Cardinals mess with perfection

Posted by Scott Wuerz on November 16, 2012 

It's not that I hate the changes the Cardinals made with their new alternate jersey. 

I really don't.

It's just that I was such a huge fan of the classic and traditional duds the Cardinals have worn since 1995. And there is only one way to go when you mess with perfection.

Really, I am a fan of retro uniforms. So I can appreciate the Redbirds' decision to dust off the old idea of making some of their jerseys say "St. Louis" on them instead of sporting the team name. That's something the Cardinals did in the 1920s and 30s. And it looked pretty cool in the old photos I have seen.

But the tradition in baseball is for teams to wear uniforms that have the team name on them at home and the city name on the road. Don't fans at Busch Stadium already know that the Cardinals are from St. Louis?

I also like the idea of putting some red piping on the jerseys. That's a look the Redbirds featured from the 1920s through the 1950s. The place where I feel the changes don't work is where the vintage meets the modern: Old fashioned script... with numbers on the front, a detail the Birds didn't adopt until the 1960s. Old fashioned piping... with names on the back of the uniforms, also something that wasn't done before the 1960s. And my biggest problem with the whole deal: The Cardinals are going to wear their modern red cap with their vintage, cream-colored duds? And the Cardinals' insistence on wearing red shoes and red belts looks even worse with an old-fashioned uniform theme. Stan, Dizzy and the Rajah never wore red shoes!

I was most upset this morning to learn that the handsome navy road cap is going to be relegated to the rear of the closet. It's lost its status as the everyday cap during away games and is only expected to be used on rare occasions. 

Team President Bill DeWitt III said the move was made because some Cardinals fans griped that the team hardly wore any red on the road. That's a traditional nod. In the old days, home teams wore flashy, white uniforms while the opposition wore drab gray with dark colors. The Redbirds made up for the navy dominated color scheme by wearing red undershirts and by hiking up their pants to show their red socks.

Apparently Albert Pujols is to blame for screwing up this St. Louis tradition -- the Cardinals wore blue road caps and red home caps in the 1960s and, before that, they wore a navy cap with a red bill for 20 years. But DeWitt said when Albert arrived he started to wear a black undershirt instead of red -- and he pulled down his pant legs until he was stepping on them, basically eliminating the red altogether. Then younger players started to copy the superstar... And the next thing you know the fan base is wondering where all the red has gone.

I'm glad the Birds didn't eliminate the blue caps completely. At least there is hope that reason will prevail and they'll get back on the field.

As a fan, I was over the moon when the Cardinals decided to ditch the 1970s and 80s double knits and go back to a more traditional type of uniform. So it pains me to see them step away from it.

Another minor issue I have with the changes is that the Cardinals took advantage of new embroidering technology to try to make the birds on their uniforms look more like the team logo. In principal, this is a good idea. But my beef is that the official team uniforms now more closely resemble the cheaper replica jerseys. Those have sewn on birds instead of embroidered ones. Is it ever a good idea to make your expensive merchandise look more like the cheap stuff?

I'm sure this will grow on me. But if the Cardinals had to adopt a retro look I wish they would have gone with one of the two following ideas:

1) Make the uniforms of the 1940s with the red piping, navy blue caps with red bills and exposed socks the Sunday alternate uniform, or...

2) Wear a version of each of the Redbirds' 11 World Series jerseys on Sundays at home. Start with 1926 the first weekend, then 1931 and so forth all the way up to the uniforms of the 1980s. Imagine the marketing possibilities.

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