The Olde English D has not always graced the Tiger uniform

The 1927 Detroit Tigers wore pinstriped home uniforms with a ferocious Tiger head on their breast. The team retained the orange stripes on their socks, which helped lead to their nickname.

If you’re under the age of 55 and a Detroit baseball fan, your heroes have been wearing pretty much the same duds for your entire life. Call it a rut, call it lack of ingenuity, call it tradition, call it perfection. Whatever you wish.

The Tigers home uniforms: creamy white tops and bottoms with dark navy piping, socks, and the Olde English “D” on the breast are one of the most identifiable in sports. It’s been that way for more than five decades, even though the road uniforms have changed several times over the years. The Tigers, like the New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Boston Celtics, have maintained the same image for a very long time, something their fan base is proud of. But as much as the Detroit baseball team – and the city – are identified with the Olde English D, it hasn’t always been that way.

In their first season in the American League, in 1901, the Tigers did not yet have the Olde English D on their jerseys or their caps. The logo on their cap was the silhouette of a tiger in red. The socks were blue with a red stripe, and on both the road and home uniforms the jersey was emblazoned with DETROIT in block lettering. It wasn’t until 1904 – on their road uniforms – that the Tigers introduced the Olde English D for the first time, and then only on the jersey breast. The following season the D (pretty much as we know it now) was on the cap and both the home and road jerseys. With few exceptions, the Tigers kept the Olde English D for the next few decades, until the late 1920s, when they placed a “roaring Tiger” head on their uniforms. That lasted parts of two seasons before the “D” was back in place. But the team, under owner Frank Navin, wasn’t finished tinkering. From 1930-1934, the “D” was absent from the jerseys (though still on the caps) and replaced with script DETROIT. The familiar Olde English D was back for the ’34 season and the team won the pennant. The following season the Tigers won their first World Series title. That pretty much cemented the home uniform for some time, with minor changes over the next 25 years.

But in 1960, under a new ownership group after the team passed from the hands of the Briggs family, the Tigers decided to make a fashion statement and removed the “D” from the jersey. In that season the Tigers wore home uniforms with “Tigers” in script and their numbers on their left side. That look lasted just that single season and the D was back in ’61, a year when the team won 101 games. Maybe the D helped?

The 1960s was a time when baseball uniforms were undergoing changes. Teams introduced polyester blends, replacing the old wool that were both heavy and expensive to maintain. Many teams started to wear pullover jerseys, which wasn’t new – it dated back to the 19th century. But pullovers and uniform numbers on the front and on the pants were radical as they appeared in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1972, the Tigers introduced poly uniforms for the first time, and they also made their first alteration to the D on the cap in many years. On their road caps, the Tigers started sporting a larger, more bright orange D. This has stayed pretty much unchanged for years, though the size of the D has been shrunk.

No matter where you go, even to Tigers road games, you’ll see a myriad of Detroit uniforms from the years. The backs of the jersey may be a blast from the past: KALINE, LOLICH, TRAMMELL, FIELDER, HIGGINSON. Or they may read current stars like VERLANDER, FIELDER, and JACKSON. Regardless, it’s a good bet that the Olde English D is on the front of the home jersey.

Which jersey is your favorite? Tell us in the comments below.


5 replies on “The Olde English D has not always graced the Tiger uniform

  • Paul

    My favorite other than the “Ice cream white” home uniform is the road grays worn I the late 60s with the block DETROIT and the players number on the shoulder. I have the Kaline 1968 road jersy and it’s my proudest possession.

  • George

    The 1960 home uniform was in script with “Tigers” was the idea of the new General Manager William O. DeWittt Jr. He worked in past with the Dodgers and Browns, both of which had the same type of script so he changed the tigers uniform. Lots of people complained about not using the old English “D” and John Fetzer, the owner did not like the script either so it was restored in 1961.

  • Marc

    That old english D, its the most noteable, its ironic for Detroit!
    insted of a scripted Tigers, scripted Detroit on the front .

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