Whatever you think of the advertising patches that were worn in the A’s/Bosox series in Japan, one question remains: Why is uniform advertising used exclusively in these season-opening series in Japan?
Our resident expert on all things Far Eastern, Jeremy Brahm, tried to address this question in Tuesday’s comments:
Since the beginning of the MLB tours of Japan, two Japanese newspapers — the Yomiuri Shimbun (owner of the Yomiuri Giants) and the Mainichi Shinbun (which owned the Mainichi Orions, which are now the Chiba Lotte Marines — the paper currently has no ownership stake) — would split who sponsored the tour every two or three years. This has continued until recently.
Now, with the season-opening games, Yomiuri gets sponsorship precedence, because they own a portion of the Tokyo Dome and because of their historical support for MLB Tours.
The tours in the past have always had some sort of sponsorship. Now there are presenting sponsors, such as Ricoh — similar to the situation with a college bowl game.
Even after some private follow-up e-mailing with Jeremy, I don’t fully understand this, but the basic gist seems to be, “Professional baseball in Japan, including all-star tours by MLB players, has always included sponsorship, so that’s just the way it’s gonna be when you’re playing in Japan.”
Anyway: You probably know that American ballplayers have been visiting Japan for decades. The Yankees toured the Asian country in 1934 (details here), and there have been many, many all-star exhibition tours over the years. Most of these tours have had their own logos, and Jeremy has compiled some of the more recent ones: 1986, 1990, 1996, another one from 1996, 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006.
Some additional notes:
• I never really paid any attention to MLB tours of Japan until the autumn of 2004, when a larger version of this photo caught my eye. Although you can’t tell in that thumbnail-size shot, Carl Crawford was wearing the road jersey that Tampa would eventually wear in 2005, with different lettering than the 2004 version — and, yes, he was also wearing an advertising sleeve patch. As it turns out, all the MLB players on that all-star tour were wearing Æon sleeve patches and helmet decals (additional views here and here), along with cap patches. Plus Roger Clemens was sporting some truly awful-looking hosiery logo creep. This all looks pretty clownish to me, but hey, these were just exhibition games — they’re allowed to look clownish. Maybe it’s even better if they look clownish, just to reinforce the point that the games don’t really matter and that it’s all in fun. But I still can’t get my head around the idea of wearing uniform advertising for games that count.
• The A’s and Mariners were supposed to open the 2003 season in Japan, but the series was cancelled due to security concerns arising from the Iraq War, which had just started. Programs, however, had already been printed.
• And just to bring us back to the present, Nicholas Schiavo notes that an Oakland player — not sure who — was wearing a sweatshirt in the dugout during Tuesday’s game. And what did that sweatshirt say? “2006 MLB Playoffs.” Wonder if he got fined for not wearing the official ad-sponsored Japan Series version.
Pinstriped Mystery Solved (More or Less): Big thanks to all who responded to Monday’s entry (which focused on an old photo showing Dodgers wearing pinstripes, as seen at left) by suggesting that I get in touch with Dodgers team historian Mark Langill, a man whose acquaintance I clearly should have made long ago. I called his office on Monday afternoon and left a voicemail. When he called me back a few hours later, he said he was standing in the third base coach’s box at the Los Angeles Coliseum, where the Dodgers will be playing a throwback exhibition game against the Red Sox this Saturday. (By coincidence, the Dodgers’ 1958-style uniforms for that game are being furnished by Ebbets Field Flannels, and I was actually in the Ebbets office in Seattle a few weeks ago when the Dodgers called to order the uniforms. The good news: They’re going with classic wool flannels. The bad news: They’re using NOBs, which is soooooo bogus for a 1958 throwback. Sigh.)
