Back in late June 1979, Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” was burning up the Top 40 charts, top-rated sitcom “Three’s Company” was in summer reruns, “Rocky II” was the new box-office knockout — and the expansion Tampa Bay Rays were making waves with their eye-catching blue-and-yellow uniforms, even if they weren’t winning many ballgames.
Well OK, that last part is a complete fabrication of fabric and fact.
But the Rays would like you to buy into a fictional past for just a day, as they roll out throwback uniforms on June 30 to an era in which the team didn’t actually exist. Hey, what else would you expect from a club and manager in Joe Maddon that has brought baseball the quirky and entertaining themed road trip?
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Turning back the clock to the year “Kramer vs. Kramer” won the Oscar for Best Picture comes as a nice little diversion to the drama of Maddon vs. Johnson – with the Rays’ skipper and Nationals manager Davey Johnson trading barbs over the Joel Peralta pine tar episode Tuesday night in Washington.
The Rays designed a uniform with bold, stylized letters and dazzling colors that matched the look of the disco era. The jerseys even feature a patch on the left sleeve that features a City of St. Petersburg seal from 1979. Their opponent, the Detroit Tigers, will sport their actual gray road colors from that year when the two teams meet in the 7:15 p.m. Saturday contest at Tropicana Field.
The Tigers will have some real history to celebrate in this game. Though they finished fifth in the AL East — 18 games behind the first-place Baltimore Orioles — they hired a new manager in mid-June 1979.
His name, of course, was Sparky Anderson, and he went on to guide Detroit for the next 17 seasons. Along the way, he won a World Series, earned two American League Manager of the Year honors and found a home in Cooperstown.
This marks the Rays’ 10th turn-back-the-clock game. And to underscore the late-’70s look of the night, Earth, Wind & Fire will perform inside the Trop following the game. For previous “retro” themes, the Rays have worn uniforms of teams like the Tampa Smokers, which they did last season, or the University of Tampa.
The retro jerseys will be auctioned off on raysbaseball.com, with proceeds benefitting the Moffitt Cancer Center and the Rays Baseball Foundation.
In addition, the “Turn the Clock Back” merchandise will be available to fans starting June 25 at the Rays Team Store at the stadium, Rays Pro Shop in Downtown Tampa (400 N. Tampa St.), Sports Fan Attic, Lids Locker Room and other participating retailers, or at raysbaseball.com.