The spirit of Uni Watch was alive and well in Major League Baseball broadcast booths two nights ago, as several announcers turned their attention away from the play-by-play and toward weightier uni-related matters. It started in Denver, where Rockies broadcasters Drew Goodman and George Frazier engaged in the following bit of chatter about Anthony Reyes’s stirrups:
Goodman: Anthony Reyes, he’s gone old-time, George — looks like Red Schoendienst!
Frazier: You didn’t have a choice when I came up with the Cardinals. That’s the way you had to wear your uniform, with all the stripes showing.
Goodman: You know what? That’s blinding.
Frazier: I think it looks great.
Goodman [clearly unable to cope with the magnificence of baseball hosiery]: It, it just looks different.
Frazier: That’s ’cause everyone’s used to looking at the baggy pants, and…
Goodman [flustered, stuttering]: Even when the guys wear the — I mean, look at Jamey Carroll. He has ‘em pulled up, but it’s all black.
Frazier: Those stripes on those socks have been there an awfully long time. When a call-up came up with the Cardinals, Red Schoendienst said, “Show the stripes. You haven’t been here long enough.”
Let’s not dignify Goodman’s stupidity with further discussion. In any case, this banter was nothing compared to what took place in the top of the 4th inning of the Mets/Cubs game, as Gary Cohen, Ron Darling, and Keith Hernandez held forth on a wide variety of uni-related topics. It started with Greg Maddux at the plate and Juan Pierre on deck, as the camera zoomed in on Pierre’s shins:
Cohen: Hey, look at those!
Darling: Those are like football socks.
Cohen: Stirrups! Nobody wears stirrups anymore.
Darling: Maddux right there, he has the…
Cohen: Faux stirrups. Which is also old-fashioned — just not as old-fashioned as the actual stirrups themselves. [Maddux strikes out, Pierre comes to bat.] Now explain for the youngsters, who’ve never seen this before, how you wear stirrup socks. [Camera shows a stadium poster of Tommie Agee's stirrups.] Are you guys old enough to remember?
Darling: Absolutely. Yeah, I wore stirrups — didn’t know anything but that.
Hernandez: I was a guy who’d cut ‘em under the soles, where the seam was. They’d always give you the ones like Pierre has — too low, they’re ugly. You gotta get ‘em higher. So you’d put an elastic band, you’d sew it in at the bottom of the stirrups, where you cut ‘em. Then you get a little elevation! You always gotta show your stripes. That was the one thing, when I came over here, the Mets didn’t have stripes on their socks, and it so disappointed me, because I was used to the Cardinals’ stripes…
Cohen: The Cardinals are famous for the stripes. Rick Ankiel, before he melted down, used to wear those striped socks.
Hernandez: The Red Sox and the Cardinals have the best socks in baseball. [Hernandez is apparently unaware that the Red Sox hose have been stripe-free for several years.]
Cohen: But nobody sees them anymore.
Darling: You talk about stirrups, I bet there are a lot of young players now who wouldn’t know what sanitaries are. You’d come in and there’d be a big box of sanitary socks that you would wear underneath your stirrups.
Hernandez: The clubhouse guys would all have about six pairs of sanitaries in our lockers, on the hooks.
Cohen: They still have sanitary socks. But you know what they’re used for now — putting balls or bats in, to protect them.
Darling: Or rosin. They use it on the on-deck circle. [Camera focuses on Jose Reyes's shins.]
Hernandez [sarcastically]: That’s a great style right there.
Cohen: You can’t even see the shoes, much less the socks.
Hernandez: Who’s his tailor?
Darling: There’s a seamstress somewhere saying, “You’ve gotta bring that up a notch!”
Cohen: These days, you walk around the clubhouse and all you see are guys stretching out their pants and taking the elastic out of the bottom.
Darling: The one thing that’s different now, a lot of the players wear their uniforms a lot baggier than they did in the ’70s and ’80s. [Pierre walks. Camera shows the ballboy.]
Cohen: There are the solid-colored socks.
Hernandez: Is that how you wore yours, Ron?
Darling: No, I wore my pants kind of low, and I had stirrups. [Image of Darling, circa mid-'80s, appears on the screen.] See, there’s the stirrups. [Image of Daring is replaced by contemporaneous image of Hernandez.]
Hernandez: There, look at that! Now that is…
Darling: You look like you’re doing the merengue!
Hernandez: I like my socks. That looked pretty hot. [Camera shifts to a fan wearing a Hernandez jersey.]
