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Patrick Finley: Old Toros uniforms make one last comeback

The Tucson Padres will take the field next month in Toros uniforms.

One day at the start of the Tucson Toros' 1980 season, the team's clubhouse manager ran into then-general manager Jack Donovan's office.

"It's not my fault!" he yelled. "I washed them the same way I washed every uniform, ever!"

In the warm water, the team's new jerseys - judged by history to be among the ugliest ever, as if the Raisin Bran sun threw up in diagonal stripes - had turned an awful color.

Well, more awful colors.

Before the 1980 season, Donovan sketched out a design for the team's duds, with help from a manufacturer. As a nod to the team's new Houston affiliation, the Toros decided to do their own version of the Astros' "Tequila Sunrise" design.

The jerseys were traffic-cone orange, with school-bus yellow sleeves with orange piping at the end. They had a diagonal yellow sash design (hey, it was the '80s) across the front, on which was overlaid navy "Toros" lettering with a red-orange-red stripe running beneath it.

The backs of the jerseys - to mimic an Arizona sky, Donovan said - were solid blue with a white number inspired by the Montreal Expos' font.

But then the jerseys bled in the warm wash.

"Wherever it was orange, it turned brown," Donovan said.

The red-orange-red sash stripe was turned into a cranberry mess, with the lowest diagonal piece of yellow sash resembling pea soup.

"When they bled," Donovan said, "they were God-awful."

Not all the team had their jerseys washed the first day - pitchers weren't diving in the dirt, after all - but Donovan had the clubbie wash them all warm.

He wanted his uniforms, uniform.

The only ones to escape the bleed were the batboys, whose moms washed their jerseys at home, in cold water.

When it came time to pay the bill, Donovan refused.

He met the manufacturer in Los Angeles after the season, and a tailor there said the different materials used for the sash and jersey shouldn't have been put together.

He told Donovan he wouldn't pay the bill, were he the Toros GM.

So Donovan didn't.

"They went from being the second-worst uniforms ever to the best uniforms I ever had," Donovan said this week, "because we didn't have to pay for them."

Next month, Donovan will get a chance to see his original design on the field.

The Tucson Padres, in likely their last year at Kino Stadium, will wear the original design - without the bled colors - as part of Disco Night on June 8.

With the approval of former Sidewinders owner Jay Zucker, who owns the Toros copyright, Padres general manager Mike Feder and Donovan, now the team's senior adviser, reconstructed the jersey design based on Google images of old Toros baseball cards. No one can seem to find an original jersey.

On Tuesday, the team ordered 40 jerseys, picking the colors - Yellow Pantone 116, Red Pantone 186, Orange Pantone 172 and Blue Pantone 287, if you care about such things - based on the Astros colors from the 1980s.

They'll wear white pants rather than the team's 1980 orange ones (yes, they managed to go 87-59 while wearing orange pants), and an orange cap with a white Toros head. The original 1980s cap had white stripes on either side of the bull (The '80s!), but that was too hard to recreate.

The team will sell the caps in the gift shop, as it will later this year when the Padres play in '90s era Toros uniforms.

Feder said the team plans to auction the orange jerseys one day - if he can pry them off the players.

The thing is, the team loves the Toros.

Players wear Toros T-shirts. When they travel, they tell the pilot to introduce them as the Toros. When they shake hands after a game, they make the sign language signal for "T" - for Toros.

It's no shot at the Padres franchise, but, rather, a fun idea started by manager Pat Murphy, who has given his teams different, secret, nicknames over the years.

"Just a silly thing between your team that caught on," Murphy told our Daniel Berk this week.

They're excited about the uniforms.

"They were cool back in the day, but now, it's like, 'Gosh, I can't believe they wore those,'" outfielder Travis Buck said. "We're preaching the Toros thing - and let's have some fun with it."

Even if it comes with a sash.

"They're hideous," Murphy said. "So hideous, I like them."

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