards and 2.5 games over the Pirates. Thus the Mets head into the post season for the second time in team history (the 1969 Miracle Mets were 1st), this time facing the powerhouse Cincinnati Reds who were led by Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan and Dave Concepcion for the NL pennant.
In a terrific see-saw series, the Mets came out on top 3 games to 2, thanks in part to Rusty Staub’s 3 hits in 15 at bats – all 3 were homers.
As if the Reds weren’t enough, the World Series saw the Mets square off against the juggernaut Oakland A’s, which featured a line-up of Reggie Jackson, Bert Campaneris, Joe Rudi, Sal Bando and pitchers Rollie Fingers, Catfish Hunter and Vida Blue.
In a terrific series, the Mets went up 3 games to 2 and were one win away from their 2nd World championship. The Series, however, was headed back to Oakland for the final two games. And the A’s made no mistakes – they won game 6 by a 3-1 count, thus setting the stage for baseball’s most dramatic game, Game Seven of the World Series. But behind the strength of Bert Campaneris’ and Reggie Jackson’s 2 run homers in the 4th, Oakland came out on top 5-2, giving the A’s their second Series in a row.
This road uniform has remained much the same since 1969. The Mets’ New York skyline patch is still featured on the left sleeve, and the jersey lettering is almost exactly the same as the ’69 jersey.
In January 1980 the Mets are sold to a group headed by Nelson Doubleday and Fred Wilpon for an estimated $21.1 million, the highest price ever paid for an American sports team. Doubleday and Wilpon must have had second doubts as the best the 1980 Mets could put together was a fifth place with a 67-95 record, 24 games behind the Phillies.
This home jersey is now a pullover style, with a couple of buttons at the top. This was first used in 1978. The pinstripes are still the same, but there has been thicker orange and blue stripping added to the arms and neckline.
This home jersey is also 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.
What a season! Boasting of a lineup that could only be described as a “cocky group of players”, the Mets filled the lineup with players such as Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Keith Hernandez and Lenny Dykstra.
And it paid off! They finished with the best record in baseball in ‘86 with a 108-54 record, good for a 21.5 game lead on the second place Philadelphia Phillies.
Their first post-season challenge was to take on the Houston Astros for the pennant in a best of 7 series. The Mets went up 3 games to 2, going into game 6 in Houston – what took place next is the stuff of legends.
The Astros took a 3-0 lead into the 9th, but the Mets came back to tie it at 3. The next scoring would happen in the top of the 14th when the Mets scored one run – Mets fans were ready to take to the streets in joy. But in the bottom half of the inning Houston came back to tie it back up again. In the top of the 16th inning New York scored three more runs, taking a 7-4 lead. But true to form, the scrappy Astros came back with two of their own, but it wasn’t enough. The Mets won the game 7 to 6, and took the NL pennant 4 games to 2. Lenny Dykstra was the only Met to hit above .300 (he went 7 for 23), while Jesse Orosco won 3 games, surrendering just 8 hits in 8 innings of work.
The Mets then went on to play one of the most talked-about, storied World Series’ in baseball history against the Boston Red Sox.
After the Mets lost the first two games in front of their own fans, they went to Boston and took the next two, tying the series at 2 apiece. The Red Sox pulled out a third win in game 5 at home, putting them one win away from their first World Series title since 1918. All they would have to do is win one of two more possible games.
October 25, 1986 in New York is simply known as “Game 6”. The game was tied at 3 at the end of the 9th. In the top of the 10th the Sox take the lead 5-3. Two out, nobody on for the Mets, and they’re down to their last strike, not once but twice. The Mets get singles from Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell, and Ray Knight. Carter scores making it 5-4, but the Red Sox still lead. Sox pitcher Bob Stanley uncorks a wild pitch, sending Mitchell home, and Knight to third. It’s now tied at 5. Now the Sox have gone from thinking about winning the World Series to not loosing the game. Mookie Wilson taps a routine grounder to first, where Bill Buckner waits to make the final out, and send the game to the 11th. The ball bounces toward Buckner, and just before it reaches him, it flattens out, and doesn’t take that last bounce as it would 99 times out of 100. The ball rolls right under his glove and into shallow right field. Knight scores, and the game goes to New York.
