Click photos to enlarge
It’s funny how a random comment can lead you down a rabbit hole. Case in point: Phil and I were recently attending a Mets game, and he started rattling off the teams that had worn white shoes — the A’s (duh), the ’75 Phillies, the early-’70s Angels, and so on. And then Phil said, “And the Senators, for one season, right?”
This really threw me, for two reasons. First, I was pretty sure the Senators had never worn white shoes. But just two days earlier, reader Bruce Margulies had sent me the two photos of Frank Howard that you see above. Bruce didn’t have dates for them, but I had narrowed them down to 1970 or ’71. And in one of them, it looked like the third base coach might have been white-shod as well, so I was intrigued.
I explained all of this to Phil, who said, “I’m positive Ricko has photos showing the Senators in white. I think you’ve even linked to one of them before.” After we both got home from the ballgame, he sent me a note: “Found it. You covered this in this entry.” Sure enough, that entry includes the following graf:
• Some great Washington Senators images here: Gil Hodges exhibiting some serious stripeage and Hondo Howard wearing the white spikes the Sens wore in 1971 (not shown in Dressed to the Nines, but they wore ’em, as confirmed in this Denny McLain shot).
I had completely forgotten about this, so it felt like a new discovery, even though it was something I had posted on the site four years ago. Phil, Ricko, Bruce Margulies, and I all started hunting for more pics of the ’71 Sens with white footwear, and it turns out there are many more of those images floating around the web now — including a team portrait showing the entire squad in white going ivory-footed! — than there were four years ago. Here’s what we’ve found so far (if the slideshow doesn’t work for you, or if you just prefer to see the images in a non-slideshow format, click here):
But if the Sens wore white in ’71, why did Dressed to the Nines show them wearing black? And why do some photos from that season show them in black? The answer apparently lies in this Sports Illustrated article from April 19, 1971, which Ricko turned up. It states:
In baseball’s first week of 1971 the Orioles and the Cardinals zipped about in vivid new zipperless stretch suits. The Astros showed up in orange hats, socks, sweatshirts, belts and lettering and with their names on their backs. The Senators wore stiff new white shoes with red and blue stripes in pre-game practice (trying to break them in enough so that they could be worn in games). The Orioles wore traditional black shoes with renewed appreciation after trying orange shoes and hating them. (Emphasis mine.)
So it’s not clear exactly when the Sens switched from black to white, but it was presumably at some point in April or May. Either way, I believe this makes them the earliest non-A’s example of an MLB team wearing white shoes.
All of which is particularly ironic given that the Senators had previously been so opposed to the A’s wearing white shoes, leading to the short-lived but very entertaining White War of 1967. (If you’re not familiar with this chapter in uni history, take a few minutes to read that entry — good stuff.) When viewed in the context of that episode, the 1971 footwear feels like a case of “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”
In any case, it’s a safe bet that I won’t repeat the mistake of forgetting about the Sens wearing white. It’s gonna be pretty well lodged in my brain from now on — plus I showed all the photos to Baseball Hall of Fame curator Tom Shieber, who has now updated the Sens’ 1971 Dressed to the Nines entry accordingly, so the white shoes are now part of the historical database.
(Major, major thanks to Phil, Ricko, and Bruce Margulies for their contributions to this piece.)
More DC news: As noted earlier this week, the Nationals wore their red batting helmets on the road last weekend, instead of their usual blue road helmets. That prompted the following discussion between Nats broadcasters Bob Carpenter and F.P. Santangelo during last night’s game (major thanks to Frank Manganello for the transcription):
Carpenter: By the way, I don’t know if anyone asked you this, I hope I wasn’t imagining this… On the road, this weekend, the Nationals had the all-red helmets.
Santangelo: They did!
Carpenter: So what’s the story?
Santangelo: Just seeing how it looked with their gray unis.
Carpenter: I liked it.
Santangelo: I thought it was great.
Carpenter: When I tuned in with my family from points unknown, never to be revealed, on Friday night…
Carpenter: I was like ‘Wait a minute…where’s the blue bill on the ball caps?” Or it was, umm, the blue helmet with the RED bill, and the Nats were all red, and I’m like ‘Wow, I haven’t seen that.’
Santangelo: At first I thought it might’ve been a mistake, coming out of the All-Star break, that they packed the wrong helmets. But upon further research we found out that they were just seeing how they looked with the gray unis.
Santangelo: I thought it looked great.
Carpenter: Well, it got them a .500 series on the road, two and two. One ball and two strikes. I just knew, that either you or Kristina [Akra, the Nats’ sideline reporter], being the bulldog reporters that you are, would find out the real story on that.
Santangelo: You can’t get anything by the fashion police. We were on it the first inning.
