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Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Updated: August 19, 4:44 PM ET
Baseball's early blunders

By Paul Lukas
Special to Page 2

Uni Watch doesn't know if there was something in the water, if the stars were in some sort of bizarre alignment, or if Bud Selig's toupee was just on crooked. But something clearly was amiss on April 10th, a day that probably set some kind of record for uni-related weirdness and set the tone for several other oddities over the course of the ensuing week.

The peculiarities began at Yankee Stadium, where Miguel Tejada, who normally wears uniform No. 10, scored on a head-first slide and emerged with the "1" partially detached from his jersey. He removed the loose numeral in the dugout and then played the rest of the game as No. 0.

"There's actually only a small amount of thread and adhesive holding the numbers on," says reader Joe Hilseberg, who brought Tejada's temporary renumbering to Uni Watch's attention and used to work in the Baltimore shop that does the stitching for the Orioles and Ravens. "Plus they're subjected to daily laundering in industrial-strength washers, so I'm surprised this doesn't happen more often."

Meanwhile, over in Houston, Craig Biggio spent the afternoon wearing a "Houston" jersey against the Reds, while his teammates were all wearing "Astros" jerseys. To hear Biggio tell it, he wasn't even aware of the snafu until the following day, when some reporters mentioned it to him. (For the improbable details, scroll down to the second item on this page.)

The trifecta came in San Francisco, where the Rockies were wearing, well, not exactly the wrong jerseys -- more like a cry for help. Uni Watch, ever detail-obsessive, is particularly amused (read: horrified) by the purple straps on J.D. Closser's shin guards. Can clown suits be far behind?

Speaking of which, down in Atlanta, the Braves were unveiling their first-ever alternate jerseys -- woof! Memo to Bobby Cox, who last year said he'd "rather wear pink" than be forced to wear a gray dugout jacket: Be careful what you wish for.

The next day, the Red Sox had their home opener and wore their gold-accented championship jerseys for the occasion. Uni Watch had previously questioned the propriety of a one-day uniform, but it wasn't clear until game day that the jerseys were even more specialized than that: The Sox only wore the gilded garb for the pregame ring ceremony, and then switched to their regular jerseys (with a one-day championship sleeve patch) for the game. So it has come to this: It's not enough to have home jerseys, road jerseys, batting practice jerseys, alternate jerseys, throwback jerseys, futuristic jerseys, and home run derby jerseys -- now we need pregame World Series ring ceremony jerseys too. What's next -- the postgame interview jersey?

The uni gremlins were at work again the following day, April 12th, when Reds starter Aaron Harang took the mound in St. Louis with "CNCINNATI" on his jersey. Reader Patrick Hyde reports that Fox announcer Joe Buck commemorated the occasion by saying, "There's no 'I' in 'team,' and apparently not on Harang's uniform either." Harang, who switched to a properly spelled uni for the third inning, later said he'd apparently been wearing the defective jersey for three days, but nobody had noticed the typo because it had been hidden under his dugout jacket.

A few days after that, on April 15th, the Dodgers celebrated the anniversary of Jackie Robinson's 1947 debut by wearing old-school "Brooklyn" jerseys for a home game against the Padres -- a classy move, except for a few problems. For starters, the Dodgers never wore "Brooklyn" at home. More importantly, they didn't wear "Brooklyn" at all in 1947. In fact, Robinson never wore a "Brooklyn" jersey at any point during his career -- the team's last "Brooklyn"-emblazoned season was 1945, when Robinson was still in the Negro Leagues. Of course, Robbie never wore his pants like this either, so historically inaccurate jerseys were the least of the Dodgers' problems here.

Stop the Presses!
Did you know that the Mets have five different jersey designs? Or that the Yankees don't use alternate uniforms? Or that some teams come up with new uni designs just so they can -- gasp! -- sell more merchandise?

These and other groundbreaking factoids come courtesy of an Associated Press article that circulated last weekend in many newspapers and web outlets. It's nice to see that the AP has finally discovered the uniform beat -- a mere six years after Uni Watch started covering it. Oh, and this just in from the AP: Most players are overpaid, some of them may have taken steroids, and the new Pope is Catholic.

