Over a century, major league baseball has had to change with the times. The teams have shifted for fan tastes, from the color barrier being broken to the new era of wild cards and cable TV expanding. As such, team uniforms have also had to adapt over time. Sometimes, a team can find a look early and stay with it but most of the time, teams need to shift a bit before they find a winning look. Some are memorable, even after those teams are gone and well-remembered. That’s proven by how MLB has “throwback” nights with fans enjoying the older looks. Other times, the looks are just horrible to see and better left off in the past.
Over the decades, there have been plenty of both, uniforms fans love to emulate and others they’d rather burn. Some are worn by teams who dominate with championships, others by teams who sunk in the cellar. A few were brief, just a season or two while others astoundingly stuck around longer than expected. Here are ten of the best and ten of the worst uniforms ever seen in the major leagues and that show how much designs have changed.
20 WORST: Chicago White Sox, 1982-1986
It says something that the White Sox have two entries on this list. For the most part, they’ve stuck to black and white with their stylized logo and that’s worked out well for them. But in the 80s, they went with what’s basically the “New Coke” of baseball uniforms. At least they can’t take the total blame as this was the result of a fan contest and it was actually among the BETTER looks sent in. But it’s still terrible with the white and blue and player number on the upper leg rather than torso. Dominating is the large “SOX” in block letters on the front which looks more like a NASCAR outfit than a baseball one. While some Sox fans have fond memories of this outfit, it just looks atrocious today and not in keeping with the team’s traditions. More proof of how style in the 1980s left a lot to be desired.
19 BEST: New York Mets
The Mets famously had their issues when they started out in 1962. The team soon became famous for horrible play and were nicknamed “Amazing” for finding new ways to lose with the occasional shocking win. But in 1969, they finally won the World Series and reached another fantastic height in 1986. They’ve had ups and downs since but they still have a great look. Whether it throws in pinstripes or not, the white home uniforms are bright with just the right touches of blue thrown in. The team logo remains a wonderfully stylish font and bright on the chest while their classic “NY” logo is a bright orange color to stand out. The greyer away uniforms keep up the good design so even if they’re bad on the field, the Mets can boast one of the best looks in baseball.
18 WORST: Baltimore Orioles, 1971
The 1969-71 Baltimore Orioles were one of the best teams of the time, led by star slugger Frank Robinson. They won three straight American League pennants as well as a World Series in 1970 and were aces in fielding and pitching. Sadly, 1971 saw them endure an absolutely terrible look. True, brown had always been Baltimore’s color but this was way too much. The orange wasn’t too bright or too dark but just looked bland and making it all over the uniform was a terrible choice. The team name font doesn’t look bad but throwing the black and white onto this orange mess makes it look far worse.
The classic “bird” logo looks worse as well when combined with so much orange and not as flashy as it should be. They only lasted a year but still has to count among the worse outfits, especially when worn by such a great team.
17 17 BEST: Washington Nationals
It’s rare that a team can nail a good uniform look right off the bat but Washington did when they relocated from Montreal in 2005. The white shirts look terrific with a nice flowing red trim down the front, not too bright but just the right shading. The “W” is a wonderfully stylized font and the player's number on the right side is in just the right spot. The away uniforms are also good with grey colors and the “Washington” logo looking very sharp. Plus, the alternate uniforms are top notch, a nearly solid red as well as a special blue version with a red-white-and-blue take on the “W” logo.
While Washington hasn’t had as much success in the playoffs, the team did manage to find a great look to bring some national pride to their team name.
16 WORST: Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 1998-2000
When Tampa Bay got an MLB franchise in 1998, it was a big deal as the city had been wanting a baseball team for a while. However, their first uniform look wasn’t exactly something to be proud of. You can understand the designers wanted to capture an “aquatic” theme but the end result left a lot to be desired. The “wavy” font to the team logo and name just looked off, not stylish and bad when the players moved. The decision to shift the coloring from blue to green to yellow may have been good on paper but failed to click on the finished uniform. That’s without the very distracting manta ray at the bottom and how the cap’s logo seemed to resemble a different type of fish.
The Devil Rays only kept these for a few seasons before wisely changing it but it showcases a look that sunk very fast.
15 BEST: Oakland Athletics, 1972-79
They may well be the most underrated dynasty in baseball history. Under Charles Finley, the A’s dominated the early 1970s with five straight AL West titles and three straight World Series wins. With Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and Rollie Fingers, the A’s trounced opponents while getting into wild times. They backed it up with a fantastic look, their home uniforms a nice white marked by the bright green “A” in a stylish font. The green undershirts helped it look better with the cuff stripes and the green and yellow caps fit the style perfectly.
