Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Mysterious Bicentennial Patch


In 1976, several baseball teams wore sleeve patches commemorating the U.S. bicentennial. I always wondered about the Red Sox' version. It was red with a white star and dark writing that said, "Massachusetts Bicentennial." You can see it in the Hall of Fame Uniform Database here.

I think it was when I started to see the Mitchell & Ness 1975 Yaz jersey for sale with the patch that I started to wonder. Was that just a mistake, or did they wear it in '75, too? Like, maybe to get ready for the following year's celebration? I knew for sure that it was not on the uniforms in the World Series that season. On the pavilion level at Fenway, you can see a real '75 jersey, and it indeed has the patch. And I recently found a picture of Opening Day 1975, and everyone is wearing it on their left sleeve, as they are on the 1976 Topps Red Sox team card, which shows the '75 team picture. And this Globe photo from August 4th, 1975 of Denny Doyle gives you a nice shot of the patch on a real person:

So they definitely wore them in '75, making the new question: Did they wear it in '76 at all?

And what about the wording: Massachusetts Bicentennial? So they're really talking about the state's 200th birthday. But wouldn't that be 1976 anyway? The internet tells me Mass was admitted to the union in 1788. This is so confusing.

But it gets more confusing. Check out these pictures of some 1977 Topps cards:
The pictures should be from the previous season, 1976. The shots of Hobson and House are clearly from spring training. So were they just wearing some of the old '75 unis the following spring training? Or are they older pictures, from spring training of '75? Well, Tom House wasn't on the Red Sox until 1976. So these photos have to be from '76. Also note that House is wearing the patch on THE WRONG SLEEVE.

So the timeline looks like this: They wore them starting with Opening Day 1975 and running through the regular season, then removed them for the '75 playoffs, then broke them out again for '76 spring training. Right?

Right, we think, but there's more. Yaz wore the patch in 1976 on the left sleeve in the regular season along with the Tom Yawkey memorial armband, which was worn from July 1976 through the end of that season ('77 yearbook pic would be from '76):

And leave it to Spaceman Lee to wear both the band and the patch on the OTHER SLEEVE:

(He and House were left-handed pitchers, so maybe they were allowed to put any extra stuff on the sleeve of their non-pitching arm.) So the patches were worn well into 1976.

But we're still not done. All the photos of the Red Sox from the '76 Topps card set show patchless uniforms. Which means that during part of the '75 season, they didn't wear the patch. (Could those be pics from '74? This one was hard to prove, as most of the players on the '75 team were also on the '74 team. But I finally came across a guy--Jim Burton--who had never played a big league game before 1975, who had a 1976 card. That means most of the '76 card shots are definitely from '75, as a lot of them are pretty clearly taken on the same day in Oakland. There was only one series in Oakland that included day games that year, so I'd say these pics are from August 9th or 10th, 1975.)

So they wore it at some points but not others in both 1975 and 1976. That's what we can say for sure. I know what you're saying. Not you, the really nerdy guy behind you. "I don't see any road jerseys with the patch. Maybe they wore the patch for all of '75 and '76, but only at home. Like, when they were in Massachusetts." Okay, could be. But they didn't wear it at home in the '75 World Series. And the Mitchell & Ness version makes a road version with the patch. (Note that the URL says '75 but on the page it says '76, as if they've been wrestling with this "which year was it?" controversy themselves.) And the uniform database linked above also shows it on both the home and away jersey (again, in '76 only). So a lot of people think it was worn on the road. But here's Dwight Evans in '76 (see armband, so it's at least July) without the patch, in Yankee Stadium:And here's Fisk, same deal ('76 regular season, road game, armband, no patch), about to tag Willie Randolph:
So there may be some truth to the home/road theory. In fact, that would be my guess: The bicentennial patch was worn, at home only, for 1975 and 1976, excluding the World Series. Which means the state of Massachusetts was "born" in 1775 and 1776. And 1788. So...

But what about the '75 ALCS? I can't find any pics of that at all. I think I've seen a shot of the Sox celebrating ending Oakland's three-year championship run, but that's about all I've ever seen. Whenever it was I saw that, I wasn't looking for the patch. And it's not like the team took off the patch to wear a World Series patch. That trend didn't start until 1987. There's clearly no patch worn in the '75 Series. (There is a patch commemorating the series, but it was made later.)

Just to add one final bit of mystery, someone on ebay is currently selling the patch. Only instead of red, it's white with blue writing! Where did these come from?

If anyone has any further info or ideas, feel free to add them in the comments.

Bonus Monty section: Hey, eagle eyes, you've noticed that the '77 card of Bob Montgomery looks like it's from the same day as the bulk of the '76 cards. Looks like it to me, too. Just proves again that Topps does break out older photos occasionally. Watch for that when doing your own research projects.

