Thursday, May 5, 2005
Updated: August 19, 4:44 PM ET
The good, the bad, the Cards
By Paul Lukas
Special to Page 2
The weirdness continues in major-league baseball, where it turns out that the assorted jersey snafus detailed in Uni Watch's last column were just the tip of the double-knit iceberg. Now we have teams dressing like minor-leaguers and spring training squads.
Check it out: On April 20, the Padres had their sixth annual military tribute night always a uniform watershed, because the team dons camouflage jerseys and olive caps for the occasion. (Memo to the Blue Jays: If you'll consent to dress up as Canadian Mounties for one game, Uni Watch hereby offers to kick in for the horses!) But as reader Mayer Weisel points out, there was something different about this season's camouflage game: The Padres' caps had the New Era logo on the
left side, a designation that normally appears only on minor-league and, umm, "fashion" headwear.
Although Uni Watch initially viewed this as the latest insidious example of MLB's sellout to corporate logo creep, it turns out that the real
explanation is more benign: New Era mistakenly sent the Padres the wrong caps, and nobody with either organization realized it until it was too
"We received a box, we delivered it to the clubhouse, and that's it," said Padres purchasing director Michael Babida, who ordered the green lids. "I never actually opened the box when you've done the same promotion for
five or six years, you generally don't need to open every box and inspect every cap, every jersey."
New Era media rep Crystal Howard confirmed the glitch. And judging by her
reaction, it doesn't exactly sound as though anyone at New Era is too upset
about it: "It looked really cool we're like, 'Yeah, let's get all
the teams to do it!'"
Hmm, innocent clerical error or calculated stealth-marketing maneuver? Uni Watch will let the conspiracy theorists
sort this one out.
The next oddity came on April 27, when the Nationals played an entire
game in their red batting practice jerseys, complete with the embarrassing contrast-color gussets. Batting practice jerseys are normally worn for, you know, batting practice, and also for spring training games. So why would
the Nats wear them in a real game?
Because starting pitcher Esteban Loaiza asked to wear them, according to
the game report. Nats manager Frank Robinson said he granted the request because he didn't want to "mess with [Loaiza's] psyche,"
although Uni Watch posits that anyone who'd ask to wear this outfit for a
real game is already pretty messed up to begin with. Ironically, as
attentive readers might recall, Robinson is the one who recently opined that today's uniforms have "too much red" (no doubt because his own psyche was messed up by being
forced to wear this 30 years ago), all of which makes Uni Watch wonder: Was Loaiza's request for garnet garb a passive-aggressive swipe at his
crimson-averse manager? Hmm, mutiny by uni a tantalizing possibility, no?
Unfortunately, this potentially juicy intrigue was apparently nipped in the bud five
days later, when the team wore its regular road jerseys for Loaiza's next start.
But the Nats might wear the BP duds again, and they could have company. "That's a new provision this year we're allowing teams to wear batting
practice jerseys in games if they want to," MLB spokesman Carmine
Tiso said. "They just have to alert us first, and the Nationals were the first
ones to do that."
And let's hope they're the last. Don't teams such as the
Mets and Rockies have enough uni options without adding the BP attire to
their roster of game attire? And can you imagine going to the ballpark on a
nice summer day and finding your team dressed like this, or this? Uni Watch shudders at the thought.
Uni Watch is proud to deputize two readers who've spotted truly
sublime details in recent weeks. First up is Paul Beaulieu, who
points out that although Manny Ramirez wears uni No. 24, lately he has been wearing wristbands emblazoned with "34," which is David Ortiz's number. Granted, the two teammates are very
buddy-buddy, but it still seems kinda odd. What's up with that?
"He just likes Ortiz's wristbands," wrote Sox spokesman Glenn Geffner in
response to a Uni Watch e-mail. OK, but why does he like them?
You'd think Ramirez could procure whatever kind of customized accessories
he wanted without having to bum them from a neighboring locker, right? Is
this some sort of tribute to Ortiz? It was at this point that an apparently
nonplussed Geffner replied, "To be honest, with about 500 e-mails, 100
phone calls and a couple of hundred media in person to deal with every
day, I have not had the chance to ask."
Ah yes, the sarcastic brush-off with the none-too-subtle implication of pedantry, like we're supposed to believe that the condition of Curt Schilling's ankle or requests to interview Jason Varitek might somehow be
more important than crucial uni-related minutiae (as if!). This, ladies and gentlemen, is the type of unenlightened mind-set your friendly neighborhood Uni Watch has to deal with on a regular basis from many of the
sports world's media relations departments, a sorry barometer of our nation's misplaced priorities.
Fortunately, reader Don Whelan has a more cultivated sensibility.
He has noticed that Brian Roberts of the Orioles has black padding in his batting helmet (make that both of his helmets, since he's a switch hitter), instead of the usual gray padding everyone else wears. A bit of Uni Watch research reveals that Roberts was wearing conventional cushioning early last season but switched to the
black padding in late July.
