By Phil Hecken
Back about three weeks ago, the day of the MLB All Star game, in fact, I had wanted to do a piece on specialty cleats players wear for the game, usually white shoes, although some wear gray for the mid-summer classic.
This year, however, my father passed away, so I never got to do that post, nor did I see the game. In a way, it’s good I didn’t see it, because this year, the footwear of choice was um, less than stellar. Not quite the white shoes I remember from back in the day.
But white cleats were once a big part of baseball, and not just for the All Star game. The only team who still wears the white footwear now is, of course, the team who started it all.
Here now, is our own Uni Watch historian, Rick Pearson, who I asked to give us a brief overview of the white shoe phenomenon in the Major Leagues. Enjoy:
“There’s no White Shoes in BASEBALL!” Oh, really?”
By Rick Pearson
Charles O. Finley, who had bought the moribund Kansas City Athletics franchise, was, of course, nuts.
He thought orange baseballs would be a good idea.
He thought someone ought to bat, permanently, for those anemic-hitting pitchers, most of whom looked at a bat the way a goat puzzles at a new fence. A “designated batter,” I think he called it.
He opined that TV ratings would be pretty darn good if maybe weekday World Series games were played at night instead.
His idea of a great mascot for the A’s would be a Missouri mule. Wearing a hat.
He thought unis would be pretty spiffy with more color. Presto, he introduced Athletic Gold unis for his A’s in 1963, originally a satiny nylon for at least the season’s first series or two.
And, he evidently reasoned, white shoes on this Namath kid were getting a lot of attention over in the American Football League, so maybe his baseball team ought to wear them, too.
So, four years after introducing mono-gold, Finley signed a deal with Riddell to outfit his A’s in white cleats. He even included that particular brand of shoes in the team’s logo beginning the following season.
Being a jovial if slightly off-kilter fellow, Finley tried to convince sportswriters the new shoes were made from the rare albino kangaroo (keep in mind he later also lobbied Vida Blue to legally change his first name to “True”).
But I digress. Finley also added Athletic Gold sanitary socks, a wise idea because it kept his team from appearing to play in white booties…or from looking like the go-go dancers on “Hullabaloo.”
This move was meant by a fair amount of guffawing and derision. The Washington Senators even had an “anti-white” game (or something) when they play the Athletics at RFK, eschewing their striped stirrups for the evening and wearing special white caps.
Strangely, though, within a few years, white shoes were popping up all over Major League Baseball. This says nothing about MLB’s ability to be fashion-forward, but does speak volumes regarding their endless capacity to “fashion follow.” By 1971, even the once-contrary Senators were wearing white Adidas with red and royal stripes.
The Astros, in their second season of the Tequila Sunrise design, went to white shoes (wore black the first season). The Astros stuck with white sanis, but by then most players were into ribbon stirrups so we were becoming accustomed to white legs.
The Padres adopted white shoes, too, as part of new design that added white trim to a set than included mono-gold (I will NOT call it mustard; it’s the same Athletic Gold other teams wore). Although, because they opted for gold sanis, they did sort of look like condiment squirt-bottles with legs. You know the ones I mean. The waitress sets them on the table when she brings your Burger Basket.
Those two teams didn’t look so bad in white shoes. Looked good, actually. After all, the white cleats WERE part of new design. Modern, trendy, forward-looking…and all that.
Other teams, though, didn’t quite get it. The Phillies, Angels and the previously mentioned Senators kept their same unis, just switched to white shoes. Looked kinda dopey, prime examples of “fashion-following” and perhaps an early example of “bumper-stickering.”
Individual players, though, gave every evidence of liking white cleats. Left to their own devices—the All-Star Game being the most visible occasion—many opted for white. Off the top of my head, I can think of Dave Parker, Gary Carter and Andre Dawson as being among the earliest to do so. Over the years, that trend has continued, including even the likes of Eddie Guardado. Yeah, being flashy always was a big part of Everyday Eddie’s game.
After a while, though, white cleats disappeared from everyone but the A’s, who had moved to Oakland after only a pair of white-shod Kansas City seasons.
And though the Padres tried, the A’s remain the sole franchise to win a World Series wearing white shoes.
Wasn’t with orange baseballs, though. Finley’s madness went only so far.
Thanks, Ricko. I’m not so sure about the “white shoes” phenomenon now, and I’m even less certain whether or not I’d like it with pajama pants. But at one time I sure did hope my Mets, who I would love to see break out the white cleats for the All Star game, would have added them permanently. Now, I’m thankful they did not. It was fun for a once-a-year gimmick, but better left well enough alone.
