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Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Updated: April 27, 12:09 PM ET
All you need is glove

By Paul Lukas
Special to Page 2

As we all know by now, it's hard to compare sluggers from different eras, because modern guys like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa have benefitted from, shall we say, a bit of extra assistance that wasn't available to old-timers like Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Roger Maris.

No, not that kind of assistance. Look closely at those photos and you'll see that Uni Watch is referring to one of the game's most overlooked and underrated developments: the advent of the batting glove.

Batting gloves might fly under a lot of people's radar, but they've become part of the fabric of the game, and not just in terms of swinging the bat. It's hard to imagine Nomar Garciaparra, for example, without his obsessive routine of fidgeting with his gloves (a ritual pioneered back in the '70s by Mike Hargrove, whose "Human Rain Delay" nickname was largely due to his own OCD-ish glove habits). Plus you've got all the guys who hold their gloves when they run the bases, as a way to avoid jammed fingers, not to mention all the baserunners who prefer to wear their gloves unstrapped. And let's not forget the huge impact batting gloves obviously had on this guy.

Back in Uni Watch's youth, batting gloves were roughly a 50/50 proposition -- some players wore 'em, some didn't. But today they've become virtually ubiquitous, which you can measure by seeing how many players don't wear them. By Uni Watch's count, it's a pretty short list: Jorge Posada, Jason Kendall, Doug Mirabelli, Josh Paul (note that these first four guys are all catchers, although many of them wear a batting glove in the field, on their catching hand), Vlad Guerrero, Coco Crisp, John Mabry, Bobby Kielty, Doug Mientkiewicz, and Moises Alou (who, along with Posada, claims to have a rather unconventional method of keeping his bare hands in game shape).

Those are the only full-fledged members of the bare-handed brigade (with an asterisk for Mientkiewicz, who occasionally breaks down and wears gloves in cold weather). Then there are the guys who can't decide whether or not to go gloved. The president of that club is Craig Counsell. He began his career wearing gloves, but then he joined the Diamondbacks, where bare-handed teammate Mark Grace convinced Counsell to go gloveless -- well, sometimes. Counsell then spent a season with the Brewers, where his glove stylings alternated between with and without. Then he rejoined Arizona, where he's continued to flip-flop. This month alone, Counsell was gloved on April 3 and April 5, but gloveless on April 11.

But Counsell might have some competition this year from Gregg Zaun. He's always worn gloves wherever he's played (Colorado, Kansas City, Houston, Toronto, the minor leagues, etc.), but this year he's been flip-flopping. He was bare-handed for his first plate appearance of the season, on April 8. Despite homering in that at-bat, he went back to wearing gloves in the next four games he appeared in: April 13, 14, 19, and 21. And then he was bare-handed again on April 23. Dude, make up your mind!

And then there are the guys who always wear gloves -- except on those rare instances when they don't. Jeromy Burnitz, for example, has worn gloves for most stops in his career -- so how do you explain this ?

Ken Harrelson is often credited with being the first one to go gloved, but new research suggests it's a little more complex than that. According to this amazing book, a 1932 Sporting News article reported that Lefty O'Doul of the Dodgers was wearing "an ordinary street glove" while batting, in order to provide shock-absorption for his injured left wrist. And Frank Vaccaro of the Society for American Baseball Research recently cited a 1935 Boston Herald article in which Red Sox coach Bing Miller "got a laugh" by hitting fungoes while wearing a "white golf glove."

The next key date in batting glove history is 1949, when Bobby Thomson of the Giants was given a set of golf gloves by pro golfer Danny Lawler during spring training. Lawler is now dead, but baseball historian Josh Prager helped put Uni Watch in touch with Lawler's son, Daniel, who confirmed the story.

"My dad was always connected with sports and celebrities, and we were always down in Florida for spring training," said Lawler, who was a pitching prospect in his younger days and now works as a wine and liquor wholesaler. "Some of the players, like Bobby Thomson and Johnny Mize, told him that hitting the ball during batting practice would sting the hell out of their hands during those cold April games, so he suggested, 'Hey, use the golf gloves.' They tried them out in spring training, and I think they used them up north in batting practice. I would assume they used them in games too, but I don't know that for sure."

