Single page view By Paul Lukas
Special to Page 2

If you watched pro or college football this past weekend, you had plenty of opportunities to see the American flag, which appears on the back of NCAA and NFL helmets (plus there's Jeremy Shockey's tattoo, although that wasn't visible yesterday because the Giants had a bye). But if you flipped channels over to the baseball playoffs, there were several flags on display there, too -- you just had to look a bit harder to see them.

Uni Watch is referring to the small but growing number of MLB players who send shout-outs to their homelands by wearing their flags of national origin somewhere on their equipment. It's an interesting trend, and it makes sense because baseball is an increasingly international sport, as opposed to football, in which almost all players are American. Flag-clad participants in the divisional playoffs, all of whom are Dominican, have included David Ortiz (who wears the Dominican emblem on his wristbands), Vlad Guerrero (on his glove), Ervin Santana (also on his glove) and Albert Pujols (look closely -- it's on his shoe tongues).

The flags tend to be pretty inconspicuous, and Uni Watch has no doubt missed some of them. But here's at least a partial rundown of which players have worn which flags on which accessories over the past year or so (with thanks to readers Ryan Brett, Alex Belsky, Christian Oliver, Graham Barron and Mark Mihalik, who all contributed key information):

The Dominican flag: This is the foreign flag most commonly seen on MLB diamonds. The first to wear it might have been Pedro Martinez, who had it on his glove last year (although he switched to a flagless model this season). In addition to the aforementioned Ortiz, Guerrero, Santana and Pujols, other players who've worn the Dominican colors in 2005 include Jose Lima, Eude Brito and Sammy Sosa.

The Mexican flag: Esteban Loaiza, who hails from south of the border, wears the Mexican flag on his shoe tongues, and Sergio Mitre, who grew up in California but whose parents are Mexican, wears it on his glove.

The Texas state flag: OK, so Texas isn't a country, but just try telling that to anyone who hails from there (especially these guys). And besides, it used to be a country. Anyway, Nationals pitcher John Patterson was wearing the Lone Star flag on his glove earlier this season, although he switched to a flag-free glove later in the year.

The Venezuelan flag: Indians catcher Victor Martinez doesn't actually wear the Venezuelan banner, but he does something more subtle: He wears a Livestrong-ish bracelet adorned with his homeland's colors.

As Uni Watch noted last month, MLB teams have often worn the American flag during wartime, and they continue to do so on major holidays. Plus the Blue Jays have worn the Canadian flag on Canada Day. State flags are rarer: To Uni Watch's knowledge, only the Texas flag has been worn on MLB uniforms, first by the Colt .45s and currently by the Rangers.

But state flags have had a slightly higher profile in other sports. In the NFL, the Maryland flag (whose unusual design is explained here) is echoed on the Ravens' sleeves, and the Arizona flag used to appear on the Cardinals' white jerseys (although not anymore).

Continued...


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