In the late fall of 2010, rumors arose that the A’s would be changing the look of their alternate uniforms for the upcoming season. When the uniforms were finally revealed during a media day before the start of the season, I was pleasantly surprised by the changes made. In a look that would recall the glory days of the A’s dynasty of the 1970’s, a pure gold top with a green “A’s” embroidered over the left portion of the chest, was introduced as the alternate home jersey for your Oakland Athletics. This new look was initially met with a mixed response, some thought the color was too vibrant and cartoonish others such as myself applauded the homage to the seventies and felt the change brought a fresh, new feel to the club. The all-powerful Billy Beane, referred to them as “canary yellow” but surprisingly couldn’t be bothered to stand in the way of such a radical change. This of course, was just another variation in the history of the Athletics uniform. Let’s take a look at some of the alternative looks the A’s have used in the past 20 years.
1994 will forever stand as a black mark on the history of the game. Mired in a labor dispute, the Major League Baseball Players Association would strike on August 12th, 1994. As players and owners found themselves at odds over revenue sharing and a proposed salary cap, negotiations would cease to reach a resolution effectively canceling the remaining games as well as the postseason and World Series. For the 1994 A’s, it marked a season of change in more ways then one. In the first of a recurring theme of rebuilding teams, the A’s began developing young talent such as Scott Brosius, Brent Gates, Todd Van Poppel, and Steve Karsay to varying results. While these young neophytes were getting their feet wet at the big league level, veteran relics from the contending teams of the late 80’s and early 90’s such as Dennis Eckersley, Bob Welch, and Ron Darling entered their final swan song with the Athletics. Perhaps wishing to embody the change that was inevitable, the A’s introduced the solid green jerseys in 1994. This sterling design featured the team name in gold across the chest and re-introduced the A’s elephant to the limelight in the form of a patch on the sleeve. A variation of this design is still used today as the A’s customary road alternate jersey.
As the new century dawned, so did A’s baseball. With a thrilling, exciting team led by Jason Giambi the A’s clinched their first division title since 1992 on the seasons final day. With a new attitude, and a bright future, the upstart Athletics pushed the eventual World Champion New York Yankees to the limit before falling in game 5 of the ALDS. Introducing an alternative black top with dark green lettering and matching hat, the A’s followed suit of fellow teams such as The New York Mets and Kansas City Royals who sought to bring a fresh and intimidating identity with the utilization of black jerseys. These uniforms were met with a mixed reaction by players and fans alike, and as was customary were used primarily when the starting pitcher chose them. With veteran stalwarts such as Kevin Appier and Gil Heredia showing an obvious aversion to the new designs, the A’s emerging and youthful “Big 3″ of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito would foreshadow a strong unity and connection by choosing to pitch periodically in the black tops during the A’s pennant run that summer. Sadly these uniforms would not come along for future success and would effectively be discontinued after the 2000 season. At the inception of the 2001 season, the A’s would continue tradition with the standard home white, and road grays as well as the modified green alternates in a darker shade.
In 2008 the A’s were back in black, with the reintroduction of the black jerseys. Initially I was a huge fan of the design, I felt the look was unique, imposing and a perfect way to start showcasing a new era in Athletics baseball. With the traditional “Athletics” in cursive across the chest appearing in white with gold and green trim across a pitch black jersey, this was definitely one of the more aesthetically appealing alternative looks of recent time. With a matching hat, but curiously enough without a matching batting helmet this uniform was put to good use as a home alternative on game day starts by Justin Duchscherer, Dana Eveland, and Greg Smith. Initially the design and team proved successful, until Billy Beane became trigger happy and forfeited the season with the trades of Rich Harden to the Cubs and Joe Blanton to the Phillies in July. The blacks tops proved to have a longer lifespan then their similar predecessor, lasting through the 2010 season and being the go-to choice for Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill among others.
As the A’s have changed looks over the course of their history, they’ve never been afraid to push the envelope and try something different…although the shoes remain white. Perhaps we can interpret this as a lesson to never be afraid to express ourselves and to hold on to our originality.