We all remember the 90s. It was a time for firsts. First Days of school. First Kisses. First roller coaster rides. And in the bigger world, the first mega-super duper sports star (MJ), the first time soccer in America mattered (USA World Cup and the 99 USA Women’s National team), and of course the first time many of us had to understand what a BJ was besides the guy on the Orioles (Thanks Bill!).
Of course, for many of us, it was also the first time we realized we could wear ridiculous neon hues of color . For some reason, it became acceptable to declare war on the primary color wheel as if Milosevic were behind dark, simple patterns. The 1990s were a humanitarian disaster of fashion to a degree not seen before or since. It was practically the anti-Instagram era. Take a look…
My god. And to make matters worse, Fashion-agasaki wasn’t only seeping its way onto TV and JCPenney racks. With a booming economy and time to kill in America, the sports landscape was going through a massive expansion era. The NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL added a total of 20 teams to their already robust leagues between 1988-2000, not to mention MLS launched in 1993. And were these teams immune to the oh so enticing teals and magentas of the decade? God no! And God why not!?!??!
Nonetheless, some of these teams pulled off some awesome gear. None more special than the (currently making a comeback) Snapback hats. Nowadays, there’s a Lids in every mall and stickers are apparently their own accessory to caps, but back in the 90s, making sure that tuft of hair poured out the front of your turned back cap was the coolest thing next to being the kid on the block with Mario Kart or GoldenEye.
In honor of these magnificent crowns that make the collection in the Tower of London look like candy, let’s go down memory lane and take a look back at the coolest headgear of yesteryear.
The Atlanta Braves of the 90s were renowned for being as good as they were boring. Despite one of the best pitching trios in the sport’s history in Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz (all now HOFers), they managed only one World Series title, during the weird post-strike 1995 season where half the teams weren’t ready for Opening Day. But if you think successful boredom was only in the Peach State, the late 90s Houston Astros were the ugly step-sister to the Braves’s Cinderella.
The Houston Astros of the waning days of the Astrodome featured two Hall of Fame credible players in Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio and finished in the top three of the NL Central division every season between 1993-1999, including three first place finishes in a row in ’97-’99. And what did those three division titles amount to? Three straight NLDS loses, with only 2 playoff wins total to show. Not exactly dominance. Still, by the late 90s you always knew the Astros were going to cruise to the post-season and were always afraid when they came to town. The peak was the Randy Johnson from Seattle trade during trade deadline in 1998. While the trade is a stalwart on most “Worst Trades Ever” list due to Houston giving up propects/future All Stars Freddy Garcia and Carlos Guillen and watching The Unit walkaway in Free Agency to his hometown Arizona Diamondbacks, a move that blindsided the Stros, it did allow for RJ to pitch in one of the best pitching parks ever known to major league baseball. The result: one of the best half-season pitching performances every put on display.
Randy Johnson’s Astros career ended up being the following: a 10-1 record, 1.28 ERA with 2.04 FIP, 116 Ks to 26 walks (in only 84.1 innings of work) and a SABR calculator breaking 322 ERA+. No wonder Houston management was pissed.
Of all the teams to be laid waste by MJ’s 90s Bulls, the 96 Finals against George Karl’s Seattle SuperSonics stands out as the most entertaining. It was the first Finals appearance since MJ’s retirement
forced by David Stern due to his gambling habbits to play baseball and probably most entertaining, featuring THE point guard of the 90s (Gary Payton aka The Glove) and THE basketball freak athlete of the 90s (Shawn Kemp). Maybe Barkley’s Suns were more loaded talent wise, Drexler’s Trailblazers more important to MJ’s emergence as the super-duper star, and the Jazz matchups more iconic because of the HOFers on the court and this shot. But Barkley, Malone and Stockton were past their primes, and the Drexler’s chalk outline is still on floor of the Portland Memorial Coliseum.
