Look, we’ve all seen those horrendous jerseys some of the Class-A and Double-A farm-league ball clubs force their humiliated players to wear on wacky theme nights to try to move the front-gate revenue needle. It’s a cheap gimmick that gets a few laughs and engaging social-media fodder, but it generally only works in the minors.
Now, try and bring those god-awful abominations to the majors, a league that prides itself on tradition, prestige and simple uniforms with roots that can be traced all the way back to the 19th Century, and it’s gonna raise some eyebrows from ownership right on down the casual fab who only tunes in on the occasional Sunday night.
You’ve almost got to wonder how some of these getups made it out of the designer’s studio in the first place, let alone get league approval for an entire team to suit up in them for a real-life game. Avert your eyes if you must, because here are 20 UGLY jerseys we can’t believe the MLB made its players wear.
20 Pittsburgh Pirates (1977-1979)
In 1977, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ brass apparently decided it was finally time to adopt pinstripes on their uniforms, like so many teams had done before. Unfortunately, the way they went about it didn’t make for a very attractive look.
The Phillies do pinstripes well, the Yankees (obviously) do pinstripes well, and heck, even the Mets can pull them off. But the Pirates? Not so much. They – for some reason – wedged a yellow stripe between two super-thin black ones and then spaced them all about an inch apart, making everyone’s eyes ache at the mere sight of them.
Add in the weird pillbox-style caps the team kept around for far too long, and the complete uniform was a total eyesore. The pinstripes went away after the Pirates won the World Series in 1979, so consider that a win-win.
19 Arizona Diamondbacks “Turn Ahead The Clock” (1999)
You remember those god-awful “Turn Ahead The Clock” uniforms the MLB rolled out in 1999 to simulate what jerseys might look like in the future, right? If not, you probably blocked them from your memory, so sorry to bring them back up. Unfortunately, the Diamondbacks’ version of the TATC look won’t be the only one in this list, so just be prepared.
Anyways, as if the vest design wasn’t bad enough, Arizona took a snake that looks like it was drawn by a 3-year-old, gave it some awful colors and then proceeded to WRAP THE THING ALL THE WAY AROUND THE JERSEY… TWICE!
I’m sorry but this wasn’t “futuristic” in any sense of the imagination. This was an egregious misstep in MLB jersey history and set all that progress back by at least a decade.
18 Tampa Bay Devil Rays (1998-2000)
The Tampa Bay Rays, called the Devil Rays at the time, weren’t very good at many things when they entered the Majors back in the late 1990s. First of all, like most expansion teams, the Rays were awful. They didn’t break 70 wins until the 2004 season and only did so one time between 1998 and 2007.
But not only did the on-field play look atrocious, so did the uniforms they wore while committing said awful play – especially in those first three seasons. Those inaugural uniforms, with the soaring sting ray, weird font and blue-green gradient in the text were about as “90s” as you could get.
Seriously, it looked like someone spent about 10 minutes in the Microsoft Paint application, slapped the design on a jersey and called it good. Yuck.
17 Chicago White Sox Throwbacks
Sometimes, things are better left in the 1980s. A good example of this would be the “throwback” alternate jerseys the White Sox have been wearing once in a while. No, it wasn’t a very good look back when they wore them between 1982 and 1986, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. It was the ‘80s. Style was a relative term back then, especially in Major League Baseball.
Of course, nowadays, everybody loves the throwbacks. So, despite the fact that these designs don’t translate into a trendy look in modern times, south-side Chicago fans are apparently willing to look past the horrendous chest logo, odd color scheme and random floating number the players wear on their left thighs just to get in on the fashionable fad of bringing back outdated uniforms.
16 1999 All-Star Game
Seriously, what in the name of the Great Bambino got into the heads of the MLB brass in 1999? We weren’t invited to the planning meeting when they were trying to hammer down a design for the 1999 MLB All-Star Game, but it must have gone something like this: “Well, those ‘Turn Ahead The Clock’ jerseys that teams are wearing this year are pretty freaking awful, so we might as well just continue with that trend and use these awful blue-and-red ones.”
The vest look is always awkward. Then there’s the whole inverted colors on the sleeves. And topping off the horror, putting “National” and “American,” as well as the nameplate on the back, vertically down the sides just seems like a misguided attempt to be relevant. Sad!
15 Miami Marlins Alternates
The year 2012 was a big year for the Marlins: new name (Miami, instead of Florida), new stadium, new colors, new uniforms. They actually presented the whole repackaged product pretty well. Granted, they were still awful at baseball, failed to break 70 wins and had their worst season in 13 years, but hey, (some) things were looking up.
Then, all of a sudden, they trotted out these highlighter-orange numbers as their alternates and shocked the entire system. Their white jerseys and black jerseys are fine – and even the gray ones work well with their new color scheme. But the orange is a little much, dontcha think? OK, sure, South Florida is hip and colorful and all that jazz, but there are better, more subtle ways of doing it. Sorry, Marlins. This ain’t it.
14 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim “Turn Ahead The Clock” (1999)
Here we are again with another Turn Ahead The Clock jersey (These things were really, really bad, you guys.), and no, it won’t be the last one on this list. Not by far.