More on the Jets…
Occasionally we look to the “Under Consideration” (a/k/a “Brand New”) website for inspiration and/or critiques of new or existing logos. I was actually looking at their neat blog for something else, when I stumbled across their write up of the new Jets logos, roundel and wordmarks. A link to their writeup is here.
Of course, I hadn’t seen this when I did my own review of those a week ago, but I fairly loved the roundel, was pretty keen on the logo, and didn’t like the workmark. A couple readers took me to task on the workmark review, and of course, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. No one is right or wrong when it comes to opinion — it’s a matter of preference and choice.
But I did feel a bit vindicated when I read the Under Consideration/Brand New review of the wordmark:
Finally, there is the wordmark. A truly horrific piece of script. Not only is it unpleasant to look at but it makes no structural sense: why does the “J” connect with the “e”? I have never seen a “J” do that. And the “t” and “s” segue? Completely jarring. Loading Snell Roundhand and adding pointy ends to it would have probably been better.
They also pretty much agreed with me on the roundel and the logo (or secondary mark) so at least I feel like I’m in good company.
If you guys haven’t bookmarked that website already, it’s definitely right up the Uni Watch alley.
I will occasionally be featuring the uni-tracking that our various readers undertake throughout the season. Today we have Glenn Simpkins who is tracking the San Francisco Giants’ proclivities:
Sending in my 2nd third of the season uni tracking report for the San Francisco Giants. Folks can have a look see here at my tracking document:
The stats as of 7/31/2011
Home: The Giants are now a total of 32 – 18 at home with the following splits: Cream = 19 – 12, Orange Friday = 5 – 3, OBS = 7 – 2.
These splits DO include the two games in which the Giants wore ribbon stickers (Mothers’ day and AIDS Awareness), both of which were won by Ryan Voglesong, and the period in which MLB imposed that the All Stars wear their patches, during which the team went 3 – 4 and the starters named to the team went 2 – 2 in 5 games.
These splits do NOT include two games in which their uniform was modified, Flag desecration day (a loss) and their “gold lettering” day (a win).
Their Home OBS record is a SHOCKER. Perhaps I was hasty about branding it as a bad idea across the board, since it wins at home.
Road: Different story, The’re a total of 29 ~ 29 with the following splits: Grey = 26 ~ 22, OBS = 1 ~ 7, Special days (Jackie Robinson day and a Flag Desecration day) = 2 – 0 Included in these splits is the Fathers’ day game, in which the Giants sustained a loss.
OBS on the road is weighing us down, we should get rid of it!
Total OBS record now stands at 8 – 9 in 17 games. Overall Record is 61 – 47.
Thanks for reading!
Thanks, Glenn. If any of you are similarly tracking your teams’ uniforms throughout the season, give me a shout and I’ll post your efforts.
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.” This week, more or less, we focus on Ol’ Eddie.
And here is the full-size version.
Uni Watch News Ticker (compiled by John Ekdahl): Colm Heaney: “The NASL’s FC Edmonton recently paid homage to the old Edmonton Drillers, but in the old days they didn’t have sponsors on the kit so they had to shoehorn it on, creating this hot mess.” … Check out this photo of the 1915 Tigerton Ladies Baseball Team (Wisconsin). (BSmile) … Looks like Golf Digest photoshopped the swooshes off of Hank Haney after he moved to Taylor Made (Jordan Rogers). … Head over here for some screen grabs of Hunter Pence’s custom Phillies cleats (Matt Pesotski). … Matt Cunningham: “Here is a great commercial showing the evolution of golf clothing in one swing. Had to watch it a couple times.” … Notre Dame will be the first football program to wear a new protective mouthguard that records impact data in an effort to better understand and protect against concussions (Brinke Guthrie). … This is supposedly a “leak” of the Rangers Winter Classic jersey. The quality of the jersey is terrible (seriously, look at that logo) and why put Messier on there? We think it’s a fake. (Robert Silverman). … K-State is selling “game worn” equestrian unit (Ben Traxel). … Ben Roethlisberger wore a #78 jersey to practice to honor offensive tackle Max Starks, who was released by the Steelers last week.
“If someone competent could have started a ballclub in Pittsburgh in the last 18 years, a lot fewer people would be excited about the Pirates in the NL Central race right now.” — Jerry Wolper