(Photo courtesy of Jerry Reuss)
Today we continue with our Jerry Reuss interview (if you missed the first part, which ran two days ago, look here). Without further ado:
Uni Watch: Let’s talk about a different phase of your career. You played briefly for the Reds in 1987, and at that time they were known for having their players wear their stirrups fairly low, with very little white showing. But it looks like you got away with wearing a slightly higher cut. Was that something that was spelled out to you at the time?
Jerry Reuss: You know, I can’t remember. I see the picture you’re talking about. But you know, the Reds made some changes — I can’t remember exactly when they did it. When free agency came around, one difference between playing for the Reds and playing for someone else was that players on other teams could get shoe contracts, which was a bonus for them, but you couldn’t do that with Cincinnati, because they made you wear all-black shoes. So when they changed to red shoes [which according to Okkonen took place in 1986 — PL], I think they relaxed their policy on the stirrups, and I wore mine a little higher. But I wasn’t there that long, so I can’t remember when that changed.
But yes, for years they were very strict about wearing the stirrups low. I remember talking to Tommy Helms when we were both on the Astros, and he talked about how restrictive they were — and off the field as well. Any time a player came out of his hotel room, he had to have a sportscoat on.
UW: And I guess you had to shave your moustache while you were there, right?
JR: They did, yes. That was part of the deal with Cincinnati.
UW: Shortly after that, also in 1988, you were with the White Sox, and they still had the uniform number on the upper-thigh of the pants, which was fairly unusual. Do you remember that?
JR: In 1988, I wasn’t certain I was gonna play. But my agent was good friends with [Chisox owner] Jerry Reinsdorf. He had some other clients who were with the White Sox, and he asked Jerry if he’d give me a tryout in spring training. Part of the reason I invited to spring training was that they’d tried the same deal with Tom Seaver a couple of years before, and Seaver had helped tutor their young pitchers. Then he moved on, but that helped open the door for me to come in, so I could be a mentor to the younger pitchers. That was a precondition for my being on the roster.
So when I got there, I didn’t really care about the uniform. I was just concerned about getting a job. Now, once I saw what the uniform looked like, I thought, “Hmm, blue and red, that’s a pretty nice uniform. It’s well-designed.” It was a bit strange to see the number on the pant leg, but if I remember properly, the White Sox had a number of investors who were owners at the time. Eddie Einhorn and Jerry Reinsdorf were the main guys, but they had a lot of other owners who liked to have some input, and there were lots of compromises made. And one of those compromises, as I understand it, was that rather than having the number on the uniform top, let’s put it on the pants to provide a little a balance. Or at least that was my understanding of how it happened.
UW: Toward the very end of your career, it looks like you were wearing the ribbon-style stirrups, which were popular at that time. Was that a conscious choice, or was it just what they had available?
JR: I think they were evolving at that time. I know with the White Sox, Larry Himes, the general manager, had a rule in 1988 that we were going to wear the striped stirrups. He had a rule — he actually made himself the uniform police and wanted everyone to show the stripes, because that was part of the uniform. In fact, he went to the equipment manager after Rawlings, I think it was, measured everybody’s uniforms and told the equipment manager to take a couple of inches off everyone’s pant legs, to force everyone to show the stripes.
Now for me, I bloused my pants, I didn’t have a problem with it. It was more comfortable for me that way anyway. By the time I got to the Brewers, they didn’t have any stripes on their socks, and they may even have had some guys who wore the two-in-ones. It seems that socks were evolving, and companies were coming up with putting the stirrup on the sock. Players stopped blousing their pants and started wearing them a bit lower. They didn’t have any rigid rules in Milwaukee about that.
UW: When a team official comes down with a rule like that, do players just roll their eyes and think, “He’s gotta have better things to worry about” or what?
JR: Trust me, I lived it. It happened in Houston, with [GM] Spec Richardson. Now, when I was in Houston, the socks were orange with a navy star. And he wanted the star to who. And he also wanted socks that were modeled after the Cincinnati Reds, but in the Astros colors. But a lot of Astros players didn’t show the star.
