Humor me. I know I'm probably taking things a bit too far by breaking down my analysis of baseball uniforms into a four-part post. Sure, two parts could probably suffice. But after I looked through the first 50 years of baseball uniforms, I found the process of trimming possibilities too difficult. Plus, comparing uniforms from the 1920s to uniforms from the 1980s is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. With that in mind, I'll keep uniform eras grouped together in a rough sense. To begin, let's look at the worst uniforms from baseball's younger years.
No. 10 (tie)
1929 Boston Braves (56-98; last in NL)
1902 Pittsburgh Pirates (103-36; won NL pennant)
The Braves weren't the first team to try their logo on the back of the jersey; they actually ripped that idea off of the '28 Tigers. It looks ridiculous, which is probably the reason why the Tigers got rid of it in '29. Coupling the chief logo between the shoulder blades with the mustard and ketchup coloring is a recipe for disaster. A disaster is exactly what the Braves were on the field under skipper Judge Fuchs, who lasted just one season at the helm despite the colorful uniforms and his colorful name.
The striped undershirt sleeves on the 1902 Pirates uniform has a bit of a Kurt Cobain feel to it. The Pirates of this era were quite good, winning three straight NL pennants before the World Series had been thought up. Led by a dazzling outfield -- Ginger Beaumont, player-manager Fred Clarke, and Honus Wagner -- and Hall of Fame hurler Jack Chesbro (who once won 41 games in a season), Pittsburgh ran away with the NL by 27.5 games.
1942 Chicago Cubs (68-86; 6th in NL)
After winning the '38 NL pennant with just 89 wins, the Cubs were swept in the World Series by the Yankees, and then endured a string of mediocre to poor finishes interrupted by their '45 Series loss to the Tigers in seven games. The '42 team was a fairly weak-hitting bunch devoid of much star power, save for outfielder Bill Nicholson and starting pitcher Claude Passeau. I don't know what star would want to play for the Cubbies when they had to wear this uniform on the road. A precursor to the baby-blue unis of the Swingin' Seventies, this uni debuted in '41 and lasted just through the '42 season. Note the patriotic patch above the logo. Most teams added the patch to the sleeve, but the Cubs jersey was sleeveless.
1904 Chicago Cubs (93-60; 2nd in NL)
If ever there was a time when a Cubs team wanted to be known, it was the nineteen-oughts and early teens. Too bad their 1904 uniform didn't feature their name or logo anywhere, a concept that actually appealed to a few other teams in the olden days as well. The Cubs were a force at this time, winning a pair of World Series titles and regularly topping 90 wins. Led by a pair of Hall of Famers, first baseman Frank Chance and hurler Three Finger Mordecai Brown, Chicago finished second in the NL to the unstoppable New York Giants, who won 106 games under John McGraw.
1911 Chicago White Sox (77-74; 4th in AL)
Possibly, the 1911 White Sox just wanted to fit in with their fans. At this time, crowds at baseball games often dressed up as if it was a Sunday morning. But the necktie look just doesn't do much for me, especially on such a plain uni. Brooklyn actually was the first to use the down-the-buttons logo in 1910, so the Sox can't take credit for a bad idea. But Brooklyn didn't utilize a stripe of color down the buttons like the Sox, so their design didn't make the team name appear to be printed on a tie. Both the Sox and the Dodgers abandoned the design in 1912.
1925 Chicago White Sox (79-75; 5th in AL)
The 1920s were a miserable decade for the White Sox (but for that matter, so were the '30s and '40s). After the Black Sox scandal of 1919, the 1920 squad won 96 games and finished second. But following that season Shoeless Joe Jackson was banned from baseball, and the team went South in the standings. This ill-fated uniform choice for their road games -- which has a distinct train conductor look to it (or possibly prison inmate?) -- was the most black the White Sox donned for decades. A little tough on the eyes, wouldn't you agree?
1931 Chicago Cubs (84-70; third in the NL)
By now you may be sensing a Chicago theme to the list, but alas the Chicago baseball clubs had some poor fashion sense it seems. In the case of the '31 Cubs, it's not so much that their uniforms were ugly, rather they were suffering from split-personality disorder. Four uniforms -- each with a different logo -- makes for poor branding, but I suppose great jersey sales? Led by player-manager Rogers Hornsby, who replaced Joe McCarthy as skipper at the very end of the 1930 season, these Cubs featured a potent, league-best offense that included catcher Gabby Hartnett, outfielder Kiki Cuyler, and slugger Hack Wilson. After posting his still-record 191 RBI season in '30, Wilson was a complete bust in '31, having one of the worst declines in production in the history of the game (possibly the bottle let him down). From '30 to '31, Hack's OPS dropped 380 points. No matter, the '31 Cubs were no match for Gabby Street's Cardinals, who won the Series that year.
1918 Chicago Cubs (84-45; won NL pennant)
Oh, stop picking on the Cubs already! Okay, I promise this is the last one ... at least for the first part of this series. I don't know what the worst aspect of this uniform is: 1) the slightly pink hue; or 2) the "C" in the logo, which looks as if it was designed by an elementary school kid (no knock on kids, just the Cubs). Only two things of note concerning the '18 Cubs: First, they lost to Babe Ruth and the Boston Red Sox in the World Series; and second, they featured a pitcher with one of the best names in the history of baseball -- Hippo Vaughn.
1906 St. Louis Browns (76-73; 5th in NL)
Ah, the Browns. It's hard to hate them. They were truly baseball's first lovable losers. In '06, they wore this bland -- yet somehow ugly -- uni at home. It resembles the outline of a sewing pattern that might have been used to make an actual uniform. It's as if the wardrobe manufacturer forgot to fill in the lines with color. Truly a gross uniform. The Browns only claim to fame from this season -- other than boasting a pitcher, Barney Pelty, who went by the nickname The Yiddish Curver -- is that a young catcher by the name of Branch Rickey debuted for the team, hitting .284 at the plate.
1915 Kansas City Packers (81-72; 4th in Federal League)
The Federal League was the last serious attempt to establish a third league to compete with the National and American leagues. After its debut season as a "major league" in 1914, the FL slapped an anti-trust lawsuit on the AL and NL. Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis -- who just six years later would become baseball's first commissioner, but at the time was still an actual judge -- urged the two sides to negotiate and delayed a ruling. In the meantime, the FL couldn't support itself due to poor funding and went belly up following the 1915 season. Several of the Federal League team owners were allowed to purchase stakes in NL or AL clubs, allowing their FL rosters to merge with established but struggling franchises. The KC Packers weren't so lucky, however. They went bankrupt following the 1915 season, and were finished. Also of note, the 1915 FL season featured one of the tightest pennant races in baseball's history. The Chicago Whales won the league by a single percentage point over the St. Louis Terriers. Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Rebels had to settle for third place, just a half-game in back of St. Louie. As for the Packers, they finished 5.5 games back in these tough-on-the-eyes unis. The team name is so hard to read on the jersey that it reminds me of a stereogram, those odd flash cards used by eye doctors.
1916 New York Giants (86-66; 4th in NL)
I'm shocked that John McGraw's boys didn't stage a player revolt after getting a look at their new uniforms in 1916. It's no surprise they improved by 12 games to win the NL pennant the following year, after these unis were tossed in the dumpster. I imagine the Giants commissioning a hip NYC fashionista to take a crack at a uniform overhaul. Flash forward to spring training, and "Laughing Larry" Doyle, the team's second basemen, is standing in front of his teammates in his new uniform. They're all laughing at him. Doyle spits out some tobaccy and says, "The hell if I'ma gonna wear this." Indeed.