Like many of the TATC jerseys, the Angels made the graphic about four times the size it should have been and placed it off-center from the front of the jersey. What makes the theirs so particularly bad, though, is that instead of just using the already-awful “Angels” script with the winged “A” and comic-like block letters that they already had on the front of their uniforms, they used their primary home-plate and crossed bats logo, which doesn’t belong on anything, let alone blown up by 400 percent on the front of a jersey. It’s childlike and ugly, and if any of these still exist, they should be promptly destroyed in a fire.
13 San Diego Padres Yellow and Brown (1978)
For whatever reason, there have been a number of recent tribute jerseys dedicated to the Padres’ brown and mustard look they unfortunately wore back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including last year’s MLB All-Star Game uniforms.
People, his is not a good idea. These things look like the humiliating uniforms high school kids have to wear while flipping burgers and working the drive-through down at the local fast-food joint while making minimum wage the hard way. Also, the weird, flat “padres” text with the lower-case “P” only made things worse.
Of course, without cheese-looking duds, we might not fully comprehend the meaning of “retro” today, because if there is one old MLB jersey that screams ‘70s, it’s these. It’s definitely these. So, like, Rad! Right on, man!
12 Tampa Bay Rays “Fauxback” (2014)
So, that throwback trend everybody and their brother is clamoring to jump onto the bandwagon for? Yeah, well, the Tampa Bay Rays were so desperate to take part – and presumably to cash in on merchandise sales – that they created their own 1979 throwback jersey for a series with the Chicago Cubs back in 2014.
If you’re doing the math at home, 1979 is almost two full decades before the Rays would even come into existence. And with no actual design to throw back to, the Rays came up with what they thought a Rays jersey from 1979 might look like. And therein lies the problem. You can’t just create history.
The result was a grimace-inducting baby-blue look with nasty yellow sleeves, a V-neck collar and similar font that the Padres used in their own bad late-70s jersey mentioned two entries above.
11 Kansas City Royals “Turn Ahead The Clock” (1998)
So, before the 1999 season when 22 teams adopted the now infamous (and previously berated) Turn Ahead The Clock jerseys, it was a “futuristic-themed” game in 1998 between the Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals in the now ironically no-longer-existing Kingdome in Seattle that gave birth to the idea.
That night, the two teams wore what was then thought to be “futuristic-looking” jerseys. Both were predictably awful. The Mariners’ were the worst, but we’ll get to those later. For now, let’s focus on the almost neon-yellow atrocities the Royals wore.
One main theme on this list is that yellow doesn’t work well on baseball uniforms. And neither does sleeveless. That’s strike two. Strikes three and four are the script “Royals” placed low, over the stomach, and the big, ugly black shield on the left breast. Plus, we won’t mention those disgusting, off-colored helmets.
10 Cleveland Indians (1975-1977)
These solid-red Cleveland Indians jerseys from the mid-1970s were pretty ugly by themselves, what with the V-neck, white cuffs, and white font that vaguely resembled a bunch of human femurs arranged to spell out “INDIANS.” But let’s not gloss over the fact that these jerseys were SOLID RED.
What really puts them over the top, is that the team sometimes would wear matching red pants, which created – as an early 20s Dennis Eckersley demonstrates in the photo above – what looked like a ballfield crawling with nine baseball-playing Heinz ketchup bottles. No joke. Compare the colors. It’s pretty much spot-on.
Anyways, as we’ve learned so far, the 1970s weren’t nearly the pinnacle of quality MLB jersey designs – far from it, in fact. The Indians were just another hapless style-victim of the times.
9 Boston Red Sox 1918 World Series Throwbacks
In June 2011, the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs met at Fenway Park for the first time since the 1918 World Series. This was a fairly historic event, so naturally, the teams just HAD to wear throwback uniforms in a tribute to the early 20th Century designs.
So while the Cubs wore fairly unremarkable pinstriped uniforms with a big “C” followed by “UBS” in smaller block letters, the Red Sox literally wore baggy, plain, blank, off-white jerseys and plain, blank white caps. No lettering, no logos and not even a hint of accent.
Big Papi wasn’t a fan, and neither was basically anybody else. Sure, it was a “throwback” look, which was actually pretty accurate, but the completely blank head-to-toe look was a just odd for modern days.
8 Chicago White Sox 1976 Throwbacks (2015)
The White Sox didn’t pull it off in 1976 when they introduced the collared pullover jerseys, and they certainly didn’t when they brought them back as a throwback alternate for a game in 2015 either.
In all seriousness, you’ve got to be some sort of sadist to make your players don these humiliating, untucked jerseys – collar and all – and go out and play an actual Major League Baseball game in them.
You can’t blame Chis Sale, who was supposed to start a game on the mound in one of these monstrosities, for ducking into the clubhouse before the first pitch to destroy his and a few others’ jerseys in protest. No one should be subject to the humility of these things, but at least then White Sox manager Robin Ventura didn’t make them wear shorts like the 1976 Sox had to.
