Baltimore Orioles Uniform History


When Ban Johnson decided to elevate his American League to major league status in 1901, it was important to establish a foothold in some of the major Eastern cities. Baltimore had a recent history of success with the legendary NL Orioles of the 1890's and was eager to re-enter the major league arena. The pugnacious ex-Oriole, John McGraw, was hired to manage the new Baltimore entry. Although the design features of the 1901 Oriole home uniforms are uncertain, the road suits were well documented and certainly extraordinary: All black caps, black shirts with a yellow-orange O on the left shirt pocket, black pants with a yellow belt and yellow & black striped stockings. Inspired by nature's coloring of its namesake, these uniforms were ridiculed in most of the AL cities they visited. McGraw had a passion for black uniforms but by the end of the 1901 season he had had enough.

For 1902, the Baltimore uniforms were more conventional with a capital B on the left breast, similar to the uniforms of the legendary Orioles of the nineties. Unfortunately, attendance was disappointing and when the time was ripe for the new league to invade the lucrative New York City area it was decided to transfer the Baltimore franchise to the Big Apple. For the next fifty years Baltimore remained a minor league town (not counting their entry in the ill-fated Federal League of 1914-15). To their credit, the AAA Orioles wereone of the most successful operations in the history of the International League.


When the plight of the St. Louis Browns operation became clearly hopeless by the early fifties, Baltimore on ceagain was considered part of a proposed franchise shift only this time as the recipient. The first uniforms for the new major league Orioles in 1954 were a continuation of their AAA suits. Both the home whites and road grays were devoid of piping and featured a slanted script ORIOLES in orange & black across the chest. The black caps presented a silhouette Oriole bird on the front with the appropriate coloring of orange and black. The black stockings were accented by 3 orange stripes. The team lost 100 games that first season but thanks to the hapless A''s they avoided a last place finish.

The second year provided some window dressing to the same basic uniform design. White stripes were added to the orange & blackstockings and piping was added to the collar and shirt front. A new Orioles cartoon style patch was added to the left sleeve and a zipper front was introduced. The 56 road uniform replaced ORIOLES with the city name BALTIMORE in a slanted script with underline flourish. Except for the addition of the uniform number to the jersey front in 1958, this road uniform remained standard thru the 1962 season. The home uniforms also continued on thru the 1962 season. Consecutive third place finishes in 1960-61 signaled the Orioles' emergence as a legitimate pennant contender for the decade


The design of the home uniforms for 1963-65 represented a temporary detour in the steady evolution of the team's current graphics. The script form of ORIOLES was substituted for arched block capitals in black with orange border. Buttons also returned on the 1963 shirts and the cartoon bird head patch flew away from the sleeve. Orange & black trim striping was used on the sleeve ends and around the collar edge but not down the button panel. 1966 was indeed a memorable year in Orioles history the script ORIOLES was restored on the home jersey (minus the underline) but more importantly they captured their first AL pennant and stunned the baseball world by sweeping the favored Dodgers in the World Series. Names like McNally, Palmer, Robinson, Powell became instant household words and the Orioles had arrived as solid contenders for the next two decades. Also in 1966, a new version of the cartoon Oriole head appeared on the cap for the first time, replacing the full bird insignia.


1988 Baltimore Orioles Alternate Home Uniform

The 1966 uniform theme continued on thru the pennant years of 1969-70-71 under Earl Weaver. On the eve of the conversion to the double-knits in 1972, an unusual all-orange uniform was tried out in 1971 the season that produced an unprecedented quartet of 20-game winners McNally, Cuellar, Palmer, Dobson. The first double knit home uniform in 1972 set the standard for the following seasons up to the present. For the first 3 years the cap crown was all black, then in 1975 the current model with a white front panel was in troduced. Both home and road double knits utilized the built-in sash belt and incorporated orange, white & black stripes on the sleeve ends, sash belt and trouser legs. They opted for a button front rather than the pull-over style on the jerseys. The first double knit road shirts had the script BALTIMORE, but subsequent models were a gray copy of the home ORIOLES motif. A solid orange pull-over jersey with black and white trim was introduced in the mid-seventies and has been used as an alternate home uniform only occasionally.

Boasting the best winning percentage in the majors during the seventies, the Orioles carried their winning tradition into the eighties with an impressive world championship in 1983 under new manager Joe Altobelli. After a brief encore tenure by Earl Weaver, the Oriole fortunes became a family affair, with dad Cal Ripken, Sr. managing and sons Cal Jr. and Bill in the lineup. The uniform designs seem to have stabilized into a solid tradition to complement the already established tradition of solid, winning baseball. Oriole fans are confident that the losing woes of 1987-88 are merely transitory. For 1989, the new uniform ensemble retains the basic Oriole look but with some conservative features a belted trouser and solid black cap. The script ORIOLES has been enlarged and the cartoon bird face has given way to full-bird silhouette reminiscent of the fifties. Manager Frank Robinson should feel right at home in this outfit.

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