The Toronto Blue Jays will be unveiling a new logo and a new set of uniforms today at noon eastern on the field of the Rogers Centre in a "media event." The announcement will be streamed live online at Bluejays.com, unfortunately I have a lunch appointment so I'll have to miss it. For the fans in Toronto, the Jays will also hold a launch event at the Jays Shop in Sears at the Toronto Eaton Centre at 5 pm. I will try to head there and if I do make it I'll report on Twitter (@BBBMinorLeaguer).
But before the unveiling of the new Jays logo in a few hours, let's take another look back at what the Blue Jays of old used to wear, this time focusing on what they wore from 1997 to 2003. Unfortunately due to technical issues with an important electronic source, the writeup for the 2004-2011 logo and uniforms is only partially complete and will have to appear in Part III of this series.
If you missed it, you can still catch Part I of this series (on the Original Logo Era) here.
Red Glare Era (1977-1996)
Bring yourselves back to Tuesday, November 19, 1996--do you remember how you felt about the Blue Jays? The afterglow from Joe Carter's World Series-winning walk-off shot had faded. If it wasn't the players' strike in 1994 or the sale of the team to Interbrew of Belgium that did it, the Jays' awful performance in 1995 (56-88, .389, 5th place) and 1996 (74-88, .457, 4th places) certainly planted a deeply bitter taste in Toronto baseball fans' mouths. World Series icons Roberto Alomar, Devon White, Paul Molitor, and Pat Gillick were gone, replaced by the likes of Tomas Perez, Otis Nixon, a 24-year old Carlos Delgado, and Gord Ash. John Olerud was in a three-season slump. Aside from the rise of Delgado and Pat Hentgen's Cy Young Award, there wasn't much to be happy about in Jaysland. The team was clearly in re-building mode, and the old logo just seemed, well, old.
Blue Jays primary logo (1997-2002) with wordmark, via Chris Creamer's SportsLogo.net website.
So, on that day, the Toronto Blue Jays called a press conference where they unveiled a new logo (designed by Major League Properties) for the struggling franchise. The logo itself was not, in club spokesperson Howard Starkman's words "radically different" from the Original Era logo. The double-blue bird now had a sharper shape, a new "swoosh" of hair (feathers?), and silver shading. It still rested on a red-and-white baseball, but the ball was rotated 90 degrees and the line running parallel to the seams was removed. The most obvious change was the enlargement of the red maple leaf, going from an accent on the top-right of the logo to becoming a large backdrop. The wordmark, "BLUE JAYS" in dark blue with a light blue inlay, retained the trademark split-lettering style. The maple leaf was also outlined in dark blue and light blue.
The Blue Jays managed to keep this logo quite well under wraps--the logo that was "leaked" to the Toronto Star and TV station CFTO a day earlier was nothing like this one. Toronto Star reporter Jim Byers reported that new re-branding came with a new slogan "The Next Generation" and the presser had lasers, fog machines, and dancers that "gyrated and ran their hands over various body parts." I wonder if that'll happen with today's unveiling.
The immediate reaction from the fans, as reported by the Star, was overwhelmingly negative. The paper's phone poll (how quaint!) showed 82% of almost 2800 respondents preferring the original logo to the new one. Confusingly, many of the readers' comments referred to how they disliked the "teal" or "turquoise" in the logo and uniforms. Jays fans did slowly warm up to this logo (probably when it was realized that the "teal" was more of a light blue), and currently it rates 6.6/10 on Chris Creamer's SportsLogos.net website.
Blue Jays alternate logo (2000-2002) and primary logo (2003), via Chris Creamer's SportsLogo.net website.
In 2000, the Blue Jays introduced the "T-Bird" logo as an alternate, to be used only for Spring Training and batting practice caps. The logo featured a no-nonsense cartoon Blue Jay (still with that "swoosh" of hair/feathers) holding a bat and tossing a baseball with its maple leaf-tattooed left wing while wrapped around a red serif "T" with a dark blue split. The entire logo was surrounded by a grey outline. The logo made it to an alternate uniform in 2001, and was used as the primary logo in 2003 as the club was undergoing a rebranding effort. The lettering used for this logo was different than the sans-serif "T" used on the front of the road uniforms, and was solely used in this logo, never appearing alone. As an alternate logo, the T-Bird rates at 4.2/10 and as the primary logo, it rates at 3.9/10 at SportsLogos.net.
By the way, the reason why I named this period the "Red Glare Era" was because of a report I wrote back in 1997 when I was in grade 6. I wrote about the new logo and uniforms as well as the signing of "Rocket" Roger Clemens (among other offseason moves) and I entitled the report "Rocket Brings Red Glare To Blue Jays' Uniforms." I thought it was pretty clever back then (and still do now).
