The Best: The Cards’ uniforms are all about process of elimination: they adopted the two birds on the seesaw look in 1922, and it’s pretty choice. No design before that look or after it without the seesaw (and there were a few before it took firm hold) can qualify as the best. They switched from white hats to navy hats in 1940 — the red hats we see them in at home now didn’t come into play until 1964 — and the navy hats are pretty sweet themselves. I kind of like the red-at-home, navy-on-the-road thing. That disappeared after one season, as they abandoned the blue caps in 1965, and didn’t return until 1992. So, my favorite Cards uniforms have to be either 1964 or 1992-through today. During that latter period they’ve used red shoes on occasion, and I hate those, so some year with the black shoes both at home and on the road have to win. Let’s just call it 1964 to be safe.
The Worst: I have this awesome poster hanging up in my office — and I had it hanging up in my room when I was a kid — with all of the covers of the World Series programs from 1903 through 1981. It was a ballpark giveaway, and it’s really important to me for a lot of reasons. I learned a lot of baseball history just looking at that astonishing old poster, and one of the things I learned was that the Yankees, Dodgers, Giants and Cardinals played in a ton of World Series. Without checking, I believe that they’re the top four pennant winners. Anyway, for this reason, I’ve always had it in my head that they’re the league’s truly classic teams. I know this is subjective, but it’s how it works in my brain. Of those classic teams the 1970s Cardinals were the only ones who gave in and wore blue roadies. I know it was the style at the time. I know in some ways the Giants adopted some worse looks (we’ll get to them tomorrow). But seeing the Cardinals in powder blues is just wrong on several levels. It’d be like seeing Humphrey Bogart in a track suit.
Assessment: They’ve ventured into a few more stylistic cul-de-sacs than a lot of the leagues signature franchises, but you really can’t go wrong in a uniform with birds playing seesaw on a baseball bat.