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Read all about it—a recap of some recent postings:


January 6, 2018 — The story of two mysterious photos that have baffled me

A pitcher by any other name.
The first mysterious photo was of a player wearing an 1870s Boston uniform and with the photo caption of “Josephus.” A quick search of baseball-reference.com finds no one by that name. Dead end, right? But as some historians have discovered, Josephus was actually Joe Borden, a 21-yr old pitcher who was trying to conceal his baseball profession from his father. Borden usually went by “Josephs” and in fact appeared under this alias in box scores when he played for Philadelphia (NA) in 1875 and Boston (NL) in 1876. Borden was a fast thrower and has been credited with tossing the first professional no-hitter in 1875. He was a big signing for Boston to replace Al Spalding in 1876. However, Borden became ineffective and his career ended when he was released by Boston in late 1876. With the mystery of Josephus solved, we can positively determine that the image of Joe Borden is the first photographic documentation (in the Threads archive, at least) of the 1876 Boston uniform.
See the uniform and photo here.

If there is no record, did it actually happen?
The second mysterious photo was of Abner Powell and Chris Fulmer wearing uniforms that had “Chicago Unions” painted across the bib. The assumption being that Powell and Fulmer played for the 1884 Union Association team by that name. But again, a quick check of baseball-reference.com shows us that Powell and Fulmer played for the Nationals of Washington (UA) in 1884, not Chicago (UA). Something’s not right—another dead end? This mystery can be solved by the digital scans of The Sporting Life newspaper, which tell us there was also a Chicago Union team one year earlier in 1883. The 1883 version was an independent pro team that formed in June of that year with the dream of joining an established league in 1884. Powell, a promising pitcher, was the centerpiece of the plan, being lured away along with Fulmer, a catcher, from Providence (NL) after they both played in pre-season games there. As one might predict, the Chicago Unions soon ran into problems, especially when NL and AA teams refused to play at the Union Grounds and when several Union players subsequently deserted. The team disbanded in August 1883 and Powell and Fulmer went together to Peoria, IL, of the Northwestern League to finish the season. Except for the 1883 Peoria outings, Powell never played in any official league games that year and therefore had no records to speak of. Today, his short time with the Chicago Unions is usually not mentioned in biographies of Powell, who subsequently went on the become a successful and innovative minor league manager. The only record is the photo—a testament to Abner Powell’s lost year of 1883.
See the uniform and photo here.


December 18, 2017 — The Gotham “G”

I took a fresh look at the well-known (but often low-resolution) photo of the 1856 Gotham team. I have never liked the version where the background has been cutout. So I tried to marry the cutout version with the full background version to create a better-quality image that (maybe) matches the original.

In doing so, I suddenly discovered that the team wore a letter “G” on their collar points. I had always thought this item was a decorative medallion of some kind. But on my big computer screen I suddenly realized its true form. It’s a G!

See more about the Gotham “G” here.


September 10, 2017 — A look at 1891
After the flood of baseball imagery between the years 1886 and 1890, the year of 1891 has yielded only a precious few pictures. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some good uniform stories to tell. Here’s a sampling from 1891:

1891 Brooklyn
A fan in Brooklyn in 1891 came up with an idea to better identify players on the field. One could say he (or she) was ahead of his time…about 70 years ahead.
See more here — scroll to written documentation.

1891 Chicago
Critics thought Chicago’s Cap Anson at age 39 was getting too old to compete on the field. They especially thought this when Anson played an official league game with a long, fake white beard—wait, what?
See more here — scroll to written documentation.

1891 Cincinnati (AA)
The ever-popular Mike Kelly organized an exhibition game in 1891 between his old team (Boston) and his new team (Cincinnati). The game was held in Boston, so naturally King Kel thought his “Killers” should wear…um…Kelly green.
See more here — scroll to written documentation.

1891 Cleveland
Tobacco companies decided to get out of the baseball card business in 1891. So, local portrait studios began to fill the void. But check out these 1891 Cleveland portraits. Looks like Cy Young let another player wear his shirt!
See more here — scroll to photo documentation.

1891 Louisville
One of the biggest pop stars of the 1890s was stage actress Sarah Bernhardt. Of course, Bernhardt never played for Louisville in a league game—well, actually, she kinda did.
See more here — scroll to written documentation.

1891 San Francisco
For their road uniform, this California League team looked like the Oakland A’s of the 1970s. But some old-timers thought the green dye in the uniform was poisonous. Turns out, they were right.
See more here — scroll to written documentation.

