By Phil Hecken, with Rick Pearson & Scott Rogers
There has been some recent discussion in the comments about throwbacks, and more specifically, teams who throwback to the uniform of a franchise that bears no lineage to their own. Some examples of this include organizations who throw back to Negro League teams who once played in that city. Those games all took place this year — and there have been others. I think everyone is pretty on board with this type of throwback to a franchise that once played in the current team’s city.
Yet another example of this is when current franchises throwback to minor league franchises who once played in that city (although the recent Cleveland Buckeyes vs. St. Paul Gophers is an interesting Negro League vs. Minor League matchup), many times before MLB existed in that city. I think everyone’s pretty cool with that type of throwback too. Sure, the Mariners have no lineage to the Rainiers, but there was still professional baseball in Seattle before the
Mariners Pilots arrived.
And then there is the “third type.” What about when teams throwback to a franchise to which they have no lineage and which is still in existence but playing in another city. In those three examples, we had the Seattle Mariners playing as the Seattle Pilots (but the Pilots are a direct antecedent of the Brewers), the Washington Nationals playing as the Washington…um…Senators(?) (but those Senators are an antecedent of the Twins), and the Milwaukee Brewers playing as the Milwaukee Braves (who are, quite obviously, the forebears of the Atlanta Braves, and the decendents of the Boston Braves). Is that wrong? Those are just baseball examples.
If we were to take the example to say football, should the Baltimore Ravens throwback to the Baltimore Colts? The St. Louis Rams throwback to the St. Louis Cardinals? The Cleveland Browns throwback to the Cleveland Rams? That sounds silly, right, since those three franchises all moved to other cities. But, with this “throwback craze” (read: marketing) we’re in now, nothing seems out of bounds.
Conversely, it was announced the Indianapolis Colts would wear a throwback from 1955, in Indy. This seemed to arouse the passions of a LOT of Charm City residents and fans, who are still
royally pissed upset with the Mayflower treatment. They felt somewhat betrayed by this move, feeling the Colts have “no right” to wear Ballmer unis in Indy. Yet, they are still the “Colts” franchise. If not the Indy Colts wearing that uni, then who should? No one? The Ravens? But we’re not here to answer that question — we’re going to go the other way.
Today, I’m joined by two readers who both have very strong and persuasive arguments on the matter. Neither is right or wrong, but they will both present their case for an answer to this question:
“Should teams currently playing in a city which has been vacated by a prior franchise ‘throw back’ to the uniforms of that franchise (especially if said franchise is still in existence)?”
Each gentleman will have one statement. Any rebuttals will be answered in the comments. I’ll have what I view as a “suitable compromise” at the end of this discussion.
Taking the affirmative is Scott Rogers, who will argue that yes, it is indeed fine for the fans to see, for example, the Mariners play as the Pilots, despite having no lineage to that team. Here’s Scott:
Absolutely. Take Washington’s incumbent baseball team, the senior circuit Nationals. While it’s true that in a strictly corporate sense, the two American League Senators franchises that once called Washington home still exist and own their own institutional histories, history and heritage are sticky things. They stick to cities and fans left behind even as they stick to the teams that go away. And they’re not scarce resources – if the Nats throwback to the 1924 Senators, they do not “use up” that history, and they do not deny the Minnesota Twins the ability to throwback to the ’24 Senators themselves. Nothing is taken; no one is harmed.
About the 1924 Senators: they brought Washington its only World Series pennant, and the Twins franchise its only championship prior to 1987. But go to Target Field and gaze upon the forest of flags flapping high above left field: The first pennant is for Minnesota’s AL title in 1965, and the only World Series wins represented are 1987 and 1991. Now take a stroll along the skyline promenade at Gate 34: there, next to the statues of Kirby Puckett and Harmon Killebrew, you’ll find no bronze monument to 1924 hero Walter Johnson, who is beyond argument the greatest player in franchise history.
I grew up a Twins fan in Minnesota, watching my earliest games from the broadcast booth with Herb Carneal, and I’m here to tell you that Minnesota fans by and large don’t care about the franchise’s history in Washington. Goose Goslin never hit a triple in Minneapolis; Walter Johnson never threw a 1-2-3 inning in St. Paul.
