NO GO IN GAMES:
After recapping three major sports league game jerseys that were discarded after one or two uses, this edition of The Shirt will look at three styles made for team usage but never actually worn in major league games.
The year 1980 was a changeover season for the uniform styles of the Montreal Expos. The stylish home and road knits (home by Rawlings, road by Wilson) of the previous two years were replaced by the more juiced up styles to be worn throughout the 1980s, both made by Rawlings, not terribly different from the previous designs but with a couple of changes, most notably the thick piping (a.k.a. “racing stripes”) down the sides and sleeves.
The decision to go this route, however, must have been slow to materialize, as the Expos also made two sets of 1980 road powder blues identical in design to the ’79 traveling threads. Both of these were made by Wilson, but the unworn (in Montreal) 1980 roads carried thin sleeve piping instead of racing stripes, and a vertically arched NOB (frequently employed by Wilson) instead of the standard arched NOB (more common with Rawlings). Tagging included a tail strip tag with “80 1′ or “80 2” embroidered thereon in typical Wilson embroidered font.
Given that they were the financially-challenged Expos, however, there was no waste of these unused Major League duds. After having the NOBs and front “M” logo plated over with appropriate identifications, the jerseys were utilized by various Expos farm clubs, from Triple-A on down. Examples found will generally show more wear on the numbers, front and back, than on the lettering and logos that were plated over.
Last time out, I wrote about the 1984 home Browns jerseys that proved most unpopular with fans due to the difficulty of discerning the new orange uniform numbers from the stands and on TV. The home brown Browns duds did, however, get worn for at least one game. Their white home counterparts were reportedly shelved before Art Modell’s team could play an out-of-town contest.
Both styles were made by Medalist Sand-Knit, with tail tagging limited to the standard two Sand-knit labels, one being the manufacturer label with size specs, and the other the regulation “Exclusive” tag found in most Sand-Knit pro-issue garb.
The last Shirt article discussed the twice-worn Russell blue alternates the Cubs used in 1997. This, however, wasn’t the first time the Wrigleys were set to wear a blue alternate jersey in games.
During the strike-shortened 1994 season, the Cubs had on hand a blue MESH game shirt that, as far as my research shows, never saw game action. These blue tops were supplied by Russell, with the standard curvy Cubs numbers on the back, the then-new “Cuba” CUBS script across the front, and NOBs. Unlike other Cubs gamers produced by Russell, the strip tagging, while present, was in the tail, beneath the Russell company label.
The one wearing the Cubs employed of blue mesh jerseys was on May 2, 1994, at home against the Reds. However, the blue mesh tops worn that evening were NOT these jerseys, but rather their standard Majestic blue BP jerseys, with block numbers and no NOBs. The Cubs, at that point, were trying to get off the schneid caused by a 0-for-April record at the Friendly Confines. The jersey experiment didn’t work, though, as Cincinnati shut out the Cubs 9-0. I was at that game, remembering it vividly, as well as getting mentioned by name by Keith Olbermann on ESPN Sportscenter when the highlight tapes showed this writer catching a Bret Boone home run on the fly in the left field Family Section, and then taunting the drunks in the adjoining bleachers while refusing to throw the ball back.
The unworn Russell blue jerseys did filter into the hobby starting in the mid/late 1990s through Cubs tent sales and their off-season convention, and even were sold with team LOAs stating them to be game-used. Team-issued, no doubt, but game-used? Uh-uh.
The aftermath of two teams preparations for 1995 replacement players: where their stuff went after the real Major Leaguers returned to work, and what chicanery the hobby experienced afterwards.