By Phil Hecken
Now that we’ve finally bid adieu to the XXXieth Games of the Summer Olympiad, Uni Watch will turn its thoughts to more pressing matters. I’ve got a bunch of great stuff lined up for the next week and a half before Paul returns to his rightful position atop the UW weekday postings, and today I’m ever-so-pleased to bring you an outstanding article from my buddy, the true patriarch of the Revolution, Robert Marshall. And yes, by Revolution, I am talking about the man who has single-handedly done more to bring back the “right proper” love for and wearing of the stirrup than anyone (aside from possibly Paul). But Robert is about more than just outfitting us handsomely in the most beautiful lower leg stylings known to humankind, he’s also a good friend and a stirrup historian of the first order.
So, at this point, I’ll simply surrender the reins of this lede to Robert as he guides us through…
The Immaculate Stirrup Conception
By Robert Marshall
With the Olympic games over, I thought it would be nice to talk about a little days of yore baseball texture in a way that incorporates the pseudo wire service, rabbit holes, white whales, and Collector’s Corner elements that we all know and love around what is a fetish interest of my already marginalized brethren drawn to Uni Watch. It was only a couple years ago Phil got a few of us together, and we talked stirrups, my part was explaining the origin of “Stirrup Fridays,” so if you have ever been curious, there it is. Phil mentioned the origin of the stirrup, and his information from the April 21, 2009, Wall Street Journal follows…
On July 4, 1905, the Boston Globe dropped a hint of its origins, reporting that Napoléon “Nap” Lajoie, of the Cleveland Napoleons, was down with “blood poisoning” after being spiked by a shortstop named O’Leary. The Globe said, “some of the dye in his stocking got into the wound and affected it.” The next December, the Washington Post reported that Cleveland players “will hereafter wear pure white stockings to avoid the possibility of blood poisoning.”
Pretty straight forward, the story we all pretty much know and accept, but there are some holes. First, who is O’Leary? The scrappy all glove no stick pre-Mendoza, Charley O’Leary, was in his second year with the Tigers on the junior circuit, was it him? If so, when was the moment of immaculate stirrup conception? Did it take a week or two for infection to sideline Nap? When did the first player cut his stockings creating the birth of the revolution? Oooooh, Cornmother, why do you forsake me with so many unanswered questions?!
Let’s piece together this puzzle as I have found them jigsawed apart. According to the Cleveland Indian Encyclopedia, Nap’s infection sidelined him immediately, he was out the next day. And according to Baseball Reference, his first game missed was June 30th (I had articles confirming the dates that I seem to have misplaced). Cleveland played 3 games in Detroit, followed by 5 games at home from June 26th to July 1st, including a double header at League Park against the Tigers. So unless my brain-pan has forsaken me yet again and given me the roofus-goofus, we can point to June 29th, 1905, during the course of a double header that Tiger shortstop Charley O’Leary slid into second spiking Nap Lajoie’s left ankle, which left untreated, beyond tobacco spit or rubbing dirt on it, got infected overnight, and nearly killed him. And with this, we have our date for immaculate stirrup conception.
To this point, I do not know when the stirrup was born on the diamond surrounded by 3 wise umpires carrying lumber, leather, and myrrh, but one of these days the sacred parchment will reveal the glorious word. Until then we know Phil’s Wall Street Journal article points to Cleveland deciding to wear white sanitary stockings in December following the season. But Cleveland actually switched to white hosiery either instead of/as, or in addition to the sanitary stocking, my thought is one of the former. That being said, we know it happened by the 1906 cross town world series betwixt the Cubs and the upset minded “hitless wonder” White Stockings if that pixture was taken as late as the series as opposed to the start of the season, but the actual first date of a stirrup still eludes.
This was a transcendent moment, but what else also happened on June 29th 1905? That’s right, John McGraw put in Moonlight Graham, and we all know that story, quite the “magical” day evidently. Now that has the pan pinging, what of the cursory “players” in these events? Oh right, John McGraw is credited with inventing duck pin bowling in Baltimore, thank corn.
And what of Charley O’Leary? The Chicago born and laid O’ Leary may not be in Showman’s Rest, but he did combine with the baseball oddball Germany Schaefer in the off-season as a comic vaudeville act — how great is that? I would love to find some of that footage. Not to mention, recent information apparently might mark O’Leary older than originally claimed by the player himself, making him the second oldest ballplayer behind Satchel Paige, due to some time in Baltimore at the age of 59, once again connecting him to McGraw (not only through age but through that city). Maybe it doesn’t mean much, but both McGraw and O’Leary could have stories that had no-zero-none footnotes, so at the very least we have degrees of Kevin Bacon stuff happening here that remind you that there is always so much more intertwined than what you think you know.