The best part of the AP uni story is at the end, where Nationals manager Frank Robinson complains that today's uniforms have "too much red." The seeds of Robinson's scarlet fever were appparently planted decades ago -- remember, he began his playing career wearing this and finished it wearing this. And just when he thought he'd escaped the crimson curse by managing the Expos, Major League Baseball decides to move the team to Washington, gives it facelift, and makes him wear this. Poor Frank -- if you cut him, does he not bleed bright red? Maybe he should inquire about swapping jobs with Ken Macha.

Will Golf for Food
Just askin': Why does this guy feel the need to pimp himself out to Nike? What, like he doesn't already have enough money? Or the swoosh doesn't have enough exposure? Seriously, will anyone be surprised if he gets the swoosh imprinted on his teeth when he goes in for his next dental bleach job?

Still, the swoosh is better than that annoying personalized logo he sometimes insists on wearing. All of which gives Uni Watch an idea: If gazillionaire golfers can have personal logos, why can't uniform columns? So here's our latest design contest: Come up with a Uni Watch logo. Designs involving the initials "UW" are acceptable, but strong consideration will be given to more conceptual entries -- an illustration of a well-tailored stirrup, say, or a purple swatch emblazoned with a red circle-slash symbol. Use your imagination, people.

Whatever you come up with, it should look sharp in a wide variety of promotional contexts: caps, T-shirts, keychains, temporary tattoos, timepieces (a Uni Watch watch!) -- think "merchandising blitz." Send your entries, including your full name, city, and state, here by May 1st.

Catching Up
Let's hope this new contest inspires better results than last month's challenge to create a better hockey uniform, which resulted in only two submissions -- two! -- neither of them particularly noteworthy. That's not to say the contest didn't provoke any reaction, however: Several dozen readers wrote in to accuse Uni Watch of blasphemy merely for suggesting that the basic hockey uniform template could be improved upon (these folks apparently missed the column's proviso that Uni Watch's suggested hockey changes were "just for argument's sake"), and several more offered lengthy explanations of why the untucked jersey and shorts are necessary for practical reasons. The message is clear: Leave hockey uniforms the way they are. Are you listening, Reebok?

In other follow-up news, the NBA's ever-helpful senior director for apparel, Christopher Arena, has confirmed Uni Watch's suspicion that Golden State's old "The City" jerseys never had player names on the back, even though subscript names appear on the jersey's current throwback rendition. Arena explains: "As the NBA recreates uniforms for the NBA Hardwood Classics program, we implement all of the applicable outfitting guidelines that apply to today's NBA. For example, player names are required, the NBA logo is required, etc. For this uniform, the only logical placement, without deviating too much from the original uniform, was to position the player name below the trolley car graphic."

Meanwhile, longtime Uni Watch comrade-at-arms Tom Shieber -- the man behind the Baseball Hall of Fame's excellent "Dressed to the Nines" online uniform-history exhibit -- has obligingly sent along the artwork for the memorial patch that the Blue Jays are wearing on their right sleeves this season in honor of Doug Ault, John Cerutti, and Bobby Mattick. Using the team's original jersey font is a particularly nice touch -- or so Uni Watch initially thought. But a closer look reveals that the letterforms on the old unis had rounded corners, while the initials on the patch have block corners. Tsk-tsk -- Uni Watch is compelled to dock the Jays a few points for typographic inconsistency.

And on the managers-in-civvies front, reader Eric Williams has turned up a photo of Art Howe's Connie Mack impersonation. Howe wore this getup while delivering the lineup card prior to a throwback game in 2000, when he was managing Mack's old team, the A's. The woman shown next to him is Mack's daughter Ruth Mack Clark, who walked Howe from the dugout to the plate and later wrote a note saying Howe "really does resemble my dad." Uni Watch has always thought Howe looks more like Humpty Dumpty, but Ruth was 86 years old at the time, so we'll cut her some slack.

Paul Lukas has never been mistaken for Connie Mack (and hopes he's never mistaken for Art Howe). Archives of his pre-Page 2 "Uni Watch" columns are available here and here. Got a uni-related question or comment for him, or want to be added to his mailing list? Contact him here.