Rays’ Throwbacks Thumb Nose at History

The Tampa Bay Rays will turn back the clock six decades when the St. Louis Cardinals visit Tropicana Field on Saturday, July 2  for the ninth “Turn Back the Clock” game in Rays history. 

The Rays will wear the home uniforms of the 1951 Tampa Smokers of the Florida International League and the Cardinals will wear their road gray uniforms from 1953, the first jersey in Cardinals history to feature a yellow bat on the front of the jersey.  They’ll be sold at Rays.com following the game.

However, the Rays jerseys won’t include the familiar cigar design stitched into the lettering when the Smokers wore them.  Apparently baseball’s anti-smoking campaign extends even to retro uniforms. 


“We have chosen to wear the Smokers jersey to celebrate the rich heritage and traditions surrounding baseball in Tampa Bay and this version of the logo is intended only to be a slightly more contemporary version of that wonderful history,” the team said in a statement. 

Slightly more contemporary–but inaccurate.  And probably far less attractive to collectors and fans. 

The Smokers got their nickname from Tampa’s status as the cigar-making capital of the U.S.  Stogies are an important part of the city’s history, whether they’re good for you or not.

In 1951, the Smokers led the Class B Florida International League with a 90-50 record. The beige jersey features red lettering outlined in black, and red piping down the center of the jersey with a black cigar design. 

The 1953 Cardinals uniform is based on an actual 1953 road gray jersey of Stan Musial’s that resides in the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame Museum collection.   The ’53 Cardinals finished third in the National League with an 88-66 record, led by Hall of Famers Red Schoendienst, Stan Musial and Enos Slaughter.

All of the game-worn jerseys will be auctioned off and they are going to a good cause.  Proceeds will benefit the Moffitt Cancer Center and the Rays Baseball Foundation.