One morning during the summer of 1991 — eight years before Uni Watch existed — I was taking the subway to work and reading the Newsday sports section. The Twins were coming to town for their first visit of the year, and there was a big article on this kid on their pitching staff named Scott Erickson, who was having a breakout season. The article mentioned that Erickson loved the color black so much that he wore a black glove on the mound (fairly uncommon back then) and solid black socks.
As a longtime stirrups fan, I’d spent the past several years silently bemoaning the onset of ribbon stirrups, the advent of two-in-ones, and the general lowering of pant legs. But this was the first time I’d heard of a player wearing solid socks, not even going through the stirrup motions. I made a point to watch Erickson’s start against the Yankees that evening and was horrified by what I saw: ankle-length pants with black socks. I couldn’t understand why he was allowed to wear his socks that way. In fact, I still don’t understand why he got away with it. Stirrups were part of the Twins’ official uniform, solid socks were not — simple as that.
I’ve been thinking about Erickson a lot lately as I’ve been working on my next ESPN column, which will be about the evolution of low-cuffed baseball pants. One of my key contentions is that pants got lower as stirrups became — or, more precisely, were allowed to become — less relevant, and Erickson’s 1991 season represents a key nail in the stirrup’s coffin (it didn’t exactly help matters that he went 20-8 that year while the Twins won the World Series, all of which gave him and his socks a much higher profile). Soon lots of other players were eschewing stirrups — or even two-in-ones — and just wearing solid team-color socks.
I’m not the only one who noticed Erickson’s influence on lower-leg styles. Back on 7/9/07, a discussion about pants and socks broke out in the comments section here on the site, and a reader who called himself Fez (don’t know his real name, sorry), had this to say: “Scott Erickson, then with the Twins, made the solid color sock look cool. THAT was the death knell for the stirrup as we love it.” About a year later, on 7/17/08, reader Josh Cohen mentioned, “I think Scott Erickson was the first player to wear solid socks without stirrups.” And just a few weeks ago, on 6/3/10, Ricko, in the middle of a comment about changing styles, had this to say: “I recall people griping about Scott Erickson, the Twins pitcher who was the first that I remember to swap stirrups for solid dark socks beneath his almost-ankle length pants. They said he looked like he was wearing his office socks (because no white showed).”
Ricko may have been referring to this 1991 SI article about Erickson, which includes the following passage:
In uniform, Erickson always pulls the stirrups of his outer socks down into his spikes, leaving no visible trace of his white sanitary socks. He looks as if he’s wearing dress socks and shoes. “The socks are a sore subject,” says [Kirby] Puckett. “He’ll kill you if you make fun of his socks.”
Ericksonian fashion is best described as basic black. “I feel more comfortable in black,” he says. “I’ve always felt that way.” His glove is black. His baseball shoes must be totally black. He used to wear Nike spikes, but they came with white stripes, which he would polish black. Now he wears Mizunos because they’re specially made for him without the usual white stripes. The word MIZUNO is printed in white on the shoe tongue, but he covers the name with black polish.
Note that the SI piece says Erickson actually wore stirrups after all, even if it didn’t look that way. I was curious about that, so I tracked Erickson down last week and had a brief phone chat with him:
Uni Watch: What was the deal with your socks back around 1991?
Scott Erickson: It was more old-school, as opposed to the kids these days wearing their pants over their shoes.
UW [trying to process this new definition of "old-school"]: Riiight. But what I remember reading was that you pulled your stirrups down a certain way.
SE: Yeah, I’d pull them all the way down so none of the white would show.
UW: So even though it looked like a solid black sock, you were actually wearing stirrups?
SE: In Minnesota, we had stirrups. But you could get really short ones, with small openings. So if you didn’t yank them up, they’d stay low. So even though it looked like a solid sock, it was actually a stirrup. In Baltimore, we had all-black socks.
UW: And were you aware that you were pioneering a new style?
SE: Well, I was kinda going old-school, like the Cincinnati Reds of the ’70s.
