The San Diego Padres unveiled a new uniform set earlier this week, and it included something fans have been clamoring for: a home alternate uni featuring the team's original brown-and-gold color scheme. (Actually, many fans have been clamoring for the Padres to go brown/gold for their primary uniforms, not just for an alternate. But hey, one thing at a time.)
The enduring affection for the Padres' original color scheme is interesting. If a team came out with those colors today, it would almost certainly be ridiculed. In fact, the Padres themselves were ridiculed back in the 1970s. But they stuck with their colors long enough for fans to develop a bond with them -- a bond that has only grown stronger when viewed through the lens of nostalgia.
The Padres weren't the first MLB team to wear brown. The old St. Louis Browns wore their namesake color for half a century before moving to Baltimore and becoming the Orioles. But the Padres were the first MLB team to wear brown in the modern, televised era, and the color is largely associated with them, at least on the baseball diamond. Here's a timeline of their brown phase:
1969-71: The Padres join the National League and wear a fairly traditional uniform featuring brown lettering with gold outlining:
Padres unveiling a new uni set this week, so let's look at some of their old unis, beginning w/ the 1969-71 jerseys. pic.twitter.com/rhM2uADOI1— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) November 30, 2015
1972-73: The double-knit revolution arrives, and the Padres are among the teams switching from button-front jerseys to pullovers, from belted pants to elastic waistbands and from white and gray to more aggressive color patterns:
Padres wore solid gold w/ brown lettering at home and on road in 1972-73. pic.twitter.com/VKr2XGtJhg— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) November 30, 2015
1974-75: The pendulum swings back the other way, as the Padres return to wearing white at home and gray on the road while maintaining the pullover/sansabelt format:
Padres returned to wearing white at home, gray on the road in 1974 and '75. pic.twitter.com/psnnVJwnAR— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) November 30, 2015
1976-77: The home uniform remains unchanged, but the road design features an MLB first -- a brown jersey (with white shoes!):
Padres really went all-in for brown when they added this road jersey for 1976 and '77. pic.twitter.com/XBjAtjn71d— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) November 30, 2015
1978: Things officially get wacky, as the Padres go with a mix-and-match set of white, brown, and gold uniform elements. The jerseys feature the city name and team name both spelled out on the chest -- an MLB rarity:
People are often surprised to learn that the Padres wore this iconic design for only one season -- 1978. pic.twitter.com/NAsSNGfNx1— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) November 30, 2015
Although the Padres wore that 1978 design for only one season, it remains enormously influential. When the Rays wanted to come up with a 1970s-style "fauxback" design in 2012 (they couldn't do a true throwback because they didn't come into existence until 1998), they turned to the '78 Padres for inspiration:
That 1978 Padres uni was the basis for the Rays' fauxback alternate. pic.twitter.com/17bJn5gRjv— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) November 30, 2015
1979: The Padres go back to wearing the team name at home, city name on the road:
Padres switched to this raglan-sleeved design in 1979. pic.twitter.com/weajKOt0US— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) November 30, 2015
1980-83: In a spasm of unprecedented visual stability, the Padres stick with the same uni set for four seasons. The jersey is quickly dubbed "the Taco Bell design":
The classic "Taco Bell" uniforms were worn from 1980-83. pic.twitter.com/Sy791z2ddM— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) November 30, 2015
1984: The Padres keep the same basic Taco Bell design but, in a nod to traditionalism, switch back to button-front jerseys and belted pants. The baseball gods smile upon this move, as the team wins the National League pennant before losing to the Detroit Tigers in the World Series:
In 1984, the Padres kept the same design but switched to button-front jerseys and belted pants. pic.twitter.com/ROEYpWB4cr— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) November 30, 2015
1985-90: The pendulum swings all the way back to a more traditional look, complete with -- wait for it -- brown pinstripes. But the old brown-and-gold color scheme is gone, with the gold now replaced by orange:
Padres' final phase wearing brown (trimmed w/ orange, not gold) was this set, worn from 1985-90. Brown pinstripes! pic.twitter.com/7VYa6zi7TB— Paul Lukas (@UniWatch) November 30, 2015
That set marked the end of the Padres' brown phase. In 1991, they swapped out the brown in favor of navy blue. Blue has remained their primary color since then.
But now that brown is back in the mix, will it end up assuming a greater role in the team's visual program? Time will tell.
Would you like to nominate a uniform to be showcased in a future Friday Flashback installment? Send your suggestions here.
Paul Lukas is rooting for a full-scale return to the brown and gold. If you liked 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, 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.