Home Uniforms with Tricolour Piping (1997-2000)
Pitcher Woody Williams steps and throws a pitch in a 1997 game against the New York Yankees in the SkyDome. (Photo by Harry How/Allsport)
After 20 years of blue and white, the Jays decided to spice things up by throwing in red onto their uniforms in 1997. The button-down home whites still had "BLUE JAYS" across the chest but in a new font and with the colour scheme changing from dark blue with a white inlay to dark blue with a light blue inlay. The initial letter "B" appeared larger than the rest of the letters. The tricolour stripes around the sleeves and down the pant leg remained, but again, the colours were different: dark blue-white-light blue became dark blue-light blue-red. The logo, which used to be in front, was moved to the left sleeve to make room of the player's number, which also appeared on the back of the jersey along with the player's last name. Unlike the previous jerseys which used solid block lettering for a player's name on the back (or "NOB", as uniform geeks would call it), all letters and numerals on the uniform appeared in the same split-lettering as the "BLUE JAYS" wordmark.
The home jersey remained largely the same from its introduction through the 2000 season. The only change in that span occurred before the 2000 season, when the Jays switched manufacturers from Wilson to the Major League standard Majestic (who has manufactured all MLB uniforms since 2000), who added the blue-white-red MLB logo to the back collar.
The Jays' primary cap remained all-blue, with the only change being the replacement of the original logo with a modified version of the new one. The cap logo had the baseball removed, but showed detailed "veins" on the leaf, as well as an additional outer white outline around the entire patch.
Road Uniforms with Tricolour Piping (1997-2000)
Carlos Delgado rounds the bases at the Oakland Alameda Coliseum in a 1997 game against the Oakland Athletics. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Stringer)
The new road uniform introduced for the 1997 season featured a grey button-down shirt and grey pants along with the same solid blue cap used for the home uniform. "TORONTO" appears in front in dark blue split-lettering with a red inlay and a white outline, with the "T" in a slightly larger size. And similar to the home jersey, the player's number appeared both in front and back and along with the NOB is in the same style of split-lettering as the wordmark. The primary logo appeared on the left sleeve, while both sleeves and the pant legs featured dark blue-light blue-red piping. The only change in the four year lifespan of this road jersey was the addition of the MLB logo in the back collar to go along with the switch from Wilson to Majestic.
Home Uniforms with Blue Piping (2001-2003)
Chris Woodward welcomes Greg Myers and Carlos Delgado back to the dugout after they scored a couple of runs against the New York Yankees in a 2003 game at the SkyDome. (Photo by Dave Sanford/Getty Images)
For their 25th anniversary season, the Blue Jays updated the look of their uniforms. For the first time in franchise history, there was no tricolour piping on the uniform. The red and light blue stripes were removed, leaving behind a thin, dark blue piping. The piping now ran around the collar and down either side of the shirt buttons, around the sleeves, and down the trouser legs. Replacing the Jays logo on the left sleeve was the Jays' 25th anniversary patch. The rest of the elements, including the cap, largely remained the same. In 2002, the Blue Jays logo returned on the left sleeve. When the Jays decided to switch over to the T-Bird logo in 2003, the home uniforms changed accordingly: the T-Bird logo was installed on the left sleeve, and replaced the old logo on the front of the caps. Note: the photo above shows the home alternate, not the home primary, uniform.
Road Uniforms with Blue Piping (2001-2003)
Homer Bush is greeted by Carlos Delgado in a 2001 game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in Tropicana Stadium. (Photo by Chris Livingston/ALLSPORT)
The new road greys introduced in 2001 also got rid of the tricolour piping and replaced it with a single blue stripe around the collar and down the front of the shirt as well as down the pant legs. Instead of grey sleeves, this road uniform features sewn-on dark blue sleeves to give a faux-vest feel. Like the home jersey, on the left sleeve of the road jersey was, in 2001 the 25th anniversary patch, in 2002 the red maple leaf primary logo, and in 2003 the T-Bird logo. In 2003, the cap worn with the road uniform also switched to the T-Bird version.
Alternate Uniforms (1997-2003)
In that November 19, 2006 press conference, the Blue Jays actually announced four new uniforms: one home, one away, and two alternates.