What we do know for sure is that Harrelson began wearing golf gloves in games during the 1960s. Some sources say he first wore them while playing for the Kansas City A's in 1964; others cite a more lyrical and perhaps apocryphal tale, in which Harrelson was with the Red Sox in 1968 and spent an afternoon playing golf. Arriving at the ballpark that evening with blistered hands after shooting 36 holes, he was surprised to find himself in the starting lineup and resorted to wearing golf gloves to protect his sore mitts. As it turns out, Harrelson later quit baseball to became a pro golfer (perhaps a better career option, given his .239 lifetime batting average).

The various golf connections help explain why so many early batting glove devotees wore only one glove on their bottom hand. The one-gloved style was considered such an obvious choice, in fact, that this book, published in 1969 (and generously provided by Scott Turner), featured this mail-in offer -- only the left glove was available.

There also were the very rare one-gloved players who wore the glove on their top hand. The most famous exemplar of this style was probably Rod Carew, whose one red glove eventually became something of a signature look. Other top-handers: Yaz (who sometimes wore a red glove, just like Carew), Wade Boggs (although virtually every other photo of him shows him wearing two gloves), and Donn Clendenon (who was initially a bottom-hander but had switched to the top-hand style by the time of the 1969 World Series).

Rusty Staub often gets credit for being the first to wear two gloves on an everyday basis, in the late 1960s. Eventually the two-glove style took over, and in recent years the single-gloved look has been kept alive primarily by Marquis Grissom (although he occasionally wore either two gloves or none). With Grissom having retired last month, Uni Watch believes the sole remaining one-gloved player is now Jay Gibbons -- and even he sometimes goes double-gloved in cold weather.

Then there's the matter of color. Early gloves were either black or white; nowadays they're color-coordinated to match a team's chromatic scheme. But there always have been guys who, for whatever reason, insisted on wearing gloves that didn't match each other, ranging from Staub and Hargrove years ago to Wily Mo Pena today.

Think this is all getting a bit detail-oriented? It's nothing compared to some of the mail that comes in at Uni Watch HQ. Reader Chris Fleming, for example, gets excited about batting gloves the way other people get excited about sneakers. He recently sent an unsolicited dissertation that plumbed the topic to heretofore unimagined depths. Check out his rundown of the all-time greatest batting gloves (Uni Watch advisory -- take a deep breath before reading this):

"[There were] the first Franklins, which brought batting gloves to the masses; the old Saranac with the triangle logo (they also made the single greatest all-time batting glove -- the Hot Dog model from the mid-'80s, which was all different colors but had the BEST leather on the market); the neon-green Nintendo Power Glove-looking models Rickey Henderson wore during his second stint with the A's (which are edged out only by the green leather and yellow elastic models he wore in his younger days with the A's); the Tiger-brand models worn by Don Baylor and just about nobody else back in the day; the first-ever tackified palms of Neumann gloves (which have to go down as among the top three all-time if only because of their MLB rarity -- although Manny Ramirez was wearing them in an old game on Classic last week); and on to today, where Mizuno's Japanese color schemes are still neoning out, and the new simple Nike gloves are taking what they did a few years back -- shifting the paradigm to the great all-gray model -- to the next simple but beautiful level."

Yowza -- the guy's a regular glove gourmand! Fleming says glove-mania "is best captured in an old SI photo of Mel Hall squaring to bunt, with at least three pairs of batting gloves in his pockets." Uni Watch hasn't been able to find that shot but notes that when Kaz Matsui hit an inside-the-park homer on April 20, he had one set of gloves on his hands and another in his pockets.

Fleming's obsession with glove brands brings up another branding point: The MLB logo, which appears on virtually every other piece of the game's apparel and equipment, is conspicuously absent from most batting gloves -- or at least the ones made by Nike, Louisville Slugger, Easton, Rawlings, Under Armour, Wilson, Jordan, Mizuno and most other brands. The only company permitted to put the MLB mark on its gloves is Franklin, which sometimes renders the mark in color and at other times in black and white.

