A Tampa identity crisis, in uniformBy
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.