Remember back in July when I wrote about the “futuristic” Royals/Mariners game from 1998, which led to all the similarly themed games in 1999? I’m happy to announce that one of the game-used Royals jerseys from that game is now in my possession. And within a week, one of you will have it in your possession.
I’ll get to the jersey in a minute. But first, that entry back in July led to a lot of interesting responses regarding that futuristic game, beginning with a missive from Mariners marketing VP Kevin Martinez, who’s a regular Uni Watch reader. He corrected one of my points (I had written that the umps wore their regular uniforms, but Martinez noted that they actually had metallic silver shirts) and then provided some backgound info:
It was Ken Griffey Jr.’s decision to wear the jerseys untucked and caps backward. Junior also spray-painted several teammates’ shoes and gloves silver. The uniforms, while certainly bold, got even more out of control when our players decided to cut the sleeves off the undershirts. The photo of Dan Wilson, who did not cut his sleeves, is a better representation of how the unis were supposed to look.
Our intent with the promotion was to simply to do something fun for one of our 81 home games and try something that had never been done. We drew over 42,000 for a game against the Royals — a fairly successful promotion. MLB took the idea and sold it to Century 21 the next season. We did not participate at home, only on the road. We did it once in ’98 and we were done with it.
Working in this game for 16 seasons now, it remains one the most memorable (and strangest) nights in my career. Watching the players in the clubhouse alter their jerseys and spray-paint shoes and gloves is something I will never forget … or repeat.
Reader Tim Conley offered some additional recollections:
I actually watched that game live. The M’s did wear their jerseys untucked for awhile, but [Royals manager] Tony Muser complained to the umpires and eventually got the umps to force Seattle to tuck in their jerseys. His reasoning was that an M batting with his jersey untucked was more easily hit by a pitch and could earn a cheap trip to first base.
But the most intriguing response came from my ESPN.com colleague (and massive Royals fan) Rob Neyer. Not only had he attended the game, but he’d bid on — and won — one of the Royals jerseys that were auctioned off after the game. “It’s just been hanging in my closet ever since,” he wrote, “and it’s so Godawful-ugly that I really don’t know why I still have it.” Then, in an incredibly magnanimous gesture, he offered to donate the jersey for me to raffle off, as long as I let him write a small accompanying essay. This is sort of like saying, “I’ll do this really nice thing for you, but only if you also let me do this other really nice thing.” So course I said yes. With no further ado, I hereby turn the floor over to Rob:
- Ah, the summer of 1998. I was crazy in love, I wasn’t burdened with a job that occupied a great deal of my time, and, for perhaps the first time in my adult life, I was blessed with a small bit of discretionary income.
I was living in Seattle then. It was the 18th of July, and the Royals were in town. The Royals were my team. For that game, the Mariners came up with what they called “Turn Ahead to the Future” — 2027, supposedly — and the most visible feature would be “futuristic” uniforms. And I have to say, from my perch in the upper deck the Royals’ jerseys really didn’t look so bad. They were sleeveless, which I’ve always liked, and nicely complemented by coordinated undershirts. I don’t mind canary yellow when it’s accompanied by Royal blue. So you’ll understand why I bid $75 on Jose Rosado‘s jersey.
Why Rosado? Because I didn’t figure I could afford Johnny Damon’s jersey, and because I didn’t know just how good Sal Fasano would someday become (yes, that’s a joke). Rosado, meanwhile, was only 23, and just one year earlier he’d been Kansas City’s lone All-Star. On a generally boring, veteran-laden team, Rosado was one of the few interesting players.
So I bid on Rosado’s jersey, as well as that of coach Frank White (a reminder of better seasons). Then I waited. A few weeks later, a notice arrived in the mail: I had won! A check was dispatched, and soon a package arrived.
OMFG. Trust me: As bad as those jerseys might look in the photos, when you’re holding one in your hands it looks much, much worse. Oh, there’s nothing terribly wrong with the basic design, especially if you’re not averse to bright yellow and Royal blue. But what I couldn’t see from my upper-deck perch was that all the emblems and numbers on the jerseys were ironed on, just like cheap T-shirts. I couldn’t see that the fabric was some beastly synthetic not designed for laying against one’s skin [that would be nylon Dazzle, more commonly found in the NBA — PL]. What I also didn’t know is that my $75 didn’t get me the Royal blue undershirt. And let me tell you, without the undershirt the jersey was not only unwearable, but practically unbearable, too.
Which I suppose is why it’s not been worn since the 18th of July, and instead rested on a hanger in various closets — Seattle, Boston, Seattle again, and finally Portland — for nearly a decade. If you enter the raffle, I wish you only the best of luck. But I have to say something I wish somebody’d said to me, way back in the summer of ’98: caveat victor.
Rob’s being a little too harsh there. For starters, while most of the graphics are indeed screen-printed (including, ugh, a replica-esque Majestic logo on the back), the numbers and “ROSADO” lettering are sewn, not screened. And hey, it doesn’t look so ba – okay, yes it does. But in a cool, “so bad it’s good” sort of way. It’s tagged as a size 44, but it fits bigger than that (it fit nicely on Uni Watch design director Scott M.X. Turner, who’s a 48).
This fine garment — a one-of-a-kind artifact from one of baseball’s oddest chapters — is being raffled off as of right now. To enter, send an e-mail to uniraffle at earthlink dot net (please note that this is not the usual Uni Watch address) by next Tuesday night, October, 2nd, at 10 p.m. eastern. One e-mail per person, please, but everyone enrolled in the Uni Watch membership program at the time of the drawing will automatically get three bonus entries (and if ever there was a good reason to sign up, this raffle is it). I’ll announce the winner a week from today.
Big thanks to Rob for his generosity, and good luck to all raffle entrants. I hope you’re as jazzed about this as I am.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Japanese throwback jerseys are now available here (with thanks to Eric Stangel). … Lots of good non-wire-service pics of the Eagles’ throwbacks here. … Nice little gallery of Schutt Ion pics here. Not sure what school that is, but I’m sure lots of you folks do (with thanks to Matt Olson). … Iowa State will unveil its new uniforms today. A little birdie tells me that none of these helmets made the cut. … We’ve talked many times about how an American flag sleeve patch should always be positioned with the blue field facing forward. Some teams get this wrong, but you wouldn’t expect one of them to be the Air Force Academy women’s soccer team (with thanks to Frank Mercogliano). … The 49ers have signed Michael Lewis. Thing is, as David Robins notes, they already have another Michael Lewis (plus Keith Lewis), which should make for an interesting nameplate decision. Last time I can remember this happening was when the Mets had two Bobby Joneses a few years back. … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: Great Bruins goalie mask photo gallery here. Be sure to click through to the last image, which shows Gerry Cheevers wearing a Massachusetts Bicentennial patch. … Speaking of which, comments section stalwart Teebz has a great series of NHL patch roundups on his blog — look here, here, and here. … Decent NHL uni-history gallery here, including one of the best Cooperalls shots ever. … … Jere Smith reports that the Fenway 8 is back, and is now right-side up! … Did you know American Indians have a distinctive foot shape? Nike did (as jointly spotted by Vince and Minna H.).