We’ve all seen MLBers wearing windbreakers under their jersey during spring training, usually with those telltale collar points peeking out over the jersey collar.
But there’s another kind of windbreaker that I’ve occasionally seen in photos. No collar points for this version — just an elasticized neckline. I’ve noticed a few instances of this design over the years but have never given it much thought except to say to myself, “Ew, it looks like his head’s coming out of a sphincter.”
But now reader Richard Stover and used a variety of resources to piece together a larger story about these windbreakers. It began when he spotted this ad for a windbreaker-ish product called the Slim-Ez in the 2/1/64 issue of The Sporting News.
As you can see, the ad says the Slim-Ez was “developed by Ruby Williams of the Chattanooga Lookouts.” So Richard consulted this book on Lookouts history and found the following passage:
Ruby Williams, the concessions manager at Engel Stadium, also fashioned sweat suits for the players to wear during spring training in Winter Garden Florida. “She sewed rubber bands into the wrists and ankles of the suits,” [player Roy] Hawes said. “You’d pull those rubber bands open and water would literally pour out your sleeves.”
“The Lookouts AA Southern Association affiliate of the Washington Senators in the late 1950s,” says Richard. “Their roster included Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison, both of whom endorsed the Slim-Ez. Chuck Dressen, another endorser of the suit, was the manager of the 1955-57 Senators. He must have crossed paths with Ruby Williams during spring trainings at Winter Garden.”
And it gets better: The Slim-Ez is still around today, only now it’s called the Trim-Ez. That’s not a knock-off or an immitation, though, as you can tell by looking at the company name: the R.B. Williams Co., which refers to Ruby B. Williams herself!
I called the R.B. Williams Co. yesterday and was disappointed to learn that Ruby died a few years ago at the age of 102. The company is now being run by one of her longtime associates, who told me that they no longer have any old catalogs or other archival materials. Too bad.
Meanwhile, let’s talk windbreakers: The Slim-Ez, obviously, was worn by players who were trying to lose weight. But was that also the case with the more conventional pointed-collar windbreakers? I always thought players wore those during spring training because sometimes it was still a little chilly down there in February and March, but maybe I was just being naïve. Anyone have any insights on this?
Today, of course, most baseball players stay in shape year-round (and I’m pretty sure the few who might need to drop a coupla pounds would try a more sensible approach than donning a rubber suit). But weight issues are still a big deal in football training camps. Wasn’t it just a few years ago that some NFLer passed out behind the wheel of his car because he’d put on a skin-tight rubber suit and then driven around with the heat on at full-blast? That story always cracked me up. Couldn’t he just have sat in the parked car with the heat on, instead of driving around?
Wilco Reminder: I’m currently giving away two pairs of tickets to see Wilco and Yo La Tengo in Indiana later this month. For details, look here.
Membership Update: Several new additions to the membership card gallery, including Rob Caplette’s card, based on Will Power’s Indy car, shown at right — only the second auto racing card we’ve ever done (here’s the first one, from three summers ago). As always, you can make the membership scene yourself by signing up here.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Laughably incompetent boob Wayne Hagin had this to say after Brandon Phillips flied out to center to end the top of the 3rd last night: “So, two straight fly balls to the centerfielder.” Only problem is that Phillips was actually the third straight Reds hitter to fly out to center that inning. Fire Wayne Hagin already! … Jason Hillyer and his wife spotted this soccer ball at their niece’s birthday party the other day, leading Jason’s wife to ask, “Why is that soccer ball covered in maxi-pads?” … Uniform theft in Scotland! But I had nothing to do with it, I swear (with thanks to David Pealing). … While looking for something else, I found this great shot of the Reds’ brain trust on St. Paddy’s Day, 1980. … Cycling note from Sean Clancy, who writes: “At the start of Tuesday’s Stage 3 of the Tour de France, Sylvain Chavanel of France held both the leader’s yellow jersey and the green points jersey. Italy’s Allessandro Petacchi wore the green, since Chavanel would have had difficulty wearing two jerseys at once, but Chavanel’s Belgian team, Quick Step, made sure his bike reflected his dual jersey status with a hastily done yellow and green paint scheme, while Chavanel’s teammate, Jerome Pineau, got the polka-dot treatment as the leader of the King of the Mountains category. Lots of photos here.” … Here’s another T-shirt featuring lots of uniforms, Cavs-style. “It’s a fan giveaway from a reunion weekend when the old Coliseum was being shut down,” explains Scott Cummings. “Note the date on the sleeve, and the wine and gold ‘Miracle of Richfield’ players on the back. These colors were unique for that era, as they wore the blue and orange embodied by Mark Price, Larry Nance, and Brad Daugherty. The wine and gold had not yet made its comeback, so that made this shirt even cooler.” … Souvenir helmet collector Andy Thoele has been working on some DIY helmets, including a Pirates pillbox version — check them out here. … Check out the block-D on this Broncos pennant. “I’ve had had that pennant since we lived in Denver in the late ’60s but haven’t seen that logo before or since,” says Kevin Clark. … Can’t recall if we’ve covered this before, but just in case: Way back in February, it was reported that Colorado football would likely wear 1990 throwbacks this season (see end of second graf). Now Matthew Robins notes that a video clip on the team’s web site provides a glimpse of the throwback uni. … The Erie SeaWolves, after going winless at home for the entire month of June, wore their road grays at home on Monday (with thanks to Timothy Fesmire). … “While unpacking after a recent move, I discovered a copy of a 1991 Houston Astros game program,” writes James Poisso. “It included articles on the story of the Astrodome scoreboard and the guy who repaired the team’s gloves.” … Brewers reliever David Riske reportedly has the names of his wife and kids written inside his cap (with thanks to Nicole Haase). … White whale follow-up: Bruce Marhsall says the Rangers’ sky blue/white combo was worn at least once at home in 1975: “It was an early-season NBC Saturday game of the Week when Oakland visited Arlington and emerged a 5-4 winner on April 12. Perhaps the Rangers donned that combo a few other times that season, but they surely did it for that NBC Game of the Week, which I believe was the first national telecast of that season.” … In a vaguely related item, Keith Jones reports that the Royals — or at least George Brett — wore power blue over white in a 1978 episode of Fantasy Island. Bonus points for using the wrong uni number. … Marc Viquez reports that the Holyoke Blue Sox — a team in the New England Collegiate Baseball League — wear their front uni numbers on the right side of the jersey. Last team I can recall using that configuration was the late-’90s Reds. … Hey, this is great: We’ve often talked about the different styles of old English “D” logos used by the Tigers, and now they’re all shown together on a banner (nice find by RJ Myers). … Kurt Esposito is reading Bill Madden’s new book on George Steinbrenner and says the 1976 Yankees were greeted with a notice in spring training that read “No beards. No beads. No mutton chops. No long hair. No long stirrups.” … Good article on jersey swaps.