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An MLB History Mystery Involving an American Flag Pin

A few weeks ago I wrote about Lou Gehrig wearing a Eugene the Jeep pin on his Yankees jersey. Along the way, I mentioned the other MLBers who’ve worn pins on their uniforms. That prompted a note from reader Dennis D’Agostino, who emailed me to say, “If you dig deep, I think you’ll find that Sam McDowell created quite a stir in 1970 by wearing an American flag pin on his black Indians cap. I remember it distinctly. This was during the Kent State era (5/4/70) and just before the debut of Archie Bunker.”

I had never heard anything like that. I wrote back, “So you’re saying McDowell wore the flag pin as a conservative response to the anti-war protests?” Dennis responded, “Not 100% sure of that. Hopefully there are quotes out there somewhere. But you have to remember what was going on in 1970.”

I began by doing some newspaper archive searches. I couldn’t find anything relating to McDowell wearing a flag pin. I did, however, find something about one of McDowell’s teammates — Cleveland pitcher Dean Chance. According to this UPI wire squib that ran in numerous newspapers, Chance was ordered to remove an American flag pin from his cap during a game on July 3, 1970:

That would be this game. Chance pitched two innings in relief. It’s not clear whether Chance wore the pin in any other games. He spent only one year with the Indians, and photos of him in a Cleveland uniform are scarce. I couldn’t find any that show him wearing a flag pin.

But what about McDowell? Although I couldn’t track down any newspaper accounts of him wearing a pin, I did find two game photos — one of which is from the 1970 All-Star Game — that appear to show something pinned in the center of his wishbone-C:

Could that have been an American flag? I decided to look at McDowell’s 1971 baseball cards, hoping they might feature photos taken in 1970. That’s where I hit paydirt (click to enlarge):

So that confirms that McDowell definitely wore an American flag pin in 1970. And Chance did as well, although we don’t have a photo. Was this a coordinated effort between the two teammates? Was one of them copying the other? Did McDowell add the flag pin as a gesture of support after Chance was told to remove his pin? Did any other Cleveland players wear flag pins? Did this have anything to do with Kent State, as Dennis D’Agostino suggested in his original email to me?

Chance died in 2015, so we can’t ask him those questions. But McDowell is still alive — he’s now 75 years old — so I got in touch with him. Here’s how our conversation went:

Uni Watch: Was there any connection between the flag pin that you wore and the pin that Dean Chance wore?

Sam McDowell: Not that I know of. I didn’t even know that Dean had one. I started wearing mine because I was pretty close to the police department in Cleveland, and I used to do a lot of things for them. One of their policemen had passed away, and so I put the flag into my cap in honor of the policeman. It actually stayed there for about a year and a half, until Billy Martin — and of course he’s the one who always starts all that bullshit — had one of his batters say that he couldn’t see because the sun was reflecting off of the pin. So the umpire made me take it out.

UW: Sounds like a classic Billy Martin move.

SM: But what he didn’t know was that I went ahead and put it on my sleeve and kept it there for the rest of my career. Nobody knew it.

UW: You mean it was on your undersleeve? On the shirt you wear under your jersey?

SM: No, it was outside, on the sleeve of my uniform. On my right arm. But nobody noticed.

UW: Oh, wow. And just to confirm, you did this as a gesture of support for a fallen Cleveland police officer.

SM: Yes.

UW: I had someone tell me that it might have had something to do with the events at Kent State, which took place that year. Did that have anything to do with it?

SM: No, that had nothing to do with it. It was for the fallen policeman. I originally wanted to wear a black armband. But when I mentioned that to the clubhouse guy, he informed me that nobody would allow that, because it would be changing the uniform. So I went and got the flag on my own and put it on my hat.

UW: Did you tell the police department that you were doing this for them?

SM: I told a couple of policemen who I was friends with, and they appreciated it, but that’s it. I knew if I made a big deal out of it, the commissioner would make me remove it.


And there you have it. The big news, of course, is that he says he wore the pin on his right jersey sleeve for the rest of his career. But I could only find two 1970s photos with clear views of McDowell’s right sleeve — this one from 1972 (which also shows him wearing stirrups with extra fabric sewn into the bottoms to make them longer) and this one from 1975 — and there’s no flag pin in either of them. Hmmmmm.

All in all, a very interesting rabbit hole. Meanwhile, I’ve compiled a Flickr set showing all of our confirmed cases of MLBers wearing pins. You can check it out here.

(Special thanks to Todd Radom for helping me track down Sam McDowell.)

