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Anytime we're going to do something that affects the game, it's always been our practice to share it with a few of the more veteran guys, just so it isn't a surprise to them. So we went to Ken Griffey Jr. with the idea. He liked the concept and got the other players excited about the event. Junior even played a large role in designing our uniforms -- he suggested the brick-red color along with black and silver, and he suggested that the tops be vests. We decided to keep both teams' logos the same, because we knew it would be a bigger deal, especially to the Royals, if we tried changing them. All we did was enlarge each team's logo on the jerseys, caps, and helmets. As for the rest of the design, we had someone in-house who worked with Majestic to create the uniforms. Frankly, we didn't spend a whole lot of time thinking about it. The only direction we gave them was basically, "Here are the colors we want the Mariners uniforms to be, and the Royals should keep their current colors. We want these to be vests, we want them to be shiny, we want them to look tech-y -- and now you get to tell us what we mean by that."As Martinez's promotion unfolded on the field, one interested observer in attendance was current ESPN.com baseball columnist Rob Neyer, a lifelong Royals fan who was living in Seattle at the time. "I have to say, from my perch in the upper deck, the Royals' jerseys really didn't look so bad," he recalls. "They were sleeveless, which I've always liked, and nicely complemented by coordinated undershirts. I don't mind canary yellow when it's accompanied by royal blue." As is often the case with promotional uniforms, the futuristic jerseys were being auctioned off after the game, so Neyer decided to bid on one of them. He figured he couldn't afford Johnny Damon's, so for $75 he ended up with Jose Rosado's (here's a rear view). But he could never quite bring himself to wear it, so it sat in his closet for nine years until he donated it to be raffled off on the Uni Watch blog last September (a raffle that didn't take place until a certain uniform columnist gave the jersey a quick test-drive). It now belongs to Uni Watch reader Ryan Etgen.
There's no getting around it: They were gaudy. But we were trying to do what we could without adjusting the basic format of a baseball uniform. For example, we weren't going to use a unitard or anything else that might be so different that it would put our players at a competitive disadvantage. The Royals were fantastic to work with. They agreed to participate in the event when we were still in the concept stage, before the uniforms were even designed. We shared their uniform design with them early on in the '98 season, and we also shared our own design, so they knew both teams were going to look similar. When Junior arrived on the day of the game, he simply took over. He decided the jerseys looked better untucked. I told him I disagreed and that the team, especially the pitcher, could not play with their jerseys untucked. Junior responded, "Didn't the White Sox play with untucked jerseys in the 1970s?" He had me there. Junior then went on to say that the team was going to play with their caps backward. I told him, "Junior, no team has ever done that -- it will make us look like a softball team." He just flashed that smile of his and said, "It's the future, Kev -- anything is possible!" Turns out Junior was just getting started. He'd brought a couple of cans of silver spray paint to the park with him and was walking around the clubhouse spray-painting his teammates' shoes and some of their gloves. He also decided that the red undershirt sleeves were too long, so he went around to each guy and cut the sleeves, Ted Kluszewski-style. We were truly "Sleeveless in Seattle." (Dan Wilson, however, did not cut his sleeves, so he looked more like how the uniforms were designed to look.) It was great to see all the players having fun with it, but I was coming unglued. But in the end it was like, "Well, this isn't quite what we designed, but so be it. It's gonna be one of those nights." The umpires (who wore metallic silver shirts of their own) wouldn't let our pitcher -- I believe it was Kenny Cloude -- wear the untucked jersey or the backward cap, but everyone else did, at least at first. And sure enough, with two outs in the top of the second inning, a ball was hit deep into the left-center gap, and Junior -- with his cap on backward, his jersey untucked, his glove painted silver, and metallic silver Nike shoes -- made a classic Griffey catch, running into the wall. After a few innings, I think the Royals' manager, Tony Muser, argued that the untucked jerseys gave our hitters an unfair advantage, because they could more easily be nicked by a pitch, so we had to tuck them in for the rest of the game.
According to projections, the Royals' payroll will be all the way up to $25 million by 2027.
|Ken Griffey Jr. didn't just run with this idea, he ran around the field with his hat on backward and a can of silver spray paint.|
|Forget about West Coast trips, the road games to Pluto would be a bear.|