Sometimes a meaningless fact sticks in your craw. For no reason at all, a pointless, doesn't-affect-anything piece of informationeats at you and becomes a mental obsession.From there it morphs into a mission — or at least a rant. Well, I'm there.
The source of my mental obsession/mission/rant: the home jerseys the Atlanta Braves wore from 1981 through 1986. Or, more specifically, that the Braves seem to have forgotten they ever existed. More on that in a bit.
You know the uniformsI'm talking about: the red, white and blue beauties that outfitted "America's Team" duringthe Braves' rise to nationwide prominenceon Superstation WTBS. Thepullover tops and striped pants were basically an American flag in jersey form, perfect for the faux patrioticrah-rah of theReaganera.
But for baseball fans of a certain age, especially those whose only outlet for nightly baseball was the Braves on TBS, these jerseys are also closely tied with pleasant, youthful summer memories. They were an iconic symbol of an era of Braves baseball that, while mostly unsuccessful on the field, was beloved by legions of fans who tuned in nightly to see the latest heroics of Dale Murphy, Bob Horner and Glenn Hubbard.
The patriotic colors seemed to literally represent the quintessential American baseball team, which is why it baffles me that the Braves barely acknowledge their existence. Since eschewing the look after the 1986 season, the Braves have not worn this glorious attire since or even associated with it for any reason. Not on a throwback night, not with promotional items and not with apparel sold in the team store.
Nearly every other uniform variation in Braves history has been represented at least once on athrowback nightover the past 20 yearsor is available to purchase through some officially licensed means. But notthose '80s home whites.
And I want answers.
(I told you this was a pointless mental obsession.)
Before I go further, a clarification: The Braves have worn uniforms from the 1981-86 era on throwback nights — but always on the road, meaning they've donned the equally iconicbaby blue away jersey multiple times. In fact, those baby blue jerseys are the alwaysthe go-to nostalgia point on '80s-themed Braves throwbacks and promotions, even at home. Seriously — always.
When the team gave away aMurphy No. 3 replica jersey a couple of years ago, it was the baby blue. When it gave way Murphy bobbleheads, the Bobblehead Murphwas wearing the baby blues.
When you shop for a throwback Braves jersey online, the only option available from the the '80s is, yep, the baby blue. Want the 1957 home jersey? It's there. Want the1974 home jersey? It's available. Want the forgotten striped 1976 home jersey? You're in luck!Want the post-1987 home jerseys?They've got 'em all. Want the home jersey from the '80s? Sorry. (Check eBay, and also have $1,500 to spare.) Heck, you can't evenfind the matching shirsey at the team storeor on the website.
It makes no sense, folks. It makes no sense.
Even the walls at Turner Field, the team's former home, hardly paid these jerseys any mind (except for yearly team photos). I took this picture of a mural in 2015. One of these things is not like the others.
At SunTrust Park, the team's new home, a prominent display features the 10 most popular jersey stylesin Braves history. Guess which one is absent. (Related: I demand to see the scientific polling data!)
Anyway, after trying unsuccessfully to come up with legitimatereasons why the team never wears or acknowledges the classic America's Team jersey — Was it a weird contractual thing? Was there a grand conspiracy within the front office? —I thought I'd just ask the proper authorities. I emailed the Braves asking, "What's the deal?"Turns out, nobody has an answer.
"No one really seems to know other than the blue ones have always been favored by our fans," said Beth Marshall, the team's senior director of public relations.
Well, then. I'm not sure whether that makes the oversight better or worse. Plus, do the fans favor the baby blues because they actuallyprefer them to the white ones, or do they like the baby blues because those are the only ones they've been offered?
But if there's nothing stopping a throwback night with these righteous '80s threads, this seems like aneasily fixable situation.
Even the man most associated with '80s Braves baseballagrees.
"You bring up a good point," Murphy told me after pondering the proliferation of baby blues and the ongoing shutoutof the home whites.
The blue has clearly because the dominant nostalgic look from that era, he said, butthe home whites deserve love, too.After all, Murphy won two MVP awards wearing the America's Team apparel. Not to mention that fans have asked him why they can't find that white jersey anywhere.
“I think it would be a great idea” to do a throwback,Murphy said. "I’m sure they know ... their season-ticket buyers were all kids in the ‘80s. And it would be a fun thing for them.
"... I'll bring it up."
Thanks, Murph, even if you were just being polite.
(I'm almost done, I promise.)
It's not like there haven't been opportunities for this kind of throwback. In 1992, 2002 and 2012, they could've worn them at any pointto commemorate milestoneanniversariesof the team's1982 NL West title. But no. In 2015, when they marked 50 years in Atlanta, they could've worn them at any pointto remember the era. But no. On any '80s Night since '80s Nights became a thing at ballparks, they could've worn them. But no.
Thankfully, 2017 offers a chance at redemption. Yes, there's another '80s Night scheduled, but the best chance actually comes in just a few weeks.
April 20 will be the 35th anniversary of the Braves breaking the record for most consecutive wins to start a season (they won their 12th straight that night in 1982 and extended it to 13 a day later). This year, the Braves host the Nationals. So I've got a proposal: The Braves can wear the '80s home whites to mark the '82 team's record-setting opening, while the Nationals can wear the Expos' red, white and blue road uniforms from the era.
Talk about magnificent.Seriously, such an explosion of red, white and blue would be glorious.
Alas, with the short notice and all — and because the Braves are under no obligation to care what I think —I don't actually expect this to happen. So those beautiful all-American uniforms will have to live on through highlight videos, baseball cards andold photos— not to mention in pointless mental obsessions.
But how great it would be to see themon the field one more time, just as they were for a generation of fans duringthose wonderful Superstation summers.