The Future in 1999
March 24, 2008 | Kevin Zdancewicz


There have been a ton of things throughout history that make you say “There’s no way that actually happened.” Within the sports uniform realm there are a bunch as well, and one of the most memorable (especially since it occurred within the last decade) was Major League Baseball’s use of “futuristic” jerseys during the 1999 season.

Here are the Cliff Notes on the event: In 1998, the Seattle Mariners came up with an idea for a one-game promotion based on the throwback uniform games that had become a staple in the MLB. The catch is that instead of old-school jerseys, the teams would wear “future” jerseys, ones meant to predict what teams would look like in thirty years. (For more information on and pictures of the first game, check out this post from the excellent Uni Watch blog that I highly recommend if you are interested in sports uniforms). The next year, Major League Baseball created a league-wide “Turn Ahead the Clock” promotion based on the idea, featuring 22 participating teams and a full schedule of games.

Pictures of TATC uniforms in action are almost impossible to find on the internet (I think I found less than ten). There is, however, a great site that documents many of the future jerseys themselves. As you can see, they were a little bit off-the-wall and anything but conservative. Some teams rocked giant versions of their logos or script names, while others made their looks especially futuristic. Many participating franchises even tried a new look for the back of the jersey, and as a result of all of these factors, the promotion was a received rather poorly (check out this YouTube clip on the event).

With that said, I thought the Turn Ahead the Clock promotion were kind of cool, especially since it was truly a one-season idea that has not been attempted again since. There were definitely some ridiculous jerseys, but there were also some decent ones (bearing in mind the nature of the promotion) such as the Colorado Rockies jerseys featured above. They went with the “let’s blow up our logo and throw it on the jersey” look which worked well since the mountains look pretty sweet rising up from the bottom of the shirt. The Rockies played two TATC games and thus had two different looks – one purple with white and the other black with purple (the better of the two in my opinion).

While we’re on the topic, I want to mention a couple of other jerseys (pictured below) that were especially interesting. The Detroit Tigers jersey was never worn because their second Turn Ahead the Clock game was rained out. Keeping in mind the tiny sleeves component of the “future” template, I thought the tiger stripes were a great touch – reminiscent of the Cincinnati Bengals on the gridiron. Despite the madness of the tail on the back (imagine those with names and numbers), the Tigers did reserve some tradition with the fronts of their jerseys. The Diamondbacks did no such thing, refusing to reserve any portion of their jerseys for a familiar format, instead wrapping a snake all the way around the body as though it was trying to suffocate its prey. Unfortunately, there appear to be no photos of the D-Backs jersey with player names and numbers, something I would love to see even though most people would just as soon forget this event ever happened.


Tigers Front Tigers Back
DBacks Front DBacks Back

(Update: In a later column about the Arizona Diamondbacks, I featured some pictures of the D-Backs’ 1999 Turn Ahead the Clock jersey which solve the mystery of what Arizona’s wrap-around snake uniforms would look like with names and numbers. Pretty crazy right? Now, if we could just figure out what was on the hats…)

Note: Photos of those Rockies and Tigers jerseys come courtesy of Bill Henderson, who produces an amazing CD that catalogues essentially every Major League jersey since 1970. I greatly appreciate the help Bill gave me in producing this article and hope that you will check out his site:

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