A Tampa identity crisis, in uniform

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altuniform Via Shysterball, we learn that the Tampa Bay Devil Rays of St. Petersburg have once again changed their uniforms. The team — famous for changing, well, everything — will soon unveil a new alternate jersey.

On May 1st, the Rays will don a new alternate jersey when they host the Red Sox at Tropicana Field. It will be a navy blue button-down with RAYS outlined in white trim with a light blue shadow across the chest.

The sunburst emanating from the “R” is forty percent larger than the sunburst on the team’s home and road jerseys. Light blue piping surrounds the sleeves and collar and extends down the front of the jersey. The player’s name and number are featured on the back [in navy] outlined in white.

Now of course, this is a marketing ploy. It’s fairly amusing that one of the teams with the fewest amount of fans would have the most egregious changes. They change their team, their colors; their uniform styles.

So in the spirit of Friday afternoon, let’s run through the history of the Tampa Bay Rays’ uniforms. For the sake of comparison, we’ll compare them to the changes in the Yankee uniforms since 1997. Keep in mind that Yankees merchandise is baseball’s top-selling. One of these two teams is doing something right.

After the jump, more about uniforms than you ever wanted to hear.

First, a brief note: All uniform pictures are from the Hall of Fame’s excellent but incomplete Baseball Uniform Database. This database omits the numerous combinations of alternate home and away uniforms such as the one the Rays plan to adopt in May. If we could view all of the Click the images to enlarge.

1998

The Rays didn’t receive high marks in uniform design when they unveiled their initial duds. With a black and purple hat scheme and a rainbow uniform, the design was boring and cartoon-ish. The Yankees’ 1998 outfit looked, well, the same.

1999-2000

It’s part one of the “subtle change” approach Tampa Bay took the waning days of the Twentieth Century. Gone was the over-large blob of a fish on the hat. Replacing it was a blocky TB and a smaller fish. The team finished in last place. The Yanks? Still pinstriped. Still classy.

2001-2004

As the new millennium dawned, the team’s uniform identity crisis continued. In 2001, gone was that ineffectual rainbow, replaced by some oddly robotic-looking type that says “Rays” while at home and “Tampa Bay” on the road. The Yankees still looked good.

2005-2007

Nothing screams Tampa Bay or Devil Ray quite like…green vests? Having discarded the rainbow-and-purple combination at the start of the Bush Administration, the Rays tried to blend in with their artificial turf surroundings by picking up a whole new look. The Devil Ray returned to their chests, the font became a little less ridiculous and the team opted for the in-vogue sleeveless look. The Yanks trudged on, no name of course.

2008

Talk about a revolution. As 2008 arrived — and with it, a good Rays team — the Devil and the fish were officially dropped. The Rays came to stand for sunshine and a boring interlocking TB with a serif Rays across the chest. The team adopted the blue-and-white motif made famous by, well, everyone else. It would be the teams’ 11th season in existence and their fifth new uniform combination.

Now, of course, I could be accused of being naïve. After all, if people are buying the merchandise, who cares about the uniform color? But the numbers tell a different story. The Yanks enjoy high sales; Tampa does not. At some point, a team’s uniform has to become part of its team identity. The Rays are a good ballclub top to bottom. Their look should reflect that as well.

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IDA approves more tax-free bonds for Yanks
Some smart post-season rule changes
  • Cam

    I actually think the uniforms they debuted last year are their best. I mean, it’s not that difficult to improve on something when they’ve been so bad in the first place, but they should definitely stick with what they have now for a while. Unlike the Sox, however, who felt the need to change a classic uniform, like the Yanks have, for the worse. I already can’t stand looking at Youkilis, then they have to go and make it worse.

    • http://incumbentgm.wordpress.com The Third Yip-Yip

      Personally I think the Sux should bring back the red hats with the navy “B” and navy brim. That was chill.

  • Senor A. Boy

    I think the Rays unis last year were a nice change, even if the colors have been done by a lot of teams before. I agree with what you’re saying about the dubious results of so many uniform changes… but isn’t the reason why the Yankees merchandise sells so much more than the Rays because they have such a larger fan base? Who knows what would happen to Yankee merchandise sales if they put out new uniforms and looks. Does anybody know how well the VT and July 4th limited edition hats sold?

  • BJ

    I SAY THIS IS NOTHING BUT UNCATEGORIZED WHIMSY

    • D.B.H.O.F. p.k.a The Last Don

      Yet that would be categorized by calling it whimsy right?