• • • • •

NBA Uni Tracking
By Collin Wright

For the first time all season, color-vs.-color games were the most frequent matchup last week (43% of all games). Traditional matchups were the least frequent (20%) — also a first. Here’s our updated chart, which you can click to enlarge:

A few other observations from the past week:

• The Hornets wore black leggings and socks with their Buzz City set for the first time. They’d previously used either teal or purple accessories.

• The Hornets also became the first home team to wear purple against a road team (Pistons) wearing grey.

• Memphis fell to 0-7 in their light blue uniform with their loss in Miami on Saturday. That is a tie with the Lakers’ purple uniform for the most losses without a win in any uniform this season.

• The Heat have continued to embrace their “Miami Vice”-themed set, wearing it in seven consecutive games and 10 of 13 since it was introduced.

• • • • •

KRC update: The latest installment of Key Ring Chronicles is about a doll’s arm. It’s one of my favorite entries of the entire project. Check it out here.

• • • • •

Photo taken yesterday, around the corner from Uni Watch HQ

“Inquire within”: Some phrases just become ingrained in the culture. One of them is “Inquire within,” which has been a staple of “Help Wanted” signs posted in storefront windows for my entire life and, I’m pretty sure, for several generations prior. If you do a Google image search on “Inquire within,” you get an avalanche of hits.

It feels like an oddly stilted, outdated phrase — “Inquire within.” In an era when so many things have become more casual, “Inquire within” seems so formal. Why not “Ask inside,” or “Ask for manager”? For that matter, isn’t it already self-evident that applicants should inquire within? Does it really need to be spelled out? Why does this phrase endure while others fall by the wayside?

Lately I’ve been seeing fliers that direct applicants to an email address, so “Inquire within” may eventually die out. For now, though, it’s still with us.

• • • • •

The Ticker
By Jamie Rathjen

Baseball News: Two Braves items in this article from Michael Rich: SS Dansby Swanson will maintain a small memorial to a friend of his, former Vanderbilt basketball player Dai-Jon Parker, on his glove. He began wearing it last year. Also, P A.J. Minter is switching to a dark blue glove, ostensibly because it looks good with the team’s road uniforms. … 1940s celebrities at a charity softball game? Sure, why not (from Charles Rogers). … Interesting story on why new Yankees skipper Aaron Boone’s choice to wear No. 17 (NYT link), plus info on who’s wearing No. 28 now that former manager Joe Girardi is gone. … Speaking of uni numbers: According to this item, when Bill Madlock was traded from the Giants to the Pirates in 1979, he offered OF Omar Moreno $3,000 for No. 18, but Moreno turned him down, so Madlock wore No. 5 (from Jerry Wolper).

Football News: The Jaguars’ two-toned helmet made one last (?) appearance when the team announced QB Blake Bortles’s new contract (from Brian Speiss). … The Indoor Football League’s Iowa Barnstormers appear to wear NFL captaincy patches (from @Rovitz). …. The ABC show The Goldbergs is doing an Eagles-themed episode this week that includes uniforms based on those of the William Penn Charter School, which show creator Adam F. Goldberg attended (from @PhillyPartTwo). … Reader Gene Sanny did a really nice painting of former Rams guard/tackle Tom Mack. … We’ve all heard of Frankejerseys, but how about a Clemson/South Carolina Frankenhelmet? (From Brad Darby.)

Hockey News: The Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL) wore special uniforms to commemorate the team’s Hall of Fame weekend (from Wade Heidt). More pictures, including a special goalie mask featuring two of the new inductees, here. … Probably several dozen readers wondered how the Bruins would be handling the NOBs of forwards Rick Nash, who was traded to the team yesterday, and Riley Nash. Those hoping for some hot FNOB action were disappointed, as both players simply wore “Nash” for yesterday’s game against the Sabres. … The Rangers retired No. 19 for former center Jean Ratelle and wore a patch as well. True to standard Rangers protocol, they wore the patch on the shoulder, not the chest (from @nycking). … Speaking of the Rangers, they also announced that No. 11, which is already retired for Mark Messier, will also be retired for Vic Hadfield, which means all three members of the gold GAG line — Hadfield, Ratelle, and Rod Gilbert — will be honored (from Jerry Wolper). … On Friday, two players from Denver and St. Cloud State got their facemasks stuck together (form Tony Tingwall). … College club teams, or at least Illinois’s, appear to wear ad patches, which in the Illini’s case even move to the rear when their space is taken up by a captaincy patch (from Noah Wolf). … The Green Bay Gamblers, a junior team in the USHL, are doing Heavy Metal Night March 3 (from Brian Kerhin).

