Black Friday and the holiday shopping season are upon us. That means it’s time to treat yourself or someone you love to something special: a Cardinals jersey.
Behind perhaps only the classic baseball cap, the jersey is a staple of sports fans everywhere. It’s your statement as a fan: I love my team, and I’m proud of it. Wearing a jersey is the closest thing to tattooing your team’s logo across your forehead without actually doing it. It’s bold, it’s flashy, and most of all, it’s yours.
At the same time, buying a jersey is a major investment. Most jerseys will cost you upwards of $80, so many fans only have one that they wear religiously to watch games at the stadium or at home. For that reason, you’ll want to choose your Cardinals jersey carefully this winter. If you do it right, you’ll have something you’ll still be wearing 20 years from now. If you don’t, you may wind up with an expensive piece of fabric in the back of your drawer.
Thankfully, Cardsblog is here to make your jersey-buying endeavors easier. Consider these options carefully, and your Ben Franklin will be put to good use.
First things first: what’s your style?
When we think of jerseys, we immediately think of the name on the back. But think about it: the name on the back is just the signature on the canvas that is the rest of the jersey. Before we think about what player you want to represent, we need to figure out what type of jersey you want.
Thankfully, the Cardinals are a storied franchise with a long, rich history and a recognizable logo. That means you have an array of quality options when it comes to choosing your style.
A popular option is the classic home jersey. You can never go wrong with the clean, white look adorned with a perfect red script and the famous birds perched on the bat. I’d venture to guess that most Cardinals jerseys worn by fans are, in fact, the home jersey. You could also go with the road jersey. It’s the same thing, just gray instead of white. In my opinion, it’s a little less classic than the homer jersey, though maybe you prefer the gray look or maybe you watch the Cardinals on the road a lot. Either way, you’ll fit right in with the rest of the St. Louis faithful.
How about an alternate jersey?
But maybe you don’t necessarily want to fit in. That’s perfect, because there are plenty of options to help you stand out. My personal favorite is the cream jersey worn for Saturday home games at Busch Stadium. It looks a lot like the regular home jersey, with an off-white rather than pristine white. It also features smooth red piping, but the best part is that it’s the only jersey option that reads “St. Louis” rather than “Cardinals.”
Perhaps you really want to get noticed. Perhaps you really bleed that Cardinal red. You might want to grab the alternate red jersey, which I’m sure you’ve seen the Cardinals wear at Spring Training or during batting practice.
Then we get into the more old-timey jerseys if you prefer that throwback feel. There’s the light blue–this one is a v-neck and doesn’t have buttons down the middle–and the old-logo version of the current home jersey. The Cardinals have worn plenty of superb jerseys throughout their history, and you can find some others on their website.
One category I’d avoid is the gimmicky “fashion” jerseys. These are the ones that use alternative color schemes (i.e. all black, charcoal, etc.) as well as the holiday jerseys–pink for Mother’s Day, blue for Father’s Day, camouflage for Memorial Day, stars and stripes for July 4. If you’re buying a jersey, it’s because you love your team, so rep your team’s colors.
Hopefully by now, you’ve found a suitable style for you. Now, the part that everyone looks forward to: deciding which player will grace the back of your jersey.
Safe and lasting: the franchise cornerstone
The franchise cornerstone is the player who, well, is the face of the franchise. He is or was a star, and has made major contributions to the organization. He has been with the franchise for years, if not his entire career, or will be for the foreseeable future due to a long-term contract.
The Cardinals have two players on their roster who suit this definition: Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright. Needless to say, you can’t go wrong with either. Both have been in St. Louis since debuting way back when, and will likely retire as Cardinals. They are still a big part of the current roster, and have played major roles on championship teams. Between the two, it’s just a matter of preference. Do you prefer the hard-nosed catcher, or the veteran hurler? Personally, I’d go Wainwright.
By nature, this will be the most common choice you see at Busch Stadium next spring. Buying a Molina or Wainwright jersey ensures that you’ll have a go-to outfit not just next year, but years from now. You may not stand out, but you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.
Show your fandom: the current stud
Molina and Wainwright are cool, but let’s be honest, wearing one of their jerseys won’t exactly demonstrate your fandom. Everyone in St. Louis knows who those two are. If you want to make a bigger statement, you need to pick a younger star on the roster.