1891 Washington
The American Association was running on fumes in 1891 and subsequently, players were made to pay for their own uniforms. However, the brass of the new Washington franchise thought differently. Very un-owner like, I must say.
See more here — scroll to written documentation.

See all 1891 uniforms:
Click here.


May 28, 2017

There was never a more mixed-up year in baseball than 1890. That year, the new Players’ League (officially the Players’ National League) began operation with franchises in top National League cities. Brotherhood teams signed the NL’s best players, had the support of the press, and scheduled games that interfered with NL games. To further supplant the evil empire, PL teams assumed the colors and identities of established NL franchises. That’s where Threads comes in.

Here’s a quick look at how the eight Players’ League teams borrowed from their NL rivals:

1890 Boston
The PL team copied the Boston NL team colors exactly, including use of the sacred red stockings, first worn in Boston in 1871. In 1890, both teams were dressed nearly identical, with only a few subtle exceptions: look closely at the shirt laces and the arch of the lettering.
See the uniforms

1890 Brooklyn
The PL team chose not to copy the Brooklyn NL team—instead, John Ward and company forged a new identity using light blue. The NL team, newly transferred from the AA and fresh off a championship, retained their traditional red.
See the uniforms

1890 Buffalo
There was no NL team to steal from in Buffalo, so the PL team followed the black & white uniform craze first started by the NL champion New York Giants of 1888. (Red and blue were suddenly passé). But, that’s where the New York comparison ended however, as Buffalo won only 36 games in 1890.
See the uniform

1890 Chicago
The PL team gobbled up what the Chicago NL team had cast aside a few years earlier—the famous white-colored stockings, first worn in Chicago in 1870. The NL team had become the Black Stockings by 1890 (probably not the best of marketing moves).
See the uniforms

1890 Cleveland
The PL team copied the black uniform of the Cleveland NL team, which first wore the “mourning” color in late 1889. Undaunted, the NL team carried on with their traditional blue color and both teams finished second to last in 1890.
See the uniforms

1890 New York
The PL team virtually cloned the New York NL team uniform in 1890 as both teams wore white at home with black stockings. Both teams also played on fields adjacent to each other and both teams were called the Giants (very confusing). There were subtle uniform differences however: note how one team wore larger letters and utilized shirt laces.
See the uniforms

1890 Philadelphia
The PL team decided to leave the Philadelphia NL team alone and instead raided the light blue color of the Athletic team of the AA. The Athletics had worn light blue in Philadelphia as early as 1866. The 1890 Athletics (AA) resorted to a dark blue accent color and the 1890 Phillies (NL) stayed with their traditional red. (Yes, there were 3 teams in town this year).
See the uniforms

1890 Pittsburgh
The PL team created a new identity using red. But then, it seems, they switched to black during the year (evidence is sketchy, so far). The Pittsburgh NL team, which had first worn black a year earlier, sailed on with black as well in 1890, even after most of their players jumped ship—a Pirates foreshadowing.
See the uniforms

Thanks for your time. Please send any corrections or additional information to threadsofourgame@gmail.com


March 5, 2017

Baseball moves closer with each warming day. So it’s a good time to see what’s new on Threads — the research project chronicling the uniforms of the 19th century. The year of focus is 1889. Highlights are below.

1889 Baltimore (AA)
The Orioles dabbled with orange and black in the early eighties, they returned to the scheme in grand fashion in ’89.
See the uniform

1889 Brooklyn (AA)
Their checked road uniform is a classic. See how it looks in color.
See the uniform

1889 Cincinnati (AA)
Slow start? Blame the uniform. See newspaper reports from May 1889.
See the uniform

1889 Denver (WA)
Love the decorative letter “D” – does anyone know what color these unis were?
See the uniform

1889 Louisville (AA)
After the blood-red uniforms in 1888, Louisville chose the “giddiest blue ever” in 1889.
See the uniform

1889 New York (NL)
Descriptions of the 1889 NY uniform are sketchy—except for the game played August 8th when the Giants had no uniforms at all. See written descriptions.
See the uniform

1889 Omaha (WA)
Stripes! The thicker, the better.
See the uniform

1889 Pittsburgh (NL)
Speaking of stripes, many thought the new black-and-orange stripes of Pittsburgh made the team look like convicts—maybe a slight over-reaction.
See the uniform

1889 Syracuse (IL)
Syracuse chose red in 1889, and paired it with light blue accents. Love it or hate it?
See the uniform

1889 Union & Resolute
An artist’s guess on two African-American teams from Chicago.
See the Resolute uniform
See the Union uniform

See all of 1889 here:
All 1889 uniforms

Thanks for your time. Please send any corrections or additional information to threadsofourgame@gmail.com


July 3, 2016

Hopefully you are celebrating our country’s birth with a relaxing 3-day holiday. One great way to kick back is to go back—all the way to the 19th century, and to when the game was young (and surprisingly colorful). Below are links to new uniform updates from 1888 posted to this website. Enjoy.

