My early August post and associated comments about what may or may not happen with 2023 Topps Heritage – based on different aspects of the original 1974 Topps – got me thinking about the colors used in 1974 and what colors might be used for 2023 Heritage. Then I remembered that 2020 Topps Archives also used the 1974 design, so I also started thinking about the colors used in that set.
As was often the case in the 1970s, the 1974 set had specific color combinations assigned to the different teams. The colors sometimes matched the actual uniform colors, sometimes were similar to actual team colors, and in other cases were just bright colors which didn’t clash with the actual colors.
Many of the color combos followed what I think of as the “Buddy System”; A particular color combination would be used by two teams, one in the AL and one in the NL. An example of this is the Phillies and White Sox:
Other teams like the A’s and Padres had their own unique color combinations which more-or-less matched the actual team colors.
Fast forward 49 years and some of these teams have relocated and/or changed names, some teams have different colors that don’t go as well with the 1974 border colors, and other teams just flat-out didn’t exist in 1974, so there’s plenty of room for making changes to what would appear in 2023 Heritage.
Six of the 12 teams in each league had a “color buddy”, plus two other pairs of teams had similar colors, but weren’t true buddies. Also, the Buddy System got broken over time, at least in terms of having one in each league. The Astros and Red Sox are 1974 color buddies, but now both are in the American League. I’ll point all of this out when I get to it.
All of this is to say that I spend too much time thinking about stuff like this.
So what I’m doing here is I’m going to use graphic examples of what the colors had been used in 1974 Topps, what colors had been used in 2020 Archives, what colors Topps might use in 2023 Heritage, and – in those cases where it’s different – what colors *I* would use if Topps were foolish enough to put me in charge.
Now I’ll say up front that I am a child of the 1970s, so I like colors to be bold, fun and… well… colorful. Sure, it’d be nice to match the team colors when possible, but Major League Baseball has an overabundance of blue and red teams. If all the borders were blue and red, that would get kind of monotonous.
OK, let’s get rolling… Allow me to introduce one of the little pseudo-cards I created for this post:
Rather than whipping up full custom cards to make my point, I went with some “condensed customs” to get the point across.
Let me also set some ground rules so I can avoid getting overly descriptive in the rest of the post… When I speak of “pennants”, that refers to the pennants (lavender in the above example), which hold both the city name and the team’s nickname. Also, when I speak of the “frame”, I’m talking about the border around the photo which, above, is yellow.
And finally, this post is going through the American League teams as of 2023, not from 1974… So if you’re looking for the Brewers, you’re going to have to wait until the next post
A’s / ATHLETICS
These are unique – no buddy system involved – and already team colors, so there’s no need to change it.
The one concession to the passing years is that the team’s name in the 1970s was official the A’s, and now it’s Athletics… And MLB Properties apparently doesn’t take well to using abbreviated nicknames on licensed cards, so no “A’s”, “Cards” or “Yanks”. Otherwise, we’re good to go.
1974 Color Buddy: None
We’ll start off with a somewhat controversial team in terms of the 1974 color combo. I’m sure there are a bunch of you who would ditch pink/magenta from Topps’ color palette in a heartbeat, given that it’s nobody’s team colors. For me, pink pennants with a grey frame around the picture is close enough to team colors, and keeps the palette varied.
If the team updated the original design as it was, the only change would be to the city name, changing “CALIFORNIA” to “LOS ANGELES”.
However, I expect that Topps will continue to call the team just “Angels” without the “Los Angeles” and will duplicate what appeared in 2020 Archives:
I can hope that the city gets included, but I won’t hold my breath. Good thing I’m not an Angels fan.
1974 Color Buddy: The Cubs are partial color buddies – they share the magenta pennants, but the Cubs pair it with a blue frame.
The Astros have changed uniform colors a couple of times over the last 50 years, but their current colors are essentially the same as their 1974 colors. While the 1974 Topps color combo isn’t navy and orange, I put these in the category of “It ain’t broke”.
1974 Color Buddy: Red Sox
The Blue Jays first season was in 1977, so they obviously weren’t represented in 1974 Topps. For 2020 Archives, they “borrowed” the 1974 color combo used by the Rangers and the Expos.
