The year was 1998 and the Seattle Mariners wanted to try something a little out-of-the-ordinary that season.
Turn Back the Clock uniform days had been done for 9 seasons now, the idea was getting a little stale, plus the club had already flashed back to just about every uniform they could possibly want to at that point.
Enter Mariners marketing co-ordinator Kevin Martinez who came up with the idea to, instead of turning back the clock, turn the clock ahead 30 whole seasons, to the year 2027 to celebrate the Mariners’ future 50th anniversary.
It was a bold idea, and one which the Kansas City Royals, their opponents for that evening of July 18th, 1998, were more than happy to play along with.
The uniforms for both teams were designed by the Mariners and Martinez, they kept the same logo for both teams but decked the Mariners out in an entirely new colour scheme. The Mariners had ditched their familiar navy blue and teal in exchange for a red-heavy uniform set with shiny silver helmets; the Royals still in blue and yellow were now sporting bright-as-the-sun yellow jerseys paired with gold batting helmets.
Ken Griffey Jr really took to the idea, encouraging his teammates to wear their caps backwards out in the field, untuck their jerseys, spray paint their shoes silver, and cut the sleeves off of their shirts. (Umpires eventually told the players they had to tuck in their jerseys, to prevent false hit-by-pitch rulings)
The Kingdome was re-named The Biodome, the Mariners flew in Houston Astros mascot “Orbit” for the night dressed in the colours of the future M’s, a robot delivered the first pitch to James “Beam me up Scotty!” Doohan, phoney expansion teams such as the Pluto Mighty Pups and Saturn Rings were added to the “Biodomes” standings board. There was even a Seattle Mariners 50th anniversary logo on the outfield walls.
Overall the event was a complete success, the fans thought it was great, so much so that it caught the attention of Major League Baseball who were very interested in taking this event to the next level in 1999.
But much like what happened to players wearing #42 on Jackie Robinson Day, the NHL’s Winter Classic, and episodes of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, an idea that was great in moderation, as a “now-and-then event” was pushed too hard and too often to the point where it just got annoying and tiresome.
The first fault in MLB’s takeover of the Turn Ahead the Clock plan was giving it to a sponsor, Century 21 Real Estate — that instantly turned this from a fun event to that of a more corporate feel. Century 21′s first move was to change the flash forward year from 2027 to 2021… get it?
Secondly the uniforms were all made half-assed – of the 22 teams that participated in this event 14 of them used the exact same uniform design – and all 22 used the same “future” jersey “cut” with name/number placement. Nothing kills a fun uniform promotion then a crummy template across more than half the board.
Lastly, not enough teams had fun with the promotion… almost every team kept the exact same logo and colour scheme – a very unlikely scenario when flashing ahead 22 years (especially by the Angels who change their logo, on average, every 4-5 years).
Enough about the bad, how about the good…
The New York Mets, I think anyways, were the most creative when it came to the 1999 edition of this event.
According to the Mets, in the 22 years since the 1999 season the club had relocated from Flushing, NY to the planet Mercury where they were re-named the Mercury Mets (boy, those non-Yankee New York fans keep losing their teams to far-off locales!).
The Mets also came up with a new logo, cap, and colour scheme to go along with their new location – the logo featured the symbol for Mercury in black and white orbiting around the planet casting a shadow upon it.
While the fantasy Mets digs were fun, I still cringe when I see photos of Orel Hershiser wearing this uniform in one of his final MLB appearances.
Other teams to play around with their look included the Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins, who both (accurately) predicted the future popularity of retro logos by wearing futuristic versions of their original team logos from the ’60s and ’70s respectively. In the seasons since this promotion the Twins have actually re-adopted that original ’60s logo as an alternate while the Brewers have gone retro for some games, just not to the logo they predicted they would.
Some teams went with the robotic theme, applying it to their current mascots on their future uniforms. The Oakland Athletics wore a robot white elephant while the St Louis Cardinals replaced their classic “birds-on-bat” look with “cyborg birds on a silver bat”.
San Francisco changed their colour scheme to black-and-white but retained their classic “SF” logo (and blew it up about 900%)
The rest of the teams who partook just took their current logo, enlarged it 10-fold, tilted it 30 degrees, and slapped it across the front of their jersey. Some of them looked pretty good, such as the Diamondbacks who had their snake wrap around the entire jersey, and some of them looked really lame, like the Indians who lazily just cut their logo in half so it just read “India”.
The more traditional teams like the New York Yankees and the Chicago Cubs refused to participate stating that it just wasn’t the sort of thing they’d do… either that or they were the most accurate of all the Turn Ahead the Clock teams by not changing their future look in any way.
Overall, the 1999 edition of this promotion was a flop, the fans thought the whole idea was silly (although I did run out and buy an Anaheim Angels and Tampa Bay Devil Rays jersey from this series… but then again I’m “different”) and it was never attempted ever again. It’s sad that this promo ended up the way it did, it had such great potential.
On June 30th the Tampa Bay Rays will be wearing uniforms from “1979″ – a design that never was for a Rays past that never really happened giving us the opportunity to do this idea all over again (but in reverse, of course).
This time let’s do it right, let each team control their own designs, and please Major League Baseball, I beg you to take it slow and learn from your mistakes of the past future so the future future can be much more enjoyable.