COMMENTARY | We're down to a handful of days before pitchers and catchers report to spring training. So please indulge me as I pick a minor nit with the St. Louis Cardinals.
I promise to drop the fashion criticisms as soon as the ballplayers get back on the field and give us more serious matters to discuss. But I have been bottling this up all winter, and I just have to let it out: I don't care for the uniform changes the Redbirds have made for the 2013 season. I wish they would drop them and stick with what they had before. There. I said it.
The Cardinals revealed a couple of months ago that they would add a third jersey to their wardrobe while putting a very classy part of their uniforms on the shelf.
The third jersey is inspired by the team uniforms from the 1930s. As a baseball purist, one might think I'd be all for that. And I was, right up to the minute that I saw them in person. It seems the club has made some unfortunate compromises that aren't going to convince anyone that those duds were worn by Dizzy Dean or Frank Frisch.
The item they're backing away from is the navy road cap that the team has worn during away games for the last 20 years, and from 1957 through 1964 before that. It will now only be worn only on rare occasions, mostly when the Cardinals are playing on the road against another team with a red cap like the Cincinnati Reds or Philadelphia Phillies.
The new jerseys are an uncomfortable mishmash of vintage and modern styling cues. They have piping around the neck like Cardinals teams wore from the 1930s until the 1950s. But, at the same time, they have numbers on the front and -- shudder -- names on the back like teams wore in the 1970s, not during the golden age of baseball. The new tops are the first worn by the Cardinals since 1932 that say "St. Louis" on them instead of the team's nickname, according to the club. But instead of going with the font the team wore in the age of the Gas House Gang, they created an odd new script that has a print style letter "S" at the front of St. Louis and a cursive "S" at the end. Did anybody inspect the jersey before it was sent to production? It sure doesn't look like it.
If those contradictions weren't odd enough, tradition dictates that teams wear uniforms that say their team name at home and their city name on the road. The alternate Cardinals uniforms are only going to be worn for Saturday home games. Don't fans at Busch Stadium already know the Cardinals hail from St. Louis?
My real beef with the uniforms is simple: Why change something that is perfect?
The Redbirds have consistently been ranked in the top two or three teams in baseball every time uniforms are critiqued. In fact, in 2012 uniwatch.com said that the Cardinals were tops in baseball when it comes to wardrobe. Only the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers can compare with the Birds for beauty and consistency in their uniforms.
Who decides to overhaul their formula while they're on top?
When the Cardinals revealed the changes, I asked team president Bill DeWitt III why the club would reduce exposure of the navy cap. He said it was because some fans complained that the team just didn't wear enough red on the road, and the complainers felt a team called the Cardinals was duty bound to wear the color of the actual bird. (I guess no one told those folks female cardinals are brown, thank goodness.)
I don't know what team they have been watching for the last 100 years or so, but the Cardinals have worn navy caps much more often in their storied career than they have worn red. The team wore blue exclusively from 1940 until 1963 and then on the road in 1964. The club only wore red caps both home and away from 1965 until 1991. Prior to that they switched caps frequently and often wore white at home and gray on the road. There was really no set style back then. So, if any cap was the traditional color of the St. Louis Cardinals, it would have to be navy.
To add insult to injury, the Cardinals are going to wear red caps with their old fashioned alternate jerseys. Did I mention that the vintage Cardinals wore navy lids?
Stan Musial never wore a red cap when he played for the Cardinals from 1941 until 1963. So if navy was good enough for Stan the Man, it ought to be good enough from David Freese, Allen Craig and Adam Wainwright. Please, Cardinals front-office types, keep the road caps and leave our Cardinals' classic look alone.
Scott Wuerz has been a reporter and columnist at the Belleville News-Democrat, located in suburban St. Louis, since 1998. During that time he has covered three St. Louis Cardinals World Series appearances, the 2009 Major League Baseball All-Star game and Mark McGwire's chase to break Roger Maris' home run record. He has penned the View From the Cheap Seats Cardinals fan blog for the News-Democrat since 2007.