Jerry Seinfeld once said that rooting for a single sports team over a long stretch of time ultimately means that one is rooting not for the players, or even for the coaches or owners, but for the uniform. “Basically,” reasoned Seinfeld, “you’re rooting for laundry.” This is not entirely true (after all, if it were, how would one explain Diamonbacks fans?), but there is a kernal of truth there, even if most teams change their uniforms much more often than they change ownership.
I myself have always enjoyed the history of the ever-changing baseball uniform, and as a result have delighted to the writings of Paul Lukas, whose Uni-Watch column was, along with Allan Barra, one of the reasons why the Village Voice‘s late one-page sports section was such a delight. Like Barra, Lukas initially moved to Slate.com after the Voice dropped sports. Last August, Lukas found a home on ESPN’s Page 2, where Uni-Watch now appears two or three times a month.
The latest Uni-Watch concerns an issue that is close to any baseball traditionalist’s heart: the stirrup sock, which just might be making a comeback thanks to, appropriately enough, the Red Sox. It burns me to say it, but I have to give props to the Sox high-sock contingent (Nixon, Mueller, Bellhorn and Millar), who have started wearing stirrups rather than plain red socks. Moreover, Lukas (perhaps unwittingly) reveals a hidden truth about Curt Schilling’s ACLS stigmata: had Schilling not been a stirrup-wearer, the Bloody Sock never would have been. Much as that would have made me very happy, I still long for the days of the classic stirrup and continue to hope that they will soon return to banish what Lukas calls the pajama brigade, which I believe started with Scott Erickson‘s break out year with the eventual World Champion Twins in 1991.
On a related note, fellow Toaster Alex Ciepley takes a look at the various types of goatees being sported around the league. I for one can’t stand the goatee (or Van Dyke for you facial hair sticklers out there). I remember when they broke into the league in the early ’90s on the faces of men such as Mark McGwire and Dan Gladden as grunge swept the nation and haphazard shaving became all the rage, turning us into a nation of evil twins. Despite my dislike for the style, even I couldn’t resist trying one out for about three days in 1993 just for yucks (though I was more Maynard G. Krebs than evil twin). That was more then a decade ago and the damn things just won’t go away. To add insult to injury, Alex not only drags Goose Gossage’s fu-manchu (a facial styling I also once emulated, resulting in something closer to James Hetfield) into the discussion, but calls Matt Clement’s facial merkin “infinitely more appealing,” than Gossages Hall-worthy stash. Well, I never!
To my memory, Goose was the only non captain to successfully circumvent Boss Steinbrenner’s rule against facial hair below the corners of the mouth (though in recent years David Wells, Roger Clemens and Jason Giambi have all gotten a bit lazy with the sublingual shaving at one time or another, none of them got past the Don Johnson/George Michael stage). Thurman Munson’s 1976 Topps card remains the only time I’ve ever seen a Steinbrenner-era Yankee with full-grown hairs on his chiny-chin-chin, and while I think Thurman looked good in a full beard, I think the Yankees, whose uniforms have remained virtually unchanged for nearly 70 years, are better for it.