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Tuesday's All-Star Game in Pittsburgh allows for two rare happenings: actual baseball talent in Pittsburgh and a chance for fans of different major league teams to congregate since they last saw each other at Tampa-area strip clubs during spring training. It's the most touristy event on the baseball calendar, so you can expect to see fans from all parts of the U.S. and Canada adorned in baseball jerseys and assorted regalia.
So here's a quick guide to what your baseball wardrobe says about you:
USA World Baseball Classic jersey: This person is a trend-setter, ahead of the sports fashion curve at every step. Or so they were for about two weeks in March, before the U.S. got punked by every country except Tanzania. We'll assume you're a pack rat, unable to part with other items that deserve to be trashed, like your LeBron and Roenick Olympic jerseys and Donovan World Cup shirt. You get the idea. Hey, at least you still have the Flying Tomato to get things done on the international stage. Too bad he doesn't have a jersey.
Manager jerseys: Yep, they're available for purchase, for old-school guys who like Cardinals No. 10 LA RUSSA, Yankees No. 6 TORRE and White Sox No. 13 GUILLEN. You keep score at every game, just in case you need to reference the fourth-inning sequence of a June contest 20 years from now. You've had it with sabermetrics. You've had it with band-box stadiums. And you've had it with dating.
Fat-Friendly jerseys: If someone is pushing three bills, they can't go around wearing a Cardinals No. 1 SMITH. So they're probably wearing something like a White Sox No. 19 LUZINSKI, Pirates No. 39 PARKER or Blue Jays No. 33 WELLS. They probably need their belly to balance a flimsy cardboard tray with four overflowing beers and eight hot dogs. Ya know, while everyone in the section is tempting karma and secretly hoping the whole load spills all over the stairs.
Steroid-Guy jerseys: Gotta feel for the Cardinals fans sporting a No. 25 McGWIRE or Orioles No. 25 PALMEIRO. When they bought their hero's jersey in the pre-Congressional hearing days, they weren't asking to get bombarded with steroid questions from fellow fans. But you know they do now. "Do you think he did it?" "Are you still a fan?" "Will they vote him into the Hall of Fame?" Approach these people carefully. They've got two "How the hell should I know!" answers left in 'em before someone gets knifed. (Plus, it's not like there were any signs in 1998 that Big Mac was a walking chem lab.)
The Fantasy Hero jersey: Here's a conversation that's bound to happen at the All-Star Game; let's say between a Houston tourist and a guy wearing an Astros No. 17 BERKMAN jersey:
Houston guy: "Hey, you from Houston, too?"
Berkman fan: "Nah, I'm from Baltimore."
Houston guy: "Oh, but you're an Astros fan?"
Berkman fan: "Nah, I root for the Orioles."
Houston guy: "So, what's with the shirt?"
Berkman fan: "Well, it was 2002, and I had Juan Pierre on my fantasy team. But I had enough stolen bases and needed power to catch my arch rivals, the Social Ineptitudes, so I traded for Berkman. And he went on a tear and ... HEY WAIT, COME BACK!"
The elusive No. 25 BONDS: You're from San Francisco, that's for certain. Because outside of the Bay Area, the guy is slightly less popular than VD. I live in New York City, a place crawling with transplants, where No. 23 JORDAN and pre-Rangers No. 99 GRETZKY jerseys were not uncommon sightings. But I can't recall seeing a single jersey of Bonds. You've got a better chance of spotting Ozzie Guillen at a Walt Whitman reading.
The Regrettables: Some people remain loyal to their team's mainstays. Others rush out to get the jersey of the newest, coolest acquisition. Sure, it seemed like a good idea at the time, but so did turning on HBO's "Real Sex" before that fat, hairy nudist hit the screen. Give $1 to the fans wearing Yankees No. 41 JOHNSON and Mariners No. 5 BELTRE, because if they could afford another player's jersey, they'd damn well have bought one by now.
Stake in the Heart jerseys: Wanna see how quickly you can make a Twins fan cry? Sport one of these Twins No. 27 ORTIZ throwbacks that has got to grant Minnesotans impunity of all but the most violent crimes. Somewhat along those lines, I heard some New Yorkers wore Red Sox No. 6 BUCKNER shirts at Fenway for the recent Mets series in Boston. Not sure if they're out of the hospital yet. Anyway, it's easy to figure out what these duds say about you, but most of it can't be printed here.
Hall of Shame jerseys: There are bad choices, and there are such catastrophes as Mets No. 25 BONILLA, No. 42 VAUGHN and No. 12 ALOMAR. Orioles No. 88 BELLE and Rockies No. 10 HAMPTON are right up there. None bottom out quite like Yankees No. 27 BROWN, however, as the term "Bronx Bomber" has never been more applicable than when describing the man most responsible for detonating 86 years of good fortune. It's a wonder the Yankees don't retire the number just so fans aren't subjected to horrifying flashbacks. While rare, these jerseys can sometimes be spotted on those who arrive early at tag sales to, ya know, get the "good" stuff.