But Goslin did hit those triples, and Johnson did mow ’em down, in Washington, and Washingtonian baseball fans care about that history. They know the records, they grew up on the stories, in many cases they met Walter Johnson or his widow or his son or attended the suburban high school named for him, or they shook Frank Howard’s hand once or got Denny McLain’s autograph. That history is still alive in Washington, where a lone pennant for 1924 ripples atop the scoreboard in the Anacostia breeze, where fathers take their daughters to the left-field terrace to pose beside monuments to Johnson and Howard. Pennants and heroes uncelebrated by the Twins and Rangers, championships and icons largely unknown in Minnesota and Texas. And the Twins and Rangers are not unusual; it’s the rare team, and the even rarer fan, who celebrates or cares about franchise history prior to relocation. You’ll encounter no passion for the Browns in Charm City, no monuments to the Pilots in Cream City.
Far from dumbing history down or sweeping it under the rug, the Nats’ throwback games help keep alive the history of Washington’s three distinct corporate generations of baseball. At Senators and Grays throwback games, I’ve overheard and joined in countless conversations in which fathers tell their children, or Washington-born wives tell their out-of-town husbands, or friends share with one another, stories about the former teams and how they played and where they went. That history – those other teams’ history – is a vital part of the context in which the current team plays.
Are there exceptions? Of course. When the old team keeps its name, that probably ought to put throwbacks off-limits for the new team. (Sorry, Baltimore! And no Dodgers or Giants throwbacks for you, Mets fans.) And teams need to draw a line between honoring history not entirely their own and claiming that history. So while I’m all for the Nats wearing Senators throwback unis, the sooner their ridiculous “Est. 1905” inaugural season patch is forgotten, the better. Still, on the whole, the plain fact is that the kind of throwbacks in question increase knowledge of and respect for the history of the game and the teams involved. And that’s a good thing.
Thank you Scott. And now, arguing the other side of the coin, is Rick Pearson, who believes that a franchise, is a business, and it carries an important identity in it’s name, wherever that team may presently play. Here’s Ricko:
I’m certain most other points of view on this are emotional. So I’ll come from logic and the realities of things, even though they are uncomfortable for some and often tough to digest. But digestable they have to be, because they are what is.
The “franchise” is the lynchpin of pro sports. Without that concept, you’ve got nothing. Franchise=Corporation=Legal Entity (a legal “person” if you will). It owns its laundry, its colors, its trademark. Period.
The people of Washington can remember the city’s baseball history, including both Senators. However, both those Senators franchises have relocated and, yes, changed their names. But they have NOT gone out of business. Going out of business leaves your “property” out their for others to use. As long as you remain in business, though, no one can use them without your permission. For someone else, simply by dint of being in the same business as you in the town where you used to be, to even THINK they can claim such things is…ignorant. Or arrogant. Or misleading. Or rewriting history for their convenience. Or something. What it is for sure, is wrong.
It’s unfortunate that the Browns Anomaly is so recent, and in such a high-profile league. It has created the mistaken impression that cities/fans have any proprietary interest at all in the property (intellectual or otherwise) of a private corporation. And that fans could “will” it to happen again (it’s understandably grating for Baltimore, which got involved in it from both sides; “Hey, Cleveland got to keep its Browns, how come we didn’t get to keep our Colts’?”…which is probably a big reason this discussion will never go away).
Did the Browns Anomaly establish any precedent whatsoever, legal or otherwise? No. Did it mean the Hornets had to leave things behind in Carolina? No.
I know fans in Baltimore hate the Indy Colts in ’55 Colts unis. Well, frankly, the Colts have every right to wear that uniform because it is the same franchise, and it’s their history (would we rather they ignore their history in Baltimore, act as if they never were based there?). The Browns Anomaly doesn’t mean fans get what they want if they whine loud enough. But it mistakenly gets them thinking they can. Too bad it happened. It totally leads fans away from understanding what a “franchise” is and the way things work in the business of pro sports.
There are things in life we have to live with. Just, y’know, suck it up and accept that we don’t have any power over them, and SHOULDN’T have any power over because, in this case, that power would be contrary to the laws of business/free enterprise/private property. Pro franchises relocating, and sometimes changing operating names, is one of them.
