Baseball wants to paint the town red.
Way back when, major league teams nearly always wore white jerseys at home and gray on the road. Now, some teams have so many kinds of uniforms that players can hardly keep track.
"I imagine it appeals to women, it's flashier," Braves pitcher Mike Hampton said.
In their search for sartorial splendor, not to mention dollars from extra sales, Colorado, Houston, and the New York Mets each will use five sets of uniforms this year. That makes for some confusion.
The Mets have white pinstripes, plain white, home black, road black, and road gray. Last June 27, Mets catcher Tom Wilson and reliever Jose Parra wore the wrong jerseys for the second game of a doubleheader against the Yankees -- home black shirts with "Mets" in script instead of visiting shirts with a fancy-type "New York" -- because the team brought the incorrect ones to Yankee Stadium.
Last Sunday, second baseman Craig Biggio wore a red jersey that read "Houston" instead of the red one with "Astros," mistakenly grabbing a 2003 road shirt from his locker instead of the 2005 home version.
"Nobody noticed," he said. "I had a good game. Maybe I'll wear it again."
In their bid to make baseball's best-dressed list, Houston, Atlanta, the Red Sox, and Cincinnati all have red jerseys in their wardrobes this season.
Not coincidentally, all four are among the most trendy threads, topping sales among the 30 teams, according to Steve Armus, vice president for licensing at Major League Baseball Properties.
"Red is an extremely hot color right now, also for batting practice jerseys and for outerwear," he said.
With Majestic Athletic supplying uniforms for all 30 teams for the first time this year, Armus said baseball is on pace to set a record for shirt sales. In all, there are 98 jerseys in use in the major leagues for games, and that doesn't include batting practice shirts.
Just seven teams go with the traditional set of two game outfits: Detroit, the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Francisco, and Washington.
"I will not go to alternate uniforms," Yankees owner George Steinbrenner said through spokesman Howard Rubenstein. "The pinstripes represent a great Yankee tradition, and we will maintain that."
The pinstripes are so well known that when the Yankees opened the 2004 season in Tokyo against Tampa Bay, they wore their home uniforms even though they were the visiting team in both games and batted first.
In addition to the regular jerseys, which sell for up to $249.99 on mlb.com, teams occasionally use old-style uniforms for some games. The Red Sox wore special gold-trimmed jerseys ($169.99 on mlb.com) during ceremonies last Monday in which they received their rings for winning last year's World Series.
In 1999, many teams wore futuristic uniforms as part of "Turn Ahead the Clock" promotions, jerseys designed to project the styles of 2021 -- Pittsburgh had red shirts with black and yellow trim and a giant pirate face on the front. If fashion critic Mr. Blackwell ever diversifies into baseball, they are sure to guarantee an appearance on his worst-dressed list.
The San Diego Padres break out camouflage jerseys, including sand-colored pants and hunter green batting helmets, once each year for Military Opening Night.
Jack Ensch, a retired Navy captain who is the team's director of military marketing, said more than 1,500 of the jerseys, which sell for $100, have been sold since they were introduced in 2000. The Padres store is out of stock and awaiting a fresh delivery.
"Everybody loves it," Padres outfielder Ryan Klesko said. "Everybody's pumped up about having that day. I think everybody has family in the military and respects those people and what they do."
According to the Hall of Fame data base, alternate uniforms have been around for more than a century, with the Boston Braves using three sets in 1900. John McGraw's New York Giants had an all-black alternate uniform they wore for the 1905 World Series. In 1906, after winning their first Series title, the Giants wore shirts that said "World's Champions" on the front, with no reference to city or nickname.
Atlanta's new red jersey, to be used for Sunday home games, is its first uniform change since 1987. It goes for $169.99 on mlb.com.
"The real merchandise sales benefit you get from an alternate jersey is when the players actually wear it," said Derek Schiller, the team's senior vice president of sales and marketing. "It's still very early. All signs from what we've done at concessions and merchandise sales as well as our own clubhouse stores are very, very positive."
When the Mets added their black shirts, sales increased immediately. Arizona, Baltimore, the Chicago White Sox, Colorado, Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Toronto also have black in their closets.
"A lot of people look at black as a cool color, and perhaps not a color of one of the traditional teams," Armus said.