Hue Can Do It!

Exploring the colorful history of jerseys.
Published November 05, 2018 | 5 min read

Sure, they had great draft picks, struck a few key free-agent deals and got an epic performance from slugger George Springer, but the Houston Astros’ triumph in the World Series benefited from another element: They wear orange.

The team is one of just six of the 30 Major League clubs that feature the color on their uniforms. And each of the others — the Giants, Orioles, Marlins, Mets and Tigers — has won more than one championship. This group collectively claims 20 titles.

Twice orange teams played against each other in the World Series. In 1969, the Miracle Mets beat the heavily favored Orioles in five games. And in 2012, the Giants swept the Tigers.

So is there something special to the color? The data suggests that there is.

Twenty wins out of 113 World Series is 17. 7 percent, which might seem like an appropriately proportionate number, given that six of 30 teams is 20 percent. Except that when the first championship was held, in 1903, there were only 16 teams. (The Giants, by the way, won the next series, in 1905 — back then they were held every two years — though they wouldn’t start wearing orange until a few years later.)

The Giants’ embrace of orange would soon become a big part of the team’s identity — and was a prominent hue when they won their next title, in 1921, beating their cross-town rival Yankees. Check out the program for the match-up.

The same was true for the Tigers when they won their first championship in 1935, as their pennant from that year makes clear.

Expansion in the Major Leagues came slowly, but orange increasingly played a role. The league got two orange teams when it grew to 20 teams in 1962 — the Mets, and the Colt .45s (who later became the Astros). The Orioles won their first Series four years later.

The Marlins, an expansion team in 1993, have already won two championships. MLB didn’t reach its current number of 30 teams until 1998.

The color might bring good luck in baseball, but does it possess similar magic in football? Fans of the Cleveland Browns would say no. Definitively.

But the Browns, who won a championship in their inaugural season of 1946, then won three more after joining the NFL, in 1954, ’55 and ’64, have not won again during the Super Bowl era and would have to be considered a modern-day exception.

It turns out that orange works quite well in football, too.

Just as in baseball, there are six NFL teams, out of 32, that include orange elements on their jerseys, pants or helmets: the Browns, Broncos, Dolphins, Bears, Buccaneers, and Bengals.

That’s if you don’t count the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are a special case. (The hypocycloids, or four-pointed stars, on the team’s helmet logo are said to be based on the three components used to make steel, one of which, iron core, is represented by the color orange. At least that’s according to this official explanation. However, that supposedly orange star on the Steelers’ helmet looks to many fans, us included, to be decidedly red. You be the judge.)

But whatever the total tally, orange turns out to be a good option.

Pittsburgh, of course, claims a league-leading six Super Bowl wins. The rest of this group has done well, too. Denver, Miami, Tampa Bay and Chicago all have won at least one NFL championship, taking seven Super Bowls among them. Only the Browns have never been to the big game. (Cincinnati lost twice to San Francisco.)

Here’s one more uniform peculiarity.

During the first 40 years of the Super Bowl (1967-2007), no two teams shared four uniform colors. Then it happened twice in a row. With four different teams. And last-minute touchdowns to win them.

In 2008, the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots. They both wore red, white, blue and silver.

In 2009, the Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals. Each featured red (not orange!), yellow, black and white.

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