When Baseball Went to the Future … and Thank God it Came Back!

Many people might not remember this, and I’m sure most baseball fans would love to forget it, but during the 1999 pre-Millenial crazy, the MLB went futuristic with their “Turn Ahead the Clock Promotion.”  20 big league teams wore “futuristic” jerseys over the course of 14 games during the summer of 1999. The bizarre uniforms from the future were roundly ridiculed at the time, have been ridiculed ever since, and will likely continue to be ridiculed long past the year 2021, which is the year they supposedly represented (a year chosen because the series was sponsored by Century 21!).

In case you didn’t know, in the future every logo will be bigger, all materials will be shinier, and shirts will be worn with shorter wing-like sleeves …

But this horrible flop of an idea was inspired by a relatively successful promotional night held in 1998 at the Kingdome in Seattle.  The Mariners’ marketing director at the time, Kevin Martinez, dreamt up a game from the year 2027 to be played between the Mariners and the Royals.  He went to an in-house designer with the directive to create something futuristic – “We want [the uniforms] to be vests, we want them to be shiny, we want them to look tech-y — and now you get to tell us what we mean by that … we weren’t going to use a unitard or anything else that might be so different that it would put our players at a competitive disadvantage .”  They brought Ken Griffey Jr. on board to spearhead the idea and he really ran with it – he decided the jerseys looked better untucked (a highly controversial decision), the team was going to play with their caps backward, and Griffey brought a couple of cans of silver spray paint to the park with him and spray-painted his teammates’ shoes and some of their gloves!

But the uniforms were just part of the story that night in Seattle. In order to provide the proper context, Martinez and his team also made some adjustments inside the Kingdome — or, rather, the Biodome, as it was renamed for the evening.  The ball for the ceremonial first pitch was delivered to the mound by a robot, the first pitch was thrown by James Doohan, who played Scotty on “Star Trek” who made his way onto the field in a DeLorean, the Pluto Mighty Pups, the Saturn Rings and the Mercury Fire (teams of the intergalactic future) were added to the standings banners, and the Mariners borrowed the Astros’ mascot, Orbit, for the game!

What a wacky idea gone way too far!

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