But let’s not forget Napoléon. Is his only association with hosiery being something of a virgin ankle for the Spike of O’Leary? Well not exactly. From 1912 to 1914 the Boston Garter Co. put baseball “cards” into their boxes of 12, and they are spectacular on many levels. Check out these lithographs from 1912 — pretty fantastic depictions of the boys in the locker room as games are played outside, simply lovely. The next set is credited with either 1913 or ’14 depending on what you read, but is a wonderful group off sepia-tone shots. And finally the 1914 set colours pop with amazing composition.
Now these 3 sets are all among the most coveted by card collectors, and to this day only one of the three has been completed, and it sold for over $5,000. The Joe Jackson alone is among the top 10 most valuable baseball “cards” of all time, and I can see why, they are gorgeous objects. As for Nap, here are his Boston Garter shots, nice heels, eh? Something tells me we won’t see many of these for cheap on eBay; however, this does show up even though I don’t see it on any checklist of the sets. Fascinating beyond its absence from checklists when you read the back the card: “These fine athletes have been chosen from all the big leagues: American National and Federal. In addition several notables are chosen from Cuban and Negro teams.” Pretty progressive for a company in 1912 wouldn’t you say? Sure, they want to sell garters to everyone, but that never stopped racism before.
While I could go on about Nap’s other contributions like the double nob bat that was supposed to give players better control, let’s just say that Napoléon Lajoie was a more fascinating character then the turn-back-the-clockish cards of the guy with the funny name and the gross batting average led us to believe as boys, and that goes for much of everything else we have forgotten or ignored.
While I have every one’s ear, I would love to organize a Uni Watch 16″ softball game/gathering at the UIC women’s softball diamond before the weather turns, it is a fantastic venue with a great backdrop and a short porch. As all Chicagoans know, there is not a baseball derivative superior to 16″, it takes stones and skill that 12″ could only dream of, and it is uniquely ours. In addition to that, I am trying to set up an indoor wiffle league for this (long)winter. I just need to find the right abandoned church or factory for the venue, because I would like to keep it out of something as stale as a gymnasium, but everything is setting up quite nicely to this point. If you are interested in either of these, or other possibilities like table hockey tournaments, or anything on the margins of sport that fellow comrades like us can appreciate and I can set up in Chicago, drop me a line.
Thank you Robert. And please stay tuned after “Benchies” and before the Uni Watch Ticker, for Mr. Marshall will have another fine stirrup offering for the faithful revolutionaries (and soon to be converts) among us all.
“Benchies” first appeared at U-W in 2008, and has been a Saturday & Sunday feature here for the past two years.
I don’t imagine he’s expecting a lot of halftime gigs…
Click to enlarge
Comrades, we will make this short and sweet considering I have had enough ramblings today about hosiery.
* As far as “new” offerings go, I have a feeling interest will be underwhelming, but that has to come with the territory every now and again. On the bright side the latest crop were shipped to me last Thursday, and will be in Chicago on Tuesday 9-15, at the latest, so there is that bonus.
* Some have asked me what the “official” stirrup of the Revolution is, and I say Nap gave us the stirrup and called it good, so they are all good, book closed. but I need/want to reissue the Nap for those who say, yeah, I dig what Nap put down. Even if it wasn’t the “first” stirrup, it was what started the revolution, and at conception was navy and white hose in a style vastly under appreciated, love the single fat stripe. And it is a early 1900’s 4″ instead of the usual 5″, sorry 7ist counter revolutionaries.
* I feel the need to say thank you to Kansas City and the wonderful people I met there, so why not a Monarch in navy and gold?
* If there is anything else you are looking for maybe I can help at robertmarshallart.com
from each according their stirrvp,
to each according their strype.
