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Breaking down MLB’s jersey name game

When your friendly uniform columnist was a wee lad, his father pointed out that most MLB teams wore their team name on their white home jerseys and their city name on their road grays. “That’s because you should be humble when you’re a guest in someone else’s house,” he explained. “Just tell them where you’re from, but don’t scream your name at them.”

Let’s call this uniform protocol NAH-COR — short for “Name at home, city on road.” It’s not clear whether humility really has anything to do with how the NAH-COR style came about (let’s face it, humility isn’t a big component of the sports scene), but it’s worth noting that the NAH-COR standard hasn’t always been etched in stone. In fact, it’s been more the exception than the rule for most of MLB history.

For example, if we look at all of the MLB uniforms from 1933, only four of the 16 teams were in the NAH-COR category. Ten years later, in 1943, the number was up to eight out of 16. Twenty years after that, in 1963, by which time the leagues had expanded, the NAH-COR number was still only 10 out of 20. And a decade after that, in 1973, the number had actually gone down to nine out of 24.

Since then, however, NAH-COR has become somewhat more standardized. Here’s where we stand today:

• Twenty of the 30 MLB teams currently adhere to the NAH-COR protocol of wearing their team name on their home whites and their city or state name on their road grays. (That includes the Diamondbacks, who wear their nickname at home, and the White Sox, who wear part of their team name at home.)

• Three additional teams don’t wear their team name at home, but their home jerseys feature a logo that is strongly identified with the team (and they all wear their city name on the road), so one could argue that they should be included in the NAH-COR category. We could call them NAH-COR Lite.

• Five teams wear their team name at home and on the road.

• Two teams wear their city or state name at home and on the road.

Of course, the MLB uni-verse is no longer strictly a matter of white and gray, because most teams now have at least one alternate jersey. But white and gray are still the public face of most teams’ uniform programs. So let’s take a closer look at those 10 teams that don’t fit the standard NAH-COR style, including some historical context and an assessment of whether they’d be better off going NAH-COR.

1. Angels

Notes: The Angels followed the NAH-COR standard in the 1960s (with “Los Angeles” on the road grays) and in 2002 (with “Anaheim” on the grays), but for most of their history, they’ve worn “Angels” on all of their jerseys.

Should they go NAH-COR? It’s hard to put your city on your road jersey when your official team name is “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.”


2. Brewers

Notes: The Brew Crew has had a split personality when it comes to NAH-COR. They’ve always worn their team name at home, but on the road they’ve had three major eras: “Brewers” from 1970-77, “Milwaukee” from 1978-99, and “Brewers” from 2000 to the present.

Should they go NAH-COR? Yup. The Brewers currently have a navy “Milwaukee” jersey in their wardrobe, so why not put that script on the road grays?


3. Cardinals

Notes: The Cards have worn their team name on their standard home and road uniforms every year since 1933. Although they’ve sometimes worn their city name at home and on the road, they’ve never had a NAH-COR season. Never!

Should they go NAH-COR? Absolutely. The Cards already have a retro “St. Louis” home alternate, and it looks great. They should use that insignia on their road grays, just to vary things up from the home script.


4. Marlins

Notes: The Marlins were solidly in the NAH-COR camp for most of the teal-accented “Florida Marlins” era. But they’ve accented the city name, even at home, since rebranding as the Miami Marlins in 2012.

Should they go NAH-COR? For sure. Wearing the city name at home defeats the whole point of having a team name, no? The Marlins already have an orange “Marlins” alternate jersey, so just slap that lettering on the home whites and you’re good to go.


5. Nationals

Notes: The Nats wore their team name at home for the first six years of their existence but have gone with the curly “W” logo for the seven seasons since then.

Should they go NAH-COR? Spelling out the team name didn’t always work out so well, so maybe the Nats should stick with the status quo.


6. Phillies

Notes: Fun fact: The Phils have never worn “Philadelphia” on any of their uniforms, although they once wore a road jersey with a “Phila.” abbreviation (which was resurrected for a 2012 photo shoot).

Should they go NAH-COR? We get it — “Philadelphia” is a long word that’s tough to fit on a jersey. But having the same script on all of your jerseys is boring and unimaginative. The Phillies apparently realized that back in the early 1990s, when they commissioned a prototype road jersey with the full city name, but that design never made it onto the field. Maybe it’s time to revisit that idea.


7. Rangers

Notes: When the Rangers came into existence in the early 1970s, they wore their team name on all of their jerseys. Now they’ve come full circle, wearing “Texas” for all of their games, a protocol they’ve maintained since 2009. In between those two extremes, however, they were a NAH-COR team for 35 years, spanning several different uniform designs.

Should they go NAH-COR? Don’t mess with “Texas,” right? Wrong. Wearing the state name 162 times a year feels like overkill, y’all (especially when you’re already wearing the state flag as a sleeve patch). Would it really be such a blow to state pride to wear the team name at home?


8. Rays

Notes: The Rays have already had three distinct uniform sets in their 20-season history, and two of them featured “Tampa Bay” on the road grays. But since dropping the “Devil” from their name in 2008, they’ve been all “Rays,” all the time.

Should they go NAH-COR? For sure. Wearing such a simple, plain-Jane insignia at home and on the road — and also on two different blue alternates — seems like a bit much. Restore “Tampa Bay” to the road jersey, stat. (And yes, technically speaking, Tampa Bay isn’t a city, but that’s part of the club’s name, so that’s what they should go with.)


9. Tigers

Notes: Amazing but true: The Tigers have worn “Tigers” on their chests for only two seasons — on their 1928 road jerseys and again on their 1960 home whites (further info here).

Should they go NAH-COR? You know that old line about things that ain’t broke?


10. Yankees

Notes: Fun fact No. 1: The Yanks wore “Yankees” from 1927 to 1930 — but it was on their road jerseys. Fun fact No. 2: Those four seasons were part of a 19-year run when the Yanks had blank home jerseys — nothing but pinstripes. Among other things, that means Babe Ruth never wore the interlocking “NY” (well, at least not during a game).

Should they go NAH-COR? Bite your tongue for even asking. There are certain things you don’t meddle with, and the Yanks’ basic look of wearing “NY” at home and “New York” on the road — a format that has now lasted more than eight decades — is one of them.


There’s one other club worth mentioning here: the Dodgers. Technically speaking, they’re one of the 20 NAH-COR teams, because their primary road jersey has “Los Angeles” on the chest, but they’ve largely stopped wearing that jersey, preferring to wear their gray “Dodgers” alternate. As of April 27, they had worn the alternate for nine of their road games, with the supposed primary worn only three times. Is a primary still a primary if you rarely wear it?

Incidentally, you can continue to track the Dodgers’ uniform habits, along with all the other MLB teams’ game-by-game jersey breakdowns, here. It’s a good way to keep up with how NAH-COR is evolving in the modern era.

Paul Lukas roots for the Mets, who’ve been a NAH-COR team for most of their history, except from 1974 through 1986. If you like this column, you’ll probably like his Uni Watch Blog, plus you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Want to learn about his Uni Watch Membership Program, be added to his mailing list so you’ll always know when a new column has been posted or just ask him a question? Contact him here.

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