A few weeks ago I asked baseball players who wear their pants low-cuffed to tell me why they do so. I got a ton of interesting responses, but none more surprising than the one that came from our own resident scholar and sock stripe stickler, Rick “Ricko” Pearson, who I never would’ve figured for a low-cuffer. Here’s the communiqué he sent me a few days ago:
I cannot tell a lie.
• It’s the most comfortable way to wear baseball pants I’ve ever found, and I’ve tried ’em all in the last 55 or so years.
• Stirrups, while great looking, are a hassle. At least the way I wear them — I tape the the undersocks, tape the stirrups (hate it when they sag), so after awhile (say in a long tournament day of four or more games) they actually start to hurt. Plus, if you’re changing in the car after work for a regular weeknight league game, they’re just one extra thing to screw around with.
• Sometimes I do have need of wearing a shin pad of some sort [which is better tucked under the long pants].
• Style, like it or not, is a factor in baseball/softball, etc. Stirrups with stripes showing haven’t been even remotely common/typical in MLB since the late ’60s to early ’70s. I believe the last time I was on a team with team-issued striped stirrups, or even non-ribbon stirrups, was 1978. Over 30 years ago. I don’t wear Edwardian suits these days, either.
• I even understand the bagginess thing (not the excessive bagginess, but a bit of it). Having played through the era of super-tight double-knits, I know that the bit of movement the baggies provide keeps air moving on your legs. That keeps you a little cooler.
I love the stirrups, particularly of the ’50s and early ’60s. But all things considered they aren’t terribly workable.
I was stunned by all this, to put it mildly. Never would’ve guessed in a million years that our own Ricko would be sleeping with the enemy — in the enemy’s pajama pants, no less! I was particularly intrigued by his use of the elastic strap (which is, of course, its own type of stirrup, but not the kind we usually laud around here), so we had a quick back and forth about that:
Paul: How long have you been wearing the elastic strap? Did you get the idea from Barry Bonds [who was doing it in the late 1990s], or were you doing it before he did?
Ricko: Since the mid-’90s, I think. First noticed it on Jose Offerman of the Dodgers. His were worn inside the shoes, though, but it was apparent because the pant legs were being pulled down by something. I suspect Jose Lind and others did the same thing. Also, as a kid I noticed in the old Hoppy movies that whenever Hoppy would go “undercover” as a fancy-dressed gambler or cattle buyer or such, he had elastic under the arch of his boots to hold his pants down (really apparent when he was on horseback). It was the gentlemanly fashion of that era (see: Rhett Butler). I remembered that, so I figured that was what Offerman was up to.
Also, being almost 6’3″, it was extremely difficult back then for me to find pants that were long enough. Often I’d turn down the seams after removing the elastic, just leave the bottom frayed, perhaps put a little Shoe Goo to seal the loosest spots, then add the elastic keep the damn things from looking like “flood pants,”
In the hunt for “long enough,” I bought several pair of MLB game-used pants on eBay (Jamie Navarro, White Sox home; Ryan Minor, Orioles home; Albert Belle, Orioles road). A pair of Red Sox home (can’t remember whose they were) had the bottom of a red stirrup sock sewn into them, but up inside aways. That way, the stirrup was to be worn inside the shoe, but the pant leg could drape over it. I subsequently removed it and added elastic because wearing the stirrup outside the shoe looked really stupid, not to mention wearing through the sock. Hey, if it was good enough for Hoppy…
I was, I guess, influenced by Bonds, in the sense of seeing him do what I was already doing. Also Gary Sheffield, who started doing it about the same time. It sure made more sense than wearing the stirrup outside, which I’d originally done with my Red Sox pants. It kept the pants from bunching up at the tongue and heel of the cleats, too; didn’t look so sloppy. So I went ahead and redid all my long pants with the elastic to be worn outside.
Paul: Do you sew the elastic on yourself?
Ricko: Yes. And, starting four or five years ago (again because pants aren’t always quite long enough, and because I rarely wear medium- or or high-cut cleats), I starting tacking a bit of loop Velcro vertically inside the heel or the pants and Shoo Goo-ing hook Velcro vertically to the heel of most of my cleats. That holds the pants down (a lot less messy than Sheffield’s StickUm method, btw [actually, Sheffield also used Velcro — PL]).
Paul: I see that you sometimes used black elastic and sometimes white. Is there any intentional rhyme/reason to this, or is it just what you had available at the time?
