What’s in a (City) Name?
April 14, 2008 | Kevin Zdancewicz

O's Jay Payton

What’s so special about this week’s featured jersey, you’re saying to yourself. That’s just the Orioles road jersey. Well, you’re right that this isn’t an abnormal jersey per se, but there is definitely something interesting about it. I’m going to assume most you know that the O’s play their games in Baltimore, MD. But if you were to ask a random, non-sports fan to look at that picture above and establish the team’s hometown, they might not be able to. It’s definitely not as easily as determining where the Red Sox play based on this.

The Orioles have not had Baltimore written across their chests since 1972. The franchise's official reason lately seems to be to acknowledge the Orioles as a regional team, with fans all along the Mid-Atlantic area. Therefore, keeping the city off of the jerseys helps fans from areas outside the Baltimore area continue to identify with the franchise. But that doesn’t mean fans, especially those in and around Baltimore, are not upset that the location of Camden Yards doesn’t grace the front of the jersey. Some maintain that a team can remain regionally-appealing despite having one city on the uniform. Others suggest that owner Peter Angelos – who didn’t take “Baltimore” off the road jerseys, but apparently has thwarted all efforts from within the organization to put it back on – is being illogical since this move would increase jersey sales and make the fans happy (as they are not pleased with the Angelos regime to begin with). There’s even an online petition to put “Baltimore” back on the road jersey.

While the Orioles may have the most colorful back-story regarding the issue, they are not the only team that doesn’t use the city/location name on their road jersey. The Angels also choose not to use their hometown on the road uniform since they are now the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, which is a little too much to put on the front of a jersey. This is an obvious and more appropriate case of declining to include a city on the jersey in an effort to market to a broader region. By keeping Anaheim, Los Angeles, Orange County or whatever else off of the jersey, multiple areas can claim the Angels as their own without seeing some other city on the team’s jerseys. (Then again, the Angels have almost always worn Angels on their road jerseys.) It makes you wonder why they didn’t just remain the California Angels?

The Tampa Bay franchise has new uniforms this season and officially got rid of the nickname “Devil Rays” for the shorter (and less demonic) “Rays.” As a result, the franchise hopes that baseball fans will fully break from the “Devil Rays” moniker by featuring “Rays” on both the home and road jerseys. There are a few other teams that put their team nickname on the road gray jersey. The St. Louis Cardinals do it, probably so that they can use the sweet birds-and-bat word mark for both uniforms. The Phillies go without Philadelphia since it must be difficult to render across a jersey and the team’s nickname represents the hometown as much as the city itself. The Milwaukee Brewers, who have gone without Milwaukee on the jerseys since their latest uniform redesign, round out the six teams that break the league’s road jersey protocol mold.

(Update: The Orioles unveiled new uniforms for the 2009 season that feature "Baltimore" on the front of the gray road jerseys. Also, in an apparent ploy to get Baltimore on each uniform set, a new patch was added to the home jersey sleeve and a city wordmark was added to the black alternate jersey sleeve. The Oriole Bird logo was altered as well.)

Photo Courtesy of ESPN.com