It’s the cleverest promotional idea in big-league baseball this year. And baseball, by the way, is the hardest sport in which to win that title. On June 30 the Tampa Bay Rays are having a “Turn Back the Clock” game in which the players will wear the uniforms of the 1979 version of the Rays. I hear some of you saying that the Rays were created almost twenty years after that date. Pshaw! A bagatelle! A mere detail, as this photo of Rays manager Joe Maddon modelling the throwback uniform proves!
It’s in the nature of baseball that everyone believes the version of the sport played on television when they were young is the ideal version. For us Gen-Xers, though, this is objectively, inarguably true. (What, you prefer steroid-altered baseball? 1960s no-scoring, no-.300-hitters baseball? Racially segregated baseball?) The Rays’ alternate-history throwback doesn’t have a colour scheme you would wear in a boardroom. What this uniform has going for it, like the real ’70s uniforms it’s imitating, is that it is at least consciously designed. It clearly wasn’t created by having a computer algorithm pick a basic shade of red and pass it to a focus group. In a brilliant fake-historic touch, the trite mean-animal name that the real team was born with, in the world-run-by-idiots era of the “Toronto Raptors”, has been reinterpreted as denoting the Rays of a lemony ’70s sun. It’s too good to last just one game!