Uni Watch News Ticker: “I saw the final of the 200 meter men’s final here on the west coast and noticed that all three Jamaican sprinters had different style shirts during their race (thanks to Kyle Mackie). … Could these be the possible alternate logos for the 2013 All-Star Game? (c/o John Muir). … Rocky Lum thought you might find this Slate article interesting: “Medals, Schmedals. Here’s Everything You Need To Know About the Purple Ribbons Hanging Around Olympic Champions’ Necks.” … Keenan Bailey “spotted cleats that I bet will worn by Notre Dame during a practice video. Notice the two images are slightly different than this cleat, the one that was released months ago.” … Check out this lower leg styling: “I took this picture of Samuel Gonzalez of the State College Spikes on August 1. (They are the A ball, short season affiliate of the Pirates.),” says Caleb Yorks. It seems as though all Spikes players are required to go high cuffed for games, but Mr. Gonzalez, playing DH that night, too matters into his own hands with this. His pants were the same style all night long. … Caleb Borchers “All Blacks Oddity, Vol I:” Here’s a weird one. The All Blacks in all blue. Caleb explains they played a warm up match against some local provincial teams and chose to wear their practice jerseys instead of the game jersey. Players initials on the right shirt hem a neat touch, and also about the only time you see a sponsor on the AB jersey in game. “All Blacks Oddity, Vol II:” Caleb “saw a back shot that ups the ante on the weirdness. The All Blacks went without numbers, something I’ve never seen purposefully in a rugby game. Many players played out of position due to the trial nature of the match, so I guess it makes sense. Also WSOB (website on back).” … George Chilvers found some interesting Olympics facts. … There is apparently a Twitter site devoted to Redskins’ Gold Pants. Mark C.N. Sullivan says, “They have the right idea, I think.” … Several people sent in information concerning the Rename the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees contest. Good lord those are crappy choices. … I think this site has been mentioned on UW before, but another mention can’t hurt: Click here: Big Hair and Plastic Grass (thanks to Nick Ruggeri). … A reader, who wishes to remain nameless, saw this while walking around the Notre Dame football stadium. “That’s a truck that they pull outside the stadium on gamedays so they can sell more Notre Dame gear. Obviously, the weird thing is the NOB… Could they be adding them this season?” he asks. … “Nikelaces,” says David Ballinger, “I find myself thinking about Steve Grogan when I see the new Nike unis.” … Rob Curtin thinks the Seahawks’ pants piping looks familiar. “It appears they stole the Monster Cable logo and are using it as pants piping.” … Joe Solomonson isn’t sure what this Mexican card of Joe Thiesmann says, but, “It doesn’t say Redskins.” … Have you driven a Brown today? Michael Vasinko finds the Cleveland football team is now
sponsored by featuring an ad patch from Ford. … Royce Ector says, “Just to add to the Bowling Green new unis story, they also have white helmets that weren’t officially “unveiled”. … “Thought you like this video from the Oklahoma athletic department,” says Dan Bewley. “It shows how they get the helmets ready for the season. It’s under the video for Friday August 10th.” … “Interesting set of infographics linked in this New Hampshire Public Radio story,” says Tom Mulgrew “It’s Olympic-themed, using a colored olympic ring to represent each of the 5 major continents, in statistics such as homicide rates, hazardous wastes. Fascinating stuff.” … Jen Heyden writes, “Mike Leake in perfect stirrups at Wrigley.” … More on the Irish in Ireland from Warren Junium: “Multiple Pics of the ND Ireland ball…much better versions that the one I previous shared. Also, undershirt and socks. Rumor of a special uniform for the Ireland game is running around town.” … Just “sharing a tweet with you” from Jay Sullivan: “Getting jerseys ready to be sent off to have nameplates put on. #ugafootball #camplife — UGA Football Equip (@UGAFBEquipment).” … So, it’s not just the Nikelaces that suck — the sweatboxes have returned too. Rich Picardini notes “this is common on many Lions uni’s versus the Browns.” … Oops: Good spot by Jake Morehead who saw Fresno State still has the “WAC” logo on their practice jerseys even though this year they will be playing in the MWC. … Joshua Pryor asks, “have you seen how cool the bmx jersey’s are at the olympics for USA? Spread eagle holding handlebars.” … Ewwww — more CFCS (camo for camo’s sake): “Ogden Raptors new jerseys… Not sure of the reason” (thanks, I think, to Samm McAlear). … The “Everett Silvertips of the WHL unveiled new Jerseys and logo for their 10th Anniversary,” writes Dave Sizer. “See the photo gallery, I haven’t ever seen the number on the bottom of the front of the jersey like that, or the name across the bottom. Not sure what I think of that yet, I’ll need to see it in