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

        Context: Earlier for some reason due to a WordPress error, it was categorized as both “Uncategorized” and “Whimsy.” I had to fix it.

        • D.B.H.O.F. p.k.a The Last Don

          Ah then it was funny. My tardiness to the thread caused my lack of knowledge.

  • Yankee1010

    I think it’s great that they’ve changed the uniforms so many times because it clearly exposes the bandwagon fans.

  • Dave

    The yanks are doing something right in terms of sales and numbers of fans and the rays may be doing something wrong because they have many less fans and sell much less merchandise but i think the actual jerseys the team wears, has absolutely nothing to do with the fans or the sale of merchandise unless the jersey is absolutely disgusting which it has not been in the recent past. If the rays continue the trend of winning, they will sell a ton of merchandise … the colors and jerseys have very little if anything to do with it.

  • http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/CRsmithT1.jpg tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    I agree with both sentiments:

    1) All this changing of names, colors, and uniforms is ridiculous and marks a franchise without a legacy or roots.
    2) The changes last year were a TITANIC improvement. While you shouldn’t change your uniform every few years, the pre-2008 Rays were ugly as hell.

    Downright Varitekian.

    As an aside, I saw DBHOF mentioning Yankees shirts and jerseys in a different thread, and I could not agree with him more: I hate Yankees t-shirts/jerseys with names on them. Yankee paraphernalia with names on the back looks retarded. Here’s my question: Why do they even make them? Why doesn’t the team demand that MLB and all its vendors/licensees print/make their jerseys and shirts with numbers only?

    We’re the coolest unis in the league because we’re timeless, clean, sharp, and clutter free… and then I have to come to the park and see some slob in his “33 WELLS” jersey. Why?

    Let’s stay classy, New York…

    • jsbrendog

      at least its not that #17 andy stankiewitz jersey circa 1992…… now that and a number 2 mike gallego jersey would be perfect. or one of the 3 numbers alvaro espinoza wore hahaha

      • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

        1. I don’t buy jerseys w/names on the back, only the player shirts. Much, much cheaper. The only jersey I have is a road one with no name or number.

        2. I got a 33 Soriano right before they traded for Wells, a 22 Cano that I still rock, and a 65 Hughes; at least he changed back to it, though, so I don’t look to stupid.

        • jsbrendog

          thats what i meant the team player shits, my bad

    • usty

      We’re lucky in a sense too. Didn’t George want to make the Away uniforms like reverse pinstriped. (i.e. navy with white pin stripes) in the 70’s? I swear I read that somewhere.

    • http://www.youtube.com/kevyyankees Kevin G.

      By no names on the jerseys, do you mean the replica Yankees jerseys,the t-shirts, or both?

      • D.B.H.O.F. p.k.a The Last Don

        My issue with the names is that the jerseys should not have the names on the back, if you have the name on the back possibly you are not aware that the Yanks do not put their names on the back.

        As far as the shirts I get why they sell them with the name on there, I just will never ever ever buy one like that. If i could cop a 23 shirt with no Mattingly on the back I would get it, but alas all my trips to the Stadium as a youth I never got one because I would not rock one with the name on the back.

        Now if you want a shirt with the players face on the front and it has his name or something cool. But why would the name EVER be on the back of a Yanks shirt? I do not get that.

        On a similar note I will not wear shirts, hats, jersey, etc with any “Division Champion” shirts or other nonsense. I have gotten several as gifts over the years and I will not wear them EVER or keep them in my house. I am a Yankees fan, if you want to get me a year specific shirt hat etc wait till it is the year they win the WS.

        As for the new Devil Rays and Bo Sox unis. They both want to be like the Yanks with the navy blue. Back up off us corny teams. Thanks.

    • D.B.H.O.F. p.k.a The Last Don

      I somehow missed this post before I just did mine.

      “We’re the coolest unis in the league because we’re timeless, clean, sharp, and clutter free… and then I have to come to the park and see some slob in his “33 WELLS” jersey. Why?

      Let’s stay classy, New York”

      Minus the Will Ferrell movie reference, I am there too man. I have thought about even having custom shirts made with the just the number and logo on it for personal use. I even checked into what it would take to do a proper licensed one for retail sale and it was too much of a hassle for the few fans that would be interested in purchasing them.

