New ESPN column today — here’s the link.
Meanwhile: When Gary Gaetti retired early in the 2000 MLB season, it appeared that he was the last hitter to have worn a no-earflap batting helmet (a distinction he later lost, but we’ll deal with that in a minute), so I wrote a short column about earflaps. In that column, I wrote that an early earflap breakthrough came in 1963, when “Earl Batty of the Twins created a makeshift flap by attaching a metal plate to the side of his batting helmet.”
Coupla problems there: For starters, the proper spelling is “Battey.” Secondly, I should mentioned that he’d twice had his cheekbones broken by pitches, which is why he became an earflap pioneer. Worst of all, I couldn’t find a photo of Batt(e)y’s improvised flap, so I was kinda operating in the dark there. I still hadn’t found a photo as of August 2006, when I mentioned Battey in this blog entry and asked if anyone could provide an image. That prompted the following response from Ralph Swan in the comments section:
If you can get your hands on a Twins 1963 or ’64 yearbook, I vividly remember a shot of Earl Battey circling the bases after a home run with a very weird ear flap sticking out from his helmet. … I’m sure I have this yearbook somewhere in my attic, but it’s probably 140 degrees up there (Oklahoma heat), and I’m not motivated enough to find it for you.
I meant to call the Twins and ask if they’d be willing to look through their yearbooks for me, but I was busy, so I put it off. Then I forgot about it. And then another year passed. And then, a couple of days ago, I got a note from reader Gil Batzri, who pointed me toward … wait for it … this.
Halle-fucking-lujah! Okay, so it’s an illustration, not a photo, but it’ll do. Now we can finally see what Battey was up to. Gotta love how endearingly makeshift it was, much like this.
Incidentally, the site where Gil discovered this image, TwinsCards.com, is a major find — loads of images from old baseball cards, magazines, scorecards, and lots more. They’ve got dozens of additional pics of Battey, one of which has a hint of an odd-looking earflap, although it’s tough to be sure. I’d like to see more, so hey, Ralph Swan, has your attic cooled off yet? Let’s see that yearbook photo!
As for Gaetti, he and Tim Raines were the last two players to go sans earflaps. When Raines retired after the 1999 season, it appeared that Gaetti was the last man standing, by virtue of the handful of games he played in 2000. But Raines came out of retirement in 2001 and continued to play the season after that. His 2002 campaign with the Marlins was the last gasp of resistance against the revolution that Earl Battey had begun nearly 40 years earlier.
ALL MEMBERS, PLEASE READ: Big thanks to the many of you who responded to yesterday’s call to help restore missing names to the membership roster. To those who missed it: A recent software glitch caused about 90 names to be deleted from the roster, so I’m trying to restore them. If you’re a member in good standing, please go to the roster listing and see if your name is there. If it’s missing, please e-mail me with your name, membership uni number, membership level, and why you chose your number. If your name linked to a photo, please re-send it. If you want to help speed up the process even more, pick out your card design from the card gallery and send me the URL for that as well. Thanks!
Uni Watch News Ticker: The Rockies appear to be determined to stick with their black vests (with thanks to Doug Mooney). … The Jets will be wearing their Titans throwbacks this Sunday, and they look pretty sharp (except for, of course, the truncated shoulder stripes). Details and lots more photos here. … Chad Cate sent along this photo of a long-ago baseball team. That’s his great-grandfather at top-center. … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: If you’ve been dying to see a video showing how the Detroit Lions’ uniforms get laundered, here’s your chance. … Also from yesterday: Lots of great old Lions pics, including this killer shot of Bobby Layne (although I think that’s actually from his Steelers days). What’s that sleeve patch? And what’s all the fine print on his helmet –a primitive warning decal? Meanwhile, look at this. Can’t decide what I like better — the jacket or that square-toed kicker’s shoe. And man, I always loved those old ponchos. … The State of Tennessee is very 10-centric lately. … Apparently this was worn by a Quebecois rock star in the 1960s (with thanks to Zach Parrott). … Amusing rant here about the new NHL uniforms (with thanks to Matt Sapanara). … More player complaints of the NHL unis, too — check out the second entry on this Q&A page (Doug Mooney again). … Reprinted from last night’s comments, a report from Mike from Queens: “During the Islanders/Rangers game tonight, Eddie Olczyk said that Jaromir Jagr used to use CCM sticks but is now using a Reebok stick. Since the Reebok sticks are thinner, the team’s trainer had to add extra padding to Jagr’s gloves to offset the new feel. I find it hard to believe that a Hall of Fame scorer like Jagr would consent to using a different stick for marketing reasons, but that’s what I get out of it. Uni and logo-creep implications abound.” … Scott Turner took time out from designing membership cards to find some great old uniforms for sale on eBay — look here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. … Reprinted from last night’s comments: If you saw an article whose headline included the words “stirrups” and “Mets,” you’d figure it’d be right up my alley, right? Wrong. … Also from last night: Habs netminder Carey Price made his NHL debut last night but apparently his new mask hasn’t yet been painted, because he wore a all-white model. Meanwhile, Sens goalie Brian Elliot made his NHL debut while wearing his U. of Wisconsin mask. … One of the Rockies made a photocopy of an NFL captain’s patch and taped it to Troy Tulowitzki’s batting practice jersey. Details (but no photo, alas) about halfway through this article (with thanks yet again to Doug Mooney).