Exactly what year is it out there?

With so many Major League Baseball teams in throwback-inspired uniforms or participating in “Turn Back the Clock” games this year it’s a reasonable question to be asked by the average baseball fan.

Just how many teams are doing this? Well, let’s break it down…

Nineteen teams will be taking part in a Turn Back the Clock game, either going back to a look their team used to wear or a uniform worn by a team who previously played in their city, such as a Negro League or Minor League team.

Those 19 teams are… Arizona Diamondbacks (2001), Boston Red Sox (1912), Chicago Cubs (1912), Chicago White Sox (1972), Detroit Tigers (1930s Negro Leag.), Houston Astros (1962, 1965, 1975, 1986, 1997), Los Angeles Angels (1972, 1955 PCL Angels), Los Angeles Dodgers (1947), Milwaukee Brewers (1980s alt, 1930s Negro Leag.), Minnesota Twins (1960s alt, 1930s Millers AAA), New York Yankees (1912), Oakland Athletics (1936, 1930s Oaks PCL),  Pittsburgh Pirates (1930s Negro Leag.), San Diego Padres (1978, 1987, 1998),  San Francisco Giants (1912, 1980s road alt), Seattle Mariners (1955 PCL Rainiers),  Tampa Bay Rays (1979 “faux” throwback), Texas Rangers (1972, 1983, 1991, 1996),  Washington Nationals (1930s Negro Leag.).

The Cubs and Giants turned back to 1912 earlier this month

An additional ten teams are wearing throwback-inspired uniforms either as their full-time home/road set or as their alternate jerseys… they be: Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, Toronto Blue Jays.

The mathematicians out there already know that that’s 29 out of the 30 teams in the Majors; you got it, all but one team will be wearing a uniform originally based off of a team of the past at some point during the 2012 season.

The lone hold-out, yeah… it’s the Miami Marlins. You could hardly blame them for not participating during their first season out there in their bold new identity.

How did this whole throwback phenomenon get started anyways?

Let’s “Turn Back the Clock” to find out!

In 1987, after 19 seasons of experimenting with everything from pinstripes to beer-league softball uniforms, the Atlanta Braves returned to their roots by going back to a look similar to what they wore in 1966 – their first season in Atlanta, they even re-added the tomahawk across the jersey, something not seen since 1962 during their days in Milwaukee.

Atlanta Braves 1987 Yearbook celebrates their new uniform based off of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves

This was also around this time that powder-blue road uniforms and those elastic waist-bands on the pants started being replaced by grey road uniforms and belts respectively.

While the Braves as well as the gradual return of road greys got the ball rolling it was the Chicago White Sox that really took the baseball uniform world back in time with a promotion that drew the attention of baseball fans all over.

Chicago’s famous Comiskey Park was closing its doors at the end of the 1990 season after 81 seasons, and the White Sox wanted to do something fun to pay tribute to this final year at the old yard.

Chicago White Sox players dressed up for baseball's first Turn Back the Clock Game - July 11, 1990

On July 11, 1990 the Chicago White Sox took to the field wearing uniforms modelled after the 1917 World Series Champion White Sox team.  None of this modern “polyester” lighter fabric, no, they wore the old fashioned double-knit material of baseball’s golden age.  Those poor White Sox players had to go 13 innings in the heavier material, eventually losing to the Milwaukee Brewers.

In addition to the old uniforms players were announced via megaphones and ushers wore outfits of the era.  General Admission tickets were offered for 50 cents and all other tickets were 50% off.

This was baseball’s first “Turn Back the Clock” game.

It proved wildly popular and the White Sox, who were already switching to throwback-esque uniforms full-time for 1991, ended up playing the entire final month of the 1990 season wearing their new future-old style uniforms.

San Francisco's Bill Swift during an early Turn Back the Clock Game in 1991

The concept continued in the following seasons with several teams joining in, the Baltimore Orioles and San Francisco Giants staged their own Turn Back the Clock games in 1991. In the next two seasons even more teams joined in on the fun with the Giants, Phillies, Pirates, Brewers, Mariners, Royals, and Cubs all wearing old-timey uniforms during the 1992 and 1993 seasons.

In 1999 Major League Baseball flipped this promotion on it’s head with it’s Turn Ahead the Clock series – having teams wear uniforms from the 2027 season – seriously.  But we’ll save that story for another day, it’s really a whole separate post on it’s own.

Here we are, now 23 seasons worth of “Turn Back the Clock” games.  We’ve reached the point where teams are starting to throw back to seasons occurring after that first such game was played in 1990, thus creating some sort of wild infinite throwback loop that a smarter man than I would need to explain…

So sit back, and enjoy seeing some old uniforms.  If you’re a fan of this promotion, which I certainly am, be sure to thank the White Sox by tuning in to at least one of their *thirteen* turn back the clock games in 2012.