For a while there, the NFL logo had almost as much of a presence on batting gloves as the MLB logo. That was thanks to David Eckstein, who frequently wore football gloves during his days with the Angels. The NFL Equipment mark is plainly visible on his gloves here, plus the NFL shield appears to have been blackened out here and looks like it's on the wrist area here.

Got any additional glove-ly ideas to contribute? Or maybe you've spotted a current bare-handed hitter who Uni Watch missed? If so, you know what to do.

Uni-flage
It's not often that a single MLB game has enough uniform-related oddities to merit its own section within a Uni Watch column. But the Padres' annual camouflage game, conceived in 2000 as a tribute to San Diego's large military community, is no ordinary contest. Here's what went down in this year's edition, which took place on April 22:

• Instead of wearing forest camo, as they've done in years past, the Pads wore desert camo this year. Uni Watch considers this a big improvement.

• In past years, the camo jersey's right sleeve was blank, but this year the Padres added an American flag patch. Note that the flag's orientation is the same as on a military uniform, and also matches the style used by the USA in the World Baseball Classic. (For details on why this flag positioning is not backward or improper, scroll down to the "Facing Front, Facing Facts" section of this column.)

• As longtime readers might recall, the big story in last year's camo game was that the Pads' special olive caps had the New Era logo on the left side. (For details on how this happened, look here.) This year, thankfully, the caps were logo-free, at least for the players -- but not, oddly, for manager Bruce Bochy.

• Mark Bellhorn normally wears a double-earflap batting helmet. But someone forgot to get him a double-flap version of the olive helmets that the Padres use for the camouflage game, so Bellhorn had to wear a single-flap model.

• Bellhorn is also in the habit of hiking up his pants, which in this case exposed another oversight in the Padres' camo scheme: If you're gonna get olive caps, olive helmets, and olive undershirts for everyone, why not order a set of olive socks too, instead of sticking with the team's standard-issue navy hose?

But with all of these subtleties to deal with, it's easy to lose sight of the bigger issue -- namely, that the camo unis still look ridiculous. Longtime Uni Watch reader Jules Verdone cut to the heart of the matter shortly after the game's conclusion: "Maybe I'm projecting my embarrassment for them, but I swear, some of the Padres had that look of a dog that's been dressed in a tutu or a clown suit: undignified and knowing it."

Purple Reign
By the time you read this, the Vikings should be getting ready to unveil their long-awaited (read: long-feared) new uniforms, an event that has actually been promoted on billboards in Minnesota. Uni Watch hasn't been privy to anything official, but has it on fairly good authority that the home jerseys will look like this and the road jerseys will look like this. You can get a better sense of the colored side panels from this schematic (but don't be fooled by the washed-out color tones -- it's just a bad scan). And here's a comparison of old vs. new (again, ignore the color distinction -- Uni Watch's understanding is that the team's colors are remaining exactly the same).

Initial reaction: Could've been worse, especially given previous reports about the new design borrowing from the Broncos' look. Still, almost every change here is for the worse. For starters, side panels are always a bad idea. And having the panels extend upward to form Viking horns probably led to lots of high-fives at the pitch meeting, but maybe it should've occurred to someone that Vikings wore horns, y'know, on their helmets, not on their shoulders. And what's the deal with that two-tone collar?

The masterstroke, though, is moving the Norseman logo from the sleeves to just above the rear nameplate, which presumably marks the first time in NFL history that a team has stolen an idea from the Cardinals. And that's not all they're stealing. This photo, being used to promote the uni unveiling ceremony, suggests that the team's new pants striping will owe a significant aesthetic debt to the Cardinals' stripes. If this turns out to be true -- keep in mind that Uni Watch is just piecing together snippets of unofficial information here -- the Vikes will earn the distinction of having cherrypicked the two worst design elements from the league's sorriest franchise. Brilliant!

Full coverage to follow in Uni Watch's next column.

More Masked Men
As longtime readers might recall, two winters ago Uni Watch was mildly obsessed with the topic of baseball players who've worn protective facemasks after suffering facial injuries, a roster that includes Ellis Valentine, Gary Roenicke, Kevin Seitzer, Charlie Hayes, Terry Steinbach, and of course Dave Parker (who wore football- and hockey-style masks).