Ricko: Elastic’s easy enough to find. Still have both white and black on hand all the time, because I was buying pants fast and furious there for awhile. I use what I think will work with the color cleats I’m most likely to wear with them, or what will look least odd. Most are black, but I did put white on my plain whites, for example, because the black’s just TOO obvious if I wear white cleats and do an A’s look. Also used white on those orange/black striped babies because I was going to wear white that year but changed my mind at the last minute because my Achilles were bothering me and went to shoes I knew I could trust.
Of course, a less charitable, more churlish person might suggest that if you can’t find pants that are long enough, that’s probably a sign that you shouldn’t be wearing them low, ya dumb-ass! But I’d never offer that type of smart-ass commentary myself.
By this point in our dialogue, Ricko sensed that I was sorely pained by the revelation of his low-cuffery, so he offered a few more thoughts to allay my fears that he’d fully gone over to the Dark Side:
Now…IN MY DEFENSE…
When I play with the 55+ crowd on Tues. and Thurs. a.m., the teams are named after the 1947 American Association. They scramble the rosters three times every summer, so I’m always a Saint, Miller, Redbird, Mudhen, Indian, or Star (should be Blues, but guy who originally ran the league had a brain fart and thought they were Kansas City Stars; I continue to lobby to no avail for a correction). For those games, I do most often turn back the clock and wear the right gear. Not jerseys, but have all the right hats, sleeves, pants (home and road), and stirrups for same. Not actual stuff, of course, but the same “look,” decent facsimiles. When a local CBS affiliate did a feature on us, mention was made of “one guy who has a uniform for everything,” with a quick shot of me in my RedBirds uni.
I often do that for my Sunday pickup game a couple times a month, too (depends on if I roll out of bed early enough). The younger guys kind of enjoy playing “Name that Uni.” I let ’em guess for awhile. Hey, might as well teach ’em something.
My theory on why jammies have become popular?: Warm-up pants replacing cotton sweatpants (which definitely do make you sweat), both in pickup sports and as streetwear. Just so damn comfortable that they eventually worked their way into MLB. Well, that and the advent of high-tops in baseball. Look big and clunky and players would just as soon use the pants to sort of “spat” them.
I believe the last time I was on a team with team-issued striped stirrups, or even non-ribbon stirrups, was 1978. Over 30 years ago.
Finally, here’s a photo from 1970, showing a teammate with his three-striped team-issued socks and me with my high ones. Oh, shit, I’m wearing white shoes, too. Damn.
Nice try, Ricko, but the damage has been done — and it’s spreading. Have you noticed that longtime high-cuffer Jason Varitek has been going low-cuffed lately? Even more shocking, St. Looey stirrups standard-bearer Brendan Ryan went low-cuffed yesterday (“Probably because he went into Sunday hitting .186,” says reader Jason Cobb, as if that were a suitable excuse). Fortunately, these alarming developments were slightly ameliorated by the sight of low-cuffer Evan Longoria wearing stirrups yesterday.
In any case, I appreciate the characteristically thorough treatment of the topic from our resident expert. Big thanks to Ricko, low cuffs and all.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Last Friday I asked about the black arm/shoulder bands being worn by the Giants in this photo. That prompted this analysis from Mart Lukk: “From what I can gather, this photo is from the 1983 season (being the only season I could find with both kicker Ali Haji-Sheikh and QB/holder Scott Brunner listed on a Giants roster). That year saw the tragic deaths of assistant coach Bob Ledbetter and former star running back Doug Kotar, so I’m imagining that’s who the memorial stripe could be for.” I think it was probably for Kotar, and Mart’s right about it being from 1983 — I checked some old photos from that season and came up with shots showing the black stripe at home and on the road. I was a sophomore in college that season and certainly watched my share of Jints games on the teevee, but I confess that I have zero memory of that stripe. … New uniforms for the WNBA refs. Not bad, but of course it’s the WNBA, so who really cares? (Kevin Brown does, that’s who.) … Never seen these NBAPA jerseys before (with thanks to Chris Flinn). … Interesting helmet decal — in fact, interesting uni all around — for Centreville High in Ohio (nice find by Doug McConnell). … Last week’s mention of the Jose Jimenez face-off reminded Paul Wiederecht of something really obsure and really good: “The other day I’m driving in NJ and listening to the ballgame on the radio and the pitcher was Jose Jimenez — and just then I passed a truck with the name ‘Dana’ on the side!” If you don’t get the connection, he’s referring to comedian Bill Dana, whose famous alter ego was Jose Jimenez! … Andy