The San Diego Padres enter one of the most critical winters in franchise history, hoping to end a long rebuild while at the same time looking to the past for visual inspiration.
On November 9, 2019, the San Diego Padres will culminate their 50th year in Major League Baseball by switching back to the brown and gold colors of yesteryear. While gold, or mustard, depending on the specific era, left the Padres’ uniform lexicon after the 1984 World Series loss to the Detroit Tigers. Brown only lasted until 1991, while orange stayed, but the color brown was replaced by navy blue.
While that look eschewed the brown the Padres had worn since 1969, it brought back a look from the final iteration of the Pacific Coast League Padres. The 1968’s squad wore a similar color scheme, although with a script font on the jersey.
The blue and orange pinstriped Friars had some success winning the division in 1996 and again in 1998 on their way to the National League pennant. It was then that ownership introduced the blue and white, doing so in a non-pinstriped uniform that lacked the orange, which had been present since 1980. The Padres again took another step away from their Major League’ roots as they prepared to move into Petco Park.
Since then, Padres fans have witnessed the team use sand as an accent color with a logo that had nothing to do with Franciscan friars, only to reintroduce the swinging friar as a sleeve patch a few years later. The 2016 season saw the club adding gold/yellow as a secondary color as part of the promotion for the All-Star game in San Diego. It was successful but nowhere near as successful as the reintroduction of brown and gold uniforms on Friday nights.
While the 2017 Padres returned to blue and white, this time without sand, fans clamored for browner uniforms. While their home uniforms reminded fans too much of the nearby Dodgers, the Friday night alternates reconnected a fanbase with the past. Before the 2019 season, Chairman Ron Fowler announced the Padres would, indeed, bring back the brown in 2020.
The 2019 season did not meet expectations. In the midst of what would be a 70-92 season, manager Andy Green was fired. Fowler would put the entire organization on notice, making the offseason heading into the 2020 season pivotal for the direction of the franchise. The Padres’ managerial job, as of right now, has yet to be filled. Whoever is hired will hold the responsibility for steering the Padres from rebuild to contention. The careers of much of the front office hinge on that decision.
The roster, as it stands, holds great promise. Fernando Tatis, Jr. was a strong NL Rookie of the Year candidate before his season was cut short. Manny Machado will be a substantial presence, if not even more, for the bulk of the next decade. The farm system is still stuffed with talent, some of which, such as left-hander MacKenzie Gore, is likely to contribute soon to the big league club. Some prospects are likely to be traded for players who can help now.
The Padres close the blue era in a time of incredible transition. In front of the backdrop of what promises to be significant roster restructuring, the Padres will return to the brown and gold of yore.
The blue era held a brief promise and many failures. In the end, the Padres failed to be a masterpiece after a decent start to their time away from brown. They never became like Miles Davis’s magnum opus Kind of Blue, instead of being like Beach Boy Dennis Wilson’s solo effort Pacific Ocean Blue: some standout gems among an overall inconsistent effort.
In trying to invoke the blue skies and rolling surf of the California myth, the San Diego Padres strayed from their identity. In the same season, the Padres return to their historic colors from a time mostly marked by failure, the club, and its fans can only hope a new look invokes the familiar, but the franchise achieves the heretofore unknown: a championship.
It would be everyone’s dream, from Ron Fowler to fans young and old, that the new old colors begin a quest for gold.