Jackie Brown

May 21, 2007

When talk among baseball fans turns to the so-called ugly uniforms of the 1970s, the most frequent subjects of twisted appreciation are the technicolor dreamsuits of the Astros, the brown and yellow McDonald’s-cashier garb of the Padres, and the White Sox’ humiliating shorts and giant-collar shirt ensemble. For some reason the Indians’ all-red migraine-producer fashioned here with exclamation point aplomb by drifting hurler Jackie Brown seems to generally escape the scrutiny of the collective baseball memory. I’m not sure why this is.

Maybe it’s because the Indians in the 1970s were so forgettable. At least they were to me, which is odd, because the teams I was generally most familiar with were those that played in the American League East (which is where the Indians were from 1969 until the jarring and alienating invention of the Central Division in the mid-1990s). I try to think of the Indians teams from my childhood and all I can come up with is the vague notion that Rick Manning was a good fielder.

They were actually not as atrocious during the mid- to late-1970s as I would have guessed, and maybe that’s another secret of their forgettableness. They just kind of blended in. (Perhaps the red uniforms were a desparate, ultimately futile attempt to demand that the world take notice.) In the season directly preceding this Jackie Brown photograph, the Indians even finished above .500, albeit just barely. According to the statistics on the back of this card, Jackie Brown contributed significantly to this rare post-Rocky Colavito breath of winning baseball: as the Topps people have it, Jackie Brown blitzed the American league that year with a near-spotless 9–1 record. Unfortunately, his actual record was 9–11; somebody lopped off a 1 in the tens place of his loss column.

I wonder if the Montreal Expos brass somehow had access to this card before it even hit the stores in 1977. The idea that he was a 9–1 pitcher seems the only possible explanation I can come up with to explain the trade that occurred in December 1976 that sent Jackie Brown north of the border for budding slugger Andre Thornton. Thornton went on to be a mainstay in the middle of the Indians’ lineup for years, while Jackie Brown put in one more season that was exactly slightly worse (9–12) than the previous season before bidding adieu to the major leagues. The funny thing about the trade is that despite its lopsided nature it seems neither to have hurt the Expos, who began climbing toward the top of the N.L. West East, nor to have helped the Indians, who began plunging ever-farther down into the depths of the A.L. East.


  1. 1.  Truly hideous unis (it was hard even for Frank Robinson to look dignified wearing ’em) but I always liked that style of “C” on the hat better than succeeding designs.

    The Injuns have to drop that name one of these days, but it won’t be before their marketing people awake to the merchandi$ing promise inherent in a relaunching of the Cleveland Spiders.

  2. 2.  Is this your grave, Jackie Brown?
    This little piece of limestone that says another desperate man took himself out.
    Is this your dream, Jackie Brown?

    Going nowhere and nowhere fast
    We shame ourselves to watch people like this live.
    But who gives a damn about Jackie Brown?
    Just another lazy man who couldn’t take what was his.
    One helluva life Jackie Brown.
    Forevermore, Jackie Brown
    Amen and amen – Jackie Brown


  3. 3.  I watched baseball starting in 75 and I don’t really recall those unis. I’m trying to come up with something clever about Jackie Brown and Vincent Vega being prize pitching prospects, but I got nothing. One thing that you can try, Josh, is to look up old Sporting News editions from the 70’s at paperofrecord.com (it’s free) and see if Brown was a highly regarded prospect.

    BTW, Les Expos were in the East.

  4. 4.  I liked the out-of-place, vaguely Grecian typeface that said “INDIANS” on the front of the uni.
    Alas, Jackie’s pitching arm is in the way.

    Hey, if you wanna muse some more about uni’s of the ’70s, here’s a suggestion:
    How about the Toronto Blue Jays and Kansas City Royals’ groundbreaking use of head-to-toe baby blue?
    I really dug those old Royals outfits, but I never thought the look worked as well on the Jays.

  5. 5.  The late 1970s Indians are also known for the Rick Manning/ Dennis and Denise Eckersley thing.

  6. 6.  I just looked Brown up. He was in his 30s by the time the Expos trade was consummated. Incidentally, he had a bother Paul who also pitched in the bigs. THought they were only a couple of years aprt. Paul’s big league career ended a couple of years before Jackie’s began.

  7. 7.  What a wonderful pose! Like he’s pitching off the mound, but in the grass!! Splendor in the grass. God bless ‘Cardboard Gods’!

  8. 8.  3: “BTW, Les Expos were in the East.”

    Aaaaaaaaaaahhhh!!!!! Yes, I know, but I am hanging my head in shame at the mistake of saying they were in the west. I’m correcting it now. My punishment should be to have to walk around in Jackie Brown’s uniform in broad daylight for a day.

    Thanks also for that Sporting News lookup link, Ennui.

  9. 9.  Boog Powell once said that in the all-red uniforms he looked like a giant blood clot.

    1 Player-manager Robinson was getting a bit paunchy by this time and also looked awful in this uni.

    Hard to be too critical; my wardrobe in the late 70s was nothing I want to look back upon either. I have mostly suppressed memories of rayon print shirts and a powder-blue polyester Angel’s Flight disco suit, with vest, topped with my long, center-parted, feathered on the sides hairstyle. Truly awful.

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