The power of (Cardinals) powder blue

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The author, rocking his DIY powder-blue Cardinals jersey in the late 1970s.

Back in the day, before eBay, before Fanatics.com, before the seemingly endless online options to buy branded merchandise of your favorite baseball team, I wanted a jersey of the St. Louis Cardinals. Bad. It was 1978. I was about 12. So I made my own.

I didn’t make a home white Cardinals jersey.

I made a power-blue jersey.

Damn straight, I did.

On a light-blue T-shirt I drew the outline of the Cardinals’ revered birds-on-the-bat logo and used fabric paint to make the bat yellow and the birds red. I added a number that was far too big, but which number? I don’t remember. I adored pitcher Bob Forsch and first baseman Keith Hernandez, so it could have been either No. 31 or 37. In the photo above, it looks like it may have been Forsch’s 31. And, no, I don’t have that shirt today, my packrat tendencies notwithstanding.

 

The Cardinals wore their powder blues only nine seasons, 1976 to 1984, hardly long enough to become one of the team’s signature looks. (I know some Cardinal fans will disagree with that. Oh, well.) But the Cardinals won the 1982 World Series over the Brewers in the powder blues and wore them during my childhood years of STL fandom. I don’t remember the old flannels of Stan Musial or the old road grays of Bob Gibson. I remember the powder blues of Lou Brock, Willie McGee, George Hendrick, Bake McBride, Tommy Herr, Kenny Reitz, Keith Oberkfell, Ted Simmons, Garry Templeton, Ozzie Smith, Lonnie Smith, Bruce Sutter and manager Whitey Herzog.

 

Those were my Cardinals. Those were my powder blues. Gaudy and resplendent.

1970sCardinals
George Hendrick, left, and Garry Templeton.
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Keith Hernandez, George Hendrick, Darrell Porter, Willie McGree and Ken Oberkfell.

The news peg here is that the 2019 Cardinals are reviving the powder bluesa modern version that is nothing more than their Saturday home alternate uniform, which is cream-colored with “St. Louis” on the front instead of “Cardinals,” turned blue. They’ll wear the powder blues only for Saturday road games.

 

I dig ’em.

This guy doesn’t.

The team loves them.

The public reaction is, well, meh.

Which I get. Traditionalists want throwbacks to be throwbacks — pullover jerseys, tighter-fighting pants, no pajama-pants stylings. But that’s not going to happen. (Sorry, Uniwatch.com.) Today’s players aren’t going to wear their unis the way players did three decades ago. That’s why the throwbacks MLB teams have worn in recent years look a bit odd, even if the unis are meticulously recreated, which a good many are. The jerseys are baggy. The pants are too long. The unis just don’t look like we remember.

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The Cardinals wearing throwback powder-blues with baggy shirts and pajama pants. Below, Albert Pujols in powder-blue throwbacks.

Pujols 1982 throwback 18June2005

With moderate sartorial success, the Cardinals have worn true powder-blue throwbacks sporadically in recent years. But with this version, team president Bill DeWitt III decided to combine the powder blue color with the Saturday home alternates instead of staying true to a ’70s or early ’80s copy that fans like me adore. I’ll admit: I’d prefer a true representation of the unis I remember — but that wasn’t possible because the players won’t wear them like Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee did. They’d be too loose, too baggy, too weird.

So, yes, this is a compromise. Probably the best choice.

The best news: I won’t have to resort to a DIY version this time.

Author: Phillip Tutor

Baseball fan. St. Louis Cardinals fan. Raised on baseball in Memphis. Faux expert on baseball in Alabama. Lifetime .200 hitter, good glove, below-average arm.

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