I’m sure you heard about last month’s Tampa Bay Rays uniform kerfuffle, which I’m staying out of except to opine that this would have been a much bigger deal if teams weren’t changing uniforms every 17 seconds anyway. I’m particularly alert to the issue of uniforms, having seen a parade of them during my tenure at the Reds Museum, for the sight of one immediately places a player in a team, stadium, coach, and era.
We Americans are probably more peculiar about our baseball uniforms than other sports; it’s been ours the longest and we used to regard each logo shift as something far more jarring and age-divisional than a different presidential administration and only slightly less significant than new a geologic age. It’s impossible to maintain this kind of attitude now when even college athletes are trotting out new looks every quarter. How is a new Bengals helmet anything to ‘gram about when we never know what Evan McPherson is going to look like week to week anyway?
It was a long shift for me, a child of the ’80s, but entering the world of Thoroughbred racing began to blunt my preciousness over uniforms. Jockeys change them nine times a day and they’re happy about it; racing has employees whose entire job is dedicated to doing nothing more than keeping track of who the bearer wants to win for the next five minutes. Becoming the girlfriend and then the wife of a NASCAR fan finished the job. There is something refreshingly honest and all-American about driver suits. You know where this man gets his cornpone.
Still, there’s a reason why there’s a great deal of attention and suspense attached to which team hat a player chooses to represent on his Hall of Fame plaque. That’s the way he wants to be remembered; that’s the immediate advertisement of his career and professional identity. This will become more and more of an issue as post-free agency players are elected. It spreads the city-touched celebrations around, but it also invites increased arguments and division once the induction comes. The player must choose: One town over another, one set of teammates from many.
The next Red to enter–Votto, let’s not kid ourselves– will have a great deal to choose from even should he (presumably) enter as one of us. Mother’s Day version or spring training St. Patrick’s Day special? Los Rojos or Star Wars Day? In any case, absolutely no one blames our last alum, Griffey Jr., for entering Cooperstown as a Mariner; that poor team needs a bone thrown at it every now and then, plus Griffey joined the Reds during the dubious vest/stripes/black-accents-for-no-reason stage.
I don’t much mind the hated Red’s 90’s uniforms, since I associate that entire decade with a single team and it certainly didn’t dress like that, but mostly because the look infinitely more comfortable than the nightmare syntheticism of the 70s and early 80s. They look good, but it should be noted that the people forming opinions on them never had to endure that particular material next to their sweating bodies for hours on end. In the summer. In Astroturf-era Riverfront.
I was six years old in a polyester soccer uniform and even I knew that asking this of professional athletes was bullcrap. I spent most of my illustrious SAY career wearing a cotton tee shirt under the jersey in 90 degree weather and sneaking on Umbros in place of nasty neon-yellow shorts. You don’t own me, Bridgetown Finer Meats Lambchops! (Well– you do, but you can’t stop me from putting a layer between me and this plastic shirt.)
Then again, the very first Reds wore wool uniforms, so I don’t suppose any of us have room to complain. What was your favorite look?