On to Game 7, again in New York, starts out badly for the Mets as the Sox go up 3-0 in the 2nd. This lead lasts until the 6th when the Mets score 3 of their own, tying it up. They scored another 3 in the 7th to go ahead of the Sox for good, eventually winning the game 8 to 5, and collecting their second World Series title (1969 was the first).
The buttons on this 1986 home jersey have been removed - this new look started in 1983 when they added thick blue and orange stripes down the arm, under the arm and down the pant leg. The patch on the left sleeve is to recognize the 25th anniversary of the Mets (1962-1986).
After winning the World Series in 1986, New York finishes the season 92-70, 3 games back of the eventual National League pennant winning St. Louis Cardinals. This season both Howard Johnson and Darryl Strawberry joined the “30 / 30 Club” – to join you need to hit 30+ home runs and steal 30+ bases - making them the first teammates to achieve this. For the record, Johnson hit 36 dingers and stole 32 bases, while Strawberry belted 39 and stole 36.
The Mets make a change to their road uniform this season. The “New York” on the front is now in script style. This was only done in 1987. In 1988 the Mets changed from script to block letters.
The 1989 Mets end the season with a record of 87-75 and finish in 2nd place, 6 games behind the Chicago Cubs in the NL East. The team leads the National League in several hitting categories; home runs at 147, doubles at 280. They also lead the league in strikeouts with 1108, and more importantly, fewest hits allowed at 1260.
This 1989 road uniform shows “NEW YORK” in block letters, something that was introduced in 1988. The rest of the uniform is virtually identical to the 1987 uniform.
The 1993 season started out well with the Mets setting a team record for attendance on opening day with 53,134 fans. That was perhaps the highlight of the season. The Mets finished 1993 in 7th place in the NL East, 38 games out of first place, winning only 59 games and losing 103.
The buttoned front jersey is back, as shown on this home uniform (the buttons actually made their return for the 1991 season) and a “swoosh” underlining the scripted “Mets” has been added. This underline “swoosh” style was introduced to baseball by the 1932 Cubs, and has been worn by many teams since then, including these 1993 Mets. The traditional Mets patch remains on the left sleeve. Note that the blue and orange stripping down the sides of the jersey and pants has been taken away.
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. Thankfully, this work stoppage didn’t matter too much to the ’94 Mets as they were 18½ games out of first when play was stopped in August.
The major difference in this home uniform and the previous year is the new Mets patch on the left sleeve. It is now on a rectangular background, rather than the traditional circular background.
In May of this season the Mets trade minor leaguers outfielder Preston Wilson and left-handed pitchers Ed Yarnall and Geoff Goetz to the Florida Marlins for All-Star and former Rookie of the Year catcher Mike Piazza. The trade doesn’t remedy matters as the Mets finish 18 games back of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East, but all eyes in baseball were on the Cardinals’ Mark McGwire as he smashed Roger Maris’ single season home run record of 61. McGwire would finish the ’98 season with an incredible 70 homers.
As we see on this road uniform, the Mets have gone back to the old style script of “NEW YORK” on the front of the jersey. The Mets last used this style in 1974, (we last saw this on the poster in 1973). The patch on the left sleeve with the Mets logo has undergone a bit of revision in recent years - the circle patch had recently been placed on a rectangular background, but this season the team switched back to the traditional circle style.
Led offensively by 4 regulars who hit .300 or better (the ageless Rickey Henderson .315, Roger Cedeno .313, Mike Piazza .303 and 40 home runs, Robin Ventura .301) and one who came extremely close (John Olerud .298), the Mets finish the ’99 season with a 97-66 record and capture the NL Wild Card playoff slot. This marks the Mets first time in the post season since 1988.
The Mets then face the Arizona Diamondbacks for the Divisional Series and beat them 3 games to 1. In the best of 7 National League Championship Series, the Mets take on their current nemesis, the Atlanta Braves. The Braves take a quick 3 games to 1 lead, and the Mets went into Game 5 looking for a fight. They came out with the longest postseason game in history at 5 hours and 46 minutes (longest in terms of actual time played, not the number of innings played). Atlanta took a 3-2 lead in the top of 15th, only to have the Mets come back and tie it. Then the Mets Robin Ventura stepped up to the plate with three on and belted a grand slam over the wall in right. Due to the celebration on the field by his teammates, he only made it to first base, and his slam would be ruled a single. The series was now 3-2 in favor of the Braves, and game six
As wonderful as it would be to re-write the script thirty years after the Miracle Mets of ’69, 1999 was not to be. The ’99 Mets lose Game 6 10 to 9, giving the Braves the pennant.