Movie/TV jerseys: These are best for poker nights, with your buddies who will immediately identify the joke behind an Indians No. 24 DORN, a Vandelay Industries No. 7 COSTANZA or anything adorned with a Chico's Bail Bonds logo and a Liberty Bell. Obviously, said wearer has a sense of humor, but these styles are inappropriate in hallowed parks like Wrigley Field. Instead, wear the IT DOESN'T BOTHER US AT ALL THAT THE RED SOX AND WHITE SOX ENDED THEIR DROUGHTS WHILE WE STILL SUCK, BECAUSE AT LEAST WE STILL HAVE DUSTY model.
Active Guys Who've Left jerseys: These are inexcusable, yet you still see Red Sox No. 5 GARCIAPARRA, Braves No. 31 MADDUX and Mariners No. 24 GRIFFEY on fans who can't let go, a la Mike Peters from "Swingers." Yes, they were popular. Yes, it was fine to wear them at one time. And yes, paying $120 for a jersey of your favorite player, only to see him get traded or signed away is a bona fide kick in the stomach. But until they've retired and the jerseys achieve full retro status, one shouldn't dress like he's got numbers of married ex-girlfriends still saved on his cell phone.
No. 69 Custom-Name jerseys: You spend most nights alone.
The Christmas Tree look: 2004 World Series champion Red Sox cap? (Check.) 2004 World Series champion Red Sox jersey? (Check.) 2004 World Series champion Red Sox champion undershirt? (Check.) 2004 World Series champion Red Sox bracelet? (Check.) You also own at least 10 books on the 2004 season, the collector's edition of "Good Will Hunting" and talk about all of this with your family (most of whom are named Sullivan).We get it, you're a life-long Sox fan who prayed and prayed for that "just one time," so you could relax and enjoy baseball like everyone else. Well, so much for that idea. (P.S.: It's 2006.)
Gifts Gone Wrong ... Way Wrong: This one's inspired by a buddy of mine who divulged this football horror story: He asked his mom, years ago, for a Giants No. 56 TAYLOR jersey, and she presented him with a No. 26 (whoops!) CARPENTER. You know baseball fans aren't immune to such attempted acts of kindness that take the term "surprise birthday present" to another level. Someone had to have asked for an Orioles No. 8 RIPKEN and got stuck with a No. 3 RIPKEN. God bless the sons, daughters, husbands and wives who managed to not vomit all over their gift and make their loved ones feel like complete boobs.
Wild Card Champions gear: Wild-card teams have actually fared pretty well in the postseason, winning three of the past four World Series, but nothing says "I've got low standards" like celebrating a second-place finish in a five-team division. So, these shirts start out worthless and, if your team wins the pennant or Series, plummet from there. Even Britney Spears thinks these are tacky.
Yankees No. 5 DIMAGGIO: This is usually worn by people who never saw him play, and obviously never read Richard Ben Cramer's bio or comprehend that they spent more money on the jersey than DiMaggio tipped restaurant staffers over an 84-year period.
Autographed jerseys: Sometimes a 40-year-old dude will sit in front of you in a white jersey with a stain on his shoulder, and you feel sorry that he must've leaned against wet paint earlier in the day. Then you realize it's some hurried, illegible autograph of a utility guy who left the team five years ago, and you wonder how many kids he knocked out of the way to get it during pregame warmups. Does he ever wash it? The circling bees hint at the answer. Do you want to "accidentally" drop a mustard packet on it? Hell yes.
The Turtle look: You know how the character Turtle from HBO's "Entourage," with his red and sky blue Yankees hats, would look like just another urban stooge if he wasn't leeching off Vince's Hollywood stroke? That's why you don't mess with the classics. Same goes for the St. Patrick's Day green Red Sox gear. Biggest violators: female Jeter, Giambi and A-Rod fans who wear tight, pink, numbered shirts to get on Smile Cam. Or, as I like to call them, Skankees.
I Like That Team! Ooh, And That One! And That One!: We've saved the worst for last, the most hideous team apparel out there. Which team, you ask? All of them! On one hat. Nothing says indecision and perhaps mild retardation like sporting a cap adorned with the logos of all 30 MLB teams. Not only is it hideous, but it completely betrays your ignorance of the sport. There's only one place where logos of the Yanks and Red Sox, Cubs and Cardinals and Giants and Dodgers can live in harmony: in Bud Selig's office. Well, maybe Alyssa Milano's bedroom, too, but she still has a few pitchers to go through.
Paul Katcher is a freelance writer based out of New York City. He welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org