The Glove was the ultimate tour de force, magnificent on defense, a clean distributor and an aggressive driver to the basket for buckets. He was Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose before they were even born. And let’s not forget that Shawn Kemp is on the Top 10 “What If” of NBA stars along with Penny Hardaway and Len Bias. And in a league of fantastic names that are forever forged to their city (Knicks, Lakers, Trail Blazers, Pistons, Celtics), the Sonics still hold a reverence both to their city and franchise. But as with the end the sonic age, so too did the era of basketball end in Seattle. The Hague has yet to bring David Stern to justice for allowing the OKC move, but with KD moving to DC in two years, the universal balance will soon be restored. Here’s to you Seattle basketball, may Adam Silver have mercy on your expansion dreams.
NOTE: As with all rankings on the 500 section, we used the most advanced super computing, big data, statistical analysis to create this order, which included these metrics: national pop culture resonance, 90s-esque fashion loudness, sports reverence, and most importantly, this writer’s own damn opinion.
10. The Clemens
The Blue Jays somehow won back-to-back World Series during the first half of the decade then disappeared into the abyss of the AL East for almost 2o years on now. Chalk that up to the Jeter Yankees and Red Sox resurgence of the 21st Century, but there was one last hurrah for the Jays glory years in 1997.
After the close of the 1996 season, Roger Clemens was a 34 year old pitcher coming off 4 sub-par seasons and entering what Red Sox GM Dan Duquette reference as “the twilight of his career”. Despite said GM offering Clemens “by far the most money ever offered to a player in the history of the Red Sox franchise” for up till that point the best pitcher ever to don a Sox jersey, Clemens decided to sign for a different dollar altogether. Moving to the confines of the SkyDome, Clemens pitched the 1997 and 1998 seasons in Toronto and put up one of the best two season stretches of pitching ever seen. His Toronto career compiled two 20 win seasons, a 2.33 ERA and 563 Ks in a little less than 500 innings pitched, including the AL pitching Triple Crown each season.
But this was a Blue Jays team facing off against those 90s Yankees and a dominant Baltimore squad, and since Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green weren’t Delgado and Green yet, Clemens was shut out from the playoffs while tossing north of the border. And of course, we all know who the story ends with Clemens becoming a gun for hire in New York and Houston. Oh, and apparently Clemens had the only kind of hotel rendezvous in Toronto that doesn’t lead to divorce.
What’s worse, is those beautiful dark shades of red, white and blue, with the classic Jay and Maple leaf configuration turned into a cartoony mess for one season…
Before devolving into the character-less abyss of the Roy Halladay years….
Thankfully, the classic Jay, the Maple Leaf, and even winning baseball are all back in Toronto. And Roger Clemens is still in the twilight of a federal investigation. All hail the King of the North!
9. The Angels in the Outfield
The baby bro of the SoCal baseball scene probably had three highlights during its first 40 years of existence: the Nolan Ryan era that everyone forgot, the Mo Vaughn signing that everyone also forgot, and an awful incident of murder-suicide by a former pitcher who lost an iconic playoff series for the Angels a season prior.
Needless to say, a Disney movie about kids praying their way to the pennant is exactly what this franchise needed to be somewhat relevant outside of Orange County. Before becoming the B-list heart throb to the A-list Goslings and Tatums of the female millennial movie demographic, Joseph Gordon-Levitt teamed up with Danny “I’m Too Old For This…But I Need the Paycheck” Glover and Christopher “My Back to the Future Residual Checks aren’t Enough” Lloyd to reunite with his estranged father under the conditions that the local Angels win the Pennant.
Needless to say, God Loves the California Angels, obviously. Setting aside the fact that Our Lord and Savior somehow favors a random baseball team over the other tasks on hand as The Supreme Being and that She or He probably has some bookie money on this, has anyone actually taken a look at the IMDB page for this flick? In addition to the solid Glover and Lloyd mentions, this Angels squad included…
Tony Danza (!),
Adrien Brody (!!!)
and THE Matthew McConaughey (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
7 Year Old Mik had no idea that he was witnessing the Apollo Program of launching pads for half of Hollywood, but at the time the biggest takeaway for similar aged boys around the country was the iconic arm waving of the movie’s climax (not to mention a fantastic troll to piss off Angels fans at games until their 2002 World Series title).