As is the case in modern baseball, the Mets wore several uniforms this season, including this black jersey which is commonly called a “third uniform”. 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 this case the black ’99 jersey is all black with thin blue piping going around the collar, down the buttoned front of the jersey and around the sleeves.
The Mets finish the regular season with a 94-68 record and win the NL Wild Card playoff spot for the second straight year. This time around the Mets take on the San Francisco Giants in the best of five Divisional Series. Just as they did with the Diamondbacks in post season play in ’99, the Mets beat the Giants 3 games to 1.
The St. Louis Cardinals are next on the Mets’ dance card, and the Mets manhandle the Cards four games to one and head to the World Series for the 4th time (they won in 1969 and 1986, they lost in 1973). And their opponent? None other than their cross-town rival Yankees, making the 2001 World Series the first “Subway Series” since 1956 when the Yankees downed the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Tensions ran high in the 2000 World Series as game one went twelve innings before the Yankees won 4-3 at Shea Stadium. Game two saw one the most bizarre events in recent World Series’ history as the Yanks Roger Clemens squared off against the Mets Mike Piazza, their first meeting since the regular season when Clemens accidentally (?) “beaned” Piazza in the head.
With the crowd buzzing, the “Pizza Guy” stepped up to face the Rocket Roger. Piazza breaks his bat, sending wood splinters everywhere, while most of the bat sails towards the mound and stops somewhat short of Clemens. As Piazza jogs to first, Clemens picks up the broken bat and fires it in Piazza’s direction. The Mets and Piazza take exception to this and finally receive justice when Clemens is suspended for the start of the next (2001) season. Unfortunately for the Mets, the high-powered Yanks would win Game Two 6-5, despite the Mets scoring their only runs in the ninth inning, coming up one run short of sending it to an extra frame. The Mets take game three at Shea 4-2, but lose the next two at Yankee Stadium, giving the Yankees their third straight championship (1998, 1999 and 2000) and 4th in 5 years (1996, 1998, 1999, 2000)..
Mike Piazza led the way at the plate in the regular season, hitting .324 with 38 home runs and 113 RBI. Second baseman Edgardo Alfonzo also hit .324 while belting 25 homers and driving in 94 RBI. On the mound the Mets were led by Al Leiter who went 16-8 with a 3.20 ERA, and Mike Hampton who went 15-10 with a 3.14 ERA, while Armando Benitez came in late and mopped up with 41 saves.
Once again this is a black jersey, this time with the “NEW YORK” on the front. The patch on the right sleeve is the World Series patch worn by both teams in the World Series – the wearing of a specially designed World Series patch began in the late 80’s and continues to the present day and beyond.
This 2005 Mets home uniform is a classic design – neat, crisp and elegant – a beautiful uniform in an age of overkill. The Mets on field performance, however, was good but not good enough as they finished 83-79 and in a tie for 3rd in the NL East behind the 14 time division leading Braves.
The Mets did receive great individual performances from Jose Reyes, who lead the NL in stolen bases with 60 and triples with 17, and he hit .273 with 190 hits. Third baseman David Wright put up some great numbers as well, with a .306 average, 176 hits, 27 hits and a .523 slugging percentage. On the mound, Pedro Martinez had his last big season as he won 15 and lost 8 with a 2.82 ERA and 208 strikeouts.
The 2008 Mets gave fans quite a ride but in the end couldn’t catch the Phillies as they finished 89-73, three games behind the eventual World Series Champs. League leaders on the Mets were Jose Reyes with 205 hits and 19 triples, Johan Santana with a sparkling 2.53 ERA and Pedro Feliciano with 86 relief appearances (over the 4 year period 2006-2009, Pedro appeared in 316 games).
This home uniform features a pinstripe jersey and pants – a combination that works because of the simplicity of the rest of the uniform design. The right sleeve features a patch celebrating the final season of Shea Stadium – in 2009 the Mets would move across the street to brand new Citi Field.
Celebrate the Mets' uniform history by owning a piece of history:
If you love the New York Mets and the history of the Mets 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 New York Mets YouTube video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=VevHbKhU0HY or go directly to the artwork website www.heritagesportsart.com/New-York-Mets-c150/ 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 Mets.
This text was written by Scott Sillcox and was last updated August 15, 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 !