But those guys just wore masks while batting. Michael Kissane has alerted Uni Watch to the unusual case of John Fortenberry, a college pitcher who lost an eye after being struck by a batted ball and has now returned to action wearing a helmet/cage combo, even on the mound.

Uni Watch had barely learned about this when reader Jose Frontanes checked in with news of another masked college pitcher: Scott Maine of Miami, who was involved in a car crash and has been wearing a Rip Hamilton-style mask this season.

Now all we need is for a facemasked batter to charge the mound after getting beaned by a masked pitcher, and presto -- American Gladiators!

Double-Fault
Maybe tennis players should start wearing masks too, or just put bags over their heads, because the logo wars in that sport have hit a new low.

In case you're lucky enough to have forgotten the details, here's the back story: Tennis players can only wear a sportswear logo of four square inches or less. But Nike has been whining that adidas' triple-stripe design is essentially a logo and is therefore a violation of the four-inch rule. In a very mature move, the Nike folks made their point last year by plastering giant swooshes on Rafael Nadal's chest and back at the Rome Masters.

The adidas people have maintained that the stripes are a "design effect," not a logo. But the Grand Slam Committee recently sided with Nike and told adidas that the stripes would have to conform to the four-inch rule. So now, in a stirring gesture of defiance, adidas is suing the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments.

Uni Watch's favorite part of the story is this quote from Wimbledon CEO Ian Ritchie: "If you accept the situation with the three stripes, then you open the floodgates to players being advertising billboards." Yeah, it'd be a real shame if anything like that happened. Fortunately, we have watchdogs like Ritchie to police the sport's aesthetic purity.

If the adidas litigation actually makes it to court, here's a modest suggestion for the judge: Toss all the concerned parties in the same cell and throw away the key. They deserve each other.

WrestleMania
Uni Watch readily admits to knowing virtually nothing about amateur wrestling, except that its unis look like this. But that might not be the case for much longer.

The first inkling of change came from reader Michael Harmsen, who recently checked in with this report: "At the 2006 NCAA wrestling championships in Oklahoma City, I noticed that westlers from the Citadel and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga had decidedly different unis. Their singlets had sleeves, as you can see in this photo of Matt Keller from UTC."

Uni Watch frankly didn't pay much mind to this until a few days later, when Morris Bird sent a note telling of "a uniform change brewing in the sport of wrestling, the scale of which boggles my mind." He went on: "The traditional singlet is facing the threat of being replaced with this."

This article has lots of good background info, but here's the short version: The new uni, called the Double, is a two-piece design -- jersey and shorts -- and yes, it has sleeves. The NCAA approved it for collegiate use last summer, and over a dozen universities have adopted it. The guy who designed it touts lots of advantages, but most of his arguments boil down to this: Wrestling needs to look cool if it's ever gonna start appearing on TV, and more kids would sign up for wrestling if they didn't have to wear that embarrassing singlet (which is described in the above-linked article as "basically an oversize jockstrap with suspenders").

So is the Double a long-overdue bit of modernity or a rude slap in the face of tradition? Uni Watch, utterly paralyzed by this agonizing choice, has decided to leave this one up to wrestling fans. So let's hear from you, grappling enthusiasts: Yea or nay on the new design?