(Bonus: McConaughy doing the angels wings at minute 1:49 retroactively wins the Unintentionally Funny Belt for 1994)
Of course, we will mention that Jim Abbott, Chuck Finely and of course Tim “The Fish” Salmon were iconic fan favorites of the REAL California/soon to be Anaheim Angels. And that the Disney pinstripe uni’s of the late 90s were an abomination that only the combination of 90s fashion and Michael Eisner could produce. Still, there was no greater moment in the national spotlight for the Angels of California than McConaughy and Gordon-Levitt doing the wings.
8. The Wild Thing
But in the Culture Wars of the 90s, Parental Advisory stickers in music and V-Chips in TVs were at the forefront of cultural censorship, not sports. Instead, arguably the best baseball flick (with Field of Dreams and The Natural being the other competitors…sorry, Bull Durham is tanked by Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins inability to look like he knows how to throw a baseball) came down from sports movie heaven in the form of the Tribe of the Cuyahoga Nation. Probably something most of us only caught while an older sibling/cousin was watching on HBO, Major League launched the careers of Charlie Sheen and Wesley Snipes while setting the bar for sports movie comedy.
James Gammon’s portrayal as Manager Lou Brown will go down as one of the top 5 movie coach’s; we had future President David Palmer/All State Ad Star Dennis Haysbert as the fantastic Pedro Cerrano; topped off by Bob Uecker showing everyone why he is one of the best sports broadcasters of all time, despite being stuck in Milwaukee all these years.
And of course, how could this movie not be iconic without the inclusion of actual Major Leaguer Pete Vuckovich as New York Yankee slugging nemesis Clu Haywood while doubling as the poster child for iconic 80s baseball cards:
But whereas the off field shenanigans of the Major League motley crew was matched by the on field shenanigans of the previous baseball teams mentioned in this column, the 1990s Cleveland Indians were nothing but comedic. Between 1995-1999, this list of players suited up at Jacobs Field at some point: Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Albert Belle, David Justice, Roberto Alomar, Kenny Lofton, Bartolo Colon, Carlos Baerga, Omar Vizquel, Travis Fryman, Marquis Grissom, Jeromy Burnitz, Sandy Alomar Jr, Jose Mesa, Chuck Finley, Charles Nagy, Denny Neagle. Oh, did I mention that Jeff Kent, Brian Giles and Richie Sexson were bench players for several years in Cleveland? That list would make an impressive Starting Lineup collection worth close to Google stock by now.
No team’s run in any sport has come close to having that much talent and having not won a single title, culminating with the epic 1997 World Series collapse of Jose “Joe Table” Mesa ending with venerable Craig Counsel.
As always, God Hates Cleveland.
7. The MJ
Probably the most lowest scoring qualifier with regards to fashion-impact, but no 1990s sports related list would be without a mention of the Jordan Bulls. If you were a kid in the 90s and didn’t want to Be Like Mike, well, then, that’s on you bro.
No words needed here, just watch.
6. The Kerry Collins
For some reason, despite being America’s number one sport, football doesn’t translate into caps. Hence the severe lack of any mention of the NFL or NCAA except for these next two installments.
Before 1995, the NFL had not had an expansion team since the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Given how awful the original uniforms and play on the field were, no one could blame the NFL for waiting two decades before expanding the league map. Thankfully, that came in the 1990’s, just in time for new teams to take new ideas with their uniform color schemes. While most people might remember the Tom Coughlin Jacksonville Jaguars as a pretty dominant AFC force early on with Mark Brunell, Fred Taylor, Jimmy Smith and Kyle Brady leading the way.