McNeel notes that Texas A&M appears to have added the school’s “T-star” logo to its football jersey, above the nameplate. … Mike Rowinski spotted this and wonders if that’s the new Warriors logo. Having seen the new logo, I can neither confirm nor deny, but let’s put it this way: That’s some nice work by Mike. … El yawno. Although I suppose this pooch might disagree (both courtesy of Tim Burke). … What’s worse than being picked off second base? Being picked off while wearing baggy pajama pants with the elastic removed from the cuffs, which allows the cuffs to slide up your leg and reveal your geeky Brewers logo socks (as spotted by Ryan Adams). … Brian Cheung notes that Trevor Cahill is yet another A’s player wearing a gray underbill. I asked A’s equipment manager Steve Vucinich about this and he said, “Some players still prefer the gray and specifically ask for it, but I only have a few left. You’re seeing the last of them.” … Bit of a soccer kerfuffle in the UK, as David Raglin explains: “Fulham FC has very improbably reached the final of the Europa League. Fulham’s main color is white, with black and red being the secondary colors. Their opponent, Atletico Madrid, which has been designated the home team, wears a red and white striped shirt. Fulham’s home kit is white and the away kit is red, so they have to wear their ‘change kit.’ The change kit is often not in the team’s official colors, and this year it’s midnight blue, which happens to be close to the main color of their hated Chelsea neighbors. Anyway, there are more than a few Fulham fans who are upset about having to have their club play in that kit in their first European final ever. Here is a link to one of the leading fan posting sites which has several posts about the controversy.” … Francisco Cervelli appears to be wearing the same annoying logo socks that A-Rod’s been wearing. … Hmmm, is this how Muhammad Ali got started? … I’m not in love with the Giants’ orange jerseys, but they sure look better when paired with the striped hose. … Great find by Bruce Menard, who found this 1939 shot of a minor league reunion game for Minneapolis baseball figures in Cooperstown. Note the amazing socks, the white belt tunnels on the guy on the right, and the baseball centennial patch. And speaking of the centennial patch, Bruce also found a rare version of the design featuring Uncle Sam, which is from the 1939 Play Ball America pamphlet. … New 10th-anniversary patch for the Wild. Additional details here. … Nothing says “I love you” like having your wedding ring adorned with a bunch of Penguins logos (with thanks to Dan Falloon). … Kyle Wilson wore white cleats trimmed in blue while at Boise State — and appears to be wearing those very same cleats now that he’s a Jet (as spotted by Brian McCrodden). … Major discovery by Doug Spets, who writes: “While going thru my sock drawer I came across this incredible set of stirrups from the Kewanee (Illinois) Boilermaker basketball team. I grew up in Kewanee and these were passed down to me by my brother, who was a friend of the Boilers’ coach. Kewanee reached the state quarterfinals for the 1970-71 season, losing to Quinn Buckner-led Dolton Thornridge at the Assembly Hall in Champaign. They team quit wearing the stirrups by 1974.” … After I suggested in last week’s ESPN column that Shane Mosley would wear either Everlast or Reyes gloves for his bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr., he surprised everyone by going with Grant gloves. … Interesting note from Paul Kingsmen, who writes: “During the Western Hockey League Finals, both teams are required to wear Memorial Cup patches, in addition to the WHL patch and Reebok logo they always wear. For the Tri-City Americans, with their ridiculous shoulder piping, it means they’ve been forced to shift the Memorial Cup logo to their torso, right beside their main crest.” … Liverpool wore a new jersey yesterday. Details here (with thanks to Ashley Wilkes). … Dartmouth’s baseball field is FieldTurf and doesn’t have dirt cut-outs around the bases — they just have a dirt-colored faux infield painted onto the FieldTurf carpet. All of which results in a shower of rubber pellets when someone slides (with thanks to Tris Wykes). … Michael Orr has been keeping track of all the 2010-11 Premier League uniforms. Here’s what’s out there so far. … Ah, I love ringer tees. I also love pro athletes — in this case Roy Jefferson of the Redskins — holding cigarettes (great find from Ricko‘s files). … The A’s no longer wear the solid-green helmet — except for Jake Fox’s catcher’s helmet (with thanks to A’s scholar Brandon Davis). … Also from Brandon: Gio Gonzalez usually wears these white cleats, but he switched to mostly black cleats when wearing the team’s black alt jersey. … You know how NFL rookies will wear a strip of tape with their name on their helmets? The Bucs print the names in their team typeface (good spot by Brinke Guthrie). … In a related item, some rookie hazing rituals create themselves (as submitted by Adam Triesler). … Wow, that’s some chest logo — and check the label!