UW: Yeah, but those guys showed some white, and they wore their pants higher than you did.
SE: Well, I was sort of at that bottom of the calf area. With the Dodgers, I was getting teased for wearing the pants like that.
UW: Because your teammates thought they should be lower, or higher?
SE: They thought they should be either lower or higher, but not in between.
So there you have it: Erickson wasn’t the first player to wear solid-color hose — it just looked that way.
Meanwhile, by coincidence, reader Mario Fontana sent me a note about Erickson the other day: “I remember during the 1991 World Series telecast, they said Erickson didn’t actually wear socks, but black electrical tape instead. Granted, I was nine years old at the time but I swear this is true and my memory is normally accurate.” I could call Erickson back to ask him about this, but first I’d like to see if anyone else can corroborate Mario’s childhood recollection. Anyone..?
And for those keeping score at home, I believe this is the first time we’ve ever had the same person featured in the splash photo for two consecutive weekdays.
White whale update: Reader Terry Schull has found three more photos of the Rangers wearing their powder blue road jerseys paired with their home white pants in 1975, all from the team’s 1976 yearbook. Looks like all three pics were taken at the same game or series (note the bunting in the background), and we can see in one of the photos that the opposing team was the A’s. Turns out that the A’s were the second team to visit Arlington during the Rangers’ season-opening homestand in 1975, so that would explain the bunting — these photos were taken in Arlington.
Also, if you compare one of these new photos to the Toby Harrah photo we discussed last week, you can see the same red line on the outfield wall and a hint of bunting above Harrah’s head. Clearly from the same game or series.
So contrary to what I thought last week, it turns out that we have not yet found a photo of the Rangers wearing their white pants on the road (which is what Ricko originally claimed to have seen). Instead, we’ve found four photos of the Rangers wearing their powder blue road jersey at home! The search for documentation of this uni combo on the road goes on.
Wayne’s Whoppers, Continued: I wasn’t near a radio for most of the weekend, but I caught one inning of yesterday’s Mets game in the car, and that was enough time for unlistenable windbag Wayne Hagin to make his mark. I got a hint of what was coming during the top of the 6th, when the Wayner said, “Santana had a 1-2-3 inning in the 2nd. That is the only inning he had [said with very heavy emphasis] — other than the 5th — that has been very easy for him.” That’s classic Hagin, basically saying, “There’s only one thing like X — except for that other thing.”
A few batters later, there was a two-out single by Matt Diaz. Then Santana got the final out on an easy pop-up, prompting Hagin to say, “And Santana pitches out of…”
Okay, stop the tape right there. You can see what Hagin was about to do: He was going to say, “And Santana pitches out of trouble.” Except then he realized that Santana hadn’t actually been in trouble — he’d given up a two-out single, big deal. Again, this is classic Hagin, wandering down a verbal road and then realizing too late that he’s taken a wrong turn. That forces him to improvise on the fly, which is always painful. Here’s what actually came out of his mouth:
“And Santana pitches out of [slight pause] the two-out single [longer pause] proposition, with the hit by Diaz.”
“The two-out single proposition”?! Please. This is minor league stuff, Mickey Mouse stuff. It does not belong on the airwaves in a big league town, least of all in the nation’s media capital. Fire Wayne Hagin already!