So one day the equipment manager came in early. He’d gotten a memo from Spec Richardson, or whomever, and he removed all of the socks from the lockers, because guys at that time would cut their stirrups and put elastic in the bottoms so they could wear them higher. But Spec didn’t like that. He wanted us to wear them just four or five inches above the shoe. But that didn’t work out, because Cesar Cedeño, a young star at that time, he said, “I’m not gonna wear that,” and he produced from his locker his own pair of socks that had already been cut. So everyone else had the low-cut socks, but Cedeño was out there wearing them higher. And finally the Astros said, “OK, we’re not gonna worry about this kind of thing. We’re not gonna be the socks police, the uniform police. There’s too many other pressing issues.”
There are more stories — sorry, I keep going off here, not following your line of questioning.
UW: That’s OK. Tell me a story.
JR: When I coached for the Mets in the minor leagues in 2004, we were having 12- and 13-hour days, with most of it on the field. And toward the end of spring training, there were some days that were pretty hot. So you’d come in after that, and one time Jeff Wilpon — the son of the owner — wanted to have a meeting with the minor league coaches about the pants length.
UW: I think the Mets at the time had a rule — and they may still have it — requiring all their minor league affiliates to go high-cuffed.
JR: Well, this was the rule they wanted. Pants were going to be worn just at the top of the calf. But after a couple of weeks there were a lot of complaints from players, as well as coaches, about the pant length. So Jeff came in and had a meeting with all the minor league coaches and coordinators. And we all sat at a table and had a 40-minute meeting on this.
UW: What were the complaints? Did people think the high cuffs were uncomfortable?
JR: Well, yes, they were uncomfortable. A lot of guys had big calves, and the elastic was uncomfortable for them, so they’d remove the elastic. So we discussed everything about this, and I thought, “Boy, I’ll never get these 40 minutes back.” Because I couldn’t believe after a 12-hour day that we were gonna have a meeting on the socks. But here’s how they made the final decision, you’re gonna love this. In the minor league conference room, there were posters — pictures of Mets in various poses on the field. And what Jeff did was look on the wall and say, “This is the way I’d like to see it, the way Jose Reyes wears it.” And at that time Reyes wore his cuffs over the calf. And then they went around the room and asked everyone’s opinion about it. A lot of guys said, “Whatever way you wanna wear ’em is fine with me.” But then there were other guys who said it was too tight, or they couldn’t do this or that.
And then it was, “OK, you can wear ’em a little lower,” but how much lower? And they found a picture of Al Leiter, who had his pants, oh, six inches above his shoe. [Frankly, I don’t ever remember Leiter wearing his cuffs that high as a Met. — PL] And it was, “What if we wore them like that?” and guys were saying that it was too low, we can’t do this, we can’t do that, it bothers my ankles, and on and on.
And finally the rule came down, and it was in capital letters. And after starting with the idea that the pants would be just above the calf, now they said it would be from just above the calf to six inches above the ankle. This is the Mets policy, this is final. Which means they didn’t really solve anything.
They only thing they didn’t want, and what they tried to prevent, was players who kept pushing their pants down to their shoes. There were cases — and this happened when was with the Cubs — of players getting longer pants, stretching them, and then wearing them over the back spike. Then they cut holes in the front of the pants and their their shoes through the hole, so the laces tied down the uniform pant. I’d never seen such a thing.
UW: You mentioned Cesar Cedeño modifying his stirrups. And I know other players made a habit of customizing their uniforms in particular ways — maybe a little extra tailoring on the sleeves, or a little extra fabric here or there. Did you ever do any customization like that, or maybe your teammates?
JR: I never did. If my uniform fit and it was comfortable, I just put it on and didn’t think about it. As far as other players, they may have cut the elastic in the pants, but I don’t recall anything more than that.
UW: You changed uniform numbers quite a bit during your career. Any significance to any of those numbers?
JR: When I first came to big leagues with the Cardinals, I was assigned 49. And that was fine by me — my god, I was just glad to be in the big leagues. And once you start seeing yourself in a certain number, you start to associate yourself with it. But when I went to Houston, Larry Dierker was wearing 49, so they gave me 47. Larry said to me, “You want 49? I’ll give it to you.” I said, “Larry, you can’t do that — that’s you. It’s not that big of a deal.”
When I went to the Pirates, they gave me 27, which had been worn by Bob Johnson. I wore it in spring training. And one day I was driving home, I think from a workout, and I saw a sign for the highway that went through Bradenton, and it was Highway 41. And then I remember that it was also prominent in the song “Traveling Man” by the Allman Brothers. And I just started smiling and I thought, “Let’s do that.” So I switched to 41 based on that.
