The Vault: Week 15 – “Minor League Edition”

Welcome to The Vault, the weekly blog post that takes a look back at some of the best (and worst) jerseys throughout sports history. Each week, a classic set of threads each from the sports of football, basketball, hockey, baseball, and soccer will be revisited. This week, we’ll take a look at some of the best jerseys from the lower divisions of professional sports, which tend to get pretty absurd.

All submissions are welcome by messaging @tftb_smalls on IG.

Football: AAF’s Arizona Hotshots

Okay, so I realize that the AAF wasn’t really considered a “minor league” for the NFL, but that was apparently the plan laid out by the AAF executives. And because of that, I had to include one of its jerseys in this week’s Vault. A lot of the AAF jerseys had a pretty new-age look to them, which didn’t work for the most part (at least in my opinion). However, I think the Arizona Hotshots jerseys had an attractive design without looking like they were trying too hard. Their logo was pretty sleek, the color scheme looked pretty good, and I actually did like the mountain design going down to side of the torso. I’m also a sucker for a team having their numbers on the helmet. Plus, using Starter as the AAF’s official uniform provider was sort of a cool idea. Arizona ended the (one and only) AAF season at 5-3 and were tied for the Western Conference lead. I’m not sure if I’d ever really wear a Hotshots jersey, but they were the best the league had to offer.

Basketball: D-League’s Delaware 87ers

Oh my God do I love these things. They just make me think of the Saturday mornings from my childhood. The Delaware 87ers (what a f*****g ridiculous name for a team) are the G League affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers and had their players trot out in pink Power Rangers-inspired jerseys in 2017. The jerseys were part of the team’s collaboration with Nickelodeon, which also included an extra surprise:

The first 2,000 fans will receive a Nickelodeon Night commemorative poster featuring the Power Rangers and will enjoy thematic in-arena music and trivia throughout the evening.

SB Nation

What a legendary collab. Just imagine watching aging Nate Robinson schooling fools in the D-League while repping the most attractive Power Ranger of all time. I couldn’t find these for sale anywhere, which is a shame, but DAMN do I love these. This is exactly what minor league teams do best.

Hockey: AHL’s Rockford IceHogs

I really don’t know how I feel about the hockey entry in this week’s Vault. Back in 2012, the Chicago Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, sported these Mexican inspired sweaters. They were part of the team’s “Latino Night” and featured the team’s normal logo with a sombrero and an additional “Los” in the name. They also featured a color scheme that was supposed to represent a poncho (I guess?), which looks hilariously bad. These are a far cry from the NBA just putting “Los” on their jerseys for their Latin Nights. These bad boys go much further. While they’re both atrocious and somehow awesome at the same time, I’d definitely buy one just to say that I had it. They’re a perfect example of how a minor league gimmick can go just a little too far.

Baseball: MiLB’s Eugene Emeralds

When I started doing research for this week’s Vault, I kind of knew what I was getting myself into. I knew that minor league affiliates often come up with some of the wildest gimmick uniforms ever. With that being said, I had no clue I’d ever come across something like this. The Eugene Emeralds, which is a Class-A affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, trotted out these lumberjack-looking uniforms back in 2015. Apparently, they were inspired by the hit IFC show Portlandia. I’ve never seen the show, so I don’t really understand the connection. But you know what? These. Are. PERFECT. Inject this uniform into my veins. They’re literally too funny and the most gimmicky uniform of all time. Wearing baseball pants that look like jeans? Sign me the f**k up. Apparently, the team had a solid year back in 2015, which isn’t a surprise, considering they were wearing perhaps the most beautiful uniforms of all time.

Soccer: NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies

Our last selection for this week’s Vault comes from the 1980 Tampa Bay Rowdies. The Rowdies were a member of the NASL, which was really the only major professional soccer league in the United States at the time. However, the Rowdies are currently in the USL, which is considered a lower division than MLS. Because of this, I decided they deserved a spot in this week’s “minor league” edition. The Rowdies’ current kit is fine and all, but their 1980 kit is flat out beautiful. The vintage look from Adidas included green and yellow hoops on the sleeves and socks, as well as absolutely gorgeous lettering on the front of the jerseys. This has grown to be a favorite among many American soccer nerds, and it’s clear why. The team enjoyed great success during this period, and gained a huge following in the Tampa area.

If you have any jerseys that you’d like to see on the Vault, please feel free to message @tftb_smalls on Instagram. Input is always welcome.

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