Cohen: Bet that guy’s not wearing stirrups.
Darling: He’s just hoping for Livan Hernandez to be traded here.
Cohen: If that happens, he won’t be wearing 17 [Hernandez's old number], I can tell you that. Because if Keith got upset when Jose Lima wore 17…
Hernandez: When [Dae Sung] Koo wore 17 last year, I got hot. I read Charlie the riot act. [This is a reference to Mets equipment manager Charlie Samuels, who assigns the uni numbers.]
Darling [cracking up]: Well it really worked, because then he gave it to Lima!
Cohen: Y’know, talking about Juan Pierre, he doesn’t just have the stirrups, he also does something else that nobody else does: He wears his hat under his helmet, which guys used to do, but I can’t think of anyone else who does it now. [Pierre is in fact the only current MLBer who does this.]
Hernandez [getting back to socks]: Another thing, look at that shot there, it gives the umpire a good look at your knees for calling balls and strikes. There’s a difference in color there. If you wear the long, baggy pants, he might…
Cohen: Misinterpret where your knee is?
Hernandez: Yeah, it’s gonna be camouflaged.
Cohen [a tad dubiously]: Yeah.
Hernandez: I’m serious! The umpire needs to know where the knees are!
Cohen: Then he should wear his pants up around his thighs.
Cohen: Then the umpire would think the strike zone was even higher.
Hernandez: Then you’d have people fainting in the stands. You can’t have that. [Inning ends.]
Cohen [as camera shows Pierre's legwear one last time]: Take your stirrups and go to the bottom of the 4th.
It’s hard to know what to say about all this, except that Hernandez is actually right for a change. (Indeed, compare to his stirrups to mine and you’ll see a marked similarity.) The real problem, which you can’t really discern from the transcript, is that the entire discussion was held with this sort of tongue-in-cheek, “Can you believe we’re actually talking about this?” tone. This, of course, just trivializes the issue, instead of treating it like the national security matter it so obviously is. Rest assured none of these guys will work for the forthcoming Uni Watch Network, which should be launching shortly.
As if all this Monday-night uni chatter weren’t enough, there was still more last night: According to Chris Andringa, “In the top of the 3rd inning, the WGN announcers (Brenly and Kasper) mentioned how fans may notice that Juan Pierre was no longer wearing his ‘blue camo’ undershirt, because Pierre received a letter from the ‘fashion police.’ Therefore, his undershirt was solid blue. Brenly had a minor conniption about it, sarcastically commenting how he was glad Pierre was allowed to wear his normal shoes, because the shoes ‘were at least 51% solid blue’ and added a disgusted sigh while questioning how ‘they’ (the fashion police) could actually come up with a quantitative percentage of the amount of blue in an undershirt.” (Big thanks to Andringa for that report, and bonus points for his excellent deployment of “conniption.”)
And just to exemplify Gary Cohen’s mention of players stretching out their pants, this item appeared yesterday.
Underbrim Update: Good analysis by Andrew Dillon: “Both Detroit daily papers have run little features [here and here] about Marcus Thames and his mother, Veterine. She was paralyzed when he was five years old and has never seen him play ball in person. I imagine the ‘VET’ on his underbrim is some sort of tribute to her.”
Meanwhile, lots of readers have pointed out that our latest underbrim scribe is Bobby Howry of the Cubs. James Huening provided this large screen-grab — “not that you’ll be able to decipher anything,” he wrote. But thanks to the magic of Photoshop, I brightened up the shot to reveal the word “Kids,” which is presumably part of a larger message (like, say, “Kids, don’t grow up to be Cubs fans”).
Uni Watch News Ticker: Big thanks to everyone in yesterday’s comments section who identified John Pacella as the mystery Met whose cap always used to fall off, as seen here and referenced here. … Good catch by Dan Lichterman, who notes that Nick Punto wears a Cool Flo helmet when batting right-handed but uses a conventional lid when batting from the left side. … Interesting note from Curt Wilson, who writes: “This year marks the 100th game between two high schools — Easton, Pennsylvania, and Philipsburg, New Jersey — played annually on Thanksgiving morning. To celebrate the 100th game, the two teams will be wearing throwback uniforms.” … Someone really needs to button up. … Mike MacDougal made his White Sox debut last nite, threw 11 pitches, and kept his cap on his head for every one.
Tomorrow: Full coverage of Tsuyoshi Shinjo’s Japanese All-Star Game antics.