"The dress code is always red."
That's the tagline that runs at the end of one Phillies commercial. It's a good spot - has an everyone's-in-it-together vibe without too much saccharine, hand-holding schmaltz - even if it isn't exactly accurate.
The dress code isn't always red. Sometimes it's maroon or gray or off-white. Sometimes, on the good days when nostalgia sweeps the organization along in a wistful wave, it's even powder blue.
By the end of the season, the Phils will have worn six different uniforms - seven if you count the all-red batting practice tops. There's the standard white home outfit with the red pinstripes, the cream-colored home alternate with blue hats, and the gunboat gray road uniforms. A little more than a week ago, the Fightin's donned Philadelphia Stars uniforms in honor of the Negro Leagues, and they also dusted off the sweet, disco-era baby blue retro ensembles from the mid-70s.
And they're not done yet. On July 22, the Phillies will wear the old home uniforms from 1984 - the white ones with the maroon stripes and the giant, distinctive, overinflated "P" from my youth.
That's a lot of wardrobe changes for one team, but it occurred to me that there isn't a bad jersey in the lot. Not one. They're all excellent. That's almost impossible to pull off in professional sports. The gaudy, the hideous, the head-scratching and inexplicable - that's the norm these days. (And that's just the Wizards). From the Denver Broncos' half-machine, half-horse Transformer logo to the Colorado Rockies' mid-90s color scheme, there are some pretty foul uniforms out there.
The Phillies are set apart from that sartorially challenged crowd. In fact, all the teams in Philly dress fairly well. Some of us were sitting around Page 2 HQ - otherwise known as the Inquirer sports department conference room, complete with a mini-fridge and some chairs you can even sit on without breaking - when we started talking about that, about some great uniforms past and present, as well as some jerseys that weren't so hot (the Shawn Bradley-era star-stamped Sixers getups, for example.)
That led to an idea. As part of the new, revamped Page 2 - and in an attempt to get the reader more involved - we've been posing questions on our Facebook page, SportsInq. We started out by asking you to submit stories about your first glove or the foul ball you caught (or didn't, in some cases). Some of those, a good number of them, later appeared in the paper.
Today on Facebook, we're switching it up. Good or bad, local or out-of-town, we want your thoughts about the uniforms you love or loathe. If you write something clever or interesting, something that makes us laugh or reminisce, it might pop up on Page 2.
To get things started, we'll begin here with my top five favorite area uniforms of my lifetime:
5. Penn State football: Same as they ever were. Classic. Clean. Simple. Perfect.
4. Sixers - Wilt Chamberlain era: The new Sixers uniforms aren't bad, but they don't come close to the ones Wilt wore. At The Inquirer, there's a great black and white photo of Chamberlain dunking over some poor, overmatched lesser human. Across Chamberlain's chest are five letters - Phila - and the number 13 sits below near his stomach. The man had style, and so did the Sixers.
3. Flyers - every uniform that isn't mostly black: When the Broncos abandoned the creamsicle jerseys John Elway wore, the Flyers stopped having competition for the best orange uniforms around (sorry, Syracuse). Even when the guy wearing it has a broken nose or mouth full of missing teeth, the orange sweater is sweet.
2. Phillies - powder blue: It took me a long while to pick between the top two spots. They're equally excellent. But since there can only be one No. 1, the '70s baby blues are the runner-up. Some uniforms are so awful that they're awesome - the Astroturf Astros with the Technicolor swath across the stomach; the horizontal black-and-yellow bumblebee striped Pirates; the mustard yellow and dirt brown Padres. The powder blues weren't that. They weren't cool in a counterintuitive way. They were genuinely cool and remain so. It's why you see so many replicas in the stands at Citizens Bank Park. They're baseball's version of Chuck Taylors - they never go out of style.
1. Eagles - Kelly green: The winged helmet logo remains a classic, and the midnight green uniforms worn by the current team are solid. But there's something about the old, familiar Kelly green that evokes emotion. Those weren't just uniforms - they were the getups worn by Philly's favorite superheroes: Tommy McDonald and Chuck Bednarik, Wilbert Montgomery and Bill Bergey, Ron Jaworski and Mike Quick, Randall and Reggie, Seth and Jerome. Those uniforms were an identity - for the team and the town. They were unique. They were us. They were Philly.
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