I was looking at the MLB schedule yesterday morning and saw that the Rays were slated for a noon game at the Trop. “A weekday afternoon game in a dome is so weird,” I thought. “It’s like having a date with a really pretty girl and then taking her out to your dentist’s office.”
Ah, but what if the pretty girl was wearing hose like these? It might just render the rest of the equation moot.
That was certainly the case yesterday in Tampa, where several of the Rays wore striped stirrups that even the dreary Trop couldn’t diminish. Rays broadcaster Todd Kalas provided the backstory early in the game:
The Rays have lost nine of their last 12 and are looking to turn things around, so Joe Maddon is sporting a new look today, along with a few of the players. [Equipment manager] Chris Westmoreland and some of the guys were watching the Cardinals play the other day, and they said, “Hey, that’s kind of a cool look with the old-style stirrups.” So Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton, Sean Rodriguez, amongst the guys who are in the lineup today going with the old-style stirrups. Chris Westmoreland ordered them specially, and they came in today after he designed them.
At the risk of belaboring the obvious: The striped legwear looked awesome and a half. It quickly became apparent that the stripes looked equally magnificent in every imaginable setting — at the plate, on the bases (irony alert: That’s George Hendrick coaching first base), in the dugout, in the bullpen, at a conference on the mound, you name it. And as Joe Maddon showed in the 7th inning, if you’re gonna get the thumb for arguing a balk call, you may as well look smokin’ hot while doing it. (Additional photos, plus a breakdown of how the stirrups-clad players performed relative to their pajama-pantsed teammates, can be found here.)
But there’s something really sad — even disturbing — about all this. Let me explain: The striped hose, as snappy as they are, are not part of the Rays’ uniform package. Yet it’s apparently fine for a bunch of players to wear them. Nobody will be fined, Bob Watson will not be calling. It’s like when A’s equipment manager Steve Vucinich got those logo-emblazoned stirrups for Rajai Davis — those aren’t part of Oakland’s official wardrobe either, yet nobody uttered a peep. So this is what it’s come to: Hosiery is no longer considered a uniform component. Instead it’s treated more like an accessory or a piece of equipment, not much different than a Phiten necklace or a shinguard. Just make sure it’s rendered in your team’s colors and you’re fine.
You could say this all started with Frank Robinson and other players adding extra fabric to their stirrup loops so they could pull them higher. But players have always modified their gear, so there was nothing really new about that. I place the larger blame on two factors. First, the introduction of ribbon stirrups and, especially, two-in-ones, which were never part of any team’s official uni specs and should never have been allowed on the field. And second, MLB’s abysmal failure to provide or enforce any standards regarding cuff height, which gave the implicit message that sock exposure — and hence socks themselves — didn’t matter. And it’s too late to establish such guidelines now, because it would constitute a change of the rules and would therefore have to be collectively bargained with the players’ union, which would never approve a high-cuff standard.
So that’s the irony of yesterday’s game in Tampa. While showing how beautiful baseball socks can be, it also showed how irrelevant they’ve become.
Uni Watch 2.0 Update: Yesterday’s implementation of the new site design was surprisingly painless. We still have a few small issues to iron out, mostly regarding the format of the comments, but for the most part everything’s working the way it’s supposed to (or to put it another way, I am very, very grateful to John Ekdahl). Hope you like, and definitely let me know if you spot anything that needs attention. Thanks.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Mmmm, purty. That’s not actual fabric — it’s a digital patern that John Ekdahl created while working on the site upgrade. We haven’t found a good use for it yet on the site, but I’m using it as the desktop background on my monitor. … Major news brewing in Dallas, where the Cowboys are contemplating a revision to their greenish home pants. They ought to do it, natch, although having two different sets of silver pants has always been one of the few endearing quirks about an otherwise loathsome team. … Oooh, dig this absolutely awesome track and field-themed letterhead (thanks, Kirsten). … Want the NHL to go back to white at home? There’s a Facebook group just for you. … In the great tradition of lids for Yids, we now have a combination baseball cap and yarmulke (with thanks to Jeff Cohen). … Here’s a lesson for everyone: Before you suit up, be sure to check your uni number (great old find by Larry Bodnovich). … While making all those screen grabs from yesterday’s Rays game, I saw something I hadn’t noticed before: Even the umps are wearing those goddamn swooshified undershirts. … Wisconsin hockey goalie Scott Gudmandson is inviting fans to design his mask (with thanks to Jerry Harrison). … Had we seen the new U. of Washington football jerseys before? Well, we have now. God, I hate that template (with thanks to Tyler Keefe). … Here’s what the Warriors’ new court will look like. … Why does Brazil wear yellow soccer shirts? The answer is here (thanks, Brinke). … The Saskatchewan Roughriders are switching from black facemasks to white (with thanks to Kevin Clark). … In case you hadn’t heard, Paul Henderson’s 1972 Team Canada jersey ended up selling at auction for a record price. … Season-opening throwback game supposedly on tap for the Canucks and Kings. … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: This old magazine cover shows Ralph Kiner’s wife wearing No. 4 earrings — his uni number. … At long last, a shot of Francisco Cervelli caught in the act of trading in his S100 for a regular helmet after reaching base (with thanks to Brooks Simpson). … Scroll down to the “Great in Grey” section of this page to learn how the Twins tried a bit of uni-based gamesmanship on Ubaldo Jimenez (with thanks to George Scordo). … The Germany/Ghana World Cup match found the Germans wearing their black away shirts with their black home shorts — a problem, since the trim didn’t match. I’m sure the soccer fans out there will tell us why they wore this unusual combo, yes? … Meanwhile, John Pantsil of Ghana has been playing with one sleeve and a misspelled NOB. Further info here (with thanks to Jeremy Richardson). … Also from Jeremy: “Standard Liege, a Belgian club, just released their 2010-11 kits. They couldn’t find a good deal with a kit maker, so they just developed their own brand and made their own. That got me thinking — could you ever see a U.S. league or college team/conference ditching their uniform suppliers and starting their own operation, similar to how they’ve created their own TV networks?” Never thought of that, but it’s an interesting question. … About Freakin’ Time Dept.: Last year Mariano Rivera didn’t have his own batting helmet and got stuck wearing Alfredo Aceves’s and Cody Ransom’s. Judging by his at-bat two nights ago, someone apparently decided over the off-season that a first-ballot Hall of Famer deserves his own helmet.