In June and July there were two different games where the teams involved threw back to 1969; in both cases, it was because the throwback uniforms debuted 50 years ago. In a bit of a twist, the home team in one game was throwing back to a different franchise in the same city (Seattle Mariners, Seattle Pilots), and the home team in the other game was throwing back to a different city for the same franchise (Washington Nationals, Montreal Expos). The road teams (Orioles and Royals) both threw back as well, but as it worked out only someone who was familiar with uniforms would know the difference.
From the day I found out about these games, I knew I’d have to make customs of them, but I wasn’t sure what card design to base them on. 1969 and 1970 Topps have been a little overdone lately, and I’ll be honest, faking the 3-D effect for 1970 Kellogg’s was more work than I had time for.
After thinking about this for a while, I decided to use my own 2019 TSR template, and just set it up as if the Pilots and Expos were still teams in 2019. I almost said “What a wonderful world that would be”, but I suppose that if these teams had been around since 1969, they would be no more notable than their two expansion partners (the Royals and Padres).
Back on June 22nd, the Seattle Mariners became the Seattle Pilots for the day.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Pilots, they were a 1969 expansion team that, due to shaky financing, were sold after one season and bought by a Milwaukee group lead by Bud Selig.
The team is also famous for being one of the teams Jim Bouton was on during the season when he wrote “Ball Four”.
When the Pilots left town, legal action by Seattle lead to the 1977 expansion which added the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays to the American League.
This June, the “Pilots” played against the Orioles; as it works out, the Orioles road uniforms now are very similar to their 1969 road uniforms… I even saw someone on Twitter who went off about how the Mariners couldn’t get “the worst team in baseball” to wear throwbacks. Little did Mr. Angry Twitter Guy realize that they *were* wearing throwbacks.
The other throwback game, on July 6th, left me a bit conflicted. One one hand, I didn’t like the idea of the team that took away the Expos honoring the team, especially given that the Nats largely disregard their Expos origins.
At the end of the day, any reason to bring these uniforms back for a day is all right by me.
I’m not sure if they went with the Expos’ powder blue road uniforms because the game wasn’t being played in Montreal, or for other reasons. I’d like to think it’s the former.
The Expos history as a franchise is too involved to get into, but I’ll mention that they started in 1969, were targeted (along with the Twins) for “contraction” in 2001, and would move to Washington after the 2004 season.
The “Expos” opponent was the Royals; I’m not sure the Expos and Royals ever played each other in a regular season game, but I could be wrong.
The Royals have kept the same cap throughout their 50 year existence, and the main difference in their 1969 road uniforms and their 2019 road uniforms is the “Kansas City” script.
Recommended reading: In looking up information on the attempted contraction of the Expos and Twins, I found a verrrrrrrrry interesting ESPN recap from 2001 of where things stood and how this would all work (how the leagues would get realigned, what happens to the players, etc.). Even as a fan who lived through this and took great interest in how it played out, I found this article fascinating as I’d forgotten many of the details over the past 18 years (The D-Backs in the AL West?!?)