An interesting discussion broke out in Saturday’s comments section. First, a few people noticed a bunch of star-spangled caps being sold on MLB.com. They look like fashion caps, but, as several readers noted, they’re being sold in the “Men’s Authentic” category and the product pages all say, “Authentic cap worn on-field to show support for the Welcome Back Veterans Foundation.”
Welcome Back Veterans, it turns out, is an official MLB charity devoted to vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and reader Jonathon Binet quickly found this little item from Friday, which says “Welcome Back Veterans will be the focus at every Major League stadium during the July Fourth weekend and on September 11th.”
Does that mean MLB teams will be wearing the star-spangled caps on those dates? As it turns out, yes. That will be officially announced this afternoon at a press conference, which I’ll be attending, so I should have more info on this tomorrow.
• Why navy, by the way? Isn’t the blue in the American flag more of a royal?
• The White Sox and Reds had already announced plans to wear camouflage jerseys during the Fourth of July weekend. So I guess now they’ll be adding these caps to the mix.
• What about the Blue Jays? They’ve been given a Canadian flag version of the cap, which is somewhat weird on a couple of fronts. First of all, they’re playing on the road on the Independence Day weekend and on September 11th (and also on July 1st, which is Canada Day), so they’ll be wearing a foreign flag while playing in America and marking an American holiday. Secondly, is Welcome Back Veterans intended to help Canadian vets along with American ones? (There’s nothing on the charity’s web site to indicate one way or the other.) How many Canadian troops are even fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan?
• Does the September 11th component of this promotion mean that the Mets will no longer be wearing first responder caps on that date, as they’ve done ever since the World Trade Center attacks?
The bigger issue, of course, is whether the American flag is an appropriate motif for an on-field uniform element. I want to make it clear that I love the American flag design — a lot — but I hate how it’s become an all-purpose signifier for anything even vaguely patriotic, and how it gets slapped onto, or morphed into, every worthy cause (along with plenty of unworthy ones). When I see this, I don’t see a merging of two great designs; I see two great designs being cheapened, watered down, and compromised. This isn’t just less than the sum of its parts — it’s less than either one of its parts.
I think it’s also worth considering that a hefty percentage of today’s ballplayers aren’t American. Yes, they’re playing here, making tons of money here, and should wear whatever uniform they’re given, but I still find this a bit unseemly. It’s one thing to say they should stand and face the flag when the national anthem is played — that’s part of a big group display that involves the many thousands of people in the crowd. I can also see the rationale for a flag patch (although I think those are overdone). But it’s something else to make hundreds of foreign players wear the American flag motif as a central component of their uniform while they play, especially at a time when American military and foreign policies aren’t exactly making us lots of friends around the world.
Seems to me there were smarter ways to have gone about this. Why not have players wear a ruptured duck patch, which would not only honor veterans but also provide a valuable history lesson about baseball and the military? Why not just have everyone wear a flag sleeve patch, instead of a cap that will clash with so many teams’ uniforms? Why not stop creating a new uniform-related cause or issues for every day of the week? (Fortunately, I already have other plans for the Fourth of July, so I won’t have to watch.)
I hope to get more info at today’s press conference — details to follow tomorrow.
Raffle Results: The winners of the tickets for the Don Larsen perfect game screening are A.J. Carr and Michael Gawley. Thanks to all who entered. More raffles coming soon.
Uni Watch Family Crisis: Intern Emeritus Vince Grzegorek was handed a raw deal last Friday. The weekly paper where he works is merging with another paper, and a bunch of people — Vince included — will be pink-slipped in three weeks. And I don’t need to tell you that this is a tough time to be cast adrift in the media job market.
Vince, who worked with me on a daily basis for about a year, is a talented and extremely hard-working guy who deserves better. If you need some writing done — straight journalism, catalog copy, short-term, long-term, whatever — please consider hiring him. You can contact him (and request writing samples, a résumé, etc.) here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Awesome video clip here of Pat Venditte, the switch-pitcher who’s currently in the Yankees’ minor league system. Further coverage here, and here’s a great close-up of his glove (courtesy of Paul Wiederecht and Stephen King, respectively). … Hmmm, does the University of Wisconsin know about this? … The Cardinals have a new bullpen cart, sort of (with thanks to Jon Huensch). … The Timberwolves apparently have a new alternate logo. … Dutch soccer mania has led to a change in Swiss railway uniforms (bizarre find by Brendan Tarpey). … Nice old baseball uniforms here and here. … 1930s pair of stirrups here. … Look at the colored gloves that Spalding was offering way back in 1974! That page is from this catalog. … Tris Wykes has discovered that Frank Sinatra was given a Tidewater Sharks jersey in 1976. The Sharks played in the Southern Hockey League at the time. … “This past weekend I attended the finals of the Churchill Cup (an international rugby tournament run by the USA, Canada, and England rugby unions) in Chicago,” writes Caleb Borchers. “One of the England players had some problems with his sleeves, so a trainer came over and promptly chopped one of them off. Meanwhile, the USA debuted their white kit made by Canterbury (the red version was on the ticker a week or so ago). The dot-matrix pattern Canterbury uses usually looks like dandruff, but the USA has used a blue dot set that actually looks OK. Those Canterbury jerseys apparently aren’t the toughest, though. Mike Petri’s lasted about five minutes. They managed to get him a new one during a time out later.” … Reprinted from Saturday’s comments: Juan Grande found some really interesting old Little League photos from Pasco County, Florida. Check them out here, here, here, and here. Never seen that type of stripe pattern or that half-length zipper used for baseball before. … If you see Tim Donaghy at the craps table saying, “C’mon, daddy needs a new pair of shoes!,” this is why. … Jeff Knepper notes that Todd Helton had some pant cuff inconsistencies during Friday’s Mets/Rockies game. … Jeremy Brahm reports that this is what the Japanese Olympians will wear during the opening ceremonies in Beijing (additional details here, here, and here). Plus they have a separate outfit just for traveling to the games — it’s the blue one here. … Also from Jeremy: Here are the uniforms for the Japanese women’s badminton team. And what’s the deal with Turkey’s women’s volleyball team, which has Adidas jerseys and shorts but Nike kneepads? … History mystery, courtesy of Peter Kotas: Tigers wore uni numbers on their right sleeve of their road uni in the late ’60s. But when they closed out the Cardinals to win the 1968 World Series, Bill Freehan’s number was on his left sleeve. Other shots of Freehan from that era show him with the proper right-sleeve number, so was this just a World Series glitch? … Jason Smith notes that Jack Wilson had a torn sleeve patch yesterday. An anonymous source with the Pirates reports that this is nothing new: “I’ve attached a shot of Jack from a photo shoot we did with him during Spring Training this year. While we supplied the vest for the shoot, I believe this was the shirt that he came in wearing. As you can see, the logo is torn here too. I wasn’t present for this shoot, so no one noticed the tear at the time. I had the Photoshop the entire thing out when I used the photo. … Roger Federer will be wearing this design at Wimbledon (with thanks to Brinke Guthrie). … Chris Flinn got a photo of the Cardinals’ new BP pitcher, Dennis Schutzenhofer, and his lengthy NOB. … My ESPN.com colleague Rob Neyer, who I’d never met in person before, came through NYC over the weekend and convened a get-together in Manhattan. Also on hand was Josh Prager, who wrote that amazing article a few years back about how the 1951 Giants were stealing signs (full text available here — highly recommended). Great guys. … Negro Leagues throwback yesterday in Kansas City (additional pics here and here, plus it looks like Ray Durham suffered a torn stirrup). … Good article here about the Seahawks’ laundry crew.