When I was traded to the Dodgers, the first day there I wore 25 without a name on the back, but that was Tommy John’s number. He had left as a free agent, and I thought, “You know, the body’s not even cold yet.” So I asked the equipment manager if 41 was available, and it was, so that’s what I wore for the eight years I was with them.
UW: Hmmm, according to baseball-reference.com, you also wore 21 with the Dodgers. Is that not accurate?
JR: I wore 21 with Milwaukee.
UW: Yeah, they have that listed. But they also say you wore it with the Dodgers.
JR: No, I never did. That was Jay Johnstone.
UW: Wow, good memory! Anyway, then you went to the Angels.
JR: Yes. By that time, I was pretty much ingrained with 41, but 41 was worn by DeWayne Buice. Dyar Miller, the bullpen coach, wore 49. So I had to figure out a compromise in between. I think someone else had 47, so they gave me 44. Doug Decinses started laughing when he saw that. I said, “What’s so funny?” He said, “Do you know the last guy who wore that number around here?” And I didn’t know.
UW: It was probably Reggie, right?
JR: Yes, he said it was Reggie. He said, “Reggie’s gonna see you wearing that 44 and he’s gonna go nuts.”
UW: It is often a slugger’s number — Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey.
JR: Yeah. Well, that’s what I wore. Then I got 41 back with the White Sox. They’d originally given me 46, but then they released a lot of guys in spring training. With 46, eh, it just didn’t seem right. But 41 became available at the start of the season, so when I found out I’d made the club I asked if I could have it, and they said, “Sure.”
I couldn’t wear 41 with Milwaukee, because it had been retired — that was Eddie Mathews’s number. And I couldn’t wear 49 because that was worn by Teddy Higuera. So they gave me a whole lot of options, and one of them was 21. I remembered that I’d played for Warren Spahn when I was in Triple-A, and his number with Milwaukee had been 21, so I thought, “My god, what a great way to honor Spahnie.” But he probably didn’t feel all that honored when I went 1-5 with an ERA over five. [Jerry’s being to hard on himself here — he actually went 1-4. — PL]
So then I went back to Pittsburgh, just so I could finish my career on my own terms. Zane Smith was wearing 41, so they gave me 47. The final week of the season, the Pirates had already clinched the division, and Jim Leyland offered to let me start the final game. It was just a nice way to let me finish my career — I was honored, flattered. So I went to the equipment manager and I said, “Let me tell you a little story. I started my career as a September call-up, and that’s how I’m gonna finish my career. I pitched one game for the Cardinals in September of 1969, and I wore 49. And it would be a nice way of going full-circle here if I could wear 49 for this final game.” It was available, and he said, “I’ll get that taken care of for you.” So that’s how I finished my career wearing 49.
UW: Huh, that’s another one that isn’t shown on baseball-reference.com.
JR: Yeah, well, you can either believe me…
UW: No, of course, I totally believe you. It’s just one of those things that shows how you can’t trust everything you read.
JR: That’s right.
UW: What do you think of the current look in baseball, with the longer pants, the baggier uniform, all of which is very different than the look most players had during your career?
JR: To give you a bit of background, I grew up in St. Louis, going to Busch Stadium, and I’d see how the players wore the uniforms — the black shoes, the bloused pants, all the details. That really became ingrained in me. To me, that’s how I dreamed of looking as a major league baseball player.
UW: That became your ideal of what a baseball player is supposed to look like.
JR: Right. It was just my personal preference and it’s what I grew up with. And I wore it that way from high school on up through the big leagues. And uniforms evolved, but I held on the best I could to the way uniforms were when I was growing up. When I look at pictures of myself from my career, I think, “That looks normal.” That’s how I wanted myself to be presented and preserved.
But each generation of ballplayer, the way they wear the uniform really defines the times. The players put their own personal brand on it. It just represents the times.
But things evolve, fabrics evolve. I wore the Pirates away uniform for their fantasy camp, and it was the most comfortable uniform I’d ever worn. I didn’t want the real long pant legs. They asked me, in fact, and I said, “What I really want is about 6 or 8 inches above my heel,” and I wore them unbloused with the two-in-one socks. If stirrups and sannies had been available, that’s what I would’ve worn, but the Pirates didn’t have stirrups available.