Basketball News: Chelsea (Vt.) High is to close in the summer, and the school’s final home basketball games this week featured a clothesline of old jerseys behind one of the baskets (from Tris Wykes). … Wisconsin G Brevin Pritzl, who normally wears No. 1, switched to a No. 51 blood jersey yesterday against Michigan State (from @mikeobs). … In the same game, some Michigan State NOBs seemed off-center (from Rob Ticktin).

Soccer News: In Saturday’s Leicester City/Stoke City Premier League match, Stoke manager Paul Lambert began the game wearing a blue tracksuit, but after 67 minutes he changed at the request of Leicester goalie Kasper Schmeichel because the keeper kept mistaking the all-blue-clad Lambert for a teammate (from Thomas Courtman). … For the third consecutive week, a team somewhere in the UK wore black armbands: Scottish team Kilmarnock, in honor of their former chairman. … Two weeks ago, English League One team Scunthorpe United debuted a third kit at home in the orange and navy colors of the team’s advertiser, British Steel.

Grab Bag: Two Saturday NLL games were color-on-color because both teams wore alternates: Calgary (black)/Saskatchewan (green) and Buffalo/Rochester (from Wade Heidt). … A nice touch: look closely and you’ll see that the Wales rugby union team’s match-information-on-sleeve in Saturday’s Six Nations match in Ireland was in Welsh, as well as in their previous game against England. … Here’s a great GIF showing how a curling stone is made (from @faithson77). … Pretty cool logo for the South American Men’s Club Volleyball Championship (from Jeremy Brahm).

• • • • •

What Paul did last night on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights: This is not a great era for live music in New York, as a distressing number of “music” clubs have begun devoting more and more of their calendars to stand-up comedy, TV parties, live podcasts, bake-offs, and the like. So it’s pretty heartening to have just completed a three-night run of excellent live shows.

On Thursday night, it was the mighty Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co., performing their monthly residency at Otto’s Shrunken head. And with the Olympics in full swing, the band arranged for the Kim Jong Un Dancers to provide red-ribbon support (for all photos, you can click to enlarge):

The following night there was a great double bill at Pianos. First up was the Ohio indie-rock band WV White, whose 2017 album, House of Spiritual Athletes, is well worth checking out.

Then came Scupper, the NYC indie band I can’t stop talking about. Unfortunately, this was their final show for a while, as their drummer is leaving town. It was a great set, and their current album, Some Gauls, is still the hottest thing I’ve heard in recent months.

Saturday brought another great double bill, this time at El Cortez. First up was the legendary Lenny Kaye (former Nuggets compiler, former Patti Smith Group guitarist, etc.), who played a solo set. He’s 71 now but looks and sounds great. I’d seen him join lots of other bands onstage over the years, but I think this was the first time I’d ever seen him solo. Talked with him a bit after his set, and he was a total peach — very sweet, very warm. It’s always so gratifying when cool-seeming people turn out to be nice.

The headliner was the great singer-songwriter Amy Rigby (sister of Susquehanna Etc. frontman Michael McMahon), who was celebrating the release of her new album, The Old Guys. Her band included her husband, the 1970s new wave pioneer Wreckless Eric, on bass:

All the sets were good, and it was great to see so many good friends. Every now and then, NYC can still deliver the goods.

(For the Bandcamp embeds: If you like the music, please do the right thing and pay for the download. Thanks.)

Comments (42)

    the same guy who charged the mound to take a swing at an opposing pitcher. Think the guy’s name was Jim Brewer. As I recall reading, he connected.

    “until Billy Martin — and of course he’s the one who always starts all that bullshit —”

    Truer words were never spoken.

    “One of there policemen” their
    “form Tony Tingwall”

    During the Jean Ratelle number retirement ceremony, the Rangers announced that Vic Hadfield’s No. 11 will join his two linemates, as well as Mark Messier’s No. 11.

    Connecting that Goldberg’s entry to the latest ESPN piece, if the show takes place “in 1980-something,” would a high schooler have used Jr. with NOB? Paul’s piece says that NFL allowed it in 2012, but was it more prevalent in other levels/leagues before then?

    On a similar topic, great to see the Bruins handling of the Nash’s nameplates. There was a time when I would get excited to see two players with the same last name and first initial on the same team. I can recall one football team put their entire first names in smaller lettering above the last names (thinking it was the Vikings?). But now it just seems pointless, you already have the numbers to differentiate one player from the other.

    “AMARO JR.” is for Ruben Amaro Jr., the future major league ballplayer and Phillies GM who also attended Penn Charter in the 80’s. Amaro Jr. has appeared prominently in past episodes of The Goldbergs.