Keeping franchises intact is essential. They are what’s valuable. Don’t think so? Then why all the wrangling between the Cuban Group and the Ryan Group in Texas over the Rangers?
And thank you Ricko. Both great arguments gentlemen. Obviously, there are merits to both and both passion and reason will come into play. I wasn’t born when both the Giants and Dodgers packed up and left New York for greener pastures out west. But I have asked my dad about it, and he said while it stung for a while (he was a Dodger fan), he always remained a National League fan but never pined for either franchise to return. Of course, he didn’t have to wait long, as the Mets were granted a new franchise only a scant 5 years after both teams went west. Obviously, I’ve never felt a passion or a connection to either the Giants or the Dodgers, and I certainly never wanted to see the Mets wear the uniform of either team. However, those in other cities, particularly those in cities like Baltimore, Cleveland, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Seattle, etc. may feel differently.
I propose a simple, yet elegant, solution. Although, in some cases, it may open up more wounds than not. I say, if fans from a certain city with a “departed” franchise want so desperately to see the uniform worn by a former franchise, let them. BUT…it should be worn by the current franchise in a game in the old city. For example, let the Seattle fans see Pilot uniforms, but do it when the Brewers are in town and let the Brewers wear them. The Seattle fans get to see their “beloved” Pilot uniforms, and by the franchise that once played there. This is “sort of” the compromise worked out in Milwaukee a few years back, when both teams wore Braves uniforms.
But how would that work, for example, in Baltimore? Would the Ravens open up old wounds by having the Colts play them in Baltimore Colts throwbacks? Or, might the fans appreciate the gesture. Should the Wild host the Stars with the Dallas franchise wearing North Stars throwbacks? Should the New Orleans Hornets host the Jazz, with the Jazz throwing back to their Pete Maravich days?
What say you, dear readers? Should any team currently representing the city in which they play be able to wear the uniform of a current franchise no longer playing there? Do franchises have the right to move, and to take their uniforms and their history with them, thus depriving fans from their former city of “throwbacks”? Or does the answer lie somewhere in between.
The floor is yours.
As a follow-up to yesterday’s column on the Pirates and their bumblebees, as well as Paul’s recent ESPN column, Brady Phelps had this little nugget to share:
Seeing those pillbox caps, or cake layer hats, as I’ve always heard them called… reminded me of a Padres cap that I’ve got, no doubt inspired by the Pirates.
I picked it up at a garage sale about 10 years ago.
In 1982, October 2nd, Ray Kroc celebrated his own birthday by handing out hats to the fans in attendance at The Murph. I was only 4 at the time, and was not there.
On this website I read this little blip on it…”1982 — On the evening of Oct. 2, Kroc celebrated his 80th birthday in a gala celebration prior to a Padre game at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. More than 43,000 fans came out to salute the man who nearly nine years earlier had saved the sport from leaving town.”
Here’s a picture of me in the hat, watching a Padres/Yankees game in the final season at Yankee Stadium. I get a lot of compliments on it, b/c it’s pretty rare here in San Diego.
Thanks Brady. Neat find.
Friendly Reminder: Paul’s taking a break from the site for the month of August, but he’s still writing ESPN columns (we’ll link to them as they’re published), plus he’s on the lookout for new college football uniforms. If you spot any of those, please send him a note at this address.
Don’t forget all of Paul’s “Fire Wayne Hagin Already!” blog posts are now contained on the right side of the page in the widget. He may be taking a break from Uni Watch, but he’s still on his crusade to have Wayne removed from the Mets radio booth.
