Think Pink

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Everyone’s youth features some sort of traumatic memory that causes lasting damage for years to come, whether it’s witnessing a horrific car crash or walking in on your parents at an intimate moment. But for Mike Raymer, it was — well, let’s have him tell it in his own words:

I went to a small school in western New York. Each year we played this school called Springville in basketball. One season they came rolling into my school wearing these things. Needless to say, it left a lasting image in my brain.

Recently I finally did a little investigative work. The current athletic director at Springville was good enough to go digging around the school basement to find the pink uniforms and he let me come in to take the photos. I asked him what the story was with the pink and he said there were two theories floating around:

1. The company that made the uniforms just sent the wrong color. Springville normally wears purple (sorry) and yellow, Minnesota Vikings colors. In the photos you can see the purple color in the trim.

2. The basketball coach at the time was a real hardass who told his guys that if they went into an opposing team’s gym wearing pink, they’d have to play extra tough.

I like theory #2 myself. I’m not sure how many seasons Springville wore these, or the exact years. I just know these things should be in some kind of museum. The warmup pants alone left me speechless [here’s the matching top], and the shorts were really short.

And if these things made a lasting impression on Raymer, imagine the poor kids who had to wear them.

Underbrim Update: As most of you know, underbrims used to be green, and now they’re usually gray, except for the couple of teams who use black. The team that usually gets credit for sparking the move away from green is the Reds, who according to several accounts switched to gray underbills sometime in the mid-1970s (the exact year is a matter of some dispute), after a government report indicated that gray was easier on the eyes.

But Mark Shires, who works as a trainer for the double-A Bowie Baysox, recently pointed me toward this 1996 article, in which longtime baseball executive Syd Thrift claims to have introduced the gray underbill back in 1971, when he was running the Baseball Academy, a Florida instructional facility for prospects in the Royals’ system. Here’s the key excerpt:

[Thrift] went so far as to change the color of his team’s baseball caps — because of the eyes.

That came about as the result of a conversation 25 years ago with a friend, John Nash Ott, founder of the Environmental Health and Light Research Institute in Sarasota, Fla.

Ott told Thrift that eyes absorb energy from sunlight, energy that can influence things as diverse as blood pressure and cholesterol level.

Further, certain colors such as red, orange, yellow and green absorb much less light than colors at the other end of the spectrum.

Ott asked Thrift, ”Why do you have all that green in the cap brims?”

Thrift replied that was how baseball always did it.

Ott convinced Thrift that light reflects off the underside of the visor, and that if the visor was gray, it would absorb more of the light’s energy and the players actually would feel stronger.

”I called the New Era Cap Company and got ‘em to switch all our caps to gray,” Thrift said. ”In retrospect, I wish we had patented it. We could have called it Academy Gray or Thrift-Vision.”

Okay, coupla thoughts here:

• This story, even if true, doesn’t necessarily contradict the notion that the Reds were the first team to wear gray underbills on the MLB level, because the Baseball Academy was for prospects. It’s not clear when the Royals themselves actually switched over from green to gray, but I’m trying to find out.

• Any system that tries to equate light absorption with cholesterol levels sounds a tad fishy, no? This sounds only half a step removed from a quack nutritionist telling you to drink three horseradish smoothies a day because it’ll increase your gamma globulins or something.

• “Thrift-Vision”? Please.

Meanwhile, Leigh MacArthur has turned up a photo of the single-A Bakersfield Blaze’s orange underbrims, which are apparently used only for the team’s BP caps.