You probably heard a few weeks ago that MLB and the players’ union had reached an agreement on a new labor deal. The players have ratified it, but the owners haven’t done so yet (they’re set to vote on it tomorrow and are expected to approve it). Since the deal isn’t officially ratified yet, it hasn’t been made public and nobody knows exactly what’s in it. A few details have leaked out over the past few weeks, but nobody in the media has seen the full agreement — until now.
The AP got its hands on the document and published a bunch of details late yesterday afternoon. It’s all interesting — I recommend reading the full article after you finish up here at Uni Watch — but two passages are particularly uni-relevant, beginning with this:
Any big leaguer who wants to change uniform numbers without switching teams better give eight months’ notice unless he’s willing to buy warehouses full of his overstocked jerseys. …
Players must tell the commissioner’s office by July 31 of the preceding year if they want a new jersey. That is, unless ‘the player (or someone on his behalf) purchases the existing finished goods inventory of apparel containing the player’s jersey number.’ As in, every replica jersey, jacket, T-shirt, mug and anything else with a number that’s anywhere in stock.
Hmmm. We’ve heard about this kind of thing in the NFL (remember Chad Bengal being presented with a big merch bill when he wanted to change his NOB?). And I recall the NBA being upset about Michael Jordan changing his uni number from 23 to 45 upon his return to the league way back in 1995 because it was gonna screw up all their merch sales (although I don’t think they had a rule against it at the time; I assume they do now).
But there’s never been a rule like this in MLB before. And although I’d never thought about it until now, this has definitely led to a more freewheeling approach to uni numbers. We’ve all seen MLB players changing numbers in the middle of the season, either because of roster changes or just because of personal whims (remember how David Wells wore No. 3 at the beginning of 2005 and then said, “Ah, never mind” after a few starts?). I kinda like that — it makes for a more fluid, more interesting uni-numerical culture. But now, as in so many other areas, the merchandising tail will be wagging the on-field dog. Sigh.
Of course, the players get a cut of all the merch revenue, so one might argue that it’s perfectly fair to keep them from messing up the merch machine with frivolous uni number changes. All of which leads me to wonder this: Can a player still change uni numbers with impunity if he opts out of the merch-revenue system? That would never happen, natch. But the new rule just seems depressingly corporate.
And that brings us to the second uni-notable element of the new labor deal which is this: Players will be prohibited from getting tattoos with corporate logos. Kinda sad that they had to think about including that, but I guess it’s a good thing. The real question, though, is what happens if a player gets a tattoo of his uni number and then ends up changing it (the number, not the tat). The whole system would probably self-destruct.
(Big thanks to Ashby Jones, who was the first reader to bring the AP story to my attention.)
Sponsor shout-out: Two days ago I got a note from reader Kevin Dull, who wrote: “I thought you’d appreciate these new Penn State throwback jerseys that a local store is selling here in State College. A couple of years ago Nike sold some faux-back Cappelletti jerseys, but they were the same material as the current
replica jerseys. The ones I saw tonight had the old-school material.”
The jerseys that Kevin saw were made by Tiedman & Formby, who are currently advertising here on Uni Watch (top of the left sidebar). After they first got in touch with me to inquire about running an ad, they sent me a few samples, and I was seriously impressed. Old-school cotton/nylon Durene fabric, period-appropriate numeral applications (sewn on the Notre Dame jersey, screen on the Penn State), all made in the USA, etc. Can’t say I’m in love with that patch on the back of the Irish jersey, but that’s my only quibble. First-rate product, and I’m not saying that because they’re advertising here — I’m saying it because it’s what I believe.
Tiedman & Formby is a comeback project of sorts for Craig Tiedman, who pioneered football, hockey, basketball, and soccer throwbacks back in 1989 under the brand name Tiedman & Co. Sportswear. This was when Jerry Cohen (Ebbets Field Flannels) and Peter Capolino (Mitchell & Ness) were creating the market for baseball throwbacks. He eventually sold the business to Champion and did other things with his life until 2009, when he and his wife, Louise Formby, reactivated the brand. They’re currently assembling a growing collection of NCAA licenses, so we’ll likely see more of their product in the years to come, and I hope to write about them more extensively soon. If you haven’t already checked out their stuff, I suggest taking a peek.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Here’s a good story about the flag of New England, which appears on the New England Revolution’s new jersey. … “Saw these NFL pajamas at a Kohl’s over the weekend,” says Brad Jackson. “Notice the gold Bucs helmet. Apparently their definition of pewter is much closer to the gold used for the Saints.” … New Santa-themed jerseys for the Edmonton Oil Kings (from Donnie Gould). … Just what the world needs: pop-up naming rights. Why not just call it Douchebag Stadium for 11 days and be done with it? (From Ben Gordon.) … Nick Schiavo sent in a photo of his very nice Mets Xmas tree. … The new issue of NFL Magazine has a piece on throwbacks (from Steve H.). … Speaking of NFL Mag, their logo looks rather un-NFL-like, no? … Here’s what Michigan will be wearing in the Car Insurance Bowl. Backstory here. … Hard not to like this Bengals toothbrush. Are other NFL teams available? (From Ethan Crooks.) … Very interesting submission from Josh Hansen, who writes: “This shot is from a Pistons/Jazz game at the Salt Palace on St. Patrick’s Day during the 1985-86 season. It’s noteworthy for two reasons: (1) The Jazz stopped wearing the green jerseys (regularly at least) after the 1983-84 season, and (2) it’s color vs. color. Was this the first case of St. Paddy’s Day uniforms in the NBA?” Excellent question. Anyone know more? … New uniforms in the works for Minnesota (from Casey Common). … Hmmm, I had no idea the Packers had such huge rear helmet numbers in 1973. That shot is from a Packers/Chiefs gallery that Jeff Ash put together. Also notable: the uniforms on these security guards, or ushers, or whatever they were. … Yesterday’s post about names prompted Tim E. O’Brien to write a piece about the travails — uni-related and otherwise — of having an apostrophized name. It’s all interesting, but if you prefer to skip directly to the uni-relevant section, search on the word “fandom.” … Alan Tompas found a cool site devoted to soccer stamps. … Remember my semi-recent ESPN column about uniform myths? Here’s one I hadn’t heard before, from Chris Vanaskie: “I went to Penn State, and there’s a story that the football team originally wore black and pink, but the colors eventually faded to look like they were blue and white. I always thought this sounded ridiculous but still accepted it and even helped to spread the myth by telling it to friends and family. The students and alumni view it as a fact. I even remember a few years ago when the ‘S Zone’ (part of the student section that wears blue and white shirts to create a block S) went so far as to wear pink and black shirts.” Anyone care to perpetuate or poo-poo this one? … Oh man, is Kobe Bryant really gonna open the season in these shoes? (Blame Chris Flinn.) … I’ve always been opposed to domed stadia. But I may have to rethink that position now that the closed roof in Dallas led to this mildly high-larious situation last Sunday. I trust the birther folks have already booked a flyover for tomorrow night’s Jags/Falcons game in Atlanta. … Remember that Illinois high school that got hit with a technical foul due to a ticky-tack uniform violation? They won’t have to worry about that again (from Pete Lootens). … Following up on yesterday entry about my name, Jeff Barak points out that there’s an Austrian hockey player named Phillipp Lukas. Turns out he’s had a wide range of NOB variations, some of which I like better than others. … While looking for photos of Phillipp, I noticed two shots that show him wearing what I assume is a captaincy designation at the base of his collar, instead of off to the side — never seen that before. Of course, I’ve never seen that many ads on a hockey jersey either.