The away uniforms were also good with nearly solid green marked with the right dashes of yellow as they took to their winning ways on the road as well as at home. Either way, these A’s had a look to match their championship glory to rule over baseball in a wild time.
14 WORST: San Diego Padres, 1972-74
True, some might cite the Padres’ 1980s outfits as a candidate but these are far worse. Making a uniform almost one solid color is never a good idea and this is a prime example why. The mustard yellow just looks horrible shifting in shades turning games and nothing but a yellow blob running across the field. The only spots of darkness are the brown team logo and belts with dark caps. Otherwise, it remains an orange-yellow mix that is just ugly as hell. While the black and yellow mixes of later years had their critics, they were still loads better than these atrocities.
Thankfully, San Diego realized it and dropped them after two seasons but the fact they wore them at all is a reason the Padres have been struggling to be taken seriously in baseball.
13 BEST: Detroit Tigers
Here’s a great example of how the simple designs can work out for the best. The Tigers have played with things over the years such as grey uniforms or even dark blue. But now, they’ve realized that it’s best to just stick with the same home uniforms they have worn since 1934. The white tops look terrific with the nice sweep to the black trimming at the front well done to make it stand out. The highlight it the classic “D” logo in a beautiful font that is so old-fashioned that it looks amazing in modern times. The blue caps are simple with the same “D” design and help the team play to their roots.
They don’t need to add it up with “Motor City” motifs or new colors, these uniforms are just terrific and showcase how the Tigers can still roar in good style.
12 WORST: Kansas City Royals, Turn Ahead the Clock
In 1999, the country was in the midst of “Millennium Fever” and MLB decided to capitalize on that. They declared one special night a “Turn Ahead the Clock” night, showcasing what they thought would be “futuristic” outfits for teams. It turned into a disaster with some of the ugliest looks imaginable. The Royals might well have gotten the worst of the bunch. The tops were an absolutely atrocious shade of gold that looked way too bright on the field and mixing it with a blue undershirt didn’t help.
Having the team name on the stomach was way too low as the crown logo was a little off and the helmet logo was skewed on purpose to somehow make it look cooler. Overall, it was a very bad look and more fitting for the court jester than a Royal.
11 BEST: St Louis Cardinals
Here’s another case of a team that has almost never changed its look over the decades as it fits wonderfully. True, they have had issues with the font as too many times, they tried to make the “bat” part look better by putting birds on it. However, the team has managed to look great in almost all white with red stripes and the darker grey for road games looks just as great. The logo is now balanced out with two cardinals on a bat as the home games can mix either the team name or the city. The yellow bat looks bright and stands out along with the red caps. It’s a great look that St. Louis has stuck to for decades through numerous championships and showcases how you don’t need to shift your look up much to be among baseball’s best.
10 WORST: Cleveland Indians, 1974-78
Maybe someone at the Indians front office watched too many Westerns and decided to take the “Redskins” nickname to a new level. The almost solid crimson color just looked ugly as hell on the field and didn’t fit Cleveland (which had long used brown colors) at all. The font of the team name was obviously meant to have an “old west” feel but was just distracting and the dark blue undershirts didn’t help. The mostly blue caps with red trimming threw the entire combination of and the blue and white stripes up the sides was a bizarre addition. It’s not like the Indians were really worth watching in this period anyway but this choice of a bloody red uniform just made the Tribe look even worse.
9 BEST: Cincinnati Reds
When the team name is a color, it’s easy to integrate that into the uniform. The Reds really came into their design in the 1970s with the “Big Red Machine” team that dominated baseball with six divisional titles, four pennants and back-to-back World championships. They’ve shifted slightly here and there such as the 1990 World championship team added in more red stripes but they stick to mostly the same look. The nearly all white tops are marked with red pinstripes that fit and the red undershirts help them stand out even more.
The iconic styled “C” over the team name is displayed well and those solid red caps fit it perfectly. It’s a clear example of how best to make a uniform fit the name and how it’s pushed Cincinnati’s great success over the years.
8 WORST: Pittsburgh Pirates, 1977-84
When you look at this uniform, one phrase comes to mind: “All aboard!” Instead of a “Pirate” motif, it looked like someone in the Pittsburgh front office had just come off a long train journey. The nearly solid yellow pants are way too bright and looked worse when they got dirt on them. The black and yellow tops were also a strange mix and the blocked letters for the team logos didn’t look great either. Their away uniforms were even worse with a darker top that made them look like bumblebees.
It was the hats that were the topper, looking like a train conductor in their design and the mostly yellow cap with black visor made it look even worse. That the Pirates kept these looks for seven years was astounding and showcases they not all uniforms can be winners.
