Uniform recycling was once a common facet of game-worn apparel. Teams on the MLB level would routinely send their used jerseys, pants, and the like down to organization farm clubs for additional use in the bush leagues.
Occasionally, however, creative recycling would take place on the Major league level by Major league teams for Major League use of an extended nature due to budget constraints affecting the team. Five examples of such MLB level recycling that can be found with some degree of frequency will be detailed here.
Chicago White Sox:
The 2005 World champions spent most of the 1960s and 1970s under the ownership of two cash-strapped head honchos: the Allyn Brothers, and then the popular but financially limited Bill Veeck. During this two decade time frame, the Chisox were often rumored to be heading out of Chicago, with potential destinations ranging from Milwaukee to Seattle to Dallas to even a franchise swap once proposed that would have sent the White Sox to Oakland and brought Charlie Finley’s charges to the Windy City.
The lack of financial stability found it’s way into player wearables, as well. Jerseys were recycled over a period of years at Old Comiskey park in the 1965-68 era. Indeed, 1967 jerseys with the 1968 Illinois Sesquicentennial patch added for a second season of MLB wear aren’t that uncommon, and extreme examples include a 1965 home flannel of Don Gutteridge pulled from storage when Gutteridge returned as a coach in 1968 and had a’68 year tag added in place of a removed ’65 label. Also once seen was a 1966 White Sox road powder blue name and number changed for the arrival of Rocky Colavito in mid-1967 that was logo-altered by the team as well! The arched, block CHICAGO front used in ’66 was removed, and replaced by the blue scripted Chicago with WHITE SOX chain-stitched on the flourish in white for Colavito’s 1967 use.
Bill Veeck was no stranger to cutting corners, either. Rawlings knits made in 1976, the majority of which carry no flag tagging in the neck, appear in the hobby used by players i n 1977 and ’78 (both of which are flag tagged) and even in 1979 spring training, before Veeck went overseas to Japanese outfitter Capital Ace for the 1979 regular season duds worn by the Pale Hose.
Probably the best known example among game used collectors of massive MLB recycling involves the 1970 Indians home (Wilson) and road (Spalding) flannels. Cutting corners financially, the ’70 jerseys, with the beautiful 3-D front lettering and numbers, were, in the majority of cases, stripped of this attractive lettering and numbering, and reintroduced in 1971 with bland navy blue INDIANS (home) and CLEVELAND (road). Over recent years, some examples of the 1970 shirts have surfaced with restored 3-D fronts and backs ,but an all-original example is quite rare.
The Tribe also went wild with MLB-level recycling in the 1975-77 period, when the red and blue pullovers with the crooked lettering on the front were used. Wilson’s 1975 editions (sans year tag) have been seen with evidence of 1976 usage (BiCentennial patch on right sleeve) and both ’75 and ’76 examples have been seen evidencing 1977 action (patch removed and outline remains).
In the early going (1977-80), the M’s went the El cheapo route, as well. Inaugural year (1977) regular season jerseys (with NOB), particularly home white Wilsons, have been seen with the 1979 All-Star patch added to the left sleeve. Plus, even the better names on the team couldn’t avoid recycling on their backs, as shown by a Vada Pinson coaches knit that was name and number changed from its prior user…one-time M’s manager Maury Wills!
Yes, weird things can and did happen on the Major League level, and if anyone can add trends of this nature that I have not included in this article, I would be most happy to hear of them at email@example.com. Til next time, Peace and Prosperity!