he Tampa Bay Rays had another "Turn Back The Clock" night Friday. This is a promotion that almost every team in every sport does now. Retro uniforms from another era are worn by the two teams, music and cultural references from that period help set the mood, the game is played and afterward the one-of-a-kind uniforms are auctioned off to benefit a charity. This time, though, it seemed like maybe the Rays are looking at turning the clock ahead, a few years into the future and a few miles to the east.
It's not unusual that the Rays donned the uniforms of the Tampa Tarpons, a team that is primarily associated with being a minor league affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. They played in the Class A Florida State League through the 1987 season at Al Lopez Field in Tampa (the team's final season was in 1988, when they were affiliated with the Chicago White Sox).
The Rays had worn the unis of the Tampa Tarpons previously, in 1999 (wearing uniforms from 1960) and in 2006 (wearing uniforms from 1975).
But what was different was the Rays playing a little loose with history and possibly making some kind of statement in the process.
This year, the Rays wore what they described as "Tampa Tarpons uniforms circa 1970s", indicating a general era and not a specific year. That's a little odd in itself. Also, the specific style of uniforms the Rays wore doesn't look like any uniforms worn by the Tarpons in the '70s. Rather, they look almost identical to the uniforms the Tarpons started wearing in 1986.
Of course, it's hard to get every detail exactly right, especially when it comes to a minor league team that ceased to exist over 20 years ago. Detailed historical records about esoteric matters such as the specifc look of the uniforms probably weren't even maintained. They certainly don't exist now, aside from memories and what might be found in a Google search.
Maybe the Rays were just less-than-diligent in their research and skipped over a few details. Little things like how the Tarpons didn't have player names on the backs of the jerseys, never wore white caps, or any caps with the stylized "T" that matches the jersey for that matter.
Or a big thing like how the name on the front of the home jerseys were labeled "Tarpons", not "Tampa."
Style choice, historical error or some kind of subtle, sartorial statement?
It could be nothing or it could be something; Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg's highly publicized announcement that the team "wants to explore all potential new ballpark options within Tampa Bay, including those outside St. Petersburg and Pinellas County" was made on June 21st. This "Turn Back The Clock" night was not listed in the team's original promotional calendar and was announced to the public on July 1st.
And think about this: when was the last time this organization was less-than-diligent in their research and skipped over a few details about ANYTHING they do?