Editor’s Note: Morris Levin will be contributing an article each Friday while Paul takes his break. Enjoy! — Phil Hecken
Capping Off The HOF
By Morris Levin
Next Friday, July 22, kicks-off Induction Weekend for the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven’s election to the Hall by the Baseball Writers Association of America was announced in January, and General Manager Pat Gillick’s election by the Veterans Committee in December 2010. Of interest to this readership is which team cap will be portrayed on the Hall of Fame plaque. When the BBWAA election results were announced, it was confirmed that Alomar would enter the Hall with a Toronto Blue Jays cap and Blyeleven with a Twins cap. As a non-uniformed executive, Gillick’s plaque will be sans team cap so his Hall entry will officially team-neutral.
During the enshrinement ceremony, new Hall inductees are presented with their Hall of Fame Plaque, the public signifier and recognition of their elite status. Inductee plaques are hung in the plaque gallery, an elysian monument of lifetimes in the sport.
Because players (and many of the managers) are shown wearing a specific team cap, the HOF plaque reflects something of an official confirmation of the legacy of team affiliation. Phillies team policy is to retire the uniform numbers only of those players with a Phillies-P on their Hall of Fame plaque..
The Baseball Hall of Fame itself reserves the choice of team logo on a player’s plaque and considers the wishes of the inductee himself. The guiding principle is that the logo be emblematic of the electee’s accomplishments.
Alomar had an unusual career for a Hall of Famer. That he played with seven different teams has been done, but that he played with one team for no more than five years is unusual. Even Gaylord Perry pitched for the Giants for ten seasons. Alomar’s five seasons in Toronto were more than he had with any other team. He made the All-Star team and won the Gold Glove award every season with the Blue Jays, and in 1992 and 1993 helped lead the team to the World Series.
Alomar’s entry as a Blue Jay represents Toronto’s first Hall of Fame plaque. The Blue Jays’ first season as a franchise was 1977, making Toronto and the Seattle Mariners the fifth youngest teams (after Arizona, Tampa Bay, Florida, and Colorado) of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball. Toronto is the first of this group to place a player in the Hall. Alomar’s HOF plaque cap is an important piece of Toronto Blue Jays’ franchise history and story, enhancing the depth and asset value of the Blue Jays name and logo.
Alomar left Toronto as a free agent after the 1995 season, and signed with the Baltimore Orioles. It was a complicated separation as such things can be sometimes. But Hall of Fame elections can opportunities for new found relationships between inductee and the team. Since his election, Alomar has rejoined the Blue Jays organization.
Alomar was first signed by the Padres in 1985 and made his ML debut in 1988. There was a brief period during which Roberto, brother Sandy, Jr., and father Sandy, Sr. were all in uniform together with the Padres. Roberto played three seasons for San Diego and was an All-Star in 1990. Then Alomar was traded to Toronto in the blockbuster deal of the 1990 Winter Meetings: Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez to San Diego and Alomar and Joe Carter to the Blue Jays. (Trust me when I say that McGriff still had a lot of upside in 1990.)
Alomar went to Baltimore in 1996, and then rejoined brother Sandy in Cleveland in 1999. These were strong Cleveland teams, which played in front of sold-out crowds at Jacob’s Field. Alomar finished his career with the Mets, White Sox, and last with the Arizona Diamondbacks which makes him the first Hall of Fame inductee to have played for Arizona.
Four players in the Hall played for the Blue Jays during their careers: Phil Niekro, Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor, and Rickey Henderson. None played sufficiently long to be identified primarily with the Blue Jays but Winfield, Molitor, and Henderson were all teammates of Alomar in Toronto. Roy Halladay has compiled a career warranting Hall of Fame consideration, and not withstanding his stellar Phillies career to date, his long Toronto career makes him the most likely candidate to be the second Blue Jay in Cooperstown.
Alomar’s identification for the Blue Jays has meant an opportunity for the team to host Alomar’s post-election news conference, unveil Hall of Fame banners for Alomar (and Gillick) on Opening Day in April 2011, and have a Roberto Alomar Hall of Fame Day. The Toronto Star featured Cooperstown as a travel destination for its Ontario readership this summer. In March, the Blue Jays hired Alomar as special assistant to the organization, formalizing the renewed relationship.
Bert Blyleven will enter the Hall with a Twins cap on his plaque, the most natural and appropriate affiliation. Blyleven pitched for five teams in his 22-season career, Minnesota, Texas, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and the California (née Los Angeles) Angels. He debuted at age 19 with the Twins, and over two stints, pitched 11 seasons for Minnesota, easily the longest team association of his career. Since 1996, Blyleven has been a Twins broadcaster, strengthening his association with Twins fans.
Blyleven is the fourth player to wear a Twins cap on his plaque, joining Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, and Kirby Puckett. He is the seventh to have played for the Twins. Molitor and Winfield also played for the Twins, as did Steve Carlton who finished his career with the club.
Blyleven’s long playing career with the Twins and his role as a broadcaster gives him a different relationship to the Twins from that of Alomar to the Blue Jays. Blyleven maintains his own website, the pictures on which are Twins specific or team-neutral, and where he supports Twins initiatives.
Teams recognize value in the identification of a Hall of Fame inductee. A team’s fans can point with pride to one of their players being recognized at this high level. Attendance during Hall of Fame induction weekends tends to swell when players from cities within a half-day drive of Cooperstown are inducted.
Morris Levin is an alumnus of Mitchell & Ness Nostalgia Co. between 1993 and 2006 and edited MLB Game Worn Jerseys of the Double Knit Era. He is a proud booster of the Athletic Base Ball Club of Philadelphia and supportive of efforts in West Philadelphia to honor the legacy of the Philadelphia Stars.
Thanks for that wonderful article, Morris. Over the next three Fridays (four if you count today), Morris will be treating us to an interesting look at a variety of subjects.
ESPN reminder: In case you missed it yesterday, Paul’s latest ESPN column takes a super-in-depth look at a super-small MLB detail. Enjoy.
’83 vs. ’84
Reader Rob Holecko was watching last evening’s Padres game, and he made a very astute observation.
“Last night the Padres honored the passing of former manager Dick Williams by wearing 1983 road throwbacks (at home, we know) and also a patch on their sleeve with his initials, ‘RHW’. (Which are very close to my initials, RWH. I guess it would have been in bad form to use his first name.) Williams, who managed the Athletics to two world titles in the 1970s and the Padres to the 1984 NL title, also managed the Red Sox, Angels, Expos and Mariners in a 21-year managerial career, died last week at the age of 82. As it repeatedly says in the press release about the game, they are wearing 1983 uniforms.
“Why did they wear the 1983 uniforms and not the 1984 uniforms? Williams managed the Padres from 1982-85 and the 1984 team that faced the Detroit Tigers in the World Series was easily the most successful during his tenure. The 1983 team went 81-81 and finished fourth in the NL West, ten games behind the Dodgers.
“According to Bill Henderson’s MLB Game-Worn Style Guide, the only difference between the 1980-83 and the 1984 unis was the 1984 unis were button-ups and they had the initials “RAK” on the sleeve to honor owner Ray Kroc who died in January 1984. The 1980-83 Padres unis were pullovers, and one wonders if they were just cheaper/easier/quicker to make.
“One also wonders if the Athletics or any of the other teams that he managed will honor him as well.”
Thanks for catching that Rob. Here are a few photos from that game. While I am not certain I have the definitive answer, I want to say the Pad’s wore these jerseys because they have worn the very same jerseys before, this year, in a game against the Mariners in Seattle. They probably thought they could just recycle the old jerseys, with the new patch, rather than having Majestic make them a whole new set (at what I have been told is a cost of approximately $10,000). In other words, they could just as easily honor Dick Williams by recycling the 1983 tops, even though the team was just a .500 club. Were they to have new jerseys made (assuming they old ones weren’t already created), they may have very well gone with the 1984s. I could easily be wrong, but that’s my guess. Readers? Your thoughts?