Carpenter: On a breaking ball, on his hands, Michael Morse fouls it.
Santangelo: It did take me a second to figure out what looked different though. Because we didn’t get any word of it, we didn’t have any idea it was going to happen until the top of the first. Something looks different tonight. And then you looked at the helmets, and it was red all over the place, going for the firefighter road unis. I like it.
Hmmm, “firefighter road unis” — will that term catch on?
Membership reminder: The Uni Watch Membership Program will soon have a price increase, but there’s still time for you to get in at the current price. Details here.
Raffle reminder: I’m currently raffling off five copies of the newest edition of Bill Henderson’s doubleknit-era baseball jersey guide. To enter, sendi an e-mail with your name and shipping address to the giveaway address by 8pm Eastern tomorrow. One entry per reader. I’ll announce the five winners on Friday.
Vacation reminder: My annual one-month summer break from the site begins this weekend. Phil will be handling the weekdays, Johnny Ek the weekends. I’ll still be doing ESPN work, which Phil will inform you about as it becomes available.
Uni Watch News Ticker: New football uniforms for Weber State. Can’t believe they’re using something so Comic Sans-ish for the chest wordmark (from Karson Kalian). … Here’s something you don’t often see on eBay: a vintage 1970s McDonald’s uniform (thanks, Kirsten). … New kit for Spartak FC (from Leo Thornton). … Joe Hilseberg spotted Ray Rice wearing a new brand of compression gear. “Did some digging and found this,” he says. “Not sure what they actually do, but Rice apparently likes them! They seem to be popular with rugby teams, too.” … New logo for some crappy restaurant chain (from Todd Herzog). … Another great idea that never caught on: eyeglass “bumpers” for basketball players. That’s from the April 1941 issue of Popular Science (nice find by Brian Codagnone). … Check this out: Players from Chelsea FC and the Seattle Seahawks wearing each others’ jerseys (from Graham Bakay). … Good story on the new high-tech Olympic swimsuits (from Tom Mulgrew). … This is pretty funny: a football that looks like R2-D2 (from Jarrod Leder). … Alan Poff reports that the Quad Cities River Bandits are letting fans pay to put little photos of themselves on the team’s jerseys. That story says this is the first time this has been done for a U.S. team, but is that accurate? I know some European soccer teams have done this; not sure about American soccer teams or other American sports. Anyone..? … I was out for my daily bike ride in Prospect Park yesterday and listening to All Things Considered on the radio (yes, my bike has a radio) when they ran this really interesting report on how pole vaulters get their poles onto airplanes. … Denis Hurley has created a new site devoted to Cork City FC’s kits. “It features every single strip worn by Cork City FC since the club’s formation in 1984, and in time other articles on various soccer kit subjects will be added,” he says. … Trademark bullying + the Olympix = this clever billboard (big thanks to Mark Coale). … America’s most prominent uniformed youth organization has once again disgraced its uniform. … Here’s more about those UMass BFBS uniforms (from Mark Sullivan). … Nebraska’s equipment manager has posted several pics of white shoes on Twitter. “This would be their first time wearing white shoes since 1989,” says David Westfall. “I’ve tried to get a definitive answer via Twitter, but to no avail.” … If you skip ahead to the 3:20 mark of this video clip, you’ll see Toronto FC’s latest player talking about his choice of uni number (from Marty Thompson). … “I noticed on Monday night that Carlos Gonzalez was wearing one of Troy Tulowitzki’s wristbands,” says Brian Skokowski. “Didn’t think much of it — figured it was either a quick mistake or that maybe it was a 5 and just upside-down. Tonight, however, I got a good look at it with him on base and it was clearly right-side-up with a #2 on it.” … “One of our writers at the Ball State Daily News found this pic floating on Twitter,” writes Mat Mikesell. “It very much suggests that Ball State football will be getting a black jersey for this upcoming season. Can’t tell if that’s replacing the usual home red. My guess is it’s an alternate home jersey. Since I’m the beat writer for the football team, I asked coach Pete Lembo if there will be a black jersey this upcoming season. He replied with ‘You’ll just have to see’ and laughed. So my gut tells me they’re real, just haven’t been officially unveiled yet.” … In the recent USA/Brazil women’s basketball game, Brazil’s women’s team went FiNOB — their usual format — except for Damiris Dantas, who had her last name on her jersey. “Here’s a clear pic of Clarissa dos Santos with ‘Clarissa’ and Dantas with ‘Dantas,'” says Kevin Brown. … It’s not every day that you see the words “Olympics” and “humiliating shambles” in the same headline. Wait, check that, it pretty much is every day, but yesterday’s installment was particularly entertaining.