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New York Yankees starting pitcher James Paxton delivers against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of Game 1 of an American League Division Series baseball game, Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Columns

Jarrell: New Jersey? The Great Uniform Debate

The Athletic’s Marc Carig wrote a series of articles on baseball uniforms. I find this to be tremendously exciting because I love uniforms. To the great exhaustion of my friends, I take pride in ruthlessly analyzing the aesthetics of sports wardrobes and breaking down the merits of color schemes, logos, and wordmarks. I root for a baseball team with arguably the most recognized logo and uniform of any sports franchise on earth – and part of what makes the look so distinctive is its simplicity and its dearth of meaningful updates in more than a century of history. The Yankees and Tigers are the only two clubs in baseball without at least one alternate jersey, and particularly for the Yankees, the thought of adopting one is total anathema to many supporters. I myself go back and forth on the idea, so what follows is a dramatized debate between two fictional Yankee fans on the idea of a third uniform in the Bronx.

Embed from Getty Images

Yankee Fan 1: Here’s a take. Our road jersey is boring.

Yankee Fan 2: Boring? You’re trying to get a rise out of me.

YF1: I’m not, I swear. It’s dull. I’m not saying it’s ugly, but it’s not interesting. 

YF2: Do you hate tradition or something?

YF1: I knew it was a bad idea to bring this up.

YF2: I’m glad you realize how ridiculous you sound. What’s not to like about it? Simple color, muted accents, and “New York” across the chest. It says all it needs to say. We don’t need to be interesting, all we need to do is write “New York,” and the rest speaks for itself. It’s like the captain. Classic, understated elegance.

YF1: Jeter retired, man. And aren’t you always talking about how much you miss The Boss, and The Boss wouldn’t have tolerated this and that, and The Boss would have won more championships? The Boss was the furthest thing from understated elegance in the world.

YF2: I’m not engaging with you. We don’t use alternates. We have the pinstripes and the “New York.” What the hell else do we need?

YF1: All I’m saying is that uniforms are fun and we should have more of them. It’s a chance to be expressive and interesting and young fans would like it.

YF2: You probably love the Players’ Weekend garbage.

YF1: …I do, actually. What of it? It’s fun for the players to show us who they are as people, and it’s a nice change from the monotony of the usual jerseys.

YF2: Monotony! May the ghosts of Gehrig and DiMaggio have mercy on your soul.

YF1: Look, all I’m saying is that it’s not such a bad thing to embrace some change. I’m not advocating for getting rid of the pinstripes or the interlocking NY or anything. I’m just positing that it could be cool to have some variety. This is New York! It’s a diverse place, and I think the city’s marquee sports franchise could afford to present itself in some more interesting ways.

YF2: Exactly. The Yankees symbolize New York, and the Yankees have always defined themselves through continuity and tradition. We don’t need to wear a million different shirts, because the two that we do wear are the greatest icons of excellence in baseball history. Why are you so eager to stamp that out? 

YF1: There’s a difference between stamping out the past and looking to the future. I’m as big a Yankees history buff as you, and there’s a reason why we have Monument Park and a legion of stars wearing NY caps in Cooperstown, but that doesn’t mean we should be totally averse to anything different. I want the next generation of kids – the ones who are going to grow up idolizing Gleyber and Judge instead of Mo and Jeter – to feel like they’re part of the team’s lore. Kids these days want to root for players who look, sound, and act like they do. Adding something more vibrant and exciting to the jersey closet could be part of that.

YF2: Great idea, let’s cater to the kids. Throw all the unwritten rules out the window and let players do whatever they want on the field. Let’s have neon spikes and bat flips galore and let’s just let them somersault around the bases while we’re at it.

YF1: This sounds awesome. Sign me up.

YF2: That’s why you’re not in charge of the team. I want to pass down the same Yankee traditions to my kids. That’s how they’ll know they’re a part of something significant. My grandfather passed them down to my dad, and he passed them to me, and I’ll pass them to my son, and the whole time they’ll still be wearing the pinstripes and the “New York.” Selling that out for a few million more in merchandise sales is shallow and materialist.

YF1: Okay, that’s probably your strongest argument. I’m not a fan of the money grabs either. I don’t think this is just about selling jerseys, though. I think it’s a statement about the direction and orientation of the franchise. I can pass down the history and mystique to my children while also being comfortable with the fact that they’ll stay interested because they can see that the franchise and the brand are evolving with the times.

YF2: I still hate this idea, but humor me for a moment. What would this alternate jersey look like?

YF1: That’s a good question. I think the most straightforward answer is the solid navy spring training getup – keep the pinstripe pants, add the navy top, and wear it for Friday nights or something. That would be…fine. I’d honestly like them to be more creative. The 2017 and 2018 Players’ Weekend jerseys were so cool. I liked the all-black look from last year, too. I’d experiment with more looks like that. Maybe construct some kind of homage to the city’s neighborhoods, as the Nets have tried to do. Or emergency workers like the Knicks did with their FDNY jerseys a couple years ago. Or a colorful supplementary logo, like the Rangers’ Lady Liberty from the mid-aughts. Oh man…please bring back Lady Liberty, Rangers. Now I’m distracted. That logo was awesome.

YF2: On that, I’ll happily concede. Lady Liberty was great. But, man, this just feels so un-Yankee-like. I can’t get over that aspect. It doesn’t feel like something the Yankees would do. Or should do! There’s strength in the identity of tradition.

YF1: We’re back where we started. None of this matters, anyway, because we both know the team is not going to do it.

YF2: And thank goodness for that. I sleep soundly at night knowing that it’s as silly and unlikely as ditching the no-facial-hair policy.

YF1:

YF2:

YF1:

YF2: 

YF1: No comment.

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