Wilco winners: The two winners of our latest giveaway are Blair Hough and Joshua Meyers, who’ve each won two tickets to see Wilco and Yo La Tengo at Coveleski Stadium later this month (and who both knew that the College Football Hall of Fame is located nearby). Congrats to both of them, and major thanks to Wilco manager Tony Margherita for generously providing the tickets.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Spent a good chunk of the weekend out on Long Island at the North Fork Soul & Gospel Festival (actually a huge-ass private party at a record collector’s house, but he likes to call it a festival), where the music and pork shoulders were both smokin’. … Check this out: a hockey helmet with a football chinstrap (good find by Tris Wykes). … Also from Tris: a NASCAR driver with a Vikings-themed helmet. … And as long as we’re talking helmets, how about a Miami Hurricanes helmet cart (with thanks to Stephen Whalen). … Best football uniform ever? No, unfortunately. It’s the 13 Black Cats, described as “a company of flamboyant Los Angeles-based stunt pilots who defied both superstition and the odds of survival at Burdette Airport, Los Angeles, in the 1920s” (tremendous find by Scott Kneeskern). … Love the textured ribbing on Grover Cleveland Alexander’s sweater. Shame about the drop-shoulders, though (with thanks to Brian Friedt). … Jon Lester’s glove and shoes were trimmed in Livestrong yellow on Friday night. You may recall that he did the same thing last July (with thanks to Matt Comeau). … First two minutes of this 1981 Bengals highlight video focus on the team’s “startling new look” (with thanks to Erik Morris). … I believe this may have appeared in the Ticker before a long time ago, but what the hell: Nice breakdown of Flyers uni history on this page (with thanks to David Ryan). … You know what looks really brutal? The Rangers wearing their red caps with their blue dugout jackets (as noted by Terence Kearns). … The Brewers did the Cerveceros thing on Saturday, but with navy jerseys. Is that the first time they’ve done that? … “This might be the greatest BP cap ever,” says Kurt Esposito. “According to the guy at the team store, a celery costume was left behind by some touring group doing a show for the ballpark and they never wanted it back, so the team began incorporating it into the ballpark. He comes out whenever they score a run and now he’s on their BP cap.” … World Cup observation from Terence Kearns: “Right after Spain’s victory, a team trainer, or whomever, brought out their traditional red shirts for the players to wear, which I assumed was just for the trophy presentation and to be vain. But, then I saw this! That’s Cesc Fabregas and Carles Puyol celebrating, and he’s pointing to the gold star symbolizing their World Championship! I’ve never seen anything like that before!” … The Brooklyn Cyclones have player who has diabetes and wears an insulin pump in his back pocket. It’s a pretty good article, but how can you write an article like this and not mention Jason Johnson, who wore his insulin pump on the mound? … MLB is about to publish a massive, massively expensive book that looks like it’s gonna be very, very cool. Further details here. … The Heat used a bit of Photoshoppery to create this image for their web site. But as Andrew Geig notes, “Lebron looks kinda funny, because the Cavs and the Heat use different jersey cuts and collar styles, plus the Cavs and Heat put the NBA logo on opposite sides of the jersey.” … Cory Lewis notes that the NOB on Chad Cordero’s navy alt jersey kinda looks like it’s been broken up into three separate segments. … John J. Lee has found a cool site that provides a simulated view from any seat in a wide variety of stadia and arenae. Start by going here, then pick a stadium from the client list at left. Hours — okay, minutes — of fun! … In case you missed it late last week, Mike Stanton of the Marlins hit a home run that landed in a catcher’s mitt in the bullpen. Check out the screen shots and video. … I love NYC, but I’m embarrassed by how pathetic our neon sign culture has become — it’s almost non-existent. Meanwhile, Chicago is still a neon wonderland, as you can see in this awesome slideshow that Mike Couillard sent me. … When I showed that neon link to Kirsten, she showed it to some of her friends, one of whom responded with this video clip of what might be the greatest neon sign ever. … Awesome flannel Little League uni featured in this ad, which ran in yesterday’s NYT Mag. … I recently scored this totally groovy coat manufacturer’s sample/swatch catalog. Lots more pics to follow soon. … Japanese golfer Takashi Kanemoto appears to have had his pants made from a tablecloth (thanks, Jeremy). … No photo, but Drew Wiesner was watching the 1965 All-Star game on the MLB Network last night and reports that Willie Mays hit leadoff and wore Billy Williams’s batting helmet. … Back in the 1800s, baseball teams would trade ribbons, much like soccer teams now trade jerseys. And what did these ribbons look like? Like this (awesome find by Dan Cichalski). … Also from Dan: The Lakewood BlueClaws did their a Springsteen-themed jersey promotion again this year. … RIP, Shep.