The game of baseball itself is not enough to bring fans to the gate sometimes. Marketing departments come up with fun, and sometimes very unusual promotions to get more tickets sold. Often times, teams look to tap into nostalgia by holding "Turn Back the Clock" nights, where teams play in throwback uniforms, and even concession prices are rolled back to what they were several years ago. In 1998, the Seattle Mariners put the idea on its head. What if they held a "Turn Ahead the Clock" night? In the Kansas City Royals, they found a willing opponent willing to take a leap into the future. The result was one of the more memorable Royals uniforms in franchise history.
The brainchild behind the promotion was then-Mariners Marketing Director Kevin Martinez. As Paul Lukas at ESPN details:
"My boss and I would often sit around during home games and come up with these what-if scenarios," Martinez recalls. "One day it was, 'What if we went into the future?' And we looked at each other and thought that might work. There had been several 'Turn Back the Clock' days -- we just wanted to put a new twist on it. Playing inside the Kingdome, a controlled environment, we thought we could change the look and feel inside the building to give it a futuristic tone. So we chose to fast-forward to the year 2027, because that would be the 50th anniversary of Mariners baseball."
The pair transformed the Kingdome (which ironically, no longer exists) into a futuristic atmosphere with advertising from the future and references to interplanetary teams on the scoreboard. The first pitch was thrown by James Doohan, "Scottie" from Star Trek, riding in from a DeLorean. But the most memorable detail of "Turn Ahead the Clock" night were the uniforms worn by the Royals and Mariners.
The marketing department had to run the idea of the futuristic uniforms past the players. Star slugger Ken Griffey Jr. not only agreed to the idea, he embraced it with open arms. Griffey took spray paint and painted his and his teammates' cleats silver and came up with the ideas of tearing off the sleeves and playing with untucked jerseys and backwards ballcaps. Typical to his persona, Royals manager Tony Muser successfully argued that untucked jerseys gave the Mariners an unfair advantage.
How did the marketing department come up with the futuristic designs?
Frankly, we didn't spend a whole lot of time thinking about it. The only direction we gave them was basically, "Here are the colors we want the Mariners uniforms to be, and the Royals should keep their current colors. We want these 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."
There's no getting around it: They were gaudy. But we were trying to do what we could without adjusting the basic format of a baseball uniform.
Gaudy is a bit of an understatement - even the Oregon Athletic Department would have blushed at these monstrosities. The Mariners changed their secondary color to maroon, while the Royals changed their primary color to bright yellow. The huge logo was placed on the front of each jersey, with names underneath the number on the back. Logos were crooked on the ballcaps (TO THE EXTREME!)
Not all the players were thrilled about the new threads. Outfielder Jermaine Allensworth took a look at the gold sleeveless Royals uniforms and remarked, `It doesn't get much worse than that."
``You gotta be kidding,'' said Royals infielder Shane Halter, inspecting a sleeveless shirt. ``Looks like a basketball uniform. '''
And of course, the sleeveless bright yellow uniforms didn't help Royals pitchers much.
The Mariners would defeat the Royals 8-5 on that A-Rod home run, one of 89 losses for the Royals that year. The promotion was a smash success, with a crowd of 42,000 flocking to the Kingdome that night to watch the futuristic spectacle. The next year, several teams staged "Turn Ahead the Clock" nights in 1999 with some terrible atrocities (NSFW?). But the inaugural Royals-Mariners tilt seems to be the most memorable. Thankfully, the eye-searing dystopia the Mariners marketing department foresaw hasn't came to fruition....yet. However the memory of Johnny Damon in a terrible bright-yellow sleeveless Royals uniform lives on.