Phillies and Athletics Uniform Options for City Series Retro Night

By Matt Albertson, Historical Columnist 
The Athletics franchise moved away from Philadelphia 65 years ago after the 1954 season but their occasional return to Philadelphia always excites hardcore Philadelphia baseball history buffs. Although the A's have been away from Philadelphia longer than they called it home (1901-1954), their tenure in this city is still celebrated. A statue of A's manager and owner Connie Mack sits outside Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies inducted an Athletic into the Philadelphia Baseball Wall of Fame ever year from 1978-2003. A few niche Philadelphia clothiers stock Philadelphia Athletics shirts and hats. The name Athletic is the oldest nickname still used in American professional sports, dating back to 1859 when a group of men from the Handel and Hayden Society decided to create a "baseball" team. Simply put, the Athletics are still a point of pride for Philadelphians and remain a part of the city's historical fabric. 

When the Athletics visited Philadelphia in 2017 I wrote a piece on this site about the City Series, a pre- and postseason series contested between the Phillies and Athletics each year between 1882-1890, 1901-1954. I went to all three games that series, hoping the Phils might recognize the Athletics' Philadelphia roots. If mention was made at the ballpark about those roots, I've forgotten. The baseball wasn't great either as the Phillies lost two of three. But this year will be different. The Phillies released their promotional schedule which includes a "1920s City Series Retro Night" on Friday June 12 and a 1920s Phillies Cap give away to all men 15 and over on Sunday June 14, for Father's Appreciation Day. Get excited, because we might be in for a rare treat with 1920s style uniforms!
Fortunately, both clubs have a few unique options that they can employ for Friday June 12. A sensible assumption is that both clubs might wear 1920 retros, given they were worn exactly 100 years ago. Baseball likes nice round numbers. So, what would those duds look like? 
Ace31fa310f3f8dafcee8f767b736a5eJohnny Walker, Tillie Walker, and Frank Walker pose in their 1920 Philadelphia Athletics uniforms
The Athletics departed from their familiar script A in 1920 and replaced it with an elephant for the first time. The club's association with the elephant dates back to 1902 when New York Giants manager answered a reporters' question about the Athletics, saying they were "white elephants"! This was in reference to the club's finances and the Philadelphia fans embraced the association. The above uniform is the home uniform complete with pinstripes. According to the Dressed to the Nines uniform database, the stripes, elephant, cap visor and soutache piping were black. What makes this uniform unique is this design was only used in 1920. 
The Phillies' 1920 uniform was more traditional with the cap being the only alteration of the club's uniform from the 1910s. The home uniform was still white pants and top with a block P. According to Dressed to the Nines, the home cap was white with a red visor, red soutache piping and a block red P in the middle. Pictorial evidence shows that the visor may have been white. Regardless, this uniform was classic. The away cap in 1920 had a white visor according to Dressed to the Nines but pictorial evidence shows a red visor. 

I don't think the chances of these uniforms being worn is particularly high. The only reason why they might be a consideration is they were worn exactly 100 seasons ago. Neither club was particularly good, the Phillies were 62-91 while the Athletics were worse at 48-106. However, the bonus to wearing these uniforms is New Era already made a similar cap when the Phillies wore 1915 retro caps against the Red Sox in 2015. Any retro night is bound to make stadium cash registers ring with limited availability retro night attire. 

Another option for both clubs are 1921-1922 uniforms.  The Athletics and Phillies uniforms are unique for these two years. The Athletics altered the elephant design for 1921, which remained on both home and away uniforms through 1927. The elephant from 1921-23 was blue but changed to white in 1924 through 1927. The home cap had a blue visor, blue soutache pinstriping with white panels while the away cap had a blue visor and panels with white soutache piping. Both home and away uniforms were appealing, with the away version being an interesting option to wear on City Series retro night. 


The Phillies meanwhile completely changed their uniforms and for two years wore a design popularized by the Chicago Cubs since the 1940s, with blue pinstripes and a red P inside a blue circle. Like the 1921-23 Athletics, the Phillies' new design was the same for both home and away, the only difference being white home uniforms and gray away uniforms. The cap left a lot to be desired for – it was a simple navy cap with no logo or insignia whatsoever. It would be interesting if the Phillies chose this design but a plain navy blue cap won't sell well at the ballpark. As mentioned earlier, the Phillies wore 1915 style caps when the Red Sox visited Philadelphia in 2015 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1915 World Series between the Phils and Red Sox. The Red Sox were to wear 1915 caps as well but elected to wear their normal cap. The club didn't explain the decision, but the 1915 Red Sox cap was a plain gray cap. Not very exciting. 


These options are intriguing but will likely be overlooked for the next two options. The Phillies were putrid in between 1918 and 1948, recording only one winning season in that 30 year span, despite having one of the eras greatest players, Chuck Klein, on the roster. The Athletics meanwhile developed a powerhouse lineup with "Double X" Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Cochoran, and Al Simmons which ultimately won three pennants and two World Series between 1929 and 1931. The uniforms worn by both clubs in the late 1920s can be considered true classics. 

Beginning in 1928, the Athletics replaced the elephant with the script A and replaced the pinstripe caps with a blue bill, white panel cap complete with a blue script A on the front. These particular uniforms and caps have been reproduced by the likes of Mitchell & Ness and American Needle recently because of their aesthetic appeal and the association with the great Athletics of the late 1920s and early 1930s, a team that are considered by some the best team in major league history. The uniform design endured with slight variations while the club was in Philadelphia through 1953. The Athletics even wore the 1929 home uniform during a 2009 contest against the Chicago White Sox.

The Phillies meanwhile overhauled their uniforms in 1925, adding a red Old English P to their white home uniforms through 1933. A cap with a red visor, white panels and red Old English P was worn with all home uniforms from 1925 through 1932. The away uniforms varied slightly in design with the Old English P sometimes on the chest and other times on the shoulder inside a diamond. The Phillies brought this uniform design back to life on August 1, 1993 when they played the Pirates at Veterans Stadium. The cap has been made by American Needle for several years and a New Era one-size-fits-all cap has been available for purchase at Citizens Bank Park for a few years now. 


There are few options for both clubs for City Series retro night, if they do in fact choose to wear throwback uniforms and the league approves the request, but all of the options are appealing and would be a refreshing departure from the consistent 1970s-1980s throwbacks that have been too common in recent years. The Phillies alone have 138 years of uniform history to choose from, so throwing in an oddball from the 1920s would be a lot of fun and help fans engage with the club's more distant past. Personally, I believe the clubs should and will wear late 1920s throwbacks; they're clean, unique, and easily recognizable. In any event, we'll be sure to update you on any uniform updates and throwback events throughout the season, as well as City Series content. 

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