In 1958, the unthinkable happened…The Dodgers and the Giants hopped a plane to California and our national pastime never looked back. In fact the opposite turned out to be the case. In the coming decade major league baseball would expand from sixteen to twenty-four teams. There was certainly enough for people to focus on during the 1960s; at home, overseas, and in outer space. What I would like to focus on today are the “expansion teams?” They had to be called and wear something didn’t they? So let’s take a look. I suspect some or much of this is not news to many of you, but I love 1960s baseball so you’re stuck with my topic for the week.
1961-The Los Angeles Angels: No real shocks or surprises here. What else do you call a team playing in the “City of Angles?” From a branding perspective, you likely stay with a name that had worked since 1903. Professional baseball was nothing new on the west coast either and the Los Angeles Angels had been a mainstay of the Pacific Coast League for some time. If you think Angles, you think wings and halos. Wings stitched to the back of a uni might be a tough sell, but a halo on the head of an angle is more than doable and they did. Probably one of the best caps in the history of the game.
1961-The Washington Senators: Talk about no shocks or surprises with respect to naming conventions. The Senators did the Angels one better. You could have watched the original Senators in 1960 at Griffith Stadium and the expansion Senators again in 1961. Same name, same place, just new faces.
1961-The Minnesota Twins: Although not an expansion team in the conventional sense, the Twins were really only a migration to a new geographic market. In other words a renamed and re-dressed transplant from the Nation’s Capital. The name of the ball club reflected the “Twin Cities” of Minneapolis and St. Paul and the Twins reflected this on both their caps and a style of sleeve patch that would adorn the jerseys until a brief one year hiatus in 1972. Where would they play? Just look at the map and tell me Bloomington just doesn’t make perfect sense. Well done Twinkies…
1962-The New York Mets: Talk about something for everyone from a uniform perspective. The Mets had it all for the very metropolitan New York baseball crowd. Miss the Bums? We’ll bring back the blue. Grew up at the Polo Grounds? We’ll bring back the orange. Life-long Yankees fan? We’ll give you pinstripes. Stay with us and we’ll give you something to rival a man on the moon before the decade closes.
1962-The Houston Colts/Colt .45s: You read that right. The original name for the club was the Houston Colts. But let’s be honest… Pony or pistol emblazoned across the chest? The ownership group opted for the later and created one of the most striking and prized flannels in history. However the statement by club vice-president George Kirksey on 27 November 1961 may have doomed them from the start when he said “we felt the combined name made it clear we’re talking about guns and not a young horse.” As history would have it, Samuel Colt and the Colt .45 was the firearm reported to be the thing that in fact “made all men equal.” The problem for the Houston ball club was that the use of the legendary name and likeness was not open to expansion any more than all men had an equal use to the rights. The Colt Firearms company had something to say about this and by 1965 we were saying Houston Astros.
1969-The Montreal Expos: When was not fashionable to make a political statement in 1960s? The Montreal Expos ushered in America’s major league game to Canada by trotting out the French Tricolour. Although it’s hard to argue with red, white and blue this side of the border, what is probably most intriguing is that the “M” logo on the chest is actually a combination of the letters “M” for Montreal, “e” for Expos, and “b” for baseball. Unlike the Angles or Senators who took a team name from the past, the concept of using Royals was not an option since it had been claimed by Kansas City. Instead, Les Expos de Montreal decided to leverage the recent notoriety of the 1967 International and Universal Exposition or “Expo 67”. Voila! (French interjection; pronounced walla)…the 1969 Expos.
1969-The Seattle Pilots: Say what you want, it just makes perfect sense. Contemporary newspaper accounts lay it out; “the name ties in with Seattle’s major industries, shipping and flying.” The goofy looking logo combined a baseball, a ships wheel, and aviator’s wings. The caps too featured a combination of conventions from these communities as well. Sleeve trim should also have come as no surprise as they have been and remain a staple of aviation and maritime uniforms around the world. If you’re counting or curious, four gold bands make for a Captain.
1969-The San Diego Padres: Like the Angles, the Padres opted for the cities naming convention (St. Didacus; Spanish-Diego de Alcala) and their Pacific Coast League entry since 1936. But brown? Once again, it may have defied convention, but was well in line with what you might have expected to see a Padre wear in southern California 1769 (the time of the city’s founding). This too was recognized by a sleeve patch worn on the road that season. Mustard unis in 1970s? Dios Me! That’s another story for another time.
1969-The Kansas City Royals: Someone says Kansas City and you’re probably thinking beef and the blues. If that works for you and you’re looking to name a major league ball club, then Royals it is. Nothing magical about the color scheme or design, but the influence of the American Royal Livestock Show and Negro League’s Monarchs made for a name reflecting the towns tie to steak as well as its rich African American history. Beef and Baseball…it’s what’s for dinner.
So that’s it…baseball’s expansion teams of the 1960s. I hope this article and graphics expanded your knowledge or interest in this segment of time and teams. As always, collect what you enjoy and enjoy what you collect.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com.