Uni Watch News Ticker
The Padres aren't the only ones who wear camouflage. Mike Timlin has been wearing camo undershirts for a while now, both with the Red Sox and in the World Baseball Classic, and lately he's started wearing a vaguely camo-patterned glove. And Juan Pierre has been wearing a blue camo undershirt. … As you've probably heard by now, Barry Bonds has been fined because his wristbands were too big. The part you probably haven't heard is that his wristbands will now get their own reality TV show. … Is it just Uni Watch, or has there been a marked increase in the number of pitchers who use their jerseys as handkerchiefs? It's like an epidemic. Do these guys all have the sniffles, or chronic drool problems, or what? True, pitchers aren't allowed to wear wristbands, but they can wear a sweatband on their fielding gloves (Rawlings offers this as a standard feature), which can then be used to mop the brow. Let's face it, anything looks better than this. … Uni Watch has lately become intrigued by old baseball sweaters, which were often totally gorgeous, especially compared to today's dugout jackets. Like, seriously, this or this? It isn't even a fair fight. This is a topic Uni Watch wouldn't mind exploring further, so if there are any sweater historians out there, feel free to get in touch. … Speaking of sweaters, check out the beauties worn here and here by early Tigers manager Hughie Jennings. Jennings, who was famous for doing a little dance and yelling "Ee-yah!" (honest), also wore Tigers attire while participating in one of history's most unfortunate product endorsements. … NHL teams will be wearing this patch during the Stanley Cup finals. … The Oklahoma Sooners don't want Adrian Peterson to be tackled during spring practices, so they've had him wear a blue "no contact" jersey, like the ones worn by the quarterbacks. But Peterson didn't like the idea of wearing a "sissy" jersey for the team's recent Red-White Game, so they gave him a standard red jersey with blue numbers (with thanks to Brian Kinder). … Interesting observation by Josh Parker, who writes: "I was watching the Kings/Coyotes game on April 13, and I saw that the Reebok logo on the back of everyone's jersey is white, but on Curtis Joseph's jersey it's dark." … The Hornets wore special Oklahoma City jerseys on April 14, as a gesture of thanks to the town that's hosted them this season. … Readers are abuzz over Blue Jays reliever Brian Tallet, what with his tucked-under pant cuffs, faux stirrups, and formidable mutton chops. But Mark Wicks has noticed something more subtle: The "5" and the "6" on the back of Tallet's road jersey are two different shades of gray. This isn't just a trick of the light -- it shows up repeatedly, and from different angles. Weird. … Speaking of weird, Uni Watch has noticed that Padres reliever Jon Adkins, who was just sent down to Triple-A a few days ago, has an odd uni-related ritual. When he comes into a game and prepares to face his first batter, he removes his cap and whispers something into it. Anyone have any details on this? … The Rockies hung Todd Helton's jersey in their dugout on April 22, after he was placed on the DL. … Great news out of Detroit, where Tigers marketing coordinator Ron Wade reports that his campaign to revive the team's super-cool swinging kitten logo is gathering steam. "We should have T-shirts available for sale at the stadium next month," he says. Awesome -- can a kitten sleeve patch be far behind? If only more MLB teams had marketing staffs with Wade's good taste and good sense (especially the team that somehow thinks "The Team. The Time. The Mets" is a good slogan). … The Reds' road jersey includes a uni number on the front. But as Mason Storm notes, Andy Abad's front uni number was missing when he pinch-hit on April 11 and 13. Adding insult to injury (or maybe just as punishment for his breach of uni protocol), he was designated for assignment a few days later. … Uni Watch has always preferred the look and drape of loose, cotton-y undersleeves instead of the skin-tight polyester versions that more and more athletes wear these days. As it turns out, the U.S. military agrees (great catch by Michael Landis). … Interesting error on MLB.com's online store, where a Washington Nationals jacket is shown with an American League sleeve patch. "It looks like an actual patch on an actual jacket, not a Photoshopped version where they pasted in the wrong patch," writes Steve Krupin. "That means there may be a real American League Nationals jacket somewhere out there. I'd love to get my hands on one and wear it with my 'Super Bowl Champion Buffalo Bills' shirt." … Uni Watch has previously mentioned the R.J. Liebe Company, which makes most of the lettering used on pro sports jerseys. But Brandon Davis has found a particularly interesting page lurking within Liebe's Web site: a really cool template that shows the ideal placement of letters, numbers, and insignia on baseball jerseys. There's a football template, too. … The A's wore their green "Athletics" jersey (instead of their gray "Oakland" jersey) for every game of the season's first road trip, leading to some interesting conspiracy theories among the team's fan base. … Can someone who's familiar with rugby please explain what's going on with the thigh pads in this photo? … Northwestern