Many thanks to all the people who posted these pics to ebay, by the way. (I don't think they could get mad, I mean, you can't own a copyright to a picture of a baseball card anyone can get.)
Also, if this home-only theory is correct, we get to laugh at people who bought the road '75 (or '76, or whatever you wanna call it) WITH the patch, just as we laugh at anyone with the '80s road jersey with the slice through the S, for buying a jersey that's completely inaccurate. (But more at the companies who made them--I can't expect everyone to do this type of extensive research. I'm sure they're very busy at the jobs thy have which allow them to buy all these 250-dollar jerseys...)

And why a two-year run of a patch that commemorates a single anniversary? Maybe the equipment manager was told they'd be wearing the patch for 162 games, and he/she though, Hmmmm, if I only put them on the home unis, we can squeeze two seasons out of these babies!
Holy Mother Theresa, Jere. Love your new pic! That '77 Sox yearbook always brings back good thoughts...I have mine right here! Enjoy your snowy Thursday. I know I will!
I can remember the Bruins wearing this patch (during the 75-76 hockey season, in black and gold), I think the Patriots did as well. Not sure about the Celts.
As for the World Series unis: Is it possible they got brand new uniforms just for the playoffs and then attached the patch the next spring training to use during the season since they only had about 12-14 games played in them?
Mass was admitted to the union in 1788, but declared it's independence from Great Britain much earlier.

1976 as the US Bicentennial refers to independence from Great Britain (traditionally 1776), not the adoption of the Constitution (1789).

According to what I could quickly find, the Massachusetts Bay Colony ended in 1774 and we adopted the State Constitution in 1779/1780. Maybe they should have worn those patches for 6 years.
Peter, you know the reason I've got Mother Theresa is because it's that rarest of moments where she's actually giving the hook 'em horns, right? Is that evident to everyone else?

Heybluu--yeah, I'm sure they just got brand new playoff unis--although were they for the ALCS or the WS? But that still doesn't solve the entire mystery. Good call on the other teams wearing them. If you can try to find out if they only wore them at home, let me know. Maybe this was worn by all Mass teams, and the blue ones were from some blue team in some minor sport. Or a college team or something. Couldn't be Bruins or Celts, these blue ones.

Chief: Good stuff. Maybe since '75 was the year it became, uh, not the Mass Bay Colony, they started wearing them in 1975. And then just kinda winged it from there.
Terrible job in this article, where they say "fresh off a trip to Connecicut" as if it's already happened. But it doesn't happen until today. (The trophy going to CT, that is.)
The only info I can find on the Bruins wearing the patch is on According to their database the patch was worn on both shoulders on home and away uniforms for that season. The 76-77 season started in October, so my guess is they just didn't wear it because it was after July 4th.
Friday morning, and that trip that they're "fresh from" never happened.....because of the white stuff. They said they "will be baack!"
Ha, they jinxed it!

Hey, I spelled Connecticut wrong up there. Myyyy mistake.
In support of the country's many MANY celebrations of the nation's bicentennial in 1976, some of the original colonies also conducted their own related celebrations. In the case of Massachusetts, the Commonwealth decided to kick off its support of the nation's bicentennial by setting April 19, 1975 -- the bicentennial of the Battle of Lexington ("but if they want a fight, let it begin here"). Many of our towns (I was in Westborough) held Patriots Day parades and celebrations, and the official logo of the Massachusetts bicentennial celebration was unveiled. The sports teams, along with most of the Commonwealth's leading businesses, used the logo for all sorts of promotional uses.

I can't explain for certain why the patch shows up on again and off again, and I bet NO one can explain why it's on different sleeves of Sox unis. I'll have to look into it further, but I do know that the Massachusetts Bicentennial celebration started on April 19, 1975 and ended on July 4, 1976. Therefore, it's likely that the Red Sox only wore the patch between those dates (meaning that the two weeks of the 1975 season before April 19 would be patchless, and the entire 1976 season after July 4 would be patchless).

It's just a theory, but at least now you know the origin of the patch, why it's different than the USA Bicentennial, and what the logo actually signified, and most importantly, WHY 1975.

Great stuff, Don. Thanks.

That solves a few things, like the general time period the Mass. bicentennial was celebrated. It fits in almost perfectly, but not quite. Because they wore the patches on Opening Day 1975, which was April 8th. I have photos in a book here.

And Yawkey died on July 9th, 1976. So Yaz having the patch AND the armband at once, as pictured, would be after July 9th.

As for the different sleeve, since I only found it on the right sleeve of two left-handed pitchers, I think they were allowed to have it on the non-pitching arm, as you could probably feel a patch like that on your arm. Or, at least, they didn't want to have a chance of something encumbering their motion.
About the regular season/post-season thing, the description of the M&N '75 Lynn jersey at says "It was only during regular season play that the Red Sox celebrated the Bicentennial of Massachusetts by wearing a patch on the sleeve of their uniform."

