This is not the article I started out to write. It began as a look at one thing and led to something else entirely…The process reminded me of the Nicholas Cage movie, “National Treasure.” As soon as thought I had found what I was looking for, I found it leading me to something else. The project started out as a look at the satin uniforms of the 1940s. These jerseys, when they show up are highly prized by team and style collectors. What I wanted to know was when they made their debut and what the contemporary thoughts of them were.
According to an article that appeared in the Ogden City Examiner on February 28th 1944 titled “Dodgers Will Go In For Satin Suits During 1944,” Branch Rickey had members of the scouting staff model the new uniforms. It was noted that the “Flatbushers” would wear uniforms of “shiny white satin trimmed in royal blue” for the 14 home night games. Rickey went on to say that these new uniforms featured material similar to the silk worn by “riders at the track”, a reference to jockeys of the day.
On March 9th, 1944 an article by Glen Perkins appeared in the Valley Morning Star in which Brooklyn fan were asked their early thoughts of this change in dress. The initial reaction was none to favorable with one fan vowing that he would not attend a single night game. A female fan was on record as saying “better they should wear wool suits.” The article goes on to mention that in addition the home white uniforms, there will also be one in “a light shade of blue with white piping for the road.” I found one other article discussing these uniforms in the February 26th 1944 edition of the Oelwein Daily Register. This article contained no new or additional information about the Dodger’s satin uniforms. Just when I thought I had found that these uniforms came in both a home and road version, I hit upon this line… “ A few seasons ago, the Chicago Cubs attempted some grotesque zoot suits made of jersey rayon.”
Sure enough, The Madison Capital Times featured an article on July 29th 1941 discussing these uniforms. Specifically, “The Cubs road uniforms came in for considerable discussion. We gathered that the players are not sold on the “unies,” but they can’t do much about the matter. The other clubs in the National League have ridden the Cubs unmercifully regarding the robin egg blue. Made from a combination of wool and rayon, the uniforms are anything but cool.” I found a great picture on Donald Honig’s “The Chicago Cubs: An Illustrated History” that seems to confirm this. Notice how much the Cubs players are sweating as compared to the Giants catcher dressed in tradition wool flannel. I knew that the Reds had made this fabric switch as well in 1956. The style, fabric and manufacturer is mentioned in the 1956 Cincinnati Reds year book.
O.K., in an attempt to get back on track, I started looking for information on satin uniforms worn in the 1948 season. The Boston Braves wore these then and a number of examples have survived. I was honestly looking for feedback from Boston Braves players or fans when I cam across an article in the May 4th 1948 edition of Coshocton, Ohio Tribune. While I did not find anything about the Braves or the Dodgers, The Tribune covered the National League rival Cincinnati Reds. In detailing the events of the recent Giants-Reds game, it was reported almost in passing that “The Reds were decked out in new satin uniforms but the Giants weren’t impressed as they pounded three Cincinnati hurlers for 13 hits.” This was the first time I had found a reference to the Cincinnati Reds wearing satin uniforms. I had seen other things over the years in looking at the Reds such as ventilated/elastic material in the underarms and crotch area, but never a mention of satin uniforms beyond the Palm Beach style from the 1937 season.
I mention this material in the crotch and underarm area as many collectors thought the “cool base fabric” introduced this year was really something new. The fact of the matter is that varying fabrics under the arms and in the crotch can be found in Spalding and Wilson products throughout the late 1930s, the 1940s, and into the 1950s. Side panels containing this same fabric were also part of the Reds uniforms from the late 1950s through 1960. The Cleveland Indians continued this with their vests well into the late 1960s.
What started out a look at stain uniforms for the Dodgers and Braves turned out to be much more. We now have contemporary accounts for both home and road satin uniforms for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1944. We also have insight into the fabric of the 1941-1942 Chicago Cubs road uniforms. We can also now add the Cincinnati Reds to the list of teams in the 1940s wearing satin uniforms. For the younger collector finding the “cool base” fabric concept as something new, realize that the fabric of the game and its history are much like the fabric of the garments…always interesting and always a great story if you look deep enough.
As always, enjoy what you collect and collect what you enjoy.
MEARS Auth, LLC
For questions or comments, please feel free to drop me a line at DaveGrob1@aol.com.