7 New York Mets “Turn Ahead The Clock” (1999)
The hits just keep on coming for these appalling Turn Ahead The Clock Jerseys worn back before the turn of the century. The latest offenders are the New York Mets and their confoundingly awful, not-at-all futuristic attempt to make a statement.
Apparently, they rebranded themselves as the Mercury Mets the night they wore these things, saying that the team was making its “only Earth appearance” that night. But not only did the Mets abandon their name and planetary domicile, they also abandoned their normal color scheme and even went so far as to put a Mercury symbol on the front of the jerseys.
It makes you wonder who on earth (pun intended) came up with this design, because it doesn’t even belong on a Little League uniform, let alone a Major League one.
6 Chicago White Sox Negro League Throwbacks (2007-)
We’ve already covered this point, but we might as well go over it one more time. OK, folks, historical tributes are all well and good, and we owe it to our distant relatives to remember their legacies and the trails they blazed for us along the way, but that doesn’t mean we shoule resurrect their clothing or uniform styles in order to honor them.
In this example, the Chicago White Sox (yes, this is already their third appearance on this list) have several times in the past decade paid homage to the old Chicago American Giants, a team that played in the Negro League between 1910 and 1952, by sporting these dark-blue, pinstriped numbers.
From afar, they almost look like denim getups. But up close, they draw a distinct similarity to a set of pajamas our grandfathers used to wear. Like we’ve said, old styles usually don’t translate well to the 21st Century.
5 Oakland Athletics Throwback (2013)
Yeesh. Did the Oakland Athletics work with the Green Bay Packers’ jersey designers to make a baseball version of thjose iconic football uniform, or something? Because whether or not people were actually saying it when the A’s trotted these out of the clubhouse in 2013, that’s what people were inevitably thinking.
The numbers are in a super awkward place on the front too. And again, the vest style just needs to be abolished altogether, whether it’s a throwback jersey or not.
The only redeeming quality these jerseys have is that they maintain the traditional “A’s” logo on the left breast, but that doesn’t overcome the fact that yellow STILL doesn’t work for baseball uniforms, and the Athletics looks like a bunch of cheddar-cheese slices in these.
4 Seattle Mariners “Turn Ahead The Clock” (1998)
As promised, here is what the Seattle Mariners chose to wear on the original Turn Ahead The Clock night between the Kansas City Royals and the Mariners in Seattle back in 1998, which set off the highly regrettable trend that took hold just one season later.
Legend has it that Ken Griffey, Jr. helped design the Mariners’ jerseys for the game, so we can blame him, at least partially, for the awful burgundy color and giant, crooked compass rose worn on the front. Also, don’t even get us started on the black background and apparently optional sleeves, but at least the nameplates on the back were horizontal, albeit below the number for whatever reason.
In saner times, this would be the first and last time this sort of abomination would grace the backs of Major League Baseball players, but alas, the 1999 TATC did in fact go on to happen.
3 Detroit Tigers Negro League Throwback (2016)
For their 22nd Annual Negro League Tribute Series Game against the Chicago White Sox last season, the Detroit Tigers wore a throwback jersey commemorating the Detroit Stars, who played in the Negro League intermittently between 1919 and 1961.
While they get props for accuracy of the original design, it doesn’t make them good-looking jerseys today. The odd blue stripe right down the middle, from the collar to the very bottom, including a white “R” in “STARS” almost makes the jersey look like several pieces of material stitched together to form some sort of Frankenjersey.
The Tigers’ previous tribute jerseys to the Stars were actually pretty snazzy, and they should have stayed with those, because this awkward design and color scheme is just weird – even if the team wore that exact design in the early 1900s.
2 Houston Astros “Tequila Sunrise” (1975-1986)
Perhaps one of the most iconic and recognizable jersey designs in the history of Major League Baseball, it’s hard to forget the Astros’ “Tequila Sunrise” uniforms. With color TVs much more prevalent as the ‘70s gave way to the ‘80s, the admittedly gaudy jerseys became a fan favorite, mostly because of their jarring departure from the typical, mostly-conservative uniforms of the era.
Now, just because the Astros’ technicolor jerseys became popular nationwide, it doesn’t mean they looked good. To the contrary, their popular reputation grew precisely because they were so bad. It was humorous in a way, and even the players bought into the hype.
Of course, that doesn’t preclude them from appearing near the very top of this list of UGLY jerseys, so here we are, at No. 2, right where they belong.
1 Pittsburgh Pirates “Turn Ahead The Clock” (1999)
Of all the terrible, ugly and downright criminal designs that came out of the 1999 Turn Ahead The Clock theme, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ jerseys were laughably rotten. Just look at that gigantic, ugly pirate head! That, combined with the red background and black and mustard-yellow sleeves, it looked like the Pirates players were running around in oversized children’s pirate pajamas.
Every single one of the TATC jerseys were borderline offensive, but the Pirates’ ones crossed a line of disrespect for the historic prestige of Major League Baseball, and the MLB should be ashamed they allowed this to happen. The Pirate isn’t even centered on the body, for Heaven’s sake!
Unequivocally, these horrible jerseys deserve the No. 1 spot on this list of UGLY MLB jerseys, because it’s inconceivable that this design ever to make out of an MLB clubhouse.