1888 New York
Reportedly the brainchild of Tim Keefe, the Giants introduced an all-black tight-fitting uniform on July 28, 1888—17 years before John McGraw had the idea. Scroll down to the written documentation to read the crowd reaction.
See the uniform

1888 St. Louis
The Browns had great looking uniforms in 1888—but the shirt lettering was sooo big, it was hard to see where the city name started and where it ended.
See the uniform

1888 Detroit
Detroit unveiled a pinstriped shirt in 1888, 24 years before the Yankees jumped on board.
See the uniform

1888 Washington
The Washingtons wore pinstripes too in 1888—but get out your magnifier, these babies were subtle.
See the uniform

1888 Philadelphia
The navy blue uniform trend was big in 1888. This same year, Philadelphia unveiled their famous “Phila” lettering—but it was almost hidden against the dark blue.
See the uniform

1888 Buffalo
The Buffalo team reportedly planned to wear a “bold and fearless bison careening over the bosom of each bold and fearless ball tosser” in 1888—if true, this was one of the first uses of a graphic symbol in over a decade.
See the uniform

1888 Louisville
The Louisville team of 1888 was horrible on the field in more ways than one. The team’s blood-red uniform was one of the most “hideous” in all of baseball. Just ask Preston Orem.
See the uniform

See all of the uniforms from 1888 here:
1888 uniforms


March 30, 2016

Opening Day is just around the corner. So, no better time than now to share with you some recent updates—from way back in 1887 and 1888:

1887 Boston, Kelly Special
At first, I was confused. Why, in 1887, was Mike Kelly wearing a uniform that looked more like his old team (Chicago) than that of his new team (Boston)? The answer lies with none other than Al Spalding.
See the uniform

1888 Athletic, Philadelphia
Quilted padding at the knees and hips were the new innovation in 1888. The Athletics wore padding down the entire leg. Click and scroll down to see photo D.
See the uniform

1888 Baltimore
The year 1888 also introduced the blue uniform fad. See how Baltimore sung the blues this year, and not just because of their win-loss record.
See the uniform

1888 Brooklyn
The 1888 Brooklyn team dressed fancy with their new red-checked unis—and they also went cheap-o with lace ties that weren’t long enough.
See the uniform

1888 Chicago (NL)
The White Stockings became the Black Sox in 1888 (for different reasons than in 1919)—-and the Chicago faithful almost didn’t recognize their team on opening day.
See the uniform

1888 Chicago (WA)
Speaking of Chicago, here’s one of the best uniforms of 1888, in my opinion. Too bad the Maroons didn’t make it to 1889.
See the uniform

1888 Cincinnati
Cincinnati revived the “parti-colored” concept in 1888. Once you know this, it’s easier to make sense of an odd-looking Old Judge card from this year. Click the link and look for the Baldwin card.
See the uniform

See the entire database
Threads website


February 2, 2016

If you are already dreaming about pitchers and catchers reporting and want to see something other than football, then please take a look.

1887 Detroit
Detroit researcher Joe Gonsowski recently unearthed a written account of what could be the Detroit blue uniform as shown in the beautiful Scrapps cut-outs from that period. Click the link and scroll down to see all the info.
See the uniform

1887 Philadelphia
A much photographed team. It seems a few team members were beginning to break the established uniform codes by wearing their top button open at the collar, and by cutting-off their sleeves (radical!).
See the uniform

1887 Brooklyn
Pinstripes and dot patterns—this Brooklyn team led the league in style. Plus see a rare view of the back of an 1887 uniform.
See the uniform

1887 New Orleans
This team had big, bold lettering across the chest—which slowly was to become the standard by the 1890s.
See the uniform

1886 Rochester
A recent discovery from regular contributor Don Stokes gave this Rochester uniform a touch of color. Thanks Don!
See the uniform

See the entire database
Threads website


Thank you for your time. I hope you enjoy the visuals. Send any corrections or new discoveries. Bookmark this site!