State's baseball team presents Uni Watch with quite a quandary: Their purple alt jerseys are hideous, but they more than make up for it with their striped stirrups, which are magnificent to behold (thanks to Ed Hardin for the tip). … A similarly vexing case of a great design tainted by purple: Male High School in Louisville (with thanks to Mike Barnhisel). … Hey, speaking of striped stirrups, has anyone else noticed the current Lotrimin ad campaign? Check it out. … Latest MLB jersey mix-up: The Astros wore their dark "Houston" jerseys on April 16, but Orlando Palmeiro was wearing his "Astros" batting practice pullover. By the sixth inning, however, he'd switched to the proper jersey. … Darren Rusakiewicz notes that Cubs catcher Michael Barrett, who'd worn the goalie-style mask for the past few years, is opting for an old-style mask this season. … Logo Creep Alert: Check out this guy's calf (gold star to Bill Collins). … Speaking of logo creep: How low can Nike sink? So low that they're actually paying for product placements in comic books. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article (forwarded by Michael Prospero and Tom Carlson), "Over the past few months, Marvel Entertainment Inc. has begun putting the 'swoosh' logo from Nike Inc. in the scenes of some of its titles, such as 'New X-Men.' So far, the emblem has appeared on a car door and on a character's T-shirt." Pathetic. … Promising example of anti-Nike backlash: According to a news report (forwarded by reader Brian Fisher), Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy "drew a big roar [from a gathering of fans] when he said the funky font on the uniforms would change just as soon as Nike contract issues are worked out, and the applause was even bigger when Gundy said he would return players' names to the backs of jerseys. 'I'm easy to work with,' Gundy said. 'I'd like to get uniforms that have letters you can read, numbers you can read.'" … Very early case of logo creep: According to this recent article about a new boxing glove manufacturer, "In the 1950's, many people were following boxing on television. Exploiting the new medium, [Everlast CEO] Dan Golomb increased the size of the Everlast logo on the back of the gloves to make it easier for fans to see on the small screen." … Reader Andrew Matthews wants to know which company's stick-figure-ish logo is appearing on Texas Tech's jerseys in this 2001 photo. Anyone? … Page 2's recent survey of assaults on the family jewels came to mind when reader John Black sent along this very disturbing photo of Marcos Senna. Black writes: "The cameraman zoomed in on Senna late in the second half, and the two commentators stopped mid-sentence and were quiet for a solid minute. Later, they got another close-up of him, and two comments were made: 'To be honest, I didn't know what to say before, and I still don't know' and 'I have no idea what's the matter with him, but it must be awfully painful." … Great view here of the extra panels of fabric that the Mets' stitching guy sews into Pedro Martinez's sleeves. … Tim Laciny reports major tongue-wagging in St. Louis over Jim Edmonds' cropped undershirt (sometimes referred to as a "halfshirt"), which many Cards fans consider to be a bit on the metrosexual side. Someone even asked Edmonds about it when he recently did a Web chat session. Edmonds' reply: "Half of our team wears a halfshirt under their jersey, including #5, #27, and #26. You should try it someday and wear it under your McDonald's uniform." Not the nicest thing to say to a fan, but you've gotta like a guy who refers to his teammates by uni number. … Speaking of the Cardinals: Does Albert Pujols keep a pack of Marlboros rolled up in his sleeve or what? … Interesting observation by Corey Paske, who notes that the Brewers wear regular batting helmets with their standard unis but switch to the newfangled CoolFlo lids with their Sunday throwback duds. Shouldn't it be the other way around? … Something really needs to be done about this. … This, too. … The Nets have broken out the red playoff socks for their series against the Pacers. … Kobe Bryant reportedly will wear a new uni number next season (for info on his current and past numbers, look here). … Doug Brei and Uni Watch both want to know what's up with Alecko Eskandarian's headgear. "My bet is it's protection against concussions," writes Brei. If so, is it only a matter of time before all soccer players wear something similar? … Batting gloves aren't the only things that are color-coordinated: Derrek Lee's got himself a Cubs-colored cast. … The Nashville Sounds have come up with three potential jersey designs for the 4th of July and are letting fans vote on which one the team should wear. … Purdue will commemorate the 40th anniversary of its 1966 Rose Bowl season by wearing '66 throwbacks for the team's home opener against Indiana State on Sept. 2. Although Purdue usually wears black jerseys at home, the throwbacks are white because that's what Purdue wore in the 1967 Rose Bowl. … Upsetting report from Jon Rathbun, who says he's noticing more and more logo-emblazoned socks at college and high school baseball games. Much like an incursion of termites or locusts, this pestilence must be stamped out before it spreads! Uni Watch urges an aggressive extermination campaign.