      From the info I gathered if you were already in business with MLB licensing it would be the easiest thing in the world to make happen. I think the people like Majestic, Lee, Mitchell and Ness, etc could do these shirts with ease. They are either missing a market or only 2 or 3 people would rather wear these.

      I have quite a few official jerseys but as I get older I feel less like wearing them, and have not for a good number of years. So I really would like a navy blue shirt with a interlocking NY on the front with 23 on the back. I am willing to pay upwards of a whole 20 spot for one if they make it in a size I can fit into.

  • http://www.facebook.com/home.php?ref=home#/group.php?gid=43434432275 Ace

    I have to admit I like that alternate jersey. It’s pretty sharp. And the changes from Devil Rays to Rays and respective uniform change were both changes made for the better in my opinion.

    I think the Sox changing their away uniforms to the 80’s uni is an atrocity. The Sox road unis they’ve been wearing for the last 2 decades were possibly the best uniforms in all of baseball IMO.

  • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

    Nobody noted the fancy new image plugin we’ve installed. I’m crushed. CRUSHED.

    • jsbrendog

      hey, is that a fancy new image plugin you’ve got installed? niiiiice

    • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

      Let us embed videos, too, and I’ll compliment you! I was ultra-crushed when I posted a video link and one of you guys got to embed it and I couldn’t. :(

    • whozat

      I would like to bed your fancy new image plug in, if it’s single.

    • http://26ncounting.blogspot.com VO

      I would have told you i liked it sooner but I was just so happy I was speachless

  • SteveSax

    This is a story because?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

      If you do this one more time, we’re banning you. We’ve deleted posts of yours that say this. We’ve told you to stop. If you personally don’t think something is newsworthy, then don’t comment on it. It’s not like we don’t publish 7 or 8 other posts during the day.

      • SteveSax

        fair enough

        • SteveSax

          I honestly didn’t see the warnings before, I apologize.

          • http://www.riveraveblues.com Ben K.

            Fair enough. It’s ok.

            • D.B.H.O.F. p.k.a The Last Don

              Please do not ban Steve Sax he is if I remember correctly the single season singles leader for the Yanks.

              You know what BAN him. His inability to get into scoring position might be a contributing factor to Donnie not getting into the Hall.

              Steve Sax you are no Rickey Henderson.

  • Metrosexual in NYC

    Thank you for this post.

    I can now rest easy tonight.

    signed….

    METROSEXUAL in NYC

  • http://www.youtube.com/kevyyankees Kevin G.

    The red sox should have kept their hats the same. A hitter looking out to the mound and seeing the pitcher wearing a hat with a pair of socks on it won’t exactly intimidate him.

    BTW, Yankees hat=best hat in MLB

    • http://26ncounting.blogspot.com VO

      BTW, Yankees hat=best hat in MLB

      seconded

      • Un-Named Yankee Source

        BTW, Yankees hat=best hat in MLB

        Thirded

        …I do not even mind how the Mets copied us.

    • drew

      u mean best hat in the world!

      • Matthew

        Def the most recognized sports logo in the world…

        • http://26ncounting.blogspot.com VO

          Definately, everywhere you go you see someone wearing a Yankees hat, even if they don’t know it was a Yankees hat.

          • D.B.H.O.F. p.k.a The Last Don

            or if in NY you see people in a faux Yanks cap that cost five bucks they got at a gas station, outside the game, or in chinatown from an african (if you ever go to chinatown you get this joke)

  • http://walkdesign.com Matt

    I think the green and black colors last year were their best color combo. Theta and the font were lame, but now there is only 1 green team in all of baseball as opposed to the current set that when the Rays are in the field and you can only see the back of the uniform you can’t tell if it is the mariners, royals or dodgers.

    Not too mention that the AL east has blue in all of its team except the O’s, it was just a dumb choice.

    Then there is the most obvious matter of the word mark, TB logo and absolutely amateurish sun bolt looking like it came from a Nintendo generic made up team logo. And why they went to all the trouble of changing the name to Rays and dropping “devil” from it and putting a Devil Ray fish on the sleeve is beyond me.

  • D.B.H.O.F. p.k.a The Last Don

    Why does the guy on the pics wearing the unis look like a cross between Alex Rod and Karim Garcia?

  • Un-Named Yankee Source

    Looks like the Guys in the Uniforms used Steroids, ….check the Mitchell Report, call Congress!