Yet, they still could be wrong about it being on the road jersey, as I've yet to find any picture confirming it.
Photo of Bobby Orr in his final game as a Bruin, at Madison Square Garden, November 26, 1975, with the Massachusetts Bicentennial patch, is at

Commentary on the uniform, including the line "Embroidered bears sit up on each shoulder as the team removed the circular Bicentennial patches prior to the following season and this set was reused for the pre-season of 1976-77" is at the auction site, selling Orr's final uniform, at

The Baseball Hall of Fame's online exhibit "Dressed to the Nines" shows the patch on the 1976 unis -- both home and away -- but not on the 1975 unis.
Right--I mentioned that twice in my article and provided the link as well. (That's why I showed '74-'77 so you could see that they only have it on '76.)
The 1975 patch was worn on the home uniforms ONLY and were worn in 1975 -1976 During the World Series the Red Sox wore jerseys without them as owner Tom Yawkey ordered new jerseys for the post season.A black arm band was added mid season of July 1976 when Tom Yawkey died.
Not to be a dick, but isn't that exactly what I said in the post? I even bolded it. You do offer some new info, about Yawkey specifically ordering new unis for the postseason. (I didn't know it was him who made that call, only that they had the patch-less unis in the postseason.)
This is a bit off topic, but does anyone what the design of the patch stood for? My guess is its a star, by why the "cut out" in each point? Usually when a logo like this is designed there is a symbolism attached to every design element, and nothing is really done for aesthetic purposes.
Curious American
No idea. I Googled, found nothing. I did see that the regular logo for the US bicentennial was a different star, which is also a pretty interesting design.
For anyone interested, the official Massachusetts Bicentennial guide can be viewed online/downloaded here:

Page 158 of the guide explains the logo:

"The above logo is taken from a leaf form suggested by the Liberty Tree which 200 years
ago stood on Boston Common and rallied Americans to critical events of their time.
This star-like configuration serves as a symbol to mark the specific events in the 1970's
that will occur during the celebration of America's Bicentennial in Massachusetts."
Note that by now, 7.5 years later, Dressed to the Nines has changed their pictures to agree with my theory: '75 and '76, home uniforms only.
I found this great article and comment section after the Sox wore the patches on throwbacks against the Giants on 7/20/16. I have a theory as to why some photos from the time showed players without the patches on their uniforms. It occurred to me as I've noticed players now seem to have brand new hats and uniforms every game. I remember uniforms and hats in the '70s often looking well-worn. So I wonder if the Sox had only a limited number of patches. When a player needed a new uniform top, it could be that sometimes it took a couple of days before the patch was removed from the old one and put on the new one.
I tweeted a link to it last night (I'm the writer of this blog post) so I wonder if you saw my tweet. I wouldn't be surprised if your theory is correct for an occasional time at home, but considering I've never seen one photo of a patch on the road jersey in those years, I'm sticking with my theory that they were only worn at home, and in both years, 1975 and 1976. Thanks and glad you liked my post!
I was at the Sox-Giants game last night, in which the Sox wore their 1975 throwbacks with the patch.

I also found a great shot of Bobby Orr wearing the patch:
Nice, thanks!
The Celtics also wore the patch:
Wait, though. The pic of Orr has a patch with a dark background, while the pic of the white/blue patch has a white background.
And the Celts have green on white background. Maybe the blue-on-white was the Pats one?
The patches were all made in the primary colors of the respective teams. Sox patches were blue and red, Bruins' patches were black and gold, Celtics' patches were green and white. Strangely, I haven't found evidence that the Patriots wore them. The PATRIOTS. Duh.
Oh okay, sorry I thought someone had said the blue-on-white were Bruins for aome reason. We'll have to find that Pats proof! Did other teams (college, minor leagues) wear them too?
I own a Yaz jersey with the bicentennial patch on it. I will take a picture and post it here tonight
Not really sure why it's so perplexing that the patch was worn (on home uniforms) during both the 1975 and 1976 seasons. You are aware that the Revolutionary War--the struggle for independence--began in Massachusetts, right? What with Lexington and Concord and the Minutemen and all. So it was only proper that a Massachusetts sports team start the commemoration ahead of the rest of the country. (And was it really that far ahead? Look up 'the Freedom Train' if you haven't heard it. Also, as the unrest in the colonies had preceded the actual outbreak of war, CBS had been doing 'Bicentennial Minute' commemorations starting in at least 1974.)
Thanks for your comment. I have no issue with what motivated them to do it, but from a sports perspective, it is extremely unusual to have a commemorative anniversary patch to be worn for more than one season, and also to only be worn at home. I think I did a good job here of adding knowledge where there wasn’t any before. Even the late great Mark Okkonen only had it in ‘76 before that got fixed. (And that classy uniform maker got it wrong too, putting the patch on a retro road jersey.) I mean honestly, if someone had been given the info you just gave, what are the odds they would say “oh, well then a sports team celebrating that would wear a bicentennial patch for TWO years, but only on the home uniforms, but not in the postseason”? Couldn’t any anniversary be marked by all the relevant things that led up to it? But nobody ever does it that way on uniforms, they just go with the date and commemorate it in the corresponding year. I guess I’m also perplexed by the lack of info at the time saying “here’s what the team is gonna do and why.” Maybe that just hasn’t surfaced or I haven’t looked hard enough.

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