While Jackie Robinson integrated major league baseball in 1947, it would take another sixteen years before the color barrier was broken on the jersey front. Prior to 1963, the rules called for the home team to wear white uniforms, but maverick Kansas City Athletics owner Charlie Finley wanted something different. In January of 1963 Finley petitioned the American League to allow his A’s to wear a new Gold and Kelly green ensemble before the K.C. faithful. Finley’s request should not have seemed that out of the ordinary when you consider his teams of the 1960s hadn’t repeated a style of uniforms in any subsequent season. Maybe “Charlie O” felt he was running out of options and was about to strike gold with his latest choice.
Not only were these proposed uniforms a departure from the conventions of color, but the A’s owner opted for a durene product manufactured by Wilson. The use of durene as the fabric choice was however not new. When the Cincinnati Reds introduced their vest style jerseys in 1956 (MacGregor products), they too were constructed of this non-flannel fabric that had long been a staple of the gridiron and hardwood. Going further back in time, the Chicago Cubs had also experimented with non-flannel vests in the 1940s as well. Contemporary newspaper accounts describe the Cub’s uni’s as a combination of “wool & rayon.” (Madison, WI Capital Times: July 29th 1941).
While the gold rush was on and here to stay for the A’s, the durene baseball jerseys were once again short lived. The fabric choice would revert back to the traditional flannel and come in the form McAuliffe products manufactured by Stall & Dean. I suspect the decision to abandon the durene fabrics may have been based on comments from players with respect to comfort. As such I decided to compare the 1963 Wilson durene product against the later McAuliffe flannel version to see what I could see. For this experiment, both jerseys were:
-Button Down Front
-No Name on Back
1963 Kansas City A’s Wilson Durene Product
1965 Kansas City A’s McAuliffe Flannel Product
It was also interesting to see how these jerseys compared with respect to heat retention. For this test I made use of a digital thermometer that recorded both the ambient and remote (inside the jersey) temperature readings via an attached sensor. When the ambient and remote readings were both 72 degrees, the jerseys were placed inside a refrigerator with the remote sensor inside the folded jersey body. Each jersey was left to cool at 36 degrees for 15 minutes. I then recorded the difference between the ambient temperate and the one from inside of the jersey.
1963 Wilson Durene Product: Ambient 36 degrees/Jersey interior 61 degrees. Fabric retained 85% of the original temperature.
1965 McAuliffe Flannel Product: Ambient 36 degrees/Jersey interior 48 degrees. Fabric retained 67% of the original temperature.
So what do we now know? We know the durene vest is 40% heavier and retains almost 20% more heat than the flannel counterpart. These findings prompted me to examine both garments under a digital microscope (Please note that the “white appearance” of the fabric is a function of the lighting from the microscope). What I found was that the weave of the durene fabric is tighter than that of the flannel. Simply from a construction standpoint (fabric material aside), this would help to explain the heat retention observations.
Although the choice of fabric may not have been a hit with the players, this color scheme was only in early bloom and it would blossom in the early to mid-1970s in the form of “Charlie O’s Garish Double Knits…” A story of uniform fabrics and color that colored the fabric of our National Pastime. Pure Gold in my book.
As always, enjoy what you collect and collect what you enjoy.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions or comments on this article, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com.