A Brief History of the Phillies in Green Color


Photo courtesy Matt Rappa/Philliedelphia

When the Phillies take the field at Bright House Field today against the Tampa Bay Rays, there’s a good chance that they will don their traditional St. Patrick’s Day green uniforms. It’s a team tradition that goes back to 1986, when the Phillies swapped maroon for green. But it wasn’t the first time the Phillies appeared in green.

The Phillies first wore green 117 years ago on March 17, 1899 during their spring training activities in Charlotte, N.C. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on March 17 that “the Phillies burst upon the startled natives this morning in their new sweaters trimmed with green.” It must have been quite a sight to see Big Ed Delahanty “trimmed with green.”


Phils in green

Image courtesy Philadelphia Inquirer (newsbank.com)

It would be another 11 years before the Phillies wore green again. Club owner Horace Fogel decided to rebrand the franchise in 1910. He replaced the traditional black trim on white home uniforms with green trim on white home uniforms, which featured an old-English “P”. The away uniform incorporated the green trim on gray but featured a more standard stylized “P” on the chest. Fogel chose green so the team would match the green seats in National League Park (unofficially Baker Bowl). The green trim did not last long as the team replaced the green with red in 1911.


Image courtesy Marc Okkonen/Baseball Hall of Fame

With the exception of 1938, the Phillies retained red and blue as their primary colors until Tug McGraw dyed his socks and uniform green during spring training in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s (the exact year is debatable). William Henderson states in his book “Game Worn Guide to Philadelphia Phillies Jerseys (1970-2015)” that McGraw wore the green duds onto the field on March 17, 1977 but the umpire wouldn’t allow him to pitch until he changed.

Schmidt green

According to Henderson, the current Mitchell & Ness 1981 St. Patrick’s Day jersey is a fabrication. “Mitchell & Ness ‘invented’ the Phillies wearing St. Pat’s in 1981 so they could market #45 McGraw and #14 Rose jerseys which they could not do with the 1986 St. Pats…We have not seen any evidence anywhere ever that the Phils wore green unis prior to 1986.”  The information provided in this article proves that the Phillies wore green as a team on at least two occasions prior to the 1986 St. Patrick’s Day uniforms, but whether or not they did wear them in 1981 is disputed.

The Phillies began their St. Patrick’s Day tradition by wearing green in 1986 and it is a tradition that continues to this day. The tradition creates a fun atmosphere for the fans and franchise alike every March 17. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and remember, history is only a moment away at every ball game.


Matt Alberston (@mdalbert88) is a historical columnist on Philliedelphia.com.

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