UW: So you would have preferred that, even though it’s a little more high-maintenance.
JR: I would’ve done it, yeah. It would’ve been interesting to see how the current Pirates uniform looks with stirrups. Nobody thought of it because, well, nobody wears it that way anymore. [Well, except for D.J. Carrasco. — PL]
UW: Did you ever wear two-in-ones when you were playing?
JR: I don’t see myself wearing them in any pictures. I don’t remember wearing them in the big leagues. But I probably wore them in the adult league, because there weren’t any stirrups available. And I wore them at fantasy camp, because it was easy, and it seemed to blend well with the piping on the side of the pants. It looked right, at least to me. Other guys — I think Bill Virdon, who was managing, wore two-in-ones, and I think everyone else wore the solid socks.
UW: I think that’s all the questions I have. Do you have anything you want to add?
JR: Well, we should probably mention the uniform I designed — for the Pasadena Redbirds in the adult league. [Note that Jerry is indeed wearing two-in-ones in that photo. — PL]
UW: Oh, I didn’t realize you’d designed that.
JR: Yeah, I did. The Redbirds logo was based on the logo from the Springfield Redbirds. I can show you a link for Satchel Paige’s business card with the Springfield Redbirds, and it shows the logo.
UW: So you based it on that.
JR: The manufacturer who made that uniform for me was the same one who’d made the Dodgers’ uniforms when I played for them. So we talked about it and he helped put it together for me. And the Cardinals’ Sunday cap really tied it all together. So that took care of my uniform jones. And it puts me right up there with all the people on your site — what do you call them, tweakers?
UW: Yeah, that’s Phil’s thing, on the weekends. He runs all the tweaks and concepts that people come up with.
JR: My god! A lot of times I’ll look at the link and I’ll say, “That’s a great design, that’s a great idea!”
UW: Yeah, the computer makes it so much easier to dream things up and try out ideas. If you can imagine it, you can create it, at least on the computer screen.
JR: Well, they do a fantastic job. I look at a lot of them and I think, “Hey, that’s a pretty good idea!”
UW: Well, when you get to be the GM of a team, we’ll know to approach you with our ideas.
JR: I don’t know how I would handle that, because there’s so many good ideas, but there’s only so many uniforms you can put out there. And if you start changing logos and designs, changing colors, you end up losing your brand. You know this better than I do, I’m sure — you’ve thought this through.
Was that a great interview or what? Major thanks to Jerry for sharing his time, experiences, and expertise. Hope you’ll keep reading every day, Jerry — you’re one of us now.
Collector’s Corner, by Brinke Guthrie
We have some high-end items this week at CC. While the majority of eBay items are reasonably priced, there are a few gems out there that can really break the bank, er, PayPal account.
• Going way back, here’s a cool baseball signed by two guys named Ruth and Gehrig. Just 3K.
• Fantastic set of early-’60s NHL bobbles, priced to move at $549.
• Broncos @ Raiders program from 1961, a mere $450.
• Sporting News spring training artwork from the 1950s, just $249. [I’d say that’s a fair price. — PL]
• Reader Warren Junium took note of this vintage Notre Dame stadium usher’s vest and hat — a steal at $100.
And for those among us who are budget-minded …
• A 1960s Pirates bobble — rendered in green, red and white?
• Not sure why you’d want an NFL figure candle. Won’t you be melting his helmet and head?
• You’ve seen the NFL gumball helmets, but have you ever seen an ad for them? That one’s from 1969.
Seen something on eBay that you think would make good Collector’s Corner fodder? Send your submissions here.
Giveaway Results: The two winners of the America Bowl book and the Redd Foxx T-shirt are Anthony Gonsalves and Michael Rich. If you didn’t win but want to buy one of the shirts from Don Steinberg, contact him here.