Since the Nationals used a different color combo in 2020 Archives, the Jays essentially took over as the Rangers’ color buddies.
In the interest of keeping things a bit different, I’d consider changing the lettering to black, but I’m fine with it either way.
1974 Color Buddy: N/A
INDIANS / GUARDIANS
Yellow has never been a color for this franchise, but I just love the heck out of the red/yellow/grey combination used in 1974. The grey frame works as a nice accent and keeps things grounded, color-wise.
For 2020 Archives, they changed the letters to white, and that just made things kinda dull.
I beg of Topps, please go back to the yellow lettering.
1974 Color Buddy: None, but they should’ve had one… that’s how much I like this color combo
The originals were perfect.
But in 2020 Archives, they changed the team name lettering from orange to white.
It doesn’t look anywhere near as good, but there may be a reason that they did this. Card production is a completely different beast than it was in the 1970s and for whatever reason the bright colors of 50 years ago don’t ‘pop’ like they used to. When the bright letters are put against a black pennant, it often seemed to make the letters seem less bright… so if the white letters are there because they look better with today’s printing technology, I suppose I can see that. I really prefer the originals, though.
1974 Color Buddy: Giants
The Mariners are another team that didn’t exist in 1974. In 2020 Archives they became Color Buddies for the Royals (who didn’t have a Color Buddy in 1974)
That’s fine, but I like the idea of getting a little green into the design, just to introduce more colors into the set.
One possibility could be as simple as changing the frame from yellow to green (and I played with changing the lettering to yellow)
Back in 2008 I made my first attempt at custom cards by creating some current-at-the-time players in the 1974 design, and for the Mariners I took the A’s green pennants and changed the frame to blue.
I really like this, but I’m obviously not impartial on this case.
1974 Color Buddy: N/A
The Rangers color combo remains perfect for the team today, no need to modify it.
1974 Color Buddy: Expos (Nationals)
Once again, the Rays didn’t exist in 1974, so it’s time to figure out a new color combo.
For 2020 Archives, they went with something like this…
In terms of 2020 Archives, the Rays were color buddies with the Mets (who, for whatever reason, had black letters in 2020 rather than the white letters from 1974). At any rate, it doesn’t match the Rays team colors well. I’d go with the dark blue pennants, yellow letters and yellow frame
1974 Color Buddy: N/A
Black, red and yellow is a better match here than it was for the Astros, but I still like it as a combo for the Red Sox. No real need to change this.
1974 Color Buddy: Astros
Not much to say about these either. The team colors are blue with a touch of yellow. End of story.
1974 Color Buddy: None, but are similar to the Brewers, who had the same yellow frame with darker blue pennants
Back in the 1970s this was kinda sorta close to Tigers colors because the road uniforms included a reddish orange to go with the navy blue. These days an argument can be made for changing them.
Thing is, what would you change them to? The home unis are navy and white. The road unis are navy and gray. There needs to be some color in here, to my thinking, so I’m back to sticking with what was used in 1974… but I’m open to suggestions.
1974 Color Buddy: Braves
The Twins color combo is similar to the actual uniforms, with a dark blue substituting for the navy blue.
2020 Archives changed the dark blue to a medium blue. I would imagine that most people didn’t notice, but I did. I’d keep the dark blue.
1974 Color Buddy: Cardinals
From 1971 to 1975, the White Sox home uniforms were similar in design to what they wear today, only the uniforms were red and white instead of black and white. The 1974 road uniforms maintained the red caps but went with powder blue with red accents.
The Chisox and Phillies had similar uniforms at the time, so that made them ideal “color buddies” in 1974.
Thing is, the White Sox have different team colors now. An argument can be made that their current uniforms are neutral and anything will go with them, and I’d be fine with that.
If you insist on updating the colors to better match the team today, I would be cool with something like this
This could also free up the 1974 combination for one of the many current teams which use red… I have an idea I’ll touch on when we get to the National League teams
1974 Color Buddy: Phillies
Again, like with the White Sox, the Yankees’ navy and white team colors aren’t colorful enough on their own to use by themselves, but the team could always go with other colors. I would call this a case of “the original colors are good enough”.
1974 Color Buddy: None
So that wraps up the American League. I’ll be covering the National League in my next post