Of course, your definition of star can vary, but generally, your options could be Matt Carpenter, Stephen Piscotty, Aledmys Diaz, or Carlos Martinez, to name a few, if you want to go with a homegrown stud. Alternatively, you could choose a big-name free agent or trade acquisition that you’re hyped up about, like Matt Holliday or Carlos Beltran (hopefully you didn’t buy a Jason Heyward jersey).
There’s definitely more room for personal preference here, and your choice says two things. One, I have a favorite player, and it’s not everyone’s favorite player. Two, I jumped on the Player X train before he moved into the first category (franchise cornerstone). The ultimate hope is that you buy, say, a Martinez jersey, and Martinez ultimately becomes what Wainwright is to the franchise. The downside is that the player makes some nice contributions but doesn’t last quite as long, or the team doesn’t win during his time here. My favorite Cardinals player is Piscotty, so I’d go with him.
I know my Cardinals history: the Hall of Famer
One of the perks of rooting for a team with such a long tradition of excellence is the household names we’ve all come to know: Stan Musial, Ozzie Smith, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock. Likely, if you were drawn to a throwback jersey when we discussed styles earlier, it’s because you had one of these guys in mind.
Of course, this is as safe as you can get with a jersey. All of these players have been retired for a long time, and all have had much individual and team success. A century from now, everyone in St. Louis will still know all of these names.
The pros are obvious: the fans around you will be impressed by your homage to the team’s history, and you’ll probably feel more knowledgable about the Cardinals. One potential downside is that you may come off a bit disingenuous. If you’re 20 and walking around wearing a Wizard jersey, it’s cool that you know about him, but you also didn’t actually watch him play.
The World Series hero: yeah, we’ve got a lot
Remember, you’re making a long-term investment here. Any player on the roster now won’t be in 20 years. So why can’t you pick someone from a couple years ago?
If you so choose, the options are endless: David Freese, Lance Berkman, David Eckstein, Chris Carpenter, Jim Edmonds. The list goes on and on and on. You’ll make Cardinals fans around you happier, because you’ll probably elicit memories of some of the best memories of their lifetimes. And you’ll definitely remind everyone that you’re no bandwagon; you’ve been around for years.
Risky business: the prospect
This category isn’t for the faint of heart. Prospects are always the hot new thing. The excitement of a new call-up may have you craving an Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, or Carson Kelly jersey. But prospects will break your heart, time and time again. They may get traded for other pieces, or just flat-out bust. Still, if a prospect turns into the stud you envision, you can claim you were on the bandwagon before anyone else. If you play in these waters, be forewarned that you may be filled with quite a bit of regret.
The random: wait, who’s that?
Perhaps you just really, really irrationally love Brayan Pena. Perhaps you’re related to Tim Cooney. Maybe you just like long or funny names, like “Tuivailala.” For whatever reason, you just have to have Jose Martinez’s jersey. That’s awesome! I’d say go for it. Sure, Mike Mayers may no longer be on the team a week from now. But I’d be amazingly impressed at your fandom to see you wearing his jersey on the streets. I’d love to be walking around Busch Stadium a decade from now and see the word “Pham,” and think to myself, “Kids these days,” before pausing and remembering, “Oh, yeah.”
The elephant in the room: Jose Alberto Pujols
The Machine gets his own category. He fits into more than one of these categories: he was our franchise cornerstone, he was a World Series hero, and he’s sure as hell as future Hall of Famer. But Pujols, at least in my observation, remains a sore subject for Cardinals fans. There’s no question he’s worthy of any Cardinals fan’s jersey dollars on his merits. Still, it’s a bit awkward to rep a guy who’s still mashing 30 homers a year for another franchise. In my opinion, it wouldn’t be a bad investment. Even if you don’t feel comfortable wearing a Pujols jersey now, sit on it. Down the road, he’ll retire (hopefully as a Cardinal), and we’ll all fondly remember what he did for the franchise.
The personalized jersey: your name, your number
Don’t do it.
Now it’s time for the fun part: buying your jersey!
We’ve laid out all (or most) of your options. Now, it’s time to choose. For the record, I’d buy the cream St. Louis jersey with Piscotty on the back. At the end of the day, though, it all comes down to your own choice as a Cardinals fan. Have fun with it, and happy shopping!
Image Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports