By Phil Hecken
Two days ago, my buddy Mike Styczen put together a really neat post on the MLB panel cap phenomenon. It was a nice retrospective and Mike did a great job, but there was one image which piqued particular interest: Luis Tiant wearing a seldom-seen blue-red panel cap, which, according to Okkonen, was only worn during the 1974 season.
Mike didn’t remember the cap, I didn’t remember the cap (full disclosure: in 1974 I was 8 years old, watching almost exclusively NL baseball), and according to Mike’s research, he could only find ONE single photo (the Tiant shot) of the Red Sox actually wearing this cap. Mike asked, “Did they wear this for a special event, was it a failed experiment that Okkonen added to the book?” Was a new Uni Watch mystery born?
Not quite. Soon after that article appeared, a few readers stepped up to mention that cap — it definitely wasn’t a one-off, but accounts varied as to how often it was actually worn. One reader, Scott Merzbach, said “Check out the cover of the 1975 Red Sox yearbook, which has photos of Dwight Evans, Bill Lee, Carlton Fisk, Carl Yastrzemski and others wearing the cap with the red front panel.” Sure enough, there it is. Lots of shots (in fact, ALL the shots) of the Sox on that 1975 cover, including an action shot of the Spaceman, graced the cover. Yet, the Sox didn’t wear that particular cap at all in 1975 — they switched to the red crown/blue bill cap they’d wear through 1978. Is this the first (only?) example of a team wearing a cap on the cover of a yearbook they never wore for an entire season? Why would they put that cap (and only that cap) on the cover? Did they think that was the style they’d wear in 1975, and subsequently switched to the solid red crown just before the season started?
But, since there are so few photos of the 1974 cap (in fact, a search of Getty Images for 1974 yields exactly ZERO photos of the cap), how often was it actually worn? Some hypothesized it was worn on “Sunday’s only,” but Rick Pearson, our devout historian, says, “Bullshit. Well, it would seem to me, anyway. That’s someone (once again, sigh) applying current thinking and marketing approaches to 1974. A’s wearing their white jerseys at home on Sundays was about the only example of such thinking at the time. I clearly remember watching Twins-Red Sox night games from Fenway with the Sox in those hats.” Ricko went to the “Ricko Files” and found a nice black and white of Bernie Carbo wearing the red/blue. And, in a wonderful bonus, Ricko found his “old fashioned tracking” in the form of one of his sketches of the 1974 season — note the caption at the bottom of the home uniform: “Red Insert In Softcaps.”
Clearly these were worn more often than just home Sundays. But how often? Reader Joe Kuras said, “To answer [Mike’s] question, the Red Sox wore this hat on a regular basis during the 1974 season. It wasn’t a road hat or alternate hat. The next year, they switched to the all-red crown with blue visor cap.” I did some more digging on the Interwebs, and found this on the “Royal Rooters” Red Sox message board:
The alternate 1974 hat was actually one that the Sox ended up wearing every day at some point. The two front panels on the cap were red and the rest of the hat was traditional blue (side and back panels as well as the bill). A lot of teams started this trend. The Brewers had yellow as the front two panels and the Orioles had white. I actually fondly recall this cap as my favorite Sox cap. The following year they went with the complete red cap and blue bill and kept that style through 1978.
Interestingly, Baseball Digest also wrestled with this exact question a couple years ago. In an article which also featured the Tiant photo that piqued Mike’s interest, BD notes:
(T)his picture also helps to begin solving another mystery. I’ve wondered about those hats, and when exactly during the ’74 season the team wore them. This info does not seem to be available online, and news searches show no mention of them at all. But this pic shows that they were worn on a Sunday. Maybe it was a Sunday afternoon thing? Pictures of players in this hat are rare, but I did notice that on the cover of the ’75 yearbook, there are several small shots of guys wearing them. In Bill Lee’s picture, it looks like a Royal is visible in the background, and Bill did pitch against KC at home on Sunday, July 7th, 1974.
Perhaps this article is where the “Sunday Home” theory began?
Apparently, Bill Lee was no fan of the caps. I found a quote about him on him in a redirected search of BD wherein it was said, “When the Red Sox switched to a two-tone baseball cap, he [Bill Lee] protested by wearing a propeller atop his.” Of course, no photo of that exists, but that would surely be Uni Watch gold (Update: Ricko wonders if they’re speaking of this Sports Illustrated photo).
Finally, reader Brett Greenleaf added a bit more to the story (but unfortunately, no information on how often these caps were worn): “I can not find the Rico Petrocelli image right now,” he says. But Brett did have another black and white photo of Luis Tiant which he believes “is from the same game as the photo (which started this whole investigation).” However, that photo looks like it was from a night game, judging by the shadows on the mound. Brett also included a picture of himself, wearing the hat in St. Croix.
So — there you have it — one mystery “solved” but another unanswered. If only someone back then were tracking individual games so we could know when, and how often, these caps were worn. It would also be interesting to learn when the club decided to switch to the full red crown, since we can assume from the 1975 yearbook the team was planning on wearing the red panel cap for 1975.
Readers? This one isn’t quite the
brown blue purplish Bronco or the Pirates wearing pinstripes on the road, or the Rangers wearing blue tops over white pants, or even the imposter at the 1977 All Star Game, but it’d still be nice to solve.
On the deuce today…
Paul has a new ESPN colum today…. He’s describing it as “the untold story behind the creation of an iconic NFL team logo” — check it out here.
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 (compiled by John Ekdahl): The Tarpon Springs, Florida community is not too happy about a planned move to black football pants (Randy Miller). … This isn’t the first time this has been mentioned, but does anyone know why Ramon Hernandez is wearing number 22 knee savers when his uniform number is 55? Another unusual part of that screenshot is that the Mets appear to be winning. *Swish – Count it!* (Jason Long) … There’s been some discussion about what exactly happened to the Red Sox “Turn Ahead the Clock” promotional jerseys. Some say that the jerseys were delayed as a result of Hurricane Floyd and some say the Red Sox just backed out. Can we get to the bottom of this? … Here’s more information on the new NC State Wolfpack football unis. … “No Blue for You,” the
NCAA WAC Mountain West tells the Boise Community College State Broncos. … The Atlanta Silverbacks are giving fans the opportunity to design the team’s uniforms. … The Jamestown Jammers (who?) will wear 1941 Falcons throwback uniforms this Friday. … Here’s one we may have missed: How the Reds beat the heat during the recent heatwave that encompassed most of the nation. … A victory for the evil empire? George Lucas loses battle to Stormtrooper helmet man, the guy who designed the Stormtrooper uniforms and helmets for Star Wars. … Even though the real uniforms won’t be announced until August 20, that hasn’t stopped the speculation over Georgia’s Pro Combat and the resulting Interwebs fakes. … “Baseball as it Should Be” – a letter to the New York Times’ editor. … This is a little old news now, but in case you missed it: the best pre-race NASCAR prayer of all time.
“The state of comics is in the terlet…but Benchies is a nice exception.” — Jim Vilk