Benchies from the Beginning
By Rick Pearson
For nearly three years, “Benchies” has been appearing most weekends at Uni Watch. While Bench Coach Phil fills in for Paul Monday through Friday during August, we present a retrospective. New strips will continue to appear on weekends. For further background, here’s the “Benchies” backstory and bios on the regular Boys of “Benchies.” Enjoy.
And here is the full-size version.
Uni Watch News Ticker (aka some vacation this turned out to be): Paul here. Man, when it rains, it pours: Webmaster John Ekdahl’s computer went on the fritz last night and took most of today’s Ticker with it. So I’ve been pressed into emergency Ticker duty and am gonna try to reconstruct most of what had been submitted yesterday. If you submitted something and don’t see it here, my apologies — it happens. Anyway, here we go, starting with a submission from me: I think this might qualify as our most unusual headwear story of the year. … Reprinted from yesterday’s comments: a good story about how the Phils’ minor leaguers can’t wait to get to the bigs so they can go pajama-legged, plus an additional Philly-based story on baseball style. … New mask for Steve Mason (with thanks to Joe Exner). … Interesting point made by Marc Viquez, who notes that the Kane County Cougars — the Royals’ single-A affiliate — wear the same cap logo as the Royals, only in a different color scheme. … “During the weekend’s IndyCar race, Danica Patrick lost her front wing,” writes Chris Cruz. “Someone had taken her extra wing so she had to use teammate Marco Andretti’s wing, leading to a ghastly color combination.” … New uniforms for the Japanese national track team (with thanks to Jeremy Brahm). … The Thrashers-turned-Jets are putting the finishing touches on their logo. “I’m eagerly awaiting the possible crushing disappointment of how it turns out,” says Sam Belk). … Here’s a first (or at least I hope it is): an E. coli-inspired jersey patch. Anyone got a photo? (With thanks to Nick Orban.) … Phillies announcer Gary “Sarge” Matthews really likes his hats. … Several All-Star Game cleat designs are shown here (with thanks to Coleman Taylor Quinn). … Kevin Holding notes that the seats at Angels Stadium still have the Edison International Field Logo on them. “Edison is a huge energy conglomerate out here and opted out of their 20-year agreement on the naming rights of the Big A (Then the Big Ed) in 2003,” he says. … Syracuse’s new MISL team now has a name and logo (with thanks to Rick DiRubbo). … Jim Walaitis reports that some dude appeared on Let’s Make a Deal in a St. Louis Browns uniform. … “Nike is obsessed with the All Blacks,” says Caleb Borchers. “There are two main Nike teams in international rugby, France and England. France is wearing a jersey commemorating two victories over the All Blacks at this year’s World Cup, and now England, is coming out with an all-black strip. They’ve worn white for a century. I can’t even summon the words to describe how stupid this is. This is like the Packers creating a silver and blue alternate for last year’s Super Bowl in Dallas. It spits all over England’s and New Zealand’s histories.” … Michael Vasinko has been trying to find an evolution of the USA international rugby jersey and he came across this op-ed that summed up his thoughts on the matter.
Thanks Paul, for the Ticker, and Morris for the great main article — and to you great readers for your patience this week. Certainly this was not the way any of us would have planned it, but the show must go on. John will take you guys through the weekend, and I’ll be back next week so Paul can finally begin his well-deserved vacation. You guys have a great weekend!
“Godd-mn NCAA (National Communist Athletic Association). I hope North Dakota nails the PC bastards with a successful antitrust suit. North Dakota’s nickname and logo are totally respectful of its native brethren. Leave them to hell alone!” –Terry Proctor