Follow-Up Roundup
Lots of good response to last column's report on the rare phenomenon of non-switch-hitters wearing double-earflap batting helmets, as exemplified during this season's first week by Trot Nixon (who's sticking with the double-flapped style) and Bronson Arroyo (who did it for one game before switching to a single-flap model).

First and foremost: Contrary to what Uni Watch wrote two weeks ago, Willie Harris -- a left-handed hitter who went double-flapped while with the White Sox -- is not a free agent. As many readers pointed out, he was in Boston's minor league system at the time of Uni Watch's last column. He has since been called up to the Red Sox, and sure enough, he's brought his double-flappery with him. Uni Watch is fairly certain Harris and Nixon comprise the first non-switch/double-flapped tandem ever to play on the same team simultaneously (in Harris' first Bosox game, in fact, they actually hit back-to-back in the batting order), a distinction that will no doubt reverberate throughout the uni world for months to come.

Meanwhile, as you might recall, the only pre-2006 non-switch/double-flapped examples Uni Watch could think of were Harris and Delino DeShields. But readers came up with four more: Steve Garvey, John Olerud, Chuck Knoblauch (here's another view), and Dave Magadan (yes, the photo is annoyingly teeny, but he's clearly wearing a left earflap, and he was strictly a left-handed hitter, which means he'd already have the right earflap as well). Interestingly, all four of these guys were double-flapped only in the very early portions of their careers and eventually opted for single-flappery.

Big thanks to Bob Loblaw, Justin Dols, Brad Courson, David Simons, and Jeffrey Sak for their invaluable contributions on this one. Kudos also to Ferdinand Cesarano, who offers the following: "I recently saw this interesting documentary called 'A Player to Be Named Later,' about the 2001 Indianapolis Indians (then the Brewers' top farm club, now the Pirates'). The film follows four players, including infielder Marco Scutaro. In one scene, the filmmaker asks Scutaro what he thinks when he watches a big-league game. He replies: "I wonder when will be the day that I'll get to wear a helmet with one earflap."

In other follow-up news:

• A few jillion readers pointed out that the "34" inscription on Jerry Hairston's cap had nothing to do with the injured Kerry Wood but was actually a memorial tribute to Kirby Puckett (as explained in the "Good Memories" section of this article). Hairston's teammate Jacque Jones created his own headwear salute to Puckett by writing "KP" on his cap, but both players ended up getting a cease-and-desist directive from the MLB office. They can now scribble whatever they want on their batting practice caps, but not on their game caps.

• Speaking of Puckett tributes, Uni Watch neglected to mention last time around that the Twins' "34" sleeve memorial migrates to the upper-right chest area when the team wears its alternate vest, and is rendered in outlined numerals on the club's blue alternate jersey.

• Our discussion of MLB players with really long surnames prompted several readers to direct Uni Watch's attention to soccer player Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, whose full surname -- yes, it's really "Vennegoor of Hesselink" -- is 20 letters long. (And speaking of lengthy surnames, quite a few readers have speculated that the guys currently playing first base and second base for the Royals must surely hold the record for the most letters on one side of an infield.)

• Finally, Uni Watch is disappointed to report that despite repeated cajoling, nobody at Red Sox HQ has been willing to ask Manny Ramirez why he was wearing that little cherub pin during Boston's home opener. Sigh. If anyone with access to Boston's clubhouse is reading this (or anyone who hangs out with Manny, or chats with him inside the Fenway scoreboard when he stops in for "breaks" between innings, etc.), do Uni Watch a favor and ask him what it was all about.

Paul Lukas has nothing against batting gloves but has always found them uncomfortable. His answers to Frequently Asked Questions are here, and archives of his "Uni Watch" columns are available here, here, and here. Got feedback for him, or want to be added to his mailing list so you'll always know when a new column has been posted? Contact him here.