The 1969 Seattle Pilots—One Team, One Season, Many Uniforms

The Seattle Pilots occupy a unique space in the modern annals of Major League Baseball. They played only one season—162 games—in their sole campaign in the Pacific Northwest, wearing some of the most distinctive uniforms in the history of professional sports. The club moved to Milwaukee just prior to Opening Day of the 1970 season, reborn as the Brewers.

St Louis Cardinals coach Joe Schultz was named as the team’s first manager on October 10, 1968. The announcement took place during the ninth inning of the decisive seventh game of the World Series between St Louis and Detroit. He was depicted that day wearing a prototype road jersey and cap. The headwear features a simple italicized lower case “s.” The jersey typography is straight across; the “s” in “Seattle” matches the cap. The road jersey lettering is fairly close to what the Pilots would eventually wear during their only season.

1968

I recently came across an image that was published in the New York Times on December 4, 1968, the contents of which blew me away. The shot shows Montréal Expos manager Gene Mauch and scout Peanuts Lowrey posed in front of a set of uniforms at the MLB meetings in San Francisco. The frontmost jersey is that of the expansion Kansas City Royals (it contains a detail that never saw the field of play in the end of the script tail, under the “R”.”) Next to that is a jersey for the Seattle Pilots with a blocky “Seattle” wordmark, something that I have never seen before.

PILOTS_12.04.1968

We can only guess what some of the details were (including the “S”.) The coloration looks similar to what was eventually utilized. Here’s a rough but educated stab at what it may have looked like:

SEATTLE

When the team reported to Spring Training in 1969 they wore simple jerseys featuring a block-serif “PILOTS.” The headwear contained a simple yellow/gold “S” with no additional embellishments. There were two jerseys, a white home version and a gray road version, each of which were devoid of trim or detail.

SPRING TR

The Pilots played their first ever game on the road in Anaheim on April 8, 1969. Their distinctive powder blue road uniforms featured four gold “captain’s” stripes on the sleeves, an arched “Seattle,” and a derivative of the club’s pilot wheel logo.

SEA_RD

The Home Opener took place on April 11, against Chicago. Here’s the white home jersey, manufactured by Wilson:

1969 PILOTS HOME

The team’s visual identity was created by Seattle Post-Intelligencer artist Stuart Moldrem. An April 11, 1969 P-I article says that the caps were originally to be “white… with (a) blue bill on which was placed a gold band…on the bill (was) what the Armed Services call “scrambled eggs.” The American League seems to have had a rule against two-tone hats at this time, so the cap became all blue:

PILOTS CAP

The same article indicates that the home uniforms were to feature blue belt loops and a gold belt buckle, neither of which ever saw the light of day. Multiple sources say that the jerseys were a work in progress right up until Opening Day.

Pilots pitcher Jim Bouton famously documented the 1969 season in his seminal book “Ball Four.” In it, he says of the Pilots uniforms:

“There was a lot of grousing about the uniforms. … I guess because we’re the Pilots we have to have captain’s uniforms. They have stripes on the sleeve, scrambled eggs on the (bill) of the cap and blue socks with yellow stripes. Also there are blue and yellow stripes down the sides of the pants. We look like goddamn clowns.”

PILOTS DETAIL


Comments

The 1969 Seattle Pilots—One Team, One Season, Many Uniforms — 20 Comments

    • Another oddity about the Brewers’ original uniform: both home and road uniforms were emblazoned with “BREWERS” but the home uni featured sans serif block letters while the road uniform picked up the same font used on the Pilots’ road uniform but used all caps except for the two E’s which were lower case.

      • Agreed, total weirdness. But not uncommon to see differences between home and road jerseys in those days due to split manufacturers. Pretty sure that Wilson made the home jerseys and Spalding handled the road jerseys for Milwaukee in 1970.

  1. “Multiple sources say that the jerseys were a work in progress right up until Opening Day.”

    No kidding. Compare the font style on the home jersey here, here, and here. All claimed as used in ’69.

    • Don’t go by the M&N version-their commitment to accuracy diminished tremendously many years ago. The Tommy Harper card looks blown out and overexposed. The photo within my post is purported to be a game-worn home jersey and it matches your shot from the Hall of Fame pretty well. A new mystery-note the number style on the jersey in Cooperstown and look at this 1969 team photo.

      • Oh, I know M&N is highly suspect (as are player cards, of course) but I’ve been seeing that McAuliffe font on Pilot jersey photos for years and your shot was the first I’d seen in a while that was more like Full Block. I suppose the team photos solves it, but I’ve just seen lots of strange examples — including that museum shot that Mr. Lukas used, which doesn’t quite match, imho. Just thought that the Pilots’ haphazard uni history was reflected here as well.

        • I was thinking the same thing on the McAuliffe numbers and have a theory-Wilson did the 1969 home jerseys and Spalding made the roads. It was common practice to switch off from year-to-year. Maybe the 1970 home jerseys were Spaldings, using McAuliffe numbers? I have yet to see a photo of a 1969 game which features anything other than block numbers, both front and back.

  2. I have to question the statement about the American League having a rule against two-tone hats at the time. The then-California Angels were wearing navy-blue caps with red bills in 1969 (which I believe they had since their inception as the Los Angeles Angels in 1961.)

    • Jim-I’m thinking that the AL ban might have been on white (as opposed to) two-toned caps. There was some controversy involved in 1967 when the Washington Senators wore white caps for a handful of games. Baltimore had contrasting bills at that time too.

      • The ban was indeed against white caps and is still in effect. The reasoning is that a white cap would make it too difficult to pick up the ball as it comes from behind the pitcher’s head. And since all players on the field must be dressed uniformly, no white hats. Cincinnati got an exemption a few years ago for their short-lived Good Humor white-with-red-pinstripe caps.And, of course, there were Charley Finley’s (in)famous white A’s coaches’ cap but they were allowed because coaches don’t play. Also, the Baltimore Orioles of that time had black caps with orange bills.

  3. The Mariners sell Pilots hats in their team store with two different styles of “scrambled eggs” – one fairly abstract, like in the photos here, and the other more flowery. I’ve also seen the abstract style in the display case at the Lowe’s that now sits on the site of Sick’s Stadium, but is there any evidence that the other design was used as well?

    • Mike-the “more flowery” scrambled eggs are totally incorrect (an amazing sentence, never to be repeated!) The inaccuracies date back to the late 80s-different licensees have manufactured these in different ways ever since. There was only one variation back in 1969, the more structured one.

        • Thanks for the kind words, Mike-I’ve been friends with Buster for a long time, really enjoyed being able to chat with him on the Baseball Tonight podcast a few weeks back.

  4. I remember going to those games when I was 10 years old.My mom was a bartender downtown and would serve players ,she got us free tickets to all home games me and my friends would take the bus ,[I grew up two blocks away from Shorecrest High School and played little league at Hamlin park].Will call would have the tickets,what a great time to have with all my buddies.Watching Mike Hegan Ray Oyler Jim Bouton Tommy davis and others that baseball has long forgotten.I look back at those times and smile shortlived but a lot of joy.

    • Must have been remarkable—and disappointing—that it only lasted for one year. Great memories whatever the case, thanks for sharing.

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