Uni Watch News Ticker: First up today is Dave Hutte who points out that UT football has some new jerseys. NOB matches the color of the numbers. The home pants (midnight blue) have gold and and white piping. … Former Bench Coach Vince Grzgorek found some old photos at a flea market sale. They’re at the bottom of this post. Says Vinny, “Love the ones with the Indians players on the little choo choo train for training camp and Mickey McBride kissing Groza’s toe.” … Bob Berretta has news on new football unis for Army: the Black Knights’ football team will be donning a different uniform style this fall. In addition to new looks for both home and road games, Army will sport a special “Dress Gray” uniform style as a tribute to the U.S. Corps of Cadets and the Long Gray Line when the Black Knights square off against Air Force at Michie Stadium on Nov. 6. (also submitted by Kevin Shearer) … David Muir states ASICS’s main website (Japan) has a fantastic collection of images of Japanese youth playing baseball. “There,” he points out, “they educate their kids how to properly wear stirrups.” … So, you want a $400 Nike shoe? Nike has collaborated with EA Sport to produce a very special Florida Gators Tim Tebow Nike Air Trainer 1.2. The limited edition shoe was themed behind Florida Gators star quarterback Tim Tebow (thanks to “osneaker”) … Still more out-of-state College tags come from Robbie Wilbur who writes, Mississippi has several out of state tags: Alabama, Auburn, LSU, and the University of Memphis. I helped secure the University of Alabama tag; All tags with the college plates included. … Rick Pearson found this great photo — and wonders if anyone can name each player. … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: the Diamondbacks are low-keying their 2011 ASG logo due to ‘attention’ from SB 1070. … Paul Lukas reports “A little birdie tells me that college football zebra stripes will be changing in for the 2011 season. Instead of the current 1-inch stripes, they’ll be going with 2-inchers, which is what the NFL used before adopting their proprietary stripe system a few years back.” … Also from yesterday’s comments: Possible new uniform for the Magic? … Looks like a new helmet & uni for North Carolina football — what color would that be, gun metal? … More from Paul: A flight attendant caused a bit of an incident on a JetBlue flight at JFK this afternoon. “Note the last graf,” says Mr. Lukas. … Nice followup to yesterday’s post comes from Rich Loup, who sent me screen grabs from the season finale of This Week in Baseball from the 1978 season. The hitter is John Milner and the pitcher is Dave Roberts. Rich did some research and through Baseball Reference’s game logs was able to determine that this play probably occurred on Aug. 9, 1978. Roberts pitched vs. the Pirates at Wrigley three times that year, but Aug. 9 was the only time Milner grounded first base to pitcher (3-1). Nice! … In case you haven’t been paying attention lately, the Orioles are THE hot team in MLB. It’s gotta be the rups, no? Baltimore is now 6-1 under Buck. … Jonathan Backstrom sent along photos of the jersey and a pennant of the former Mariners minor league team known as the Lynn Sailors. They played in the Eastern League from 1980-1983. … Remember the bewildering browns banned bat? Ben Traxel did and found an absolutely superb picture and caption of Goose Goslin holding it. … Jayson Hillyer noted ESPN’s photoshopped pic of newly-acquired Jim Edmonds was wrong on many levels. Uni was old pinstriped vest. Cap was road version with too big of a “C.” (Jayson apologizes the screen grab quality isn’t better.) … Dave Murray writes, “Thought you guys would like this. Apparently Ryan Howard is this year’s Hallmark baseball ornament. But for the first time, Hallmark is depicting the player in a blank uniform. Howard is probably OK with this, because I think whoever appears on the ornament is cursed.” … Reprinted from last night’s comments: Check out the sweet stirrups seen on Carlton Fisk in (most likely) 1982. Yo! Comrade Marshall — next month??? … At UCLA Media Day, notes Erkki Corpuz, Rahim Moore (#3) was the only player who had the Pac 10 patch on his jersey. … Reprinted from last night’s comments: check out the sweet rups on Carlton Fisk (wearing, we’re pretty sure, 1982’s uni) — Yo! Comrade Marshall — next month??? … And finally, Danny Kroll, who served as the Pirates batboy from 2000-06, is not sure when these photos were taken but 2003 sounds about right. Freakin Awesome Danny. And bonus points for wearing period appropriate
stirrups two-in-ones, unlike the players.
That’ll do it for today. I’ll be heading out to the Mets game with Paul in the late afternoon, to watch Mike “let me write Culinary Corner” Pelfrey take on Ubaldo “Mr. No-No” Jimenez at Shea. So please, if possible, try to get me ticker submissions EARLY. I’ll try to get everyone’s submissions in, but if I can
get them ready during work get a head start, that’d be great. Thanks!
You can’t hit what you can’t see. — Walter “Big Train” Johnson