A really interesting subject came up in yesterday’s comments section: uniform cameos, meaning players who made very brief and easily overlooked appearances with a given team. It’s a great topic, and one that really shows the power of a uniform. Take Pete Rose, for example: It’s one thing to remember that he briefly played with the Expos in 1984, but actually seeing him in a Montreal uniform is pretty jarring. Uni cameos also serve as useful refresher courses in sports history — did you remember, for example, that Mike Piazza was a Marlin for about 10 minutes in 1998, or that Harmon Killebrew finished his career with a forgettable season in Kansas City? I confess that I had no idea Fergie Jenkins once wore a Phillies uni. And even if you know that Randy Johnson came up with the Expos, it’s still a bit of a mind-fuck to see him wearing Montreal threads.
The uni cameo is a flexible concept, so I want to narrow it down a bit. Like, okay, so Todd Zeile played 34 games with the Expos, but so what? The guy played for a gazillion different teams, so it doesn’t seem unusual to see him in any particular uniform. But seeing Franco Harris as a Seahawk, Curt Schilling as an Astro, Brett Favre as a Falcon, or Roger Maris as an Indian are all sort of hard for me to wrap my brain around. And of course certain player/uni pairings will just never compute, no matter how hard I stare at the photographic evidence.
To a certain extent, the question of what qualifies as a uni cameo is a function of personal perspective. The Pete Rose and Randy Johnson cases, for example, might not seem so unusual to someone who grew up in Montreal. Similarly, the sight of Willie Mays in a Mets uni seems perfectly normal to me, since I was a very enthusiastic eight- and nine-year-old Mets fan during Willie’s short tenure with the team. Also, it seems to me that more recent uni cameos (like, say, Armando Benitez as a Yankee) don’t pack as much of a punch, for three primary reasons: (1) Recent examples are fresher in our memories, so they don’t have as much of a surprise factor; (2) modern media coverage ensures that we’ll see much more of a player in a given uniform today than we would have 10 or 15 years ago, further diluting the impact; and (3) players move around so much these days that a cameo stint with a team doesn’t look as weird as it once did — nobody stays in one place long enough to establish a base-level look in the first place.
But that still leaves us plenty of fertile ground. In fact, I like this topic so much that I’m probably going to devote an ESPN column to this in the near future. So let’s compile as big a list as possible — send suggestions, links, and so on this-a-way. Big thanks in advance to all contributors, and bonus thanks to those who got the ball rolling yesterday.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Great tidbit from a reader who prefers not to be named: “Rob Cucuzza, the Yankees’ equipment manager, said that Gary Sheffield was very particular about his uniform, including some bizarre alterations. For example, he said Sheffield ‘would ask for 1/16th of an inch to be taken off his sleeve, but not from the bottom of the sleeve.’ Instead, Sheffield would ask to have the sleeve taken off his jersey, get the 1/16th of an inch taken from the top of the sleeve, and then have the sleeve re-attached. When you think about it, maybe it makes a little sense to give more room at the top of the shoulder, but I’ve never heard of anything like that.” … More on Carlos Guillen and his inside-out pockets: According to the second item on this page, the fine that Guillen was threatened with was $1000. And then there’s this: “Guillen usually wears one pocket out, either the left or right, ‘depending on who’s pitching.’ He called it a superstition and doesn’t see the point of having to change.” (With thanks to longtime Uni Watch Motor City bureau chief Doug Kalemba.) … Mark Liyeos notes that all the cold weather has brought a welcome resurgence of home plate umps wearing blazers. … You know your mesh jersey is too see-through when you can make out the undershirt logo through the jersey (as spotted by Jeremy Brahm). … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: For the second time in four months, I forgot that the 1983 Cowboys were not the only NFL team whose captains wore “C” designations. There’s at least one other example: the 1994 Patriots. … Turns out the President isn’t the only one who gets free swag. “It’s from the National Book Festival Author’s breakfast, whatever the hell that is,” writes Marcus Ramsey. “Here’s the thing: That looks like a Clippers jersey, but Baron Davis plays for Golden State and Diana Taurasi plays for Phoenix.” … Really interesting link here describing how baseball caps are made (with thanks to David Soline).