The San Diego Padres, also known as the hard luck Padres, los pobres Padres … you get the picture. San Diego fans are acquainted with grief. Even now, the Friars are sitting on a .447 record for the season with no hope of postseason play. This is about average, actually, since as of 2015, their all-time win percentage stood at 46.4. But, there’s always next year (and there always will be). Needless to say, the Padres haven’t made a name as an aspirational team like, for instance, the New York Yankees—the most successful team in baseball historically, with an all-time win percentage of 56.9 and a whopping 27 championship titles.
But never fear, because there is something the Padres can do to improve their image. I’m talking uniforms. The Padres should bring back the brown.
A few years ago, I’d never thought I’d say that. In 2004, when Petco Park opened for the first time, the team uniforms also got a makeover, and the colors were changed to sand (a light tan), navy blue, and white. I really liked it. It looked subdued and professional, and incorporated the seaside location of the gorgeous new park. I thought they should never change it. But the Padres have never stuck with one uniform for too long. After several years, the sand was replaced with light gray. This looked nice, but maybe too subdued. Maybe even … a bit boring.
Let’s wind the clock back a little. I’m not going to fact check this, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the Padres, though a young MLB team, born in 1969, have altered their look more than any other MLB team. (The Yankees never have in over a hundred years, and the they won’t, either.) In the spring of ’69 the brand new Padres sported brown and gold. They wore some combination of brown and gold for quite some time, adding orange as an accent color in 1980. Beginning in 1985, the Padres dumped the gold and used brown and orange on pinstriped jerseys. In 1991, the brown was ditched and the Padres thence used navy blue and orange, retaining a white home jersey with pinstripes, but blue pinstripes. (Perhaps thinking this was the secret to the Yankees’ success.) Remarkably, the Padres kept this basic look until 2003.
In 2016, the Padres gave a nod to the past in two ways. One was introducing a light yellow-orange as an accent color. The ball cap with a white S and yellow-orange D was reminiscent of the ’90s ball caps. Also, they introduced a brown and gold home alternate jersey, worn on Fridays. This is paired with a brown and gold cap resembling the cap worn between 1972 and 1984. The yellow-orange was a one-season deviation, but they kept the browns in 2017. And you know what? Those alternate jerseys look good!
Brown, properly executed, has at least three things in its favor. One, it recalls our roots. The Padres began in brown and used it a primary color for 21 seasons. In this way, it makes sense. This would not be an arbitrary color change, but a deliberate shift towards something that is culturally San Diegan and identifiable as such. Which brings me to thing number two: brown is unique. No other MLB team uses brown. How many teams use blue? About half of all the teams! Brown and gold uniforms would stand apart. Third, when done right it looks good. Really good. (See 1972 for how not to do it.)
Naturally, I have my own ideas about implementation. I don’t want some kind of “replica” jersey. It would be a modern iteration, using brown and gold as the coloring scheme. Pants would be white or gray because colored pants don’t go over well in baseball like they do in football. Don’t know why; they just don’t. But I’m not the only one with ideas. Below are a couple fake mock-ups of what this might look like.
This mock-up is created by a guy named John Brubaker. He calls is a “little PhotoShop dream of a better looking team.”
This is also a mock-up by the same guy. Now, below are some real pictures of the Padres’ current brown alt jerseys:
Don’t those look good? These shouldn’t be the alt jerseys. These should be the main jerseys! We should lose the blue and reform our identity around the brown. We need to stop the changing around all the time (like the yellow-orange from last year). When someone asks what the Padres’ colors are, the question should have a simple answer―something you can take to the bank, something that identifies the franchise, linking it to the past and carrying on as long as balls and strikes, innings and outs, stolen bases and double plays shall endure.