"That's definitely a different ear pad than normal, but we haven't done anything special for Brian's helmets," said Dan Cullinane, marketing manager for Rawlings, which manufactures all the MLB batting helmets. "It
looks like it was done by the team."
And sure enough, it was. "Basically, it's just a different piece of padding that our equipment manager came up with," said Orioles spokesman Bill Stetka, whose communication style, happily, is consistently attitude-free. "It's a little bit more padding and a little bit more comfortable. B.J. Surhoff wore the same thing for several years, but not this year; and Luis Matos wore it last year, but not this year."
So there you have it. The good news is that the black padding looks fine, since black is already one of the Orioles' colors. But let's hope the Rockies and Astros don't get any bright ideas about color coordinating their helmet padding.
Meanwhile, over on the gridiron, several teams used the media attention
surrounding the recent NFL draft as a platform for introducing new
uniforms. Here's a quick rundown:
• The Cardinals, having finally unveiled their long-promised "revolutionary" uniforms, are now playing in the Arena League. Or at least
that's how it looks, what with the lame-o pants piping, the silly contrast stitching around the collar and shoulders, and the truly hilarious rear-yoke logo (which better not become a leaguewide trend, or else fans across America might literally die laughing). Plus, it doesn't
take too keen an eye to see that the design of the new red jersey bears more than a passing resemblance to the one worn by the Falcons. It does take a keen eye, however such as the ones working overtime over at Chris Creamer's message board to see that the back of the white jersey appears to owe a sizable aesthetic debt to the Bills' design. Revolutionary? Judge for yourself.
• The Giants are changing their road uniform from this to this a nod to their 1956 championship road uni. As usual with retro-inspired NFL designs, the sleeve striping looked a lot better on the full-length sleeves of yesteryear than it does on today's nonexistent sleeves, and Uni Watch has never understood the logic behind using a red-based jersey and red socks for a blue-helmeted team (shouldn't the Reebok pants logo be red too?). But the weirdest thing is that the Jints will now have two sets of gray pants: the new ones for road games, and these, which they'll continue to wear at home. In smaller moves, they're also replacing the "Giants" chest wordmark with their "ny" logo on both their jerseys and changing their shoes from white to black.
• The Lions, having already added black accents to almost every part of their uniform, are now adding a black alternate jersey, which they'll pair with black socks another bold,
creative move by this ever-progressive franchise. Toss in the team's
annual Thanksgiving Day throwbacks and the Lions now have four different uniforms, including three for their eight home games. Just a thought: Shouldn't GM Matt Millen, who reportedly pushed for the black jerseys because they
remind him of his Raiders
heyday, stop worrying about personal nostalgia and start concentrating on, oh, maybe fielding a team that can win more than six games?
Uni Watch readily admits to knowing little like, very little about the world of competitive triathlon. Still, it was somewhat arresting to come across photos from last weekend's International
Triathlon Union World Cup event and find that the competitors wear their entry numbers directly on their bodies (yes, the men, too).
Some quick research reveals that this body-art system of numbering is
fairly standard triathlon procedure, from the Olympics to slightly less elite competitions. It does not appear to be used, however, in the pentathlon, heptathlon or decathlon (all
of which Uni Watch likewise knows very little about). If anyone knows the story behind all of this, please feel free to fill us in.
James Toney talked a lot of trash about John Ruiz before and after their
WBA heavyweight title fight Saturday, referring to Ruiz as "this piece
of garbage" and "stupid." Toney apparently holds Ruiz's fashion sense in
high regard, however, because he flat-out copied one of Ruiz's sartorial
stylings in the ring.
Uni Watch is referring here to Ruiz's long-standing practice of wearing the
names of his children, John and Jocelyn, at the base of his trunks, which
apparently caught Toney's eye as he reviewed tape of Ruiz's fights against
Andrew Golota, Fres Oquendo, Roy Jones, Hasim Rahman, Kirk Johnson and Evander Holyfield. Ruiz wore his kids' names again on Saturday, but this time
they had company, because Toney had three of his children's names on the front of his trunks and the
other two on the back. As it
turned out, the bout was such a total snooze that all the kids are probably
embarrassed to have been associated with it.
Speaking of ring regalia, has anyone else noticed that boxing shoes, which
used to look really cool (Mike Tyson's signature low-cut, no-socks look notwithstanding), are now looking more like sneakers? Yet another black eye for this troubled sport. Before this gets out of hand, Uni Watch hereby urges all state boxing commissions to
mandate fistic footwear with at least 10 pairs of eyelets, with violators
subject to a two-point deduction. And make that an immediate DQ for anyone
impudent enough to wear a Velcro closure instead of laces.
If Paul Lukas were a boxer, he'd wear his cats' names on his trunks.
Archives of his pre-Page 2 "Uni Watch" columns are available here and here. Got feedback for him, or want to be added to his mailing list? Contact him here.