The first alternate, the only one of the two to actually appear on the field, is dark blue with tricolour (dark blue-light blue-red) stripes around the sleeves and down the legs of the pants. Unlike the 1996 alternate, "TORONTO" is in the front rather than "BLUE JAYS", with the letter "T" a little larger than the rest of the letters. The player's number appears in the front, to the left of the buttons, as well as in the back along with the player's name. The lettering and numerals were in red split-lettering with a dark blue inlay and a white outline. To go with the uniform, an alternate cap was introduced as well. It featured the baseball-less logo on a blue cap that had a red brim and button. The alternate, despite reading "TORONTO" on the front, was worn both at home and on the road. The only difference is that white pants were worn at home and grey pants were worn when the Jays were away. It appears that no special pants were made for the alternate jersey.
The blue alternate was manufactured by Russell from 1997-1999 before it was switched to Majestic in 2000, who added the MLB logo on the back collar. Changes similar to the other uniforms with regards to switching to single-colour (red) piping and sleeve patches occurred on this alternate as well. In 2003, the T-Bird logo appeared on the red-brimmed alternate cap.
The unused alternate featured a blue sleeveless vest with "BLUE JAYS" across the chest in split-lettering, this time in light blue with a dark blue inlay and a white outline. A light blue undershirt, the all-blue cap, and white pants were to be worn with the uniform top. This may have been pulled because of the fans' dislike of the "teal" colouring.
A sleeveless jersey finally arrived in 1999. It was white with the letters and numbers in light blue with a dark blue centring line. A plain dark blue undershirt was worn under the vest. In place of the player's number in front was the Jays' primary logo. The uniform top in 1999 and 2000 featured no piping at all, but it was worn with the home pants which had the tricolour piping. Wilson made the uniforms in 1999 before Majestic took over (and added the MLB logo) in 2000. In 2001 the Jays modified the sleeveless jersey: the base and inlay colours of the lettering were inverted, the primary logo was replaced by the T-Bird logo, and a single blue piping in the style of the home uniforms was added. In 2001 the left sleeve of the undershirt showed the 25th anniversary patch, and in 2002 the maple leaf logo was shown. In 2003, the player's number replaced the T-Bird logo in the front, which was moved to the left sleeve.
Blue Jays alternate cap logo (1999), via Chris Creamer's SportsLogo.net website.
In 1999, the Blue Jays occasionally wore an red alternate cap which featured the primary logo without the maple leaf and baseball. I really like the simplicity of the bird alone in a field of red in this alternate logo, which is why I might really like the Jays logo that will be unveiled in several hours.
Addendum: Turn Back The Clock 2001 Uniforms
I did not that the Blue Jays had a "Turn Back The Clock" series matchup against the Chicago White Sox in 2001 to commemorate the Jays' first ever series, 25 years before. The plan was to have both teams dress in their uniforms from 1977 for the game on Victoria Day. Unfortunately the promotion did not go as planned. According to this USA Today article, the Chicago White Sox only had their cap ready. They did not get their throwback uniforms tailored on time because they had more important things to worry about, as they were 14-28 at the time. And of course, Jays-White Sox relations were at the nadir during this period due to the failed Mike Sirotka trade.
The Blue Jays, had both their special jerseys and cap for the game. Despite the realism with the pullovers with the original Wilson-style wordmark and elastic waistband pants, Brad Fullmer was wearing a 2001-era dark blue undershirt with "BLUE JAYS" across the collar! I can understand how, in order to save money, the contemporary batting helmets had to be worn instead of creating 1977 replicas just for one game, but how much were dark blue undershirts going for back in 2001?
However, that was not even the biggest problem with the uniforms worn that day. This picture from William Henderson's guide shows how the wrong lettering was used for the players' numbers on the back of the jersey! The style of the numbers were obviously based on the 1997-2003 split-lettering font rather than the one used from 1977 to 1996. The take-home lesson is that details are important and that a very well-intentioned "Turn Back The Clock" promotion to celebrate the club's past can actually reveal that the planners really did not know much at all about the past.
Part III of this series will appear soon and will feature a walkthrough of the logos and uniforms used by the Blue Jays in the "Black Jays" era.
Please accept my apologies if I have missed any of my sources.
- Chris Creamer at http://www.sportslogos.net
- Rudy Visokay at http://www.glory-jays.com
- National Baseball Hall of Fame's "Dressed to the Nines" web exhibit at http://exhibits.baseballhalloffame.org/dressed_to_the_nines/introduction.htm
Toronto Star "Pages of the Past" web archives via the Toronto Public Library and Proquest.
- 2011 Toronto Blue Jays Media Guide
- William F. Henderson's MLB Game Worn Jerseys of the Double-Knit Era, 2009 Edition
- And another big "thank you" to Tom for arranging the rights to the photos in this article!