Throwback fans had plenty to look at on July 7, as the Phillies and Padres faced off in Philadelphia and turned back the clock to 1983. Fun stuff, although the throwback gear had lots of design inaccuracies, the biggest of which was this: The Phils' throwback jerseys had traditional button-front closures -- a big no-no, because the 1983 originals had zippers.
MLB's uniform outfitter, Majestic, has produced zippered throwbacks for other teams, but the Phillies have always opted to go with period-inappropriate buttons for their 1970s and '80s throwbacks. Too bad. It may not seem like a big deal, but the Phils weren't just any zipper-jerseyed team. They were the last zippered team, the final standard-bearers for a uniform style that spanned a half-century and involved over a dozen teams -- a distinction they're apparently uninterested in claiming or promoting.
But no matter. If the Phillies don't want to showcase the zippered jersey, we'll just have to do it for them. Here's a quick timeline of the zipper's rise and fall in the big leagues:
1936: White Sox manager Jimmy Dykes wears a zippered jersey while the rest of his team wears buttons. According to a 1937 newspaper article, "Mr. Dykes is a zipper enthusiast, claiming that he can get away to his after-dinner speaking much earlier."
Fun fact: White Sox manager Jimmy Dykes (2nd from left) appears to have been the first MLBer to wear a zippered jersey, in 1936. pic.twitter.com/WK4BG6vSct— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) July 12, 2017
1937: The Cubs, perhaps influenced by their fellow Chicagoan Dykes, become the first club to wear zippered jerseys on a teamwide basis.
Fun fact: First team to wear zippered jerseys was the 1937 Cubs. The zipper supposedly allowed for "better draping." pic.twitter.com/PtApiB5a0J— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) July 12, 2017
1938: Zippers officially become a trend, as three more teams -- the White Sox, Dodgers and Tigers -- hop aboard the bandwagon.
The Dodgers, Tigers, and White Sox all went with zippered jerseys in 1938. pic.twitter.com/XqBfRfb5T0— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) July 12, 2017
1939-40: Zip-a-dee-doo-dah! Four more teams go zippered in 1939: the Pirates, Senators, Browns and Cardinals (although the Tigers opt to go back to buttons). When the Giants zip up in 1940, that means half of all big league teams -- eight out of 16 -- have joined the zippered zeitgeist. This turns out to be the high-water mark for zippers on the diamond.
Four more teams added zippers in 1939 (clockwise from top left): Pirates, Senators, Browns, Cardinals. pic.twitter.com/DYrZQPJ8Jo— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) July 12, 2017
1941 to 1975: Zippers maintain a small but steady foothold in the MLB uni-verse. While some teams, like the Reds and Yankees, never dabble with zipping up, many other teams give it a try at various points, including the Astros, Braves, Indians, Orioles and Red Sox.
Orioles, Indians, Red Sox, Astros, and Braves all wore zippered jerseys at various points in their histories. pic.twitter.com/CGE4xCf3rc— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) July 12, 2017
1976 to 1986: With many teams switching to pullover jerseys and others sticking with buttons, the Phillies find themselves as the last zippered holdouts.
Last MLB team to wear zippered jerseys: the Phillies, who wore them from 1973-1986. pic.twitter.com/EouK86aMG5— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) July 12, 2017
1987: The Phillies go back to wearing buttons, bringing the zippered era to a close.
It's worth noting that zippers have their pros and cons. On the plus side, they're fast and easy to use -- no muss, no fuss (even if you don't have an after-dinner speaking engagement). Also, you don't have to worry about the ball getting lost in the gap between your buttons.
Also, the lack of overlap results in the two front shirttails hanging down as separate flaps, which can make the jersey a bit more unruly when it's tucked in. Phils slugger Mike Schmidt found this so annoying that he had his jersey shirttails custom-tailored with a little button and loop on the inner side, which he used to keep the two flaps together.
Mike Schmidt had button/loop added to his zippered jersey shirttails, to help keep them tucked. You can see it's buttoned in photo at right. pic.twitter.com/JEZkiQcQ6y— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) July 12, 2017
OK, so they don't have to include that level of detail in the throwbacks. But the next time the Phils turn back the clock to their zippered era, it would be nice if the jerseys could be properly zippy.
Paul Lukas strongly recommends this book about the invention of the zipper. If you like this column, you'll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, check out his Uni Watch merchandise, be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted, or just ask him a question? Contact him here.