Got a note the other day from reader Mike Engle, who tipped me wise to an eBay item that, if legit, would definitely add a new chapter to the MLB database (or at least to my database — maybe everyone else knows about this already).
As you can see in the eBay listing, what we have here is supposedly a game-used Tim Wallach jersey with an “Expos” nameplate. According to the seller, “What is very unique about the jersey is [that] the Expos nameplate on the back is covering the name Fuentes, so instead of giving the rookies a new jersey, they just covered up the name with Expos.” Although he didn’t spell it out fully, what he appears to be saying is that this was done for September call-ups.
I’d never heard of this practice before, and I was rather skeptical, especially since there are tons of bogus “game-worn” jerseys floating around out there. So I checked with Bill Henderson, author of the awesome MLB Game Worn Jerseys of the Double Knit Era (which everyone reading this really ought to own), to see if he had any insights. His response:
I’ve seen jerseys like this before, like this one. I don’t have a for-sure explanation, but someone once told me that when NOB jerseys were sent to the minors where they didn’t use NOB, this was used as an alternative to either pulling the nameplate off the back (lots of work) or covering it with a blank nameplate.
Hmmmm, interesting. The minor league explanation would only make sense if the farm team had the same name as the big league club. And as it turns out, yes, Montreal’s Rookie League and low-A affiliates were indeed called the Expos back then, so it’s possible that this was a repurposed minor league jersey. But the idea of Wallach having worn the jersey in an MLB is much sexier. In lieu of any hard proof either way, let’s look at some evidence on each side of the question, beginning with factors that argue in favor of this having been an MLB jersey:
• Tim Wallach did indeed have a cup of coffee with the Expos toward the end of the 1980 season, appearing in five games.
• Although Wallach wore No. 29 for the rest of his career, he wore 58 during that brief 1980 stint with the ’Spos.
• The raglan sleeves match the Expos’ jersey style from 1980. So does the tagging.
• The eBay seller has 100% positive feedback, based on over 2000 transactions.
On the other hand:
• The Expos’ NOBs were radially arched back in 1980. So even if they did use “Expos” as a cover-up nameplate, it seems odd that the lettering would be vertically arched.
• Although you can see the name “Fuentes” underneath the team nameplate, the Expos didn’t have anyone on their roster named Fuentes in 1980 (or for the two seasons immediately before and after).
• I’m still having a hard time accepting that any MLB team would have done this.
If anyone knows more about this, I’m all ears.
Uni Watch Injury Report: Thanks to everyone who sent me kind wishes regarding yesterday’s
waterboarding oral surgery. I was pretty worried when I got to the doctor’s office and found him wearing — I shit you not — a purple-striped dress shirt. Fortunately, he changed to green scrubs a few minutes after that.
Anyway: I’m told that the procedure was a success (or at least that’s the preliminary assessment — I have to go back for a follow-up visit next week), and the post-op discomfort has been pretty manageable so far. Basically, my mouth feels like it’s in a sling, but not in a cast. In sports parlance, I’d say my status is “day-to-day.”
Worst part, at least for now, is that I can only eat oatmeal, pudding, yogurt, and similar squishibles. (Note to intern Nina Dubin: If you’ve got a few minutes, please head over here to Uni Watch HQ, and on the way pick up some steaks, chops, and a blender. Thanks.)
Uni Watch News Ticker: Shame on me for not remembering that the person shown in this photo (from yesterday’s Boston party report) was none other than Mario Fontana, aka the guy responsible for the great Little Fenway report about six weeks back. Sorry for the brain-lock, Mario. … Friendly reminder: Today and tomorrow are the last days for getting the 15% discount at Victory Pennants. Just enter the code “uniwatch001” at checkout. … The Texans will be wearing solid red tonight, which promises to be a design debacle for the ages. … Yesterday’s link to the Yankees design error in MLB 08 for Playstation 3 didn’t work, so here it is again. … Throwback jerseys are big holiday sellers in Pittsburgh (with thanks to Tom Konecny). … Bill Guerin’s four-stripe shoulder patch, representing the Isles’ four Stanley Cup championships, has been missing lately. Details here (with thanks to Peter Sowinski). … The Astros acquired pitcher Ryan Houston today. As several readers have pointed out, he will become the only current MLBer to wear his surname on the front and back of his jersey (at least when the ’Stros are on the road). Last player I can recall doing this was Curtis Pride, who played with the triple-A Nashua Pride a few years back. … Jere Smith has put together a great blog entry about the Massachusetts bicentennial patch the Red Sox wore in the mid-’70s. Check it out here. … The Brewers designated Matt Wise for assignment on Wednesday. But as this page explains, “Wise’s fate became obvious on Monday, when the Brewers introduced Gagne at Miller Park in a No. 38 jersey that still technically belonged to Wise” (excellent find by Dan Cichalski). … Cork Gaines has spotted Rays skipper Joe Moaddon (whose continued employment remains a deep mystery, but that’s another matter) wearing what appears to an alternate cap. Upon close inspection of the brim, this looks like a BP or fashion cap to me, but we’ll see. … File this one right next to the titanium necklace stories (along with the Tooth Fairy, the Great Pumpkin, etc.). … Did you know that there’s a number-retirement controversy lurking in Red Wings history? I didn’t, until Steve Moeller forwarded me this excellent story. Highly recommended reading. … Four NHL players are secretly wearing those heated skate blades that we first discussed back in October. Behind-the-scenes factoid: Over the past month or so, I’ve arranged on two occasions to test-drive the blades myself for an ESPN video shoot, but in each case the manufacturer has fucked up at the last minute, forcing us to cancel. Hope their product is better than their publicity department.
Tomorrow: A bunch of new Uni Watch raffle items, just in time for Christmas.