The Best and Worst Uniforms of All Time: The Los Angeles Dodgers

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The Best: The Dodgers are one of the three best lookin’ teams of all time (I’ll get to the other two in the coming days, but you can probably guess).  Since adopting the basics of their now-classic design in 1938, they have really only changed two things: (1) the addition of the red number in 1952; and (2) the words written in script on the front of the roadies. Take your pick between “Brooklyn,” “Los Angeles,” and “Dodgers.” They’re all sharp as a friggin’ tack.

Worst: You’ve gotta go back a ways to find a time when anything was different, but the red socks (sox?) were interesting. Hey, look! Early road blues! If you think those Giants plaids I mentioned this morning were wacky, get a load of these. The Nats think they’re patriotic for putting a red, white and blue curly W on their new uniforms? Pfft! Check this out, losers. That was in 1917, of course, and the Dodgers were doing their best to stick it to those fiendish Huns. 1935’s baby blue pinstripes weren’t much to look at. This alternate jersey from 1944 looks like a Kansas City Royal stepped into a time machine.

But my choice for the worst is a conditional one, because I can’t confirm that they ever wore it: a vest, in 1999.  The Hall of Fame database shows it as an actual road uniform that year. I found this, showing it as a faux-vest prototype, but the caption says it was never used. I could not find pics of any Dodgers actually wearing it.  I can’t for the life of me remember them ever wearing it, but I’ll admit, 1999 was a nadir year for baseball watching for me. I was too busy thinking I was going to be a successful lawyer one day. Any Dodgers fans have insight? If they did wear it, however, it boggles the mind.  How does someone, after 60+ years of uniform perfection, say “hey, the classiest organization in baseball needs to go sleeveless”?  I hope whoever thought of that got a big freakin’ promotion, because you just can’t find genius like that every day.

UPDATE: I should have just asked Bob Timmermann to begin with. In addition to being a Dodgers expert, he’s a librarian, so he knows this stuff. Bob writes: “The Dodgers did not wear any vest style uniforms in 1999. They did wear solid blue tops for one home stand that season. The uniforms were not received well.”  Thanks Bob!

Assessment: In life you don’t mess with perfection. The Dodgers rarely have. Good on ’em for that.

Must-Click Link: Sherri Nichols, Sabermetic Pioneer

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If you are old enough and lame enough as I am, you may have lurked around on sabermetic message boards in the 1990s. If you did, you may have heard of Sherri Nichols, who back in the day, was a significant contributor to the advancement of statistical analysis, particularly defensive analysis.

While it’s probably better that not everyone is as old and nerdy as me, the downside of it is that most people haven’t heard of Nichols and know nothing about her contributions. That changes today with Ben Lindbergh’s excellent analysis of Nichols and her work over at The Ringer, which I recommend that you all read.

The short version: Nichols is the one who planted the seed about on-base percentage being valuable in the mind of Baseball Prospectus Founder Gary Huckabay, back in the late 80s. She’s also the one most responsible for the rise of zone-based defensive metrics in the 1990s, such as Defensive Average, which she created and which served as the basis for other such metrics going forward. She also played a critical role in the development of RetroSheet, which collected almost all extant box score and play-by-play information going back to the turn of the 20th century, thereby making so much of the information available at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs possible. A key contribution there: making the information free and available to everyone, rather than closing the underlying data off as proprietary and either charging for access or keeping it in-house like some recent data collectors have chosen to do. Ahem.

A larger takeaway than all of Nichols’ contributions is just how loathe the baseball community was to listen to a woman back then. I mean, yeah, they’re still loathe to listen to women now, as indicated by the small number of women who hold jobs in baseball operations departments, but back then it was even worse, as evidenced by Lindbergh’s stories and Nichols’ anecdotes.

A great read and a great history lesson.