The Chicago White Sox entered the 1972 season as a franchise in danger. They only narrowly survived a relocation attempt to Milwaukee and were now in the sights of the City of Seattle which was licking its chops at the idea of a Major League Baseball club returning. A regular at the bottom of league attendance charts, the White Sox averaged only 5800 fans per game in 1970 – even those sad-sack Montreal Expos never drew so few fans over the course of an entire season.
But something happened in 1972, things just started to “click” in all the right ways. Newly acquired first baseman Dick Allen hit .308, with 37 homers and 113 RBI’s to claim the American League Most Valuable Player Award and starting pitcher Wilbur Wood threw 20 complete games, going 24-17 with an ERA of 2.51 and was named The Sporting News’ AL Pitcher of the Year. A 20-year-old kid by the name of Goose Gossage also stepped onto a Major League field for the first time to kick off his Hall of Fame career. Slowly but surely fans started showing up at the ballpark again.
This group of players took White Sox fans on a memorable ride they hadn’t experienced in nearly a decade. The team sat alone atop the AL West Division standings on August 29th before embarking on a devastating road trip to Boston and New York that ended it all and held the team to second place the rest of the way.
Simply put, the ’72 White Sox were a colourful cast of characters and personalities which baseball fans in the Windy City never forgot.
So when the White Sox decided to do something fun with their uniforms in 2012 they looked back to some of the more memorable seasons in team history for inspiration. They considered the 1977 “rent-a-star” season, 1983′s run to the ALCS, anything memorable after that was done in the current uniforms – and that’s no fun. It was that 1972 team, now 40 years on, that they felt would be the best to honour, and the best for fans to make a connection with.
In January the Chicago White Sox announced they would be wearing their 1972 red-and-white home uniforms each Sunday home game during the 2012 season. During the announcement the cap shown had a slight inaccuracy in the design. The ‘S’ in the ‘SOX’ logo just wasn’t quite right (the correct logo can be seen here).
“Within 20 minutes we heard all about it on Twitter”, said Ray Garcia, the Chicago White Sox Manager of Media Relations, “it had to be fixed before the season and we fixed it.”
Perhaps the “fixed” caps haven’t made it to the players yet because the inaccurate cap was still being worn in Chicago’s game against Boston on April 29th. Mr. Garcia’s words give hope that the corrected caps will make their way onto the field in the next few weeks, perhaps even in time for their next appearance this weekend against the Royals.
The quick reaction to an inaccuracy most would never even notice only helps drive home the point of just how much this team meant to those fans. It also goes to show the power that today’s social media has. The White Sox join the Tampa Bay Lightning as pro teams who have made tweaks and changes to an already unveiled uniform after an onslaught of feedback via Twitter and Facebook.
Another inaccuracy in the uniform is the button-up front. The ’72 White Sox wore (believe it or not) zippers on the front of their jerseys. However this time there will be no adjustments made. If you’re wearing the uniform over-and-over again why not go that extra mile and be as accurate as you can be?
“Player practicality”, Garcia explained, “the White Sox, Major League Baseball, and Majestic felt it would be the best option for players … it’s what they’re used to.”
This is also the same reason why you don’t see players wearing wool uniforms or caps when honouring teams of the early 20th Century, as the Yankees and Red Sox did late last month.
In a chat with Katherine Kulczyk, Corporate Communications Manager for New Era, (on-field producer of caps for all MLB players) the process was further explained. “We look into the history of what the cap looked like, in addition we are given direction from each club. We still need to maintain a performance angle to our product for the players on-field. That’s why we see some variation to under visor colour and we maintain the current 59FIFTY silhouette vs. reverting back to an unstructured wool cap”
It is a shame that Major League teams are unwilling to go all out and be 100% accurate with these throwback uniforms, but it’s hard to blame them… let’s be honest, if a uniform or cap was costing the team any chance at victory – or even an injury to their players – that uniform should not be worn on the field, no matter how fun it would be.
The bottom-line, despite some inaccuracies in the name of player performance… how are they selling?
“Sales are great, fan reaction is great”, said Garcia, “40-60 year olds really identify with this ’72 team”.
“They are selling very well and have received a lot of great feedback”, said Kulczyk.
With successful sales, and people like me writing about them, there’s no sign of teams putting an end to throwback uniforms anytime soon.
Do the White Sox have any plans to do this again in 2013, maybe with a different uniform from a different era this time?
“Nothing confirmed, but we’re always looking into things.”
A perfect opportunity to break out the 1983 White Sox uniforms, it is the 30th anniversary after-all… except maybe as a button-up with a belt this time around.