    Terrific lede today. I always love the interviews with people about long-ago uni minutia. It’s fascinating how often folks seem to remember and care about the aesthetic details.

    But man, that style of flag pin bugs me. Why does it depict a pole? And if a pole, why does it extend below the edge of the flag like it does? A wavy-flag design would be a great alternate to the staid plain-rectangle version, but only if it omitted the pole entirely, or at least didn’t extent the pole below the left edge of the flag. Have we really not improved on, or even changed at all, the design of flag pins since the first Nixon administration? A detail that’s bugged me since the design of flag pins entered my awareness circa September 13, 2001.

    Mark Messier’s number 11 is already retired, they’re just also going to retire it for Hadfield as well…It’s the second number that the Rangers will retire twice (9- Adam Graves and Andy Bathgate)

    Lenny Kaye is a mensch. Spent the day with him once out in the wilds of PA, talked about rockabilly and baseball.

    I can confirm. Ran into him at the WFMU Record Fair where he was binge-buying San Francisco psych records. Helluva nice guy.

    Great entry today. The lede was very cool and I am always fascinated to see a good uni-related question get debunked. The fact they have newspaper articles documenting these things shows how important uniforms really were and still are to people. I am really into that ‘cleveland’ across the chest and wouldnt mind seeing the tribe break those out in the future.
    I also enjoyed your mini piece on the “inquire within” sign. As they say, If you dont know how to inquire than dont bother asking.

    What Lee did saturday night. Went to see Hot Lunch (among others) at Thee Parkside in SF.
    Hot Lunch is a punk ‘n’ roll band from the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area that specializes in getting loud, getting weird and getting rad. The quartet’s unique blend of brown-acid skate-rock and wah-fuzz proto-metal was born in the bowels of skatanic rituals, biker beer busts and wizard staff meetings. With a head-bludgeoning sound that refuses to take sides (and showers), Hot Lunch are on a hell-bent mission to create the best party soundtrack in the history of all music.


    Inquire within:
    I always interpreted that, somewhat wryly, as them asking me to ask myself “Do I really want this job?”

    Collin has an inaccurate statement in his report: “Traditional matchups were the least frequent (20%) — also a first.” We can see on the chart that the home-white vs. road-color matchups had been the least frequent in weeks 16 and 17, and Collin had even noted it in weeks 16 and 17.

    If that helmet had been in accurate helmet colors, the Raiders side would be silver, and the Royals side would be royal blue. Instead, it’s in uniform colors – black (home) for the Raiders, powder blue (road) for the Royals.

    I’m not sure how to feel about that.

    As a big Goldbergs fan, and having grown up in suburban Philadelphia during the same timeframe, it is particularly uni-riffic how much Philly sports is incorporated into the show. Also, the character of “Ruben Amaro Jr.” is of course based on the real Ruben Amaro Jr. – who attended Penn Charter and then went on to college and major league baseball acclaim! Very funny how he’s often a minor nemesis of the lead character!


    Re: Inquire Within

    As someone who works in Human Resources, I see a lot of these perhaps dated phrases on a regular basis. I think there’s an entire world of professional language ingrained in many of us.

    Example: references furnished upon request

    Comment on my own ticker submission :)

    The ticker says Dansby Swanson started wearing the “All Dai” memorial inscription on his glove last year. It doesn’t say in the article when he started, but after a quick Google search (which, admittedly, I should have done last night before I sent this in) I found an article from 2017 that says he wore this “last year”, meaning it goes back to at least 2016 (his first year in the majors).


    I’m unsure if it goes back further or not. Dai-Jon Parker died in 2015, so 2016 seems likely. Sorry if my clumsily worded e-mail implied otherwise.

    Saw Wreckless Eric as part of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones “Hometown Throwdown” last year. His “Whole Wide World” nearly stole the show. Will need to check out more of Amy Rigby’s catalogue.
    Thanks for sharing!

    Seeing Scunthorpe reminded me of a Stephen Fry joke: “There are three teams with swear words in their name: Arsenal, Scunthorpe and Manchester Fucking United.”

    Re: Ticker Item – While Arena Football seems to be gradually disappearing altogether, by far and way (from my perspective) the most note worthy uniform contribution from the various incarnations is the Iowa Barnstormers helmet – love the goggles.

    Your “music” club turned to shit description could be a press release for the Bellhouse, a once great, reasonably priced Brooklyn venue that consistently had terrific shows. If they get four or five good bands a year now it’s a lot.

    “Whole Wide World” still a memorable song….I heard it first when I was in high school…(shows my age). One of the easiest rock songs to play on a guitar.

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