ESPN Reminder: In case you missed it yesterday afternoon, I have a new feature, not uni-related by still plenty interesting, up now on ESPN.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Cincinnati football coach Butch Jones says the team may be tweaking its uni later this year (with thanks to David Sonny). … I asked the folks at Tulsa about those NFL captaincy patches that the football team is wearing. Got this response: “This is actually the first year we’ve had a captain’s designation on the jerseys. Obviously, the NFL captain designation is extremely classy and good-looking and thus our equipment manager elected to use the NFL-style captain logo. To my knowledge, the players are unaware that these are patterned after the NFL-style patch.” I followed up by asking if they got the patches via the NFL, and/or if they asked permission (not that I necessarily think they need it — just seemed like something worth asking) and was told, “No they did not. From my understanding the patch is not trademarked or registered.” … Meanwhile, remember how we were saying that the SEC patch on Mississippi State jerseys looks like a Jesus fish? I check on that and was told that it’s actually an illusion caused by the white edges of the pennant-shaped patch. That’s why the fish-tail effect is only showing up on the team’s red jerseys. … The Pens and Hawks went color-on-color in a prospect tournament game. “I wouldn’t mind seeing this in the regular season,” says Jason Smith, and I’m not so sure I disagree. … Yesterday’s Ticker included a link to this photo, along with speculation that it “looks like it marks which yard line the clip is aligned to.” That prompted a note from Zane Tuck: “That is correct. That is what is simply called, a clip. I’m a football official here in North Carolina, and the head linesman gives a clip to a member of the chain crew before each game (if there isn’t one already on the chain). The clip is placed on the back side of the back yard line each time that a first down is gained. You can buy different varieties of clips. There’s the dial clip, which is similar to the one you linked to in the Ticker. It’s plastic and you rotate the dial to mark the yard line for the clip. It’s bulky but very functional. There’s the slider clip, which is made of fabric and has a black plastic slider to mark the yard line. If you’ll notice on this one, it has the yard increments from 5 to 55, so it can be used in Canada as well as the US. The dial clip also has those same increments. The last one is the phone dial clip. I’ve never used that one before.” … Denis Hurley has created a new site dedicated to the history of kits in the Irish sports of Gaelic football and hurling. “It is still only early days, so only current jerseys are included for most teams, though more will be added over time,” he says. … Peter Greenberg recently got to spend about half an hour inside the Green Monster during a game at Fenway. “One of my favorite things was the controls to the old home and visitor lineup boards that used to be on the old Fenway LF wall, not used since they got rid of that feature in the late ’70s and added the first Jumbotron in centerfield. The guys who work inside the Monster claimed not to know what those were for (and one has been there 30 years, just after their use was discontinued), or maybe they just didn’t like talking about it.” … You know how football coaches cover their mouths with their play-calling cards? They might not have to do that anymore, thanks to a new invention. Details at the bottom of this page (thanks, Ek). … Jim Amato was cleaning out some old stuff and found a souvenir helmet with a Memorial Stadium final-season logo I’d never seen before. … Absolutely sensational Utah/BYU game program from 1960 available for your viewing pleasure here (major find by Ben Hatfield). … Michigan will wear a memorial decal this weekend for Ron Kramer (as Twittered by Craig Baker). … “The high school I attended (Fillmore High, Fillmore, Calif, which has the fairly uncommon nickname Flashes) will be playing its arch-rival Santa Paula for the 100th time this fall,” writes David Lassen. “There’s quite a bit of activity around this event, including a Facebook page where people have been scanning and posting some old photos.” … NHL observation from John Muir, who writes: “The Bruins, Coyotes, and Rangers are doing something quirky for their Rookie Camp games this week: They’re assigning captaincy ‘C’s and ‘A’s. A lot of teams have rookie/training camp uniform traditions (the Red Wings non-arched NOBs, e.g.) but I’ve never seen this done for rookies.” … Blayne Green and his daughter recently took apart an old football that had gone flat. He was gonna trash it, but then he thought maybe a DIYer or craft-ish person might have a use for it. If that sounds like you, contact Blayne directly and he’ll hook you up. … In a related development, Steve Johnston has an old auction catalog loaded with cool photos. If you want it, it’s yours for the cost of shipping, which Steve says will be $10.70. Interested parties should contact Steve here. … NY Rangers’ third jersey will supposedly look like this — nice (with thanks to Mario Morgado).
Two brats, with mustard: I’m heading off this morning to my favorite state, where I’ll be spending the rest of the weekend. Not sure how much computer/wifi access I’ll have while I’m there — possibly none — so try to go easy on the Ticker submissions this weekend, OK? OK. Enjoy your weekend football and I’ll see you all next week.