7 BEST: Brooklyn Dodgers
It’s been nearly 60 years but there are still Brooklyn natives who can remember what “Dodger Blue” really meant. While the team has gone on to great fame in Los Angeles, the Dodgers’ history belongs to Brooklyn who faithfully supported them for decades. During that time, they wore a classic uniform of light grey with a blue tint that looked good in day games. Highlighting it was “Brooklyn” in a stylish font across the chest, showing off their home town with pride. The caps featured the iconic “B” logo that was embraced across baseball as the team of underdogs who regularly challenged the Yankees and other powerhouses.
This was the uniform worn by Jackie Robinson when he broke the color barrier and the one that finally brought a World Series title to Brooklyn. The team left soon after for L.A. and mostly kept the same style of design. But something about the originals just looked great to make “Dem Bums” a baseball favorite.
6 WORST: 1969 Seattle Pilots
In 1968, MLB expanded with several teams and the creation of divisions in the leagues. The Seattle Pilots were set up as one of those new teams and quickly became famous for two things. First, was a terrible record that had them sinking to the bottom fast. The second was one of the more laughable uniforms ever seen. The jersey featured a dumb logo of a winged baseball with the team name underneath and the player number on the right side.
It looked a little better with the blue away uniforms but it was still saddled with that bad logo. But then there was the cap. It looked for all the world like someone took an airline pilot’s cap and adapted it for baseball, an idiotic yellow “winged” trim and bad font for the “S” on top. The team lasted just one season before moving to Milwaukee to become the Brewers and this was one uniform that deserved to crash and burn.
5 BEST: Chicago Cubs
It still seems impossible to say. The World Series Champion Chicago Cubs. But it’s true, the Cubbies have finally shattered the greatest curse in sports to reign on top. It’s a reward for fans who have kept with them all these decades and it’s helped by how the Cubs have one of the best uniforms out there. The blue pinstripes on white is a great look, somehow fitting for the Windy City and highlighted by the red “C” in a blue circle. The away looks also boast a great, nearly solid blue with a more stylish logo featuring a bear head inside a larger red “C”. Whichever uniform they wear, the Cubs look terrific and are able to showcase the team that has finally reached the top and hoping to bring more pride to Chicago.
4 WORST: Houston Astros. 1975-86
The “Tequila Sunrise” outfits, as they’ve become known, are something Astros fans have had to put up with for a long time. The Astros had previously gone for white outfits with a “shooting star” logo that was derided by fans. But that was far better than the outfits they debuted in 1975. The pull-over jerseys featured a solid block of red, orange and yellow stripes worn from the chest down. A large Navy star sat above the abdomen with a huge circle on the back featuring the player’s name and number. During this time, they also had a road alternate of mostly white with the same “rainbow” color on the shoulders and sleeves.
It was bad to look at, especially in action and it's astounding Houston kept with it for almost a decade. It’s passed into history today, thankfully, and showcases how mixing up a uniform with a popular drink doesn’t end well.
3 BEST: Boston Red Sox
A case of a team who found their look early and stuck to it. The Red Sox’ first uniforms could be rough, including a case of literal stockings on their shirts and “ties” at their collars. Thankfully, Boston latched onto a good look, pure white with dashes of red here and there. Most importantly has been the team logo in a stylish blocked font, one that has survived the test of time for a while. The Red Sox can make a flash with blue or red uniforms for away games but the classic white with the red and black is their main color and it suits them. It’s kept with them as they’ve finally broken their own curse and won three World Series and these uniforms push the pride of Boston well to be among the best in baseball.
2 WORST: Chicago White Sox, 1976
You’d think the Sox couldn’t top those “NASCAR” like outfits But this is just ridiculous. It’s no surprise it came from the mad genius of Bill Veeck Jr, the same man behind “Disco Demolition Night.” In 1976, Veeck introduced new outfits and the jerseys weren’t bad, a throwback to the old ways with the team logo in nice font. But then there were the shorts as one uniform had the uniform legs ending a few inches above the knee and bare legs until the socks; high socks at that, with black stripes.
The first game they wore it, the fans nearly laughed the team off the field and opponents had a grand time mocking the Sox constantly for their wild look. The shorts would be dropped fast and show how wearing those on a baseball field is just downright stupid to see.
1 BEST: New York Yankees
It’s the simplicity yet also a good design that’s become an icon for nearly a century. Many a team has used pinstripes but somehow the Yankees make it look absolutely fantastic. They also boast an iconic logo in the form of the “NY” mixed together in a font that has withstood the test of time for decades. The solid grey for away games still stands out but it’s the pinstripes that fans think of when it comes to the Yankees. The most decorated championship team in MLB history, the Yankees can back up their talk.
Sure, they’ve had their low points (mid 1960s to 70s and then the 80s and half of the ‘90s) but the Yankees still look terrific in their uniforms and, just like their play, they’ve set a standard with uniforms every team tries to match.