Anyway: I e-mailed the photo in question to Langill, who immediately identified it as a 1964 spring training shot of minor league coaches. Apparently the Dodgers had several low-level minor league teams in their system that wore pinstripes along with the classic Dodgers script (Mark isn’t sure which ones are represented in the photo, but he’s working on that), and they were wearing “L.A.” caps because that’s what everyone wore for spring training purposes.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Cool old newspaper basketball uniform available here. … A little birdie tells me that the Braves’ long-rumored blue alternate jersey may make its debut in the team’s very first game of the season, this Sunday against the Nats. “GM Frank Wren wants it to be a big surprise,” reports my source. “The Braves have delayed putting out their merchandise catalog this year solely because the road alternate jersey is featured in it. The feeling is that by unveiling them in this fashion (nationally televised game on ESPN), sales will be through the roof as soon as the catalog is sent.” Nice to see uniforms reduced to nothing more than a sales gimmick. … Best view yet of the “Japan 2008” logo. … Looks like Manny was back to his old, skanky “B” logo yesterday. … Speaking of Manny, according to a small item in the middle of this story, MLB wouldn’t let him use his “red-barreled, Diablo brand bat” in Japan, so “he just grabbed some ‘Japanese wood,’ in the form of a couple of SSX models” (with thanks to Tom Horgan). … The “Baseball as America” traveling exhibit is currently residing at the National Constitution Center in Philly. A bonus uniform-centric program will take place there at on Saturday, April 19th, from noon to 3pm, featuring Mitchell & Ness prexy Peter Capolino, M&N researcher (and frequent Uni Watch contributor) Jared Wheeler, and several Phillies old-timers. I’m gonna try to make it to Philly for this event. Assuming my schedule cooperates, we’ll have a Uni Watch party later that same day. Details to come soon-ishly. … Speaking of Peter and Jared, they just sent me this 1943 Sporting News item that explains the origin of the Cardinals’ birds-on-the-bat logo. … New Netherlands soccer kit here, here, and here. … Guess which sporting event I won’t be attending? (As horrifyingly reported by Mike Alper.) … According to this story, the Astros will wear green caps in honor of Earth Day on April 22nd (good find by Jason Chapman). … We all know the old pre-Photoshop phenomenon of Topps airbrushing photos of players who”d been traded. This blog recently ran a contest to pick the most egregious example from this field of choices. Results here (great discovery by Jason McCarty). … As you may have heard over the past few days, the NFL is considering a ban on long hair (that sound you just heard was Minna H. screaming in horror). … You’ve heard of throwback uniforms? Check this out: throwback police squad cars (courtesy of Billy Duss). … Well, that was fun while it lasted. … Attention Tim Witesock: Here’s the eBay auction of your dreams (with thanks to Jason Libes). … Good number-retirement cartoon from last week’s New Yorker. … More new soccer kits: Switzerland, Austria, Croatia (courtesy of Chris Palatinus). … And more discussion of the new USA black jersey here (with thanks to Mark Coale). … New policy at Northern Illinois: Football players who “skip class, show up late for team meetings or otherwise fail to live up to [head coach Jerry] Kill’s standards” have to wear a yellow shirt with pink “I Let My Team Down” lettering. Idiotic details here (as forwarded by Dan Streed). … Minnesota’s two pro soccer teams have new logos (with thanks to Joel Dunn). … Todd Taylor says this is the story behind the Rays using the same boring insignia for their home and road jerseys: “They did that intentionally, to build name recognition for the new team name. They will go to ‘Tampa Bay’ on the roads next season.” … The whole sports/gang connection refuses to die (with thanks to Chris Flinn). … The long-rumored Miami Hurricanes black alternate jersey will apparently look like this. … Wanna design a new secondary logo for the Colts? Look here. … I was going through some old files and came across a bit of info sent my way five or six years ago by SABR researcher Maxwell Kates. At the time, there was no such thing as this blog or even the Uni Watch News Ticker, so I had no place to publish little tidbits. But now, dear reader, you get to read the following: “Is it true that Wayland Moore was high on acid when he designed those uniforms worn by the Braves between 1972 and 1979? I’ve heard that story once before, but I can’t vouch for its accuracy. When Moore first designed those uniforms, the Braves were actually supposed to have worn red on the road. Hank Aaron took one look at the uniform and said, ‘I’m not wearing that. Take whatever is red, and make it blue.’ Moore complied and later altered the Braves’ road uniforms according to Aaron’s wishes. Aaron and Eddie Mathews were the only ones shown the red uniforms. Also, just out of curiosity, why did the 1985 Texas Rangers wear their 1986 uniforms for the last month of the season? I know that had the 1979 Montreal Expos made the playoffs, they would have worn the ‘racing stripe’ uniforms that were introduced by the team in 1980. That’s in Brodie Snyder’s The Year the Expos Almost Won the Pennant.” All of this is news to me — anyone know more about any of these?