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Ode to Oakland A’s jerseys, the best in MLB

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Green and gold, with white shoes. Unique, revolutionary, and beautiful.

Oakland Athletics’ starting pitcher Sonny Gray (54) delivers in the second inning of their baseball game against the Detroit Tigers held at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group) Photo by MediaNews Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images

The Oakland A’s have the best jerseys in baseball, and maybe in all of sports. That’s a highly subjective opinion, of course, and I’m biased as a lifelong fan of the team. But it’s not a hard one to defend.

At the very least, the A’s uniforms are the most unique. Out of 30 MLB teams, 24 of them feature either red or blue as one of their main colors, with many using both. Of the remaining six teams, five of them include black. The only leftover is the A’s, with easily the most rare colors in the sport. Here’s a handy chart (from 2011) to illustrate how much of an outlier they are.

Watch the Red Sox vs Twins, Angels vs Indians, or Nats vs Braves, and the sea of red and blue runs together. But nobody else uses green, and only the Pirates prominently share yellow/gold, though the Brewers and Padres also use it and the Rays have it as a tertiary color. When the A’s are on the field, you know it.

A few other teams have a unique color, but only in concert with another major one. The Rockies’ purple comes attached to generic black, and the Mariners’ teal is combined with boring blue. Several others use orange, and they all combine it with either black or blue. But the A’s have one of their colors all to their own and the other is nearly as rare.

Naturally, the A’s unusual look traces its roots back to former owner Charlie Finley, who was always searching for ways to innovate and set his team apart. From Wikipedia:

Also while in Kansas City, Finley changed the team’s colors from their traditional red, white and blue to what he termed “Kelly Green, Wedding Gown White and Fort Knox Gold”. It was also here that he began experimenting with dramatic uniforms to match these bright colors, such as gold sleeveless tops with green undershirts and gold pants.

The innovative uniforms only increased after the team’s move to Oakland, which also came at the time of the introduction of polyester pullover uniforms. During their dynasty years in the 1970s, the A’s had dozens of uniform combinations with jerseys and pants in all three team colors, and in fact did not wear the traditional gray on the road, instead wearing green or gold, which helped to contribute to their nickname of “The Swingin’ A’s”. After the team’s sale to the Haas family, the team changed its primary color to a more subdued forest green and began a move back to more traditional uniforms.

In Susan Slusser’s book, 100 Things A’s Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, she notes that “Finley wanted colors that showed up well on television. For old-fashioned baseball, this was tantamount to revolution.” Of course, over the course of the next decade and beyond, the rest of the league followed his example by adding more color and style to their liven up their own garb. But the A’s still stand out thanks to that distinctive color scheme.

Another piece of the A’s signature look is their white shoes. All teams used black footwear until Finley bucked that trend in 1967, which initially rocked the boat around the league. The first time the non-traditional cleats were worn, opposing manager Joe Adcock announced his team was playing the game under protest because the shoes were distracting his hitters — specifically, that they were masking the white ball, notes Slusser in her book.

The A’s didn’t back down, though, even adding the shoes to their official logo for a decade. Finley had no shortage of fun on the topic, as Slusser (in 100 Things) also offers this quote from former broadcaster Monte Moore: “The white shoes, well, Charlie told me to tell the listeners that they were made exclusively of albino kangaroos from Australia. Of which there were none.”

The white shoes eventually stopped being an issue, and a few other teams even tried them out over time, but only the A’s kept them permanently. MLB has relaxed its policies on shoe uniformity the last few years, so these days you might occasionally catch an Oakland player wearing something different, but for the most part the team’s custom remains alive.

Add it all up, and the results are sheer beauty. Scroll through these images from Uni-Watch, or these from Heritage Sports, or these from MLB Collectors, and you’ll see some of the most creative and vibrant jerseys in all of U.S. pro sports. Even if green or gold aren’t the colors you would pick for your own street clothes on a given day, they undeniably go well together and they unquestionably demand your attention in the context of a uniform.

Are they the best? That’s up to the eye of the beholder. They’re certainly the most unique in baseball, leaving aside the Astros’ rainbow phase. And even if there’s another jersey you like better, then it was Finley’s rebelliousness that paved the way for it. Long live the green and gold.