DETROIT — The first suggestion that something could be happening with Tigers jerseys came in a story last September from Paul Lukas, famous for his UniWatch column and blog that chronicles sports uniforms and logos.
The Tigers conducted online surveys with fan focus groups to get their opinions on past jerseys. Included in the survey were their road grays of 1984 and 1968, a Detroit Stars gray jersey from a past Negro Leagues tribute weekend and a navy blue jersey that resembled their Spring Training design.
The surveys were seen more as an effort to gauge fan sentiment if the Tigers decide in the future to do another special event jersey, such as a throwback game or a concept night. There’s also the possibility of the Tigers getting involved in Nike’s City Connect jersey concept, which is expected to expand beyond its original list of Major League teams from last year.
The Tigers have never had a formal third jersey, but their blue Spring Training jerseys after years of using their traditional home whites and road grays year-round show they’re not inflexible to change.
No updates have followed since the initial report in September, but that doesn’t mean the Tigers aren’t doing anything. The team is understandably sensitive to fan opinions on uniforms, having heard plenty of feedback on updates to the Olde English D on jerseys a few years ago, and changes on the size of lettering on the Olde English D on their cap — one year bigger, the next year back near the previous size.
With even the thought of another jersey creating some intrigue, here are some unique Tigers looks from years past that might have been forgotten:
Blue and orange jerseys for a day
May 7, 1995
The story is almost too crazy to believe. Third jerseys became popular around baseball in the 1990s, and the Tigers had come up with an idea for their own as a Sunday change of pace from their timeless home jersey. But more than a change of pace, it was a wild departure — not just blue with white numbers and orange trim, but with their secondary logo that features a Tiger walking through an Olde English D. There were also pinstriped pants, but those weren’t worn.
The jerseys raised eyebrows when they were brought out for the team’s first home Sunday game of the season. Team president John McHale was unaware of them until somebody brought them to his attention that day during pregame batting practice. After checking with owner Mike Ilitch, manager Sparky Anderson and some veteran players, McHale decided they wouldn’t be worn again.
“It struck me that this was probably not the way I saw us presenting ourselves to our fans,” McHale recalled in 2020. “It just didn’t look like the Tigers to me.”
Turn Ahead the Clock jerseys
The popularity of throwback — or Turn Back the Clock — jerseys in the 1990s led MLB to try something creative with a look at what future jerseys might look like. The Tigers took part in the Turn Ahead the Clock promotion for a home game that summer, but stayed true to tradition with their Olde English D on the front. The tweaks were more subtle, from sleeveless jerseys to futuristic numbers and lettering on the back. They reportedly had a wilder blue road jersey ready that included a tiger tail design on the back, but they never wore them.
Tiger head jersey
The Tigers didn’t always have the Olde English D, or any letter D, on the chest of their home jerseys. For one season, they replaced the iconic letter with a roaring tiger head. For unknown reasons, they used a different tiger head design for their home and road jerseys. The home version was more intricate.
Block lettering Tigers jersey
The tiger head jerseys lasted only a year, but while the team went back to featuring the Olde English D on home jerseys in 1928, it had another unique design for the road version. The word “TIGERS” was in orange with black trim and a fancy, block-like font, but the word sloped downward from left to right. It was also off-center on the jersey.
All-blue Tigers jersey
Actually, 1995 wasn’t the first sighting of blue Tigers jerseys. For two seasons, the team not only had blue jerseys on the road, but also blue pants. The cap, belt and socks were white. The newly-adopted Olde English D was on the left chest but changed from one season to the next. These were the jerseys a teenage Ty Cobb wore for his first two Major League seasons. The team went back to road grays in 1907 and have stayed gray on the road ever since.