The history of Major League Baseball will be thoroughly celebrated by all 30 teams this year, as seemingly every club is hosting a throwback promotion. Whether it’s taking the field in retro jerseys, celebrating a past World Series title, or reuniting teams on the anniversary of their championship, the MLB slate is packed in 2016. This week in Promotions Watch, we look around the majors at some of the most notable throwback nights.
The incentive for MLB teams to tap into their past for merchandise and promotions is fairly strong. Aside from being popular from a sales standpoint, throwback apparel can generate curiosity and excitement from fans, which is why some teams have reworked previous logos or colors into their modern uniforms—such as the San Diego Padres, who will don a brown and yellow jersey on Friday home games—or have made history nights a regular promotion.
Perhaps the most thorough history promotion in the majors right now is Throwback Thursday by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Over the last several seasons, the team has broken out their old purple and teal jerseys for every Thursday home game at Chase Field. That promotion will continue this year, as the D-Backs will host five Throwback Thursdays, the first of which will take place on April 7.
Outside a season-long throwback special, many teams are opting to sport their old jerseys as part of special weekends or nights. A few to keep an eye on include 70’s weekend by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, which runs from July 15-17, 70’s retro night from the Philadelphia Phillies on June 3, and the Oakland A’s 1980’s turn-back-the-clock night on August 6. As part of that promotion, the A’s will hand out Billy Ball shirts to the first 20,000 fans in attendance. The term Billy Ball was coined to describe the team’s style of play under manager Billy Martin in 1981, when a young squad that included future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson captured the American League West title.
On the same night that the A’s honor Billy Ball, the Houston Astros will sport one of baseball’s most beloved retro jerseys. The Astros will take the field in their 1986 striped jerseys as part of the 1986 Throwback Game. Even the fans will be able to get in on the action, as the first 10,000 in attendance will receive a Mike Scott jersey. Scott won the National League Cy Young Award in 1986, the same the year the Astros won the West division title.
Several teams will be giving out throwback jerseys this season. While some—including the Cleveland Indians 1976 replica on June 4, the Chicago Cubs 1916 replica on July 6, and the Padres 1990’s style jersey on August 6—are not intended to do so, many jersey handouts this year are celebrating a World Series anniversary.
The Baltimore Orioles will celebrate the 50th anniversary of their first World Series crown when they give away 20,000 1966 replica jerseys on July 24. As they honor the 10th anniversary of their 2006 title, the St. Louis Cardinals have an entire weekend of promotions on the docket. Capping off the 2006 World Series Anniversary Weekend will be a mystery player jersey giveaway on July 17. The prior two nights will include a beer stein giveaway, followed by a replica mystery player ring.
The Cardinals will also be celebrating their titles from 1926 and 1946 with replica rings in separate promotions. Up first will be the 1946 ring on May 6, with the 1926 ring slated for July 1.
A 40th anniversary to note (not 50th, as we originally indicated): the Chicago White Sox will be giving away 1976 SOX caps on July 9 and 1976 jersey throwback jerseys on July 23.
For the 40th anniversary of their 1976 title, the Cincinnati Reds will stage a weekend-long celebration that begins with a team reunion on June 24. As part of the festivities that night, the Reds take the field in throwback uniforms.
Perhaps the anticipated days in that weekend will be Saturday and Sunday, when much of the focus will be on Pete Rose. Rose—whose most recent reinstatement request was denied by MLB commissioner Rob Manfred in December—remains a polarizing figure in baseball, but his return to Cincinnati is sure to be a boon for the Reds. The Cincinnati native remains popular among Reds fans, which was evidenced by his appearance at Great American Ballpark for last summer’s All-Star Game. Rose will be inducted to the Reds Hall of Fame Saturday, while his number 14 will be retired on Sunday.
The New York Yankees will reunite the 1996 World Series championship team at Yankee Stadium on August 13. On the following day, the team will hold a dedication ceremony for Mariano Rivera in Monument Park.
The San Francisco Giants will have a dedication of their own on August 13, when they unveil a Gaylord Perry statue at AT&T Park. While Perry pitched for eight different teams in his career, he spent more time in San Francisco than in any other city—beginning a 10-season run in 1962—and is depicted in a Giants cap on his Hall of Fame plaque. As part of the promotion, the Giants will hand out 20,000 replica statues.
There are some various World Series-related giveaways to keep an eye on. To celebrate last year’s title, the Kansas City Royals will give away 20,000 replica World Series trophies on April 23. In celebration of the 25th anniversary of their 1991 championship, the Minnesota Twins will make 1991 beer steins available to the first 10,000 fans at Target Field on July 27.
As they celebrate their 40th season as a franchise, the Toronto Blue Jays have numerous giveaways in store. Every Thursday game at the Rogers Centre will feature a #TBT T-Shirt giveaway for the first 15,000 fans in attendance, while the Blue Jays will also host three separate 40th season games. In each of those contests, the Blue Jays will give 20,000 fans a free item that relates to the team’s history—starting with a Carlos Delgado, Jose Bautista, and Vernon Wells trio bobblehead on May 29, followed by an alumni jersey on July 10, and then a Dave Stieb, Roy Halladay, and Pat Hentgen trio bobblehead on August 14.
Two other giveaways series to watch come from the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Rangers will have a Throwback Thursday collector pin as a weekly promotion, available to the first 10,000 fans in attendance. The Dodgers are undertaking a pin series, as they are handing out pins that feature each of their nine retired numbers, starting with Pee Wee Reese on May 9 and concluding with Tommy Lasorda on September 22.
In a weekend promotion that offers a little bit of everything, the New York Mets will honor the 30th anniversary of their 1986 championship. The weekend kicks off on May 27, when all fans in attendance at Citi Field will receive a 1986 replica jersey.
On May 28, the members the 1986 squad—which is one of the most famous and infamous teams of the last few decades—will be reunited pre-game for an on-field reunion. The promotion concludes the next day, when the Mets hand out replica World Series rings to the first 15,000 fans in attendance.
History nights at the major league level are loaded this year, assuring that 2016 will offer plenty of great pleasant day memories, even as the past is celebrated.