action.” … More sweatbox action, from Jack Pluta: “All sweaty Jaguars players will be wearing two tone jerseys all year long.” … Because some people are obsessed with athletics aesthetics, Frank Miller writes, “Looks like Alex Smith was rocking the full 3 stripes on his 49ers jersey the other night. Why didn’t Nike make this standard for every 49ers jersey? It looks much better.” (For comparison, here’s Alex Smith last season, probably after the Niners loss to the G-men in the playoffs). … No wonder it was only two bucks: “I did not know the Jets were AFC Champions in 2010?” asks Marc Viquez. “I found this on sale for $2 at Marshall’s in New Jersey, us Jet fans can only wish!” And to think, those are free in Haiti. … Lets say you love uniforms and you love Uni Watch (duh) — but collecting jerseys can get expensive. What do you do? “Sculpt a small jersey out of clay, make a mold and cast as many as I want in plastic.” THAT is the awesome and genius project of Stephen Rawlings. Keep those coming! … Nikelaces, neckrolls — call them what you want, but the comparisons keep on coming: Casey Martyn agrees “that the new NFL jerseys look like the old neck rolls but while watching the Broncos play on Thursday I couldn’t help but to notice they looked like a disco collar. Here’s the Saturday Night Fever poster for comparison.” … Several people noticed the new VT helmets to be worn for the “white out” game Sept 8 vs Austin Peay look like “chicken feet or turkey feet.” … Brady Phelps sends in this, “Ryan Mathews in a chargers jersey… kinda, sorta, not really.” … I’m not sure who Lionel Messi is, or why someone would paint up a car to look like his uni, but Adam Herbst found “saw this today at the bagel store parking lot. That’s showing some love.” … Kevin Collins writes, “The Phillies inducted Mike Lieberthal into their Wall-of-Fame (Phame) – on Friday night. The alumni they brought back – (the likes of Schmidt, Carlton, Bowa, amongst others) wore arm patches – on the right arm. Two of them. One being the apparent logo for the wall of fame – and another representing all the Phillies P’s in their history. Also interesting. During the ceremony, Phillies third base coach Juan Samuel was introduced pre-game wearing jersey number 8. The number he wore during his playing times with the phillies. But now wears number 12 as the 3rd base coach.” … Awwww…how, um, sweet? Marc Bauche writes, “A couple got married before the Jays game at Rogers Centre yesterday. They rode off on a golf-cart (how romantic), with a giant “Just Married” baseball attached to the back of it.” … So? Maybe they don’t have McDonald’s jock contract. What? Rick Rutherford says, “Nike is NOT going to be happy about this.” Also from Rick, “I don’t remember “I don’t remember the Titans having reverse fangs on their yoke/nameplate before.” … G.J. Marmet noticed something odd: “Rob Vitense has worn a University of Wisconsin shirt every day for over a year, and he is still going and closing in on 500 days.” … “Chelsea and Manchester City played in the Community Shield this morning. Chelsea were in their home blues, so City wore their new maroon change kit, which includes some sweet gold sock stripes. City Picture.” (thanks to Evan Sadler). … “The Akron Aeros wore these Star Wars jerseys,” writes Jacob G. “I love Star Wars but cannot get behind these.” … Another Olympics Infograph that Anthony Nuccio says, “I think this would be something nice to put in the ticker tomorrow.” … “I know you said you like this logo,” says Mark Kaplowitz of this Indianapolis Racers hockey puck. “This is in my parents house — That’s the great ones signature.” … Anthony Pellegrino was at Fedex Field for a concert and backstage saw a couple of mannequins in Redskins unis, like the ones you can stand behind and look like you’re a Redskin. “They haven’t been updated to Nike unis yet.” … A reader who goes by Gastern50 sends this: “here is a pic of the back of an Aggie jersey. Note the “Sr” designation on cb Floyd Raven’s jersey.” I’m far more concerned with the awful beveling. … FNOB Alert from Clint Richardson: Not initials, his name is actually T.J Davis (that’s Auburn, right?).
And that, dear friends, brings us to the end of this Monday’s post. That’s gotta be the mother of all tickers (so I’m holding off some stuff that would normally run today until tomorrow). Plenty to talk about there, right? Big thanks to Robert Marshall for that wonderful stirrup history lesson centering around our patron saint, Mr. Lajoie — make sure you guys pick up a pair or three of Friday stirrups — in fact, I’ll start posting pixtures (as Robert would say) of everyone who buys a pair and wears them on Friday beginning my first weekend back — so load up lads (and lasses). Everyone have a good Monday.
“The Titans baby blue pants are awesome. It reminds me of the older Oiler uniforms. I love light blue minus the sheen from the synthetic fabrics. If Nike can do this to the Titans, then the Chargers need to go back to powder blue and yellow, pronto.” — Kyle Allebach