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  • Writer's pictureMarc Viquez

The Sweet Baby Blues in Duluth


Images Courtesy of ABC-Television


A recent discovery on YouTube from the old ABC television show Discovery resurfaced recently. The show was a little before my time, but it aired on Sunday afternoons from 1962-1971 and was geared toward children and teenagers. Each week there would be a different topic and location from around the world.


The particular episode focuses on the final days of the 1970 Duluth Dukes baseball team. The show described the episode at the time as a look at minor league players in their small hotel rooms, rundown fields, and rocky bus rides discussing their dreams and goals.



The Dukes were members of the Single-A Northern League and an affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. We catch the players mulling around downtown Sioux Falls window shopping as the local Orpheum Theater plays the movie MASH. We also get a few interviews, but the highlight of the episode is the team’s road jerseys that never looked so good in blue.


They are no other than the sweet baby blues that the White Sox introduced for the 1964 season. The Sox wore them for 4 seasons, and by this time on the Southside of Chicago, were wearing gray on the road. It looks like at least one of their affiliates had them passed down by the time the 1970s arrived. 



By the time the uniforms made it down the ranks of the minor league system to Duluth, the jerseys had the Old English Sox logo on the right chest and TV numbers on the left sleeves. The caps are the spitting image of the Detroit Tigers home caps. Perhaps they had been worn by the Evansville White Sox, who had been the top affiliate of the Sox until 1968. Discovery host Bill Owens explains.


“Right now, these young athletes are playing small city baseball and uniforms second handed to them by the parent club in Chicago. The uniforms say ‘Sox’ instead of ‘Dukes’, and they’re a little out at the knees. But this is today, and it’s like minor league ball players to better just fair today on a great tomorrow.”


Despite being a little ragged and torn at the knees, the uniforms look beautiful and perhaps only a rare time showcased on color film, which has aged well for being close to 54 years old. A few shots showcase the threading, the white outline of the numbers, and the texture of the wool fabric.


When this road color was introduced by the Sox in 1964 to reporters before the season, many in attendance thought it was a joke. General Manager Ed Short said the new hues would look better on black-and-white television sets. A few thought it was in response to Charlie Finely’s green and gold uniforms introduced the season before his Kansas City Athletics. 


The Sox would switch back to gray flannels for the 1968 season, but the following year, the expansion Seattle Pilots and Montreal Expos introduced powder blue road sets, and by 1980, there were 11 clubs sporting powder blue looks on the road in baseball.

What makes this discovery fascinating is that today’s audience sees a very rare glimpse of full-color film of the “sweet baby blues” that are only seen on black and white film, photographs, and countless Topps baseball cards from this era, but they never look so good then on this Discovery ‘71 episode.


Viewers see the jerseys inside the locker room, during the day at Sioux Falls Stadium, and then at night when the sun goes down. The ballpark opened in 1941 and was renovated in 2000, but what is now known as The Birdcage and home to the Sioux Falls Canary of the American Association still looks somewhat similar.


What isn't the same is the multiple advertisements on the outfield walls of long-ago businesses. A few of the ads include E & W clothing which lasted 101 years from 1889 to 1990, Pete's Texaco Truck Stop, Chris's Country Grill, Jay-Shon Chevrolet, and the Kopper Kart Restaurant. 


Also, in this jersey manager, Joe Sparks is wearing an actual White Sox road jersey from 1964 with the Chicago word mark arched in capital letters. It is a wonderful find from an era when a film from minor league baseball was hard to find.


The episodes wind up with the Dukes in their home jerseys, providing a clinic to local Little League players. The home pinstripe sets feature Dukes in the diagonal form down the right chest and look like the home uniforms the parent club wore from 1964-1968. 


It is during this time we see Wade Stadium, which looks exactly like the same well over 50 years later. The distinctive brick interior and exterior are clearly shown throughout the segment, and even the front entrance has not changed much in the ensuing season. Perhaps a few cosmetic changes and renovations have been made, but the old ballpark is still recognizable.

Unfortunately, at both stadiums, the crowds were scarce, maybe a sign of the times of the early 1970s. There were children selling programs in the grandstand while several more jumped up and down the seating or yelled from their seats. It is not an upcoming scene by today’s standards where small crowds are evident at certain times of the year or nights of the week.


Sadly, the Dukes folded after the season and almost returned in 1972 as a co-op team in the Northern League. However, six weeks after forming, they pulled out of the loop, and soon after that, the entire league ceased operations. Wade Stadium would be empty of professional baseball for over 20 years until the Dukes and league would be resurrected as an independent league in 1993.


The re-discovery of this episode gives us a glimpse of the world of minor league baseball. It was a much different time. The glimpse of the sweet baby blues was a nice surprise to someone like me or fellow old-school baseball uniform lovers.


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Follow all of Marc’s stadium journeys on Twitter @ballparkhunter and his YouTube channel. Email at Marc.Viquez@stadiumjourney.com 



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