Their expansion sister the Carolina Panthers started off confused, choosing Carolina to expand their fanbase into South Carolina outside their Charlotte home. As if expanding into South Carolina has ever been a successful business model. Thankfully, the marketing team took into account the need to neon up their uni’s and was born the awesome combination of electric blue and black. And that logo! Even the team script utilized all that Office 95 WordArt had to offer.
Surprisingly, the Panthers made it all the way to the NFC Conference Championship game in their second year of existence, even beating the 90s Cowboys in the playoffs. And all this with an offense led by the “Can’t Wait to Tell Your Kids About Him” Kerry Collins and running back Anthony Johnson who had never came within even 500 yards of the 1,120 yards he ran in 1996 in his other 11 years in the NFL. But even if Collins and coach Dom Capers went on to ho-hum careers in the NFL, the Panthers have yet to change up their scheme. For its longevity, that puts this Carolina Blue right on the edge of our top 5.
5. The Boyz
The hat, the logo, and the insanity of the fans and ownership alike haven’t really changed in half a century. Talk about staying power. When Al Davis moved the Oakland Raiders to Los Angeles in 1982, little did he know that his franchise was the perfect attitude for the cultural powder keg that was LA in the 80s and 90s. Almost parallel to the Raiders’ LA experience was the rise of gangsta rap into the national mainstream. In 1988, NWA’s Straight Outta Compton was released and an entire subgenre of hip hop was born. Suddenly places like South Central, Watts and Compton were suddenly well known to white, suburban kids all over the country. And what other team to epitomize the rebellious, aggressive, fight the power mood than these Raiders and their fans. I mean, just look at them!
But there was no bigger boon to the Raider nation than the iconic reference in the 1991 film Boyz in the Hood where NWA member Ice Cube proudly showed off his Raider pride.
And let’s not forget it wasn’t only Ice showin off his pride. It’s a shame Eazy E beefed with his NWA crew despite his fandom.
The Silver and Black became a symbol of West Coast Rap and West Coast Rap became the standard for hip hop for over a decade. And even though we can pour out 40s for Eazy, Tupac and Ice-T’s cred, the LA Raider nation lives on even in the virtual world.
4. The Fresh Prince
Let’s just dedicate this part to the MJ of TV, Mr. Will Smith for his epic role as the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Not only was the Fresh Prince funny for the whole family, but it propelled Will Smith to A-List acting stardom, finally reaching big screen success with Men in Black and Independence Day. And TFPBA successfully took the torch of Alpha predominantly African American cast TV program from The Cosby Show until giving it up to…um…to the uh…to The Wire?
Anyways, for a show that featured so many memorable scenes, from the obvious Carlton dance to sad moments and to the fantastic Dad scene, let’s not forget what it did to support the cause of 90s fashion. Obviously the hat above is indicative of Will Smith’s willingness to push the clothing color boundaries.
Whether it was on the show itself…
or for some reason even taking it outside the studio and into public…
But we’ll always remember him for making sure he had at least of foot of brim keeping the sun out of his eyes. Maybe its a Scientology thing.
And while where here, let’s give a nod to The Sandlot for Smalls ridiculous baseball cap that explained why he got beat up so much.
3. The Kid
Yes, MJ was the athlete kids revered and wanted to play like the most, but Ken Griffey Jr was by far the most loved. The Kid had everything from that smile that had to have been the offspring of Madison Ave and Hollywood…
To the sweetest swing in all of baseball
And what kid didn’t have this lying around
And I still think that he’s the reason that Little Big League flopped. I mean how do you make The Kid the Bad Guy!??!?!
Of course, all this adoration was backed up by his other worldly skills on the field. With back to back 56 HR campaigns in 97 and 98, Griffey became a Super Duper star and, at the time, easy front runner to take the home run crown from Hank Aaron. Even his teams were fantastic, surrounded by other 90s MLB stars Randy Johnson, Edgar Renteria and Jay Buhner.
Then he was traded to Cincinnati and that’s history. We’ll always remember Seattle Griffey, the Coolest Kid on the diamond.
2. THE Snapback
This was a close one. The Hornets knew they had to stand out and combining aqua blue with royal purple sure was a way to grab some attention. It was Nno doubt the inspiration for the NBA’s color experiment during the mid 90s Canadian expansion into Toronto and Vancouver. We’re pretty sure this alone almost murdered basketball in Canada completely. But besides getting prominent air time on the Charlotte based Nick show My Brother and Me and propelling Muggsy Bouges career to new heights (haha) that culminated in a Space Jam cameo, the LJ and Alonzo era Hornets weren’t enough of a talent on the court to become a mainstay in the national sports mindset.
Still, when you earn your own Grantland tribute by Rembert Browne, you know you’ve hit cultural gold.
1. The D2
The 1990s were the Golden Age for this fantastic genre. In ten years, we were blessed not only with the aforementioned Angels in the Outfield and Sandlot, but classics like Little Giants, Rookie of the Year, Cool Runnings, Space Jam, and Little Big League. But nothing came close to the cultural resonance as the Mighty Ducks. And while the first Ducks movie inspired the Quack! chant, Adam Banks wrist turn, and the Flying V, Coach Bombay and company made their best splash in the D2 sequal.
Here are my arguments for why D2 is THE best 90s kids sports movie:
Not only were most were Joshua Jackson, Goldberg and the rest of the old gang back for more ice hockey shenanigans, but we were joined by some cult favorites. Speedskating Luis Mendoza was played by Mike Vitar, star of the Sandlot as Benny the Jet Rodriguez. I mean, that easily takes the award for best sports movie double dip from Kevin Costner and the guy who played Coach Dan Devine in Rudy and Eddie Harris in Major League. And lest not forget 9 year old Mik’s super crush Julie “The Cat” Gaffney, the sure-gloved goalie from Maine that somehow didn’t start a single game despite Goldberg’s historically awful play. And did we mention that the actress turned out pretty well for herself:
Good job 9 year old Mik and suck on that all you Marguerite Moreau fans.
(Editor’s note: retroactive bonus points for her appearance as the love interest in Rookie of the Year. Minus points since that movie was terrible).
The Theme Song
The theme song is nothing short of epic and gets every male between the ages of 25 and 35 pumped and want to skate around your nearest ice pond waving the Stars and Stripes.
The Knuckle Puck
Despite it not being the original movie and the team somehow struggling against the junior hockey team from Caribbean Island nation Trinidad & Tobago (I mean, seriously!??!! Do they even have enough water in one location to try to freeze into an ice rink?), the fact that the D2 writers went urban is the coup de grace. Keenan Thompson as Russ Tyler introduced America to The Knucklepuck, by far the coolest thing to happen to hockey since, well since Mighty Ducks 1. As a born and raised Angeleno, I was always warned about the dangers of the streets in South Central LA, but how was I to know how rough the street hockey scene really was in Compton. Dr. Dre never warned us about this.
And I even forgot the little Asian-American skater! Seriously, I even contemplated purchasing this Russ Tyler USA jersey, only to decide against it since it didn’t say HENDRICKS on it. The fact that Keenan Thompson has been on TV ever since is a bonus.
Down With Iceland!
Let’s not forget that the USA-Iceland shootout not only made Iceland the mortal enemy America needed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but brought us this YouTube clip that’s surely worthy of the title “The Most Epic Scene in movie history”. (PS and yes, that’s Julie coming in between the pipes…….)
And if we need a trump card, can we say that any of the other 90s kids sports movies inspired it’s own actual real life sports franchise?
Since this entire article was an exercise in the uniquely beautiful and awful 90s fashion that seeped into the sports landscape, we can’t forget that these jerseys and hats predominately sported Mauve and Jade Green
So while the hat might not have been the most worn piece of headgear by 8 year olds across the country, those colors and that logo no doubt raises a level of